Steal like an artist - book review

I've just read Steal Like An Artist (as recommended by my tutor)

It's about how everything we create is influenced from something else (I personally don't like the title, as I've been ripped off by people copying my work before, so "stealing" is something that doesn't sit well!) However the book does explain the difference between being influenced by peoples work as a pose to outright copying.

Favourite points / quotes from the book

  • every new idea is just a mashup of previous ideas
  • surround yourself in things you love / inspired you - these "ideas" will generate new ideas
  • study an artist you love, then when you're done, study 3 artists they love, keep going
  • copying others work is like taking a car part - you'll see how it works
  • don't just study the style of other artists, studying the thinking behind the style 
  • think about your favourite work, what was missing, what could be better?
  • Imagine if all your favourite artists got together - what would they produce?

Strangely, reading this has just made it obvious why we need to research other artists. Of course I knew we should be doing so, and I've no idea why something so simple has taken so long to click! Maybe the work "research" just scared me?

I love the idea of a more hands on approach to looking at other artists - making samples copying work from artists I like, then looking at the work I've created and thinking how I would change it. Or taking 2 artists and mashing their work together.

This book has actually get excited at the thought of research!!!

Textiles 1 (Exploring ideas) - Assignment 2 - Tutor feedback

Overall Comments
Sarah you have produced some attractive printed pieces during this assignment.  Your sketchbook shows that you draw regularly in a range of mediums and that you can use your drawing outcomes to develop the assignment work.  Your learning log could do with some development, which I will go into later.

Assessment potential (after Assignments 2 and 4)

I understand your aim is to go for the Textiles Degree and that you plan to submit your work for assessment at the end of this course. From the work you have shown in this assignment, providing you commit yourself to the course, I believe you have the potential to succeed at assessment.  In order to meet all the assessment criteria, there are certain areas you will need to focus on, which I will outline in my feedback.   

Feedback on assignment
Demonstration of technical and Visual Skills, Quality of Outcome, Demonstration of Creativity
You have used the course material to produce interesting and attractive prints.  There is evidence you have used drawing to trigger and developed design ideas.  Your prints have been created with skill and care yet they remain experimental.  You have introduced texture to your prints and explored several colour pallets successfully.  There is a considered use of placement and an understanding of how to create a pleasing design.  Continue to be experimental in your sample making; taking risks will help you to develop your own style. 

Demonstration of technical and Visual Skills, Demonstration of Creativity
For this assignment you have submitted an A5 sketchbook with a series of observational drawings and mark making in a variety of mediums.  You have some skill in observational drawing and appear comfortable with mark making and collage.  I suggest you expand your drawing repertoire by exploring at a larger scale.  Think about creating your own sketchbook from loose leaves of paper of different colours and textures.  Work at A4 and up to A1.  I use a roll of lining paper or a cheap textured wallpaper cut into good size pieces.  Drawing on a larger scale will help you loosen up and explore ideas on a more usable scale.

Learning Logs or Blogs/Critical essays
Your online learning log continues to develop.  There are images of your own work with some discussion of the results and techniques used.  I suggest that you aim to expand your written material.  For example you have included a large number of your interesting sketchbook drawings but they are accompanied by a single explanatory sentence.  I suggest you should be discussing your work more fully in your learning log.  Ask yourself questions about the mediums and techniques you have used.  Were they the right media or could you have used others?  What did you learn and see when drawing the subject matter?  Why did you choose this particular subject matter?  Do you see it translated into a design or piece of art?  How could the drawing be used; print, embroidery or another method?  There is no need to be long winded, annotate each image with a couple of sentences.

The images of your prints are accompanied with some descriptive annotation.  I suggest you progress onto analysing the designs and how well the methods have worked.  Discuss the composition and the placement of the elements. Elaborate on your discussion by adding what you think of the piece.  Were the colours right?  What did you think of the scale?  Could you have changed some of the elements or changed the placement arrangement?  Note down any ideas you have for future compositions.  This way of capturing your thoughts and ideas will help you to become a critical thinker and will assist in the development of design ideas.

I suggest you also need to write more about the material you have researched.  You have written some brief notes about Dionne Swift’s course and the technical books you use as reference.  Your research material needs to include designers and artists.  The work can be seen either in a publication, on a website or in an exhibition.  You should be looking at the work of other artists regularly and commenting on it in your learning log.   Discuss the materials used, the use of placement, colour palette and methods.  Try and pin down what it is that appeals or doesn’t appeal to you.  Understanding the work of other makers will help you develop your own style that fits into contemporary design sensibilities.

Suggested reading/viewing
I have added a list of contemporary textile artists, some you will already know.  I suggest you pick 5 or 6 pieces of work to look at and make a few notes on in your learning log.  Use the Internet or magazines like Embroidery or Selvedge to find further artists to include in your learning log.

Selvedge Magazine

Pointers for the next assignment

  • Maintain your good working practices
  • Include research in your learning log of artists work
  • Consider creating your own sketchbook and draw at a larger scale
  • Write more fully about your work, analysing its structure and the techniques used

Screen printing

For my final screen print, I wanted to do a more abstract print, but something that looked like it was mean to go together - rather than just a mess of patterns. I took inspiration from these rubbings from drain covers (which I love, as they are often something overlooked, but as soon as you start noticing them, you realise how many different patterns there are!). I drew the patterns in Illustrator, then cut them (on a cutting machine) into stencils.

I know wanted a focal point, so (hand) cut another stencil based on a fox door knocker... I liked the idea of this shifty / quirky looking urban fox, mixing with the regular patterns of the drains.

I choose a colour scheme from a photo I took of peeling paint next to one of the drains I have rubbed - it had a lovely mixture of greys, turquoise and emerald green.

I then played around with a few layers of prints and completely messed it up. The background was too dark and the fox disappeared. So I went back to the drawing board and decided to have 1 all over print, then print the fox, mask him off, then scatter the over patterns over around him. I feel this worked much better - the bit at the bottom where the diamonds go around the foxes feet really make him pop out. The diamond layer was done with the 3D medium, then overprinted in some areas with the green Y's ... when dry I puffed the diamonds, which gave a really interesting texture (especially where the green had overlapped).

If I were to do this again, I think I would be more precise with masking off the diamond shapes, so they appeared exactly where I wanted them. I used the whole screen and just tried to print certain areas using a credit card as a squeegee, but that wasn't precise enough and left certain areas looking too blocky.

Printing techniques

I currently do screen printing in my business. The designs I do are very simple (non repeating), with several colours, which I then embroider alongside, to create personalised products. I use either the drawing fluid and screen block, or a photo emulsion technique (which I find more harder wearing than the screen block).

However, as my screen printing skills are basic (and self taught) I wanted to expand my knowledge and use techniques I am not familiar with.


I watched a few online DVD's (I've recently subscribed to, as being dyslexic, I find watching easier than reading!) and read (looked at) some books on printing. Links below ...

You can see a whole blog post on Designing & Printing fabric book here.

In Printmaking + Mixed Media, I discovered the work of Dorit Elisha (and through her Orly Avineri) who both completely changed my view of what screen printing is. When I first started this assignment, I've always thought of screen printing as a method to produce clean cut patterns (often in repeats), however they both produce some beautiful mixed media designs, in which the screen printing is irregular, messy (in a lovely way) and layered, to form amazing "pictures". - I say pictures, as again I used to see screen printing as fabric design - to be used for something else, rather than a piece of art in itself.

These books have some great printing charts (different types of printing, which inks to use etc.) I'm making my own chart from all the sources I've found and will post it for reference at a later date.

I then went away and experimented with a few different methods.

Hand cut paper stencil as a resist

I took an image from my sketchbook of a building roof outline into Illustrator and repeated the line to create rows.

I then cut lines from copier paper with a craft knife, placed in position, put a screen (that I had made using some sort of organza / polyester fabric) on top, and took a print. As the cutting took forever, I only cut a few (single) rows - the idea being I would space them apart so I could print one (double thick) row with blue, one (double thick) with pink, and end up with 3 colours! However, I didn't measure it correctly (somehow I couldn't get my head around the single / double thickness), then the paper got wet felt off, so I did a few prints with just the outer stencil!

But all is good, as lessons were learnt (and I got some interesting marks that I wasn't expecting!) ...
  • If the stencil touches wet fabric, it will stick and come off of the screen!
  • Very hard to line up, as stencil was not in place until after the 1st print. But after 1st print, it;s wet, so no time to use the stencil to mark next print!

Gocco (similar to a thermofax) screen

I used the same source image as above and used Illustrator to move the shapes around and create a repeat design. 

I then burned 3 Gocco screen's, and printed a 3 colour (red, pink and gold) repeat on dark yellow fabric (I had to use the screen ink and fabric I had to hand, as I'm unable to get into work at the moment).

I learnt several lessons in the process;
  • The image nearly filled the screen, but the edges didn't come out very clear. Maybe this is because Gocco's work from flash bulbs, and the light doesn't reach the edges very well - it could also be down to old screens ... in future I need to make designs much smaller on the Gocco screens.
  • I need to practice with lining up designs better .. I didn't have enough space to mark out lines, and the images was very small, leaving little room for error!

Freezer paper stencil (& experimenting with media)

I found a box of screen printing mediums (that were past their best before date, so was unsure if they would work) they include ...

  • Pearl binder with concentrated colour (turns ink shimmery),
  • Adva 3D medium (puffs with heat),
  • Pearl binder with lustre powder, (metallic-ish colour)
  • Gloss binder with glitter (this didn't work very well - need to re-read the instructions),
  • Gloss binder with concentrated colour (turns ink shiny - seems to leave fabric sticky)

After testing each medium, I used the remaining ink to create a random print (inspired by the irregular style of the Dorit Elisha). I then added Adva 3D medium on top of the print (using stencils), then screen printed on top of that (using a freezer paper stencil) - then puffed.

I learnt that if you put the 3D medium on too thick it goes crazy and expands itself off the fabric! I also discovered that printing on the 3D medium after puffing it, results in the ink leaking under the stencil.

Acrylic resist

As the screen was made from a piece of fabric (and it didn't matter if I ruined it), I covered the stencil in acrylic paint (from the freezer paper side) then let dry and removed the stencil - leaving a negative acrylic mask on the screen. I used blues, greens and golds (colours in the original image where the stencil came from) on a black fabric, then on white - although the colour had dried by that stage so didn't come through the screen clearly.

This print came out very clear - but when  I washed the screen, some of the paint came off, so this wouldn't be very good for a permanent screen.

Sketchbook work

My inspiration from "man made environment" came from architecture around town (Ilfracombe), from tiles and stone carving to walls and railings.

Day of the dead

I watched Book of Life the other day ... beautiful film full of amazing colours and patterns inspired me to play around making day of the dead skulls.