Hello Surfers!

It’s been quite some time since I’ve posted anything up here. Just to get myself back on track I think today i’ll post a little more about what it is that stirred my interest in Art & Design in the first place! Before you read on, I have a random question for you…What do you get if you add a spool of thread and a needle?

Before I ever knew the difference between a .png, a .gif and a .jpeg, or even knew how to turn on a computer to be honest, I was (and i’ll cheekily admit it) kind of an expert in one particular field… and though it sounds slightly cheesy to some (those unaware of it πŸ˜‰ ) it is a fascinating area to be lucky enough to be thrown into at a young age. The area of interest of which I speak? Lacemaking. No it is not all crochet, not as simple as it looks, and no it is not old fashioned. It is, however, quite unappreciated in today’s technological world.

In the late 1800’s and early 1900’s, before the industrial revolution, handmade lace (bobbin lace, fine crochet, needle lace/needlepoint lace, carrickmacross lace, mountmellick work, limerick lace etc. ) was a highly prized commodity used as a symbol of wealth and power, as a piece of art, and as a relatively profitable means of employment.

Finding people who still make it in large quantities is difficult to say the least. I don’t claim to make a huge pieces. I’m not that crazy… πŸ˜› The amount of time one puts into making a tiny piece is incredible. Take this piece of Kenmare Lace(needle lace/needlepoint lace) for example:

Kenmare Lace

Kenmare Lace

If you were to extract one square inch from this roughly 4×6 inch piece and attempt to recreate it, you are talking about between 20 and 30 hours work, and that is for someone who is well practiced in the art of needle lace (calling it so for the benefit of our american friends. πŸ™‚ Interestingly enough in older literature and quite often on mainland Europe it’s called needlepoint lace, though it has very little if anything in common with canvass needlepoint.)

Anyway, this is what I began making as a young girl. Today there are many relatively small lacemaking communities all over the world, with lace guilds in as many countries as there are variations in technique! In my own hometown I am currently part of a large project aiming to create a large commemorative Kenmare Lace Circle. It will celebrates 150 years of lacemaking in Kenmare, Co.Kerry and will (hopefully) be completed by June 2012 by a group of over 200 volunteers! 😐

If you are questioning it’s relevance, perhaps this might convince you and encourage you to have a little look at the amazing history of this once basic skill….

Kate Middleton's wedding dress

Kate Middleton wearing handmade Carrickmacross Lace

For her wedding to Prince William, Her Royal Highness the Duchess of Cambridge Kate Middleton (like Princess Diana before her), wore handmade carrickmacross lace. The dress was designed by Sarah Burton at Alexander McQueen, and was made by the Royal School of Needlework using an Irish technique dating back to the 1820’s.

So here’s where it all began for me, and where my interest in design continues to be fostered, especially when my eyes start to turn into little squares having stared at this computer screen all day…

Kenmare Lace Circle

The Kenmare Lace Circle in progress.

I certainly hope you will consider diving a bit further into this intricate and always intriguing end of design with me. For more information on the lace and the stunning handpainted designs, and some lovely photos of the Kenmare Lace Circle in progress, please check out the Kenmare Lace & Design Centre Facebook page, and maybe take a little peek at where you can learn more about the lace techniques practiced in Ireland. Happy diving!! πŸ˜‰

Digital Circlism…Pointillism evolved?

Digital Circlism
Ben Heine is a photographer, painter, portraitist, caricaturist and illustrator from Belgium who I stumbled upon while wandering around flickr. He came to my attention not for his most well-known project (the Pencil vs. Camera image series.) but for another interesting idea on display on his website: Digital Circlism.

I found it difficult to find much information on Ben’s technique online. Most of the info I managed to scrape together was based on one or two fairly useless interviews he had done and a short wiki entry.
To be honest I wasn’t so much interested in his personality or other works as I was in his new take on the late 19th century technique of Pointillism. As a fan of Pop Art and Pointillism, Ben took both styles, and through the magic of modern technology created his self-labelled ” Digital Circlism”.

I was intrigued by this, so through trawling arts boards and other blogs, and even the ever-reliable facebook, I eventually found Ben’s explanation of how he achieves the dramatic and precise images displayed below:

Lady Gaga By Ben Heine

As I’ve been working with digital tools recently, this came quite naturally, and I’m a big fan of Pop Art and Pointillism. Digital Circlism is a modern mix of them

Marilyn Monroe By Ben Heine

“The most important thing to focus on before starting [this] kind of project is to understand the dynamic movement of [a subject’s] face.”

Ben outlines his process and thoughts behind the work as follows:

I often make a photomontage first using a bunch of references, then a digital painting and I finally apply my “digital circlist” technique.
I apply each digital circle individually on a black background with a sharp round brush in Photoshop CS4.Β It is essential to pay attention to the aspect of each circle (changing slightly the size and color for every circle is always better). That’s the difficult part, because one can have several thousands circles in a single portrait. It has to be done harmoniously, according to the main lines and dynamism of the subject represented.
I usually create larger circles in the lighter areas of the subject and smaller circles in darker spots. This creates more volume along with a 3D illusionary effect.

It can take between 100 and 180 hours for a single portrait to be completed, with each celebrity portrait created entirely through Photoshop (Though Ben does use other programmes, from what I can gather this seems to be his staple ).
His approach is a combination of an established technique in pointillism (the use of small, distinct dots of pure colour applied in patterns to create an image), with subject matter and a stylistic approach echoing the work of the likes of Andy Warhol (in using images of icons like Elvis Presley and Marylin Monroe). This mix is made possible however, only through creative use of graphic image editing software.

It’s interesting to see a technique like Pointillism being reinvented and recreated through an entirely new medium. Programmes like Photoshop, Illustrator and InDesign to name but a few are giving us options we never had before, and making d.i.y. design accessible for everyone. Hopefully, artists and designers will use these advances to enhance art as a whole, embracing past techniques and developing them, without devaluing the skills used to create great works of the past.

For more information on Ben Heine, check out hisΒ website.

p.s. Apologies for the delayed post-Virus in the system. Gone now thank God! πŸ™‚ Enjoy.

Re-interpreting the World Around You with Chris McVeigh

Materials in Design

From a young age I remember being taught that being an artist meant taking the world around you and re-interpreting it in order to give it new life, and new meaning. It didn’t matter if it was writing an essay at school, designing clothes, or working on an art project of some description, this has always been what I have identified as a core principal of creativity.

For me, inspired creatives who embody this ideal and find new ways of interpreting our ever-changing world are inspirations in themselves. Take Chris McVeigh for example. His work was brought to my attention through the magazine Computer Arts Projects (It’s a great publication packed with ideas, tips and techniques. Personally i’ve found it to be an invaluable tool in the learning process.)

Standing in Dublin’s Hueston station one cold day in February, I picked up Issue 146 and flicked through it only to come across this image:Brickfast anyone?

As I see it , inspiration to re-interpret can come from anywhere. For McVeigh, it comes from childhood memories, and the possibility of re-interpreting that with the skills gained in adulthood:”In the dark years after my first childhood, I forgot about Lego. I forgot how much fun it was to create a little world of my own with small colored bricks. I forgot the joy it brought me.Thankfully, my second childhood started at 30! And I love Lego more now than I did all those years ago.”

Although this image looks pretty straightforward, Mcveigh actually carefully created a Lego understructure to support the visible bricks, placing them in specific positions to achieve his desired effect. Not the most nutritious breakfast no, but it certainly gave me food for thought! πŸ˜›

I have to say though, one of my favorite Mcveigh shots has to be this one. Based on Micheal Jackson’s thriller video, it is a fun and frivolous twist on original image:

It’s funny to think how things around us as we grow influence us later in life. McVeigh only gained an interest in photography in 2007, but since then his profile has grown greatly, thanks in no small part to ingenuity the likes of this. It wasn’t long before Lucasfilm snapped up one of his images and featured it on the front page of
The bulk of McVeigh’s work however concentrates on online advertising with Microsoft featuring as one of his client lists heaviest hitters.

McVeigh is just one of the inventive and inspirational artists I have hit upon so far in my journey whose work I have learned from, felt reaffirmed by, and been encouraged by. Feel free to comment and share your discoveries with me here, and (cheesy I know πŸ˜› ) don’t be afraid to experiment and “Dive in the Deep End”! πŸ˜€

(If you’re interested in more of Chris Mcveigh’s work, check out his flicker stream)