Sunday, 25 March 2018

Colour and a Battle of Wills

At times when I've felt like a break from investigating the power and impact of black and white, I've intermittently been playing with and then stitching an image that evolved when I was doing the online Pixeladies' Photoshop Elements 3 course last year.


The orginal photographs that fed into this image were taken looking out from a copse on the Ridgeway path at Hickpen Hill south of Swindon in Wiltshire not far from where we live. The views from this spot across to the Cotswolds are magnificent. It is a favourite viewpoint of ours and I have taken photographs at all seasons of the year. These I took as we walked along the Ridgeway towards Barbury Castle on a cold, crisp spring day before the leaves were out and long shadows were cast through the trees.

The image has been much manipulated (it was a complex task) and I gained much pleasure from the exercise. However, a significant problem arose when I tried to print it out ready for stitching several months ago. I was caught in a battle of wills between my PC and Photoshop Elements on the one hand and my Epson printer on the other. After much adjusting of the colour using levels and hue adjustments, I achieved something that I felt was as close as I was likely to manage to the original. I have no unstitched photograph of this image but now I look at the stitched version several months later, I can see much subtlety was lost.


I can also see that the colour I chose to stitch with was quite a distance from the original - another battle lost - and lost for two reasons. I hadn't looked at the original for so long I'd forgotten the colour and because I had a delicious reel of magenta silk thread that I couldn't wait to use. 

So, I have several things to take from this experiment; one: to remember to check that the printer is set so that colour management is controled by Photoshop (on Adobe RGB) not the printer - a trick I've only recently learnt after researching on the internet; two: If I want to reproduce an image faithfully, I need to look at it carefully when choosing colours; three: Have I really gained anything by stitching this image in this way when my stitch is inevitably less subtle than the original?

These two little croppings from the image above may answer that last question for me. 


They negate the problem of expecting to reproduce colours faithfully as they seem to have taken on a life of their own (especially the first). When I look at them now, I don't have such regret at the use of that brilliant magenta or disappearance of the original image. In fact, when I look at them, I seem to ignore the original altogether - perhaps a lesson in the value of abstraction?

And the good thing is that, because it's my own, I still have the original undamaged image to use in a different way if I wish, so nothing was lost by this experiment.


14 comments:

  1. Before getting to the end of your post, I was thinking that, well, you could always try layering a sheer fabric over the top, black perhaps, that would tone down the colors to look more like the original. But in reality, when working with photos this is the trap (at least for me), the automatic reaction to copy the original rather than being inspired by it, to think we have failed if we've gone off in another direction, even if we like the result. And back again to why we want to make a photo a fiber rendition in the first place. Why are we not just printing these impressive photos on photo paper and framing them? What does making them a fiber rendition add to the image? Why are we compelled to try this in the first place? All questions I ask myself every time I start working with a photo. I love the resolution you came to, the realization that although our first intent is often to copy, in time we may subconsciously start ignoring the source as other shapes and colors start tickling our imagination. And of course, the fact that you can repeat the experiment more than once, nothing lost in the trying.

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    1. When I created this image it was to satisfy the requirements of the online course I was doing and not with any idea of what might happen to it thereafter. It was only after its completion that I realised I rather liked what I'd produced and felt the urge to stitch it in some way. I think in fact that I probably chose a rather tricky approach. Perhaps quilting it delicately might have been a better answer and might have retained more of the original feel of the piece - but I'm not a quilter and it's not my default response. The positive outcome is that I feel I learnt a lot from all aspects of the process and I can't ask more than that really!

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  2. Sounds like a win win situation to me. I love your original picture and hope you find a way of using it. xx

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    1. Thank you, Lin. I may just stop here. Sometimes that's the best outcome, though I feel the need to do something with it. I'm toying with just printing the unadorned image onto photographic paper and place it in a mount - job done! Alternatively, I could try quilting it as I mentioned in my reply to Sheila above. If I decide to take it further, I will post the results.

      Meanwhile, I might just take the scissors and my cropping windows to this version and produce a card or two. I have a particularly appreciative friend in mind as a recipient ...!

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  3. I agree wholeheartedly with Sheila. I am a great believer in enjoying and learning from experimentation, and embracing accidents and unexpected outcomes. I also like with your possible solution of cropping and using elements as cards. It can all be progress, depending on how we look at things.

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    1. I think at root that I see almost everything I do in stitch as an experiment and an exploration of what is possible and feel very lucky to be able to pursue this and to gain so much enjoyment from it. Nevertheless, going out on a limb can sometimes be frustrating and this was one of those occasions. I kick myself that I misjudged both the quality of the image and the stitch I used. However, it did indeed give progress of a sort, even if it was only the ability to control my printer better!

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  4. I feel compelled to add, as I think about your comments that stitch more akin to quilting might have been the better choice, that from the start, your heavier thread with longer stitch was reminding me of something, and I've finally figured it out. Are you familiar with Richard Saja's work? He primarily takes the images on toile fabrics and adds hand embroidery in bright colors - often with longer straight stitches. Go have a look:

    http://historically-inaccurate.blogspot.com/2017/11/tribes-exhibition.html

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    1. How absolutely fascinating! Very many thanks for the link. I love the way he is so selective in what he stitches - a lesson about less being more, I think. Interestingly, I can also see links to other things I’ve been doing recently where I’ve stitched (more selectively this time) on my own monochrome images, albeit in French knots, not long stitches. Much to consider!

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    2. I thought you might enjoy his work - glad you could see the same similarities to your work as I did. I remember him noting that he is never in a hurry, that he does the kind of hand stitching called stab stitching, I believe, which you can watch him doing in this video interview (at around 6 minutes): https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=rrSEPlpp3lg

      So refreshing to run across a textile artist who is not looking for shortcuts. You might enjoy this interview with additional eye candy too: http://irenebrination.typepad.com/irenebrination_notes_on_a/2013/03/historically-inaccurate-richard-saja.html

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    3. Just spent ten most interesting minutes reading the article. I really enjoyed the off the wall details in his embroidery which had largely passed me by when I looked at them quickly yesterday. Thank you very much for thinking of me further,Sheila! I will watch the youtube video once Easter has gone and our family have left.
      Have a good weekend.
      Margaret

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    4. Yes, there were things in that interview that I'd forgotten and the off the wall details origins was one of them. Happy to share with someone who can appreciate the quirkiness of his vision and talent. Enjoy your Easter company!

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  5. What a lovely google alert to wake up to! Thanks for the sweet words, ladies!

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    1. Thank you very much for taking the trouble to comment, Richard. Much appreciated!

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