Yesterday I was at the workshop Broodje Breien (=”Sammich Stitchin'”) at Wolop in Gouda. It’s a monthly inspirational course of 2 hours, accompanied with a lunch.
It teaches to find inspiration and translate it into knitting. Sources of inspiration differ every month and this month it was Nature. Previous months were “Van Gogh” and “Escher”. The concept was developed by Loret Karman and a baker in Amsterdam.
Translation of the inspiration into knitting varies too. The focus can be towards colours, textures, shapes, garments, stitches, yarn characteristics, anything!
It’s very fun to do.
This was my work halfway:
I took this picture as an inspiration and although I identified many things that could be translated into “wool” such as a haloed yarn based on the animal contrasted with a more bumpy yarn based on the wood, I chose to explore its colours.
Wolop provided a mountain of colours and with my picture in hand I picked out 25 of the colours I discovered and took 1,5 m (2 yards) of each of them.
There were many more colours in the picture than I saw at first glance. I started to look at them, truely look at them, and study how they influenced each other.
This is an approach that is thoroughly done in the Sammich Stitchin’s / Broode Breien about Van Gogh -and indeed all Karman’s courses on the painter- but when it comes to colour interactions I personally prefer the work of Bridget Riley.
Most people know Riley because she excelled in Pop Art in the 1960’s. But her colour work is equally groundbreaking. She’s a methodical artist researcher and I think she takes Van Gogh’s end point of colour studies and takes it to a whole new level.
Example of Riley’s work:
Nataraja by Riley, 1993. Pic by Allan Harris.
The trick to view these massive canvases is to look at them how you would look upon a pond in a park. Just let your eye glance over and let the colour blocks shimmer as if it was light reflecting of the pond. Than something happens in your head. Different paintings of Riley result in different effects. Just by her changing the colour palette and sometimes the shapes.
It’s amazing that she can create that effect and that sentiment in the viewer with the colours and the shapes she chooses. She does extensive research in her lab, with many assistents colouring in the shapes. She actively accounts for eye movements and peripheral sight. Oh how I wish to visit one of her exhibitions.
Or own one of her paintings… to have a shimmering “pond” indoors to visit at any time!
Yesterday I wasn’t thinking of Riley.
I had a collection of subtle colours, in little pieces of string, and was trying to combine them to show myself their interaction. The aim was to make a little note of these studies, a knitted note.
One way to collect the colours permanently is in a square of 5 x 5 colours, as is done in the Van Gogh workshops. Each colour just 5 stitches long and 7 rows high. But that was very slow knitting.
So I ripped and tried stripes because that’s quicker. This was me at the end of the 2 hours:
Broad stripes of 28 st long and 4 of 5 rows high.
But I don’t like stripes much. And these show even less the interaction between the colours than the 5×5 blocks would have done.
So 15 minutes later, seated on the train back I had this:
All stripes ripped out and ready to try something new.
Small stripes, “knitting the picture sideways”?
When I had to change trains I was making progress:
(Also making tangles.)
Later that evening I finished the piece, with only a few strands of the most contrast yarns left because honestly, they had no place in this piece:
I didn’t change colour every row, some are 2 or even 3 rows high. Sometimes I ran out of yarn midrow and then just tied a new colour. But I purposefully did not try to recreate the picture. I did not make a dark blob in the left upper corner. No expressive gestures either. In short: no saori-weaving, I dislike that about as much as I dislike neat stripes:
pic by saoriweaver, it’s a banner on climate change.
A stunning piece if you do like saori, check out the link.
It’s a spectrum, I admit. I did use the picture as a guideline, knitting my way from right to left, looking at colours and contrast.
This is the end result this morning, blocked and the yarn bloomed and colour corrected:
A nice exercise! Just playing with colours and stripes, talking to myself in yarn, about colour interaction and contrast and colour families. I really like the middle and the right, where the contrast is more subtle. Colour in Fair Isle was also on my mind a lot.
Yesterday, after taking the first picture I stood over it and looked at the colours some more. Then I noticed something:
Heeheehee, it’s a good week for misty, nature-y greens!
Writing this now I feel I like to think some more about stripes. Families of colour stripes. Not the two toned stripes I see in most knitted garments. Small stripes. Interacting stripes. Not too extrovert contrasts.
Just now, when I looked at the Creative Common section of Flickr for online share-able pictures of Riley’s work, I see she does stripes too. (of course she does!)
Praise 1 by Riley, pic by Brett Jordan
This painting is clearly talking about contrast (not too much, there’s no white/black) and about warmth of colours (warm yellows and red with cool blues). About repetition without repeats, although sometimes a colour gets sandwiched -heyo!- between two similar colours.
And it talks about vertical-ness very much too. The vertical stripes do something to my eyes… (don’t try to focus! You’re not supposed to focus.)
They make me consider that humans are very vertical orientated beings themselves and have a natural connection to vertical lined things. Trees, cathedrals, other humans, ostriches, giraffes, alien silhouettes in a misty scene.
I think boulders, corgis and piramids enchant us because they are very not-vertical-lines.
pic by fuzzyard
In 1999 Riley got some recognition for the giant that she is, British Post made a stamp:
pic by cuthbert25
Inadvertably showing that cropping a work that’s meant to be viewed as a whole communicates very different things. Here we do not get the chance to let the colours shimmer. Because their width is now significant in relation to their height we now see them as regular stripes. They now mainly talk about the colours close to them.
This could be a knitted pullover, viewed from the side. As a matter of fact I think I saw this in a shop last Summer? On a mannequin wearing a coral floppy hat and sunglasses, with a white beach bag besides her.
Quick! Let’s get back to shimmering stripes and making connections between all kinds of outlandish inspirations!
I’m starting to like stripes.