A Bit of "Backward Design"!

I've discovered a new design technique ...  well at least a name for it!! 

I was browsing through on of my favorite textile art books "Stitch Stories"  by Cas Holmes and in a section on collage she talks about a process she calls 'backward design' .....  extracting compositions from a larger design .....  and that's just what I've been doing this week. 

I had a larger piece that I made a year or so ago and although there was a lot I liked about it,  something was missing so I set it aside (.... waiting for inspiration !) 

Inspiration came in the form of an idea from an old sketchbook .... putting the two together meant cutting sections from the larger piece as the basis for the new compositions.

 The result is a series of new leafline pieces on the design wall ready for stitching .....  here are three of them .....

I think this will be a very useful design technique for the future   ..... 

And I can highly recommend ............"Stitch Stories" by Cas Holmes,  Batsford, London 2015    if your are looking for inspiration !! 

Have you tried some 'backward design' ??      Thanks for reading ............CC  


New WindingWay Landscape

This new piece has been reworked a few times .... I was pretty happy with the landscape background but struggled to find a fabric for the overlay.  In addition,  this piece at 16" x 16"  is larger than the previous works in this series so that added an extra challenge for the composition!!

                                 'Winding Way in Pink'  © CarolynCollinsArt 2017  16" x 16"

                                 'Winding Way in Pink'  © CarolynCollinsArt 2017  16" x 16"

The larger size of this piece called for a rethink which resulted in the addition of some new elements ... a more complex landscape background and in this piece a digital image printed on organza which adds  a nice sense of depth.  

I thought it would be interesting to look at the development of this series to date ... starting with the first compositions at the bottom left   ......

The next step is to develop and refine  this larger design .......

Thanks for reading ...........  CC

Grevillea's in Review

My Grevillea Series has been rolling along for a while now and before I launch into Number 10, I thought it would be a good idea to review  progress.  Looking back and seeing the work all together is helpful with new directions and new ideas ... not to mention that it makes me get my photo files into order and update my art database!!

So here they are in sequence of construction .....

The first piece turned out to be a disaster from a technical point of view!  The issue related to layering fabric over the printed organza making for a very unstable piece when it came to the stitching!!!  However I like the color and design ideas and this piece remains on my design wall for inspiration.

After that experience,  I stuck to applique and reverse applique (with no fancy fabrics)  with a good result and second grevillea is part of the SAQA 2017 Trunk Show.  

In the Pink Grevillea piece I was determined to master the organza, because I really like the effect of printing on it,  and tried a variety of  flower shapes. This was a good learning experience but it lacks something from a design perspective!

In the middle row ...  the stylised fower design and development of the backgrounds by incorporating hand printed fabric has worked well and I am really pleased with these.  Peaches and Cream was part of an exhibition at Kangaroo Valley and now hangs in a new home!  

Recently I have been exploring a more abstracted flower design in the pink/purple pieces and have returned to the original idea of stitching the flower design ....... with much more success!

The final two pieces use the backgounds I made a couple of weeks ago,  now stitched and appliqued.  I think the blue/green/yellow piece is the most successful.

While I contemplate what next,  I would love to know which grevillea you like best??

Thanks for reading .....  CC

Art Date with "The You Beaut Country"

Had the opportunity this week to spend a couple of hours at the Art Gallery of NSW to see the John Olsen Exhibition "The You Beaut Country" an experience I can totally recommend!!

This exhibition provides a wonderful survey of John Olsen's career from his first exhibition in 1955 to his recent works and includes commissioned ceiling paintings, tapestries and decorated ceramics.

John Olsen's work has a very distinctive and personal style that definitely captures the uniqueness and energy of the Australian landscape.

I came away delighted with joyous use of yellow,  the expressive connecting lines and the way he combines a wide overview of the  landscape  with the minute detail of it's components like  fish, plants, insects ......

I love the yellows  in works such as 'Sydney Sun'  and 'Summer in the You Beaut Country'  and  'Seafood Paella'  below ... on the cover of the catalogue ... another terrific exhibition publication which I have added to my collection.

The use of expressive line is another outstanding feature of his work that is captivating.. it is sometimes bold and exuberant ... sometimes fine and delicate  .... sometimes dominating the work .... sometimes providing intricate detail at the edges of the work.    It seems to me that this is in  part how he captures the vastness of the Australian terrain as well as the character of the specific environment.  There is so much to discover and enjoy  in these paintings.

The exhibition also includes tapestries, decorated ceramics and some of the many journals he maintained over 5 decades.  These include his writings, sketches, photographs and ephemera - tickets, postcards, bird feathers! and provide a glimpse into the artists world.

The exhibition runs until June 12 at the Art Gallery of NSW.

Have you seen the exhibition?  What was your reaction?

Thanks for dropping by .....CC

A Question of Background ....

The most recent pieces in my Grevillea series have used strip pieced backgrounds ... a mix of hand dyed and hand printed fabrics to add some variation.  

This approach worked nicely but what if I 'push the boundaries'  a bit ...

Artists often create compositions from small areas of detail in a drawing or painting, scaling up the size to create and new composition.  We used this approach in my weekly drawing class recently.  

We started with a still life drawing and then using a small area of detail from that drawing created a new composition and then added tone and color ......

From one of my Grevillea drawings I made a number of detail sketches looking for compositions with 5 to 7 shapes.  I picked  3 to try out and made them up this week .....

I'm pleased with the way they look ... the shapes and the color combinations.  The plan is to stitch my Grevillea flower drawing onto these backgrounds ... so I'll need to work out the color and weight of thread and the best way to place and mark the design.   

I'm hesitating a little bit about the stitching so I keep telling myself I can always make a new background piece if I mess it up!!!!  

I'll let you know how I get on......

Thanks for reading  .....CC


On the Wall ... Turquoise and Green

My design wall is usually filled with work in various stages of design and construction ...   at the moment there are a couple of pieces.... monoprints in blues and greens .... basically complete with stitching and facings, just waiting for the next steps in the process.

I recently completed work on the latest Stepping Stones piece "Lake in the Clouds"  which includes some favorite turquoise fabric, the same fabric that I had use to complete the monoprints.

The two monoprints looked a bit unbalanced when I hung them as a pair because of the way I'd placed the turquoise fabric.  But when I set them with the new Stepping Stones piece and a miniature piece, I thought they looked terrific as a set .......

                " Turquoise and Green"  © 2017 CarolynCollinsArt   Set of 4 pieces

                " Turquoise and Green"  © 2017 CarolynCollinsArt   Set of 4 pieces

This got me thinking ....  while many of my pieces are relatively small they have the potential to work really well together in sets.  

 I've recently been working on upgrading my Pinterest site so I've added a new board  "On the Wall"  and  started pinning ideas for grouping art on the wall  ... here is a link to the board if you are interested ....


Do you have any tips or suggestions for hanging groups of art or photographs ?

Thanks for reading   .... CC

Stepping Stones in Greens

Over the last year or so I have been working on my Stepping Stones series and have recently completed a couple more pieces.....

I love making these pieces because they let me try out all sorts of ideas on a small scale within the parameters of the series,  but I often wonder what others make of this work ..... 

When I was reading the Introduction in the David Hockney exhibition (see previous post)  I came across a description of his approach by Simon Maidment, Curator of Contemporary Art at the NGV    " [David Hockney] does things his own way and forges ahead in the direction he finds most interesting"  and this encourages me to keep going  .....  

Having made a total of 16 Stepping Stones pieces I thought it would be fabulous to see them all in one place ..... like the David Hockney portrait series at the National Gallery of Victoria !!!

The best I've been able to do is to create this gallery block.  Here are a collection of the green pieces   .....

   © CarolynCollinsArt  2017 'Green Stepping Stones'  Hand dyed & printed fabric, batik

   © CarolynCollinsArt  2017 'Green Stepping Stones'  Hand dyed & printed fabric, batik

It's got me thinking about a larger Stepping Stones design .....

Do you have a series you are working on??

Thanks for dropping by ...CC



New Grevillea .... experiment

With all my new found Photoshop Elements skills .... I am doing the second module of the "Photoshop Elements - Essentials 2"  online class with the Pixeladies,  Deb Cashatt and Kris Sazaki ....  I've been playing with ways of creating simplified/abstracted grevillea designs!

This is terrific fun and as you might imagine I now have a stack of design possibilities!!!!   

The next questions is how to translate these into fabric!!

My first idea is to try a version of shadow applique ...  working from the abstract design  to create a base layout made up of geometric shapes and then combining this  with a digital image of the flower printed on organza,  as an overlay.

I found an interesting piece of fabric with a range of shades of  plum and pink .... not a piece that inspired me when I dyed it some time ago but perfect for this experiment and a soft mottled green to use for the background.  After fusing the geometric shapes .... some very thin and too small to applique with my usual technique ... I added to overlay of printed organza.  This is how it turned out ......


"Grevillea 6"

CarolynCollinsArt © 2017

8" x 16"

Hand dyed and printed fabrics, digital image


After some time contemplating the possibilities, I decided on a mix of hand stitching  .... a running stitch and some seed stitches  and a simple horizontal machine line to finish.   The overlay makes working with thin strips and small shapes very stress free!!!  

I like the results of this experiment .....  but there are more ideas to try !!!

What have you been experimenting with lately??   

Thanks for dropping by .....CC




Art Date .... well sort of!

I would love to see the David Hockney exhibition currently showing at the National Gallery of Victoria but sadly will not have the opportunity to travel to Melbourne before it closes and the NGV is the only venue in Australia! 

As a consolation, I visited the NGV website and was delighted with the video of David Hockney reviewing the exhibition when he visited for the opening.   Here is the link if you would like a taste......     http://www.ngv.vic.gov.au/exhibition/david-hockney/

I also purchased a copy of the catalogue which at A$29.95 seemed very reasonably priced. When I picked up the parcel from the PO I was surprised by its weight and even more so when I opened it and browsed through its many pages (over 1 inch thick)

With time to settle down and read and enjoy I am even a greater fan !!    Here are a couple of the things that really struck a chord with me .....

The series of 82 (yes 82) portraits included in this show.  Since taking LIsa Call's  'Working in a Series' class a couple of years ago I love this process and where it  can take you.  David Hockney's portrait series is unified by a number of parameters ... size. medium, subject seated on the same chair and the blue/green background blocks.   The pose and attire was determined by the sitter.  Edith Delvaney,  writing in the catalogue observes "Hockney shows no sign of his curiosity in this series and its possibilities diminishing".

I also fell in love with his Yosemite pieces,  capturing the light and atmosphere of this place beautifully, it makes me feel like I was back there.   The other element of these works, created on an ipad,  are the trees.  Hockney is quoted as saying ..."trees have a deep appeal ...." and I am drawn to the variety and forms of the trees depicted in the paintings and the wonderful color palette.  

While these works may have been created on an ipad they are clearly the result of first hand experience.   Simon Maidment, Curator of Contemporary Art the NGV writes " The success of translating these places is owed in no small part to the particular way the artist has chosen to experience them, dedicating time to landscapes, for looking and exploring as well as depicting."

For me,  David Hockney makes wonderful pictures and some day I hope to have the opportunity to see his work face-to-face ...... a real art date!!! 

Have you had an "art date"  recently?  What do you recommend?

Thanks for dropping by  ....CC

Learning More About Working with Photos

Photographs play an important role in my art practice.  They are the way I record my inspirations and allow me to test out designs and ideas.  I use Adobe's Photoshop Elements software and have basically found my way around the program by trial and error and with a bit of help from Mr Google!!!

I recently discovered a series of online classes run by Kris Sazaki and Deb Cashatt ... the Pixeladies and enrolled in Photoshop Elements Essentials 1 

I've just completed the first week of classes and have to say this is one of the best investments I have made in my tech knowledge.  The class is structured around an excellent series of video lesson with follow up notes and homework.

 Already I have learned a much better way of resizing my images .. an increasingly frequent task for website/blog and submissions for exhibitions and shows and one which will have real benefits for the loading speeds on my website. 

Discovered the Camera Distortion Filter so I can now straighten images like this one.....

I sometimes like to photograph work lying flat to really highlight the stitching but often find the image is a bit distorted by the angles ... no longer!!

and I've learned how to add a watermark to an image .....

Next week .......   planning quilting lines, testing cut fabrics and auditioning colors are on the list.  I can't wait !!!

I would highly recommend these classes if you want to learn more about working with your photos and Photoshop Elements!!  

What tech classes do you recommend??? 

Thanks for dropping by ....CC



Green Replenished!

After all that green work,   the fabric stash was looking decidedly bare ....  so this week I have started dyeing fabric for the work ahead ........  I say 'started'  because I've already made inroads into this batch!! 

I dyed about 10 mtrs of cotton poplin,  mostly fat quarters but also some half metre and a few metre pieces for larger backgrounds   ... I love the surprising combinations that come from Ann Johnston's "color parfait's" (See Anne's  book  'Color by Accident'  - one of my favorite references on fabric dyeing).  I worked with mixes of a number of green and  blue dyes for most of the fabrics then added a bit of antique gold and peach!

Just as well I made plenty of greens ... quite a few pieces are just right for the Grevillea piece I have just started work on!!!  The next batch of colors is planned as soon as the new PDF fabric arrives!!!

Clearly my recent work says 'green' is high on my list of favorites!!!  What does your work say about your favorite color??  

Thanks for dropping by ............  CC


'Green' Collection ....

The 'Green'  Exhibition opened this week at Jing Jo Cafe in Kangaroo Valley and I was thrilled that a number of my pieces were included ......

Here is my 'Green' collection............

.... a set of 4 Stepping Stones pieces - 'Winding Way' , 'Peaches & Cream' - Grevillea 3 and 'Down by the Bay' - Mangroves 2.

 Even more exciting,  my grevillea piece was chosen as the image for the show ..... Thank you Belinda for all your hard work bring this exhibition together!

If you are in the vicinity of Kangaroo Valley I highly recommend the exhibition. ... there is an excellent variety of work on show .... and the coffee and food at Jing Jo's is excellent.  Here is the link to their site if you need their address and opening times ....  http://www.jingjo.com.au

If you visit,   I'd love to know what you think???  CC


Stitch First Applique Later!

With my new Grevillea piece I reversed my usual construction process by stitching the background before the applique!  Now this is not a new idea but one I've avoided because I like the flexibility that finalising the composition first allows.  Stitching first requires a bit of a leap of faith!  

Step one was stitching the background.  Doing the stitching first makes the process very easy, no shapes to navigate around so the stitching is very fluid and it's easy to achieve a good result.  It also helps to integrate any additions/variations in the background design.

With this piece I added the applique shapes in two steps.  Firstly the main structure of the flower and the leaves and secondly the overlapping flower shapes, stitching them down as I built up the design.

If you have followed previous posts you will know that I have had quite some issues with skipped stitches.  These skipped stitches occur because of movement in the layers as the needle  passes through multiple layers and are very frustrating!!!  By stitching the background first this issue is not longer of concern!!   So making this piece has been a much more enjoyable experience .......

                   'Peaches & Cream' - Grevillea 3   © Carolyn Collins 2017   16" x 16"  

                   'Peaches & Cream' - Grevillea 3   © Carolyn Collins 2017   16" x 16"  

Have you tried stitching first and what did you think about the process???

Thanks for dropping by .....  CC


New Year, New Work and Exciting News for AW5!!

Happy New Year everyone   .... I hope 2017 is full of creative inspiration and lots of good things!!!

To start the year as I mean to continue ......

I have finished a new piece in the Stepping Stones series.   I have been experimenting with new backgrounds for my stepping stones designs.   In this piece I have used  painted fusible as the background  for the open road design .....

                                    'Misty Morning'  © Carolyn Collins 2017   12" x 12"  

                                    'Misty Morning'  © Carolyn Collins 2017   12" x 12"  

I have painted the fusible with diluted acrylic paint.  I have tried to suggest a landscape ..  I tried various  strengths of paint  ....  the addition of some water helps to create an interesting patterning on the fusible and  gives the end result a painterly quality.  I fused the painted surface to a pale green hand dyed fabric.   For the next in the series I'm going to try a seascape!

The good news this week is that the Australia Wide Five Exhibition (including my Forest Pansy piece)  which is touring Australia will also tour in the US this year to the AQS Quilt Week shows in Grand Rapids, Mi chigan;  Fall Paducah, Kentucky and Des Moines, Iowa!!!  Congratulations to the OzQuilt Network organisers .... amazing to have our exhibition showcased in the US!!!

Pushing the Boundaries - Karin Olah

This week I have been inspired by the wonderful work of  textile artist Karin Olah.

I first came across one of her floral works with a wonderful sense of dimension and was intrigued to know how she made it ....

                                                   Magnolia  - Karin Olah

                                                   Magnolia  - Karin Olah

Karin describes her work as "fabric collage painting".  In an interview some years back she says " I cut out my brushstrokes instead of painting them on"......

As I searched to find more of her work I discovered a series of wonderful landscape pieces .....

                                                      Blue Flag Day  - Karin Olah

                                                      Blue Flag Day  - Karin Olah

Karin describes her process ..... " I start with rough outline, a drawing or a little under-painting, and then I start layering fabric.  I soak each piece in rice starch and then squeegee it onto the canvas.  I use opaque and transparent fabrics so you can see a little history underneath in building up the shapes and background."

I love the different textures the different fabrics bring to this work ... it's all about the fabric!

Karin's website is a visual delight ....  you will find it at www.karinolah.com 

Thanks for dropping by ....  I hope you are inspired!!  CC