In my last post I introduced you to my newest piece “Black Sand at Vik, Iceland” and I promised you the story behind the process of its creation. Although the finished piece looks quite simple, it was really anything but due to a combined number of factors including colour palette, technique and mood that I was trying to capture.
This was the photo that I based the piece on. This past summer while in Iceland on vacation (our third time in that fantastic country) we drove the furthest east along the Ringroad that we had ever gone and ended up in the town of Vik. Right down by the water was this beach. I remember that my daughter and my husband ventured down to the water’s edge while I stayed up on the sand, alternately watching them, the waves and the heavy sky. A light sprinkling of rain had started (totally the norm for Iceland) and this little patch of grass caught my eye. It was so bright; almost neon in comparison to the rest of the surroundings. I knew I had to have this photo. I was six months pregnant with my son at the time but I totally dropped to my knees and tried my best to flatten myself onto the sand to get the shot that I wanted.
I knew I wanted to make this scene.
Fast forward to when we returned home and I saw the antique frame. I knew immediately that this was the scene that I wanted to fill it with. So, I did my colour planning and started the project.
The problem was that I had forgotten a lesson that I had learned in the past. Photos are great, but I really should also carry a sketchbook with me at all times because the camera CAN lie. The colours captured are not always the true colours. And the camera doesn’t always capture the mood and atmosphere of an experience.
So this was my first attempt at the piece. Going by the photo it made sense to make the water and the sky blue. I was happy with the water, but I hated the sky. I was doing my blending technique and I totally felt that it started to look like a really bad sweater. As well, although staying true to the photo, the blues were too cheery. The grass was not standing out enough. This was not the scene that had motivated me to flop onto my belly to capture.
I had thought I was happy with the beach until my husband pointed out that by going with shades of brown, it actually could have represented any beach anywhere in the world. It was not the distinctive, unique black sand beach of Vik.
It had to go.
So, I ripped out the sky, water and beach. I re-did the beach in the blacks that you see in the current version. Much better. I beefed up the neon green a bit to make it stand out even more.
I was totally happy with the lower portion of the rug at that point.
I then did the water in two shades of grey. One of the shades of grey even had a little bit of a shine to it which I thought added well to the watery effect. Then I tackled the sky. I started hooking it but quickly realized that because the grey in the sky was very similar to the grey in the water, it was just going to make the piece look like a big grey blob.
Out came the sky again.
Still working on the sky, I decided to try a stitching technique (the same as is used in the water of the finished piece) to make the difference between them more apparent. I really liked the technique, but after finishing the entire sky I realized that it really didn’t work as a sky. It made the focal point of the piece the sky, which wasn’t really the point of the whole scene.
Since I really liked the look of the stitching, though, I mulled the idea of using it for the water.
So, out came the water and out came the sky.
You have no idea how hard it is to rip out that stitching technique and how long it takes.
There was also something else that was bothering me about the piece as a whole. No matter what part I changed, the whole piece still seemed flat. It was my husband who figured out the problem when he told me “I think it is lacking perspective.” He was totally right. I hadn’t put any perspective in the piece which made it completely one dimensional. I knew I had to factor that into the next variation.
Using the stitching technique on the water, the original idea was to stitch it half way up and then hook the top of the water to make the waves look like they were receding. This would add the much needed perspective.
After doing that, though, I realized that the hooking didn’t sit well beside the stitching. What I needed was to put in more stitching instead of less and make the stitches smaller.
Out came the top of the water.
I replaced the hooking at the top of the water with stitching and it looked much better. But because the stitches were so small they weren’t lining up in a staggered manner like the rest. It looked odd.
So, I had to go over the small stitches with longer stitches.
At this point I also tackled the sky using a subtle blend of colours. Thankfully it worked this time and the end result is the finished piece that I showed to you last blog post.
This piece taught me SO many lessons. But most of all, it taught me to stick with it. I have learned in the past that if a piece doesn’t feel right there is no point passing it off as done as I won’t be happy with it later and will end up destroying it. Many times I wanted to pass this piece off as done but I knew I couldn’t. I had to keep playing with it until I got it right. I put in so much time making changes to this piece and in the end it was totally worth it. It turned out exactly what I had envisioned when I stood on that exact beach thinking how I would turn that memory in the making into a rug.
Sometimes the simplest scenes are the hardest to recreate. But the challenge of getting there is really what art and the joy of making it are all about.