As you all know, I am a keen craftswoman with quite an eclectic range of interests from drawing, printing, paper craft and photography to a wide variety of textile crafts including knitting and crochet; felting and dyeing; embroidery; appliqué and patchwork; dressmaking; soft toy making and textile history and culture; so this year, I am concentrating on the wonderful books in my craft library, starting this month with those concerning: Colour, Design and Inspiration!
Unfortunately, because this is quite a large post, I have had to divide it into two parts. While many of my embroidery books contain chapters on colour theory, design and inspiration, the books featured in this post have been chosen for their detailed coverage of this topic.
Collins Artist’s Little Book of Colour by Simon Jennings 2007
This is a very practical guide for artists to the huge subject of colour, covering not only its history and origins, but also providing a Colour Index, a visual reference source of all the most popular artists’ colours for oils, watercolour, acrylics and gouache. The authors reviewed more than 1500 colours from 11 of the world’s leading paint manufacturers and selected 400 colours for the index, categorizing them by name, medium, pigment, hue and variety.
As can be seen in these colour charts from pages 82-82 (photos below), the same-named colour may vary in hue according to the medium and even within one medium, between different manufacturers. In the back is a guide to the main suppliers, as well as notes on pigment standards and colour terminology.
Colour: Travels Through the Paintbox by Victoria Finlay 2002
A far more romantic approach and treatment of colour, this paperback is ‘packed with stories, anecdotes and adventures. A full rainbow…as vivid as the colours themselves’ according to the Express. I couldn’t have put it better myself, which is precisely why I have quoted them!!!
Victoria writes so well and shares her fascination and passion for the world of colour so easily with the reader. She scours the world for little-known facts about colour from the Neolithic ochre mines of the Luberon in France or Sienna in Tuscany, Italy to the aboriginal ochre traders from Arnhemland and the Tiwi Islands in the Top End; Alice Springs in Central Australia; the Flinders Ranges in South Australia and the Campbell Ranges in Western Australia.
For example, the colours, Black and Brown, are steeped in prehistory and stories in this particular chapter range from prehistoric cave art, charcoal willow and early mascara to the history of lead pencils, including Derwent Pencils and the Pencil Museum in Keswick, Conté’s crayons and Chinese pencils; the manufacture of Egyptian and Chinese inks (the latter, also known confusingly as Indian ink) from soot, mixed with gum or resin respectively, and medieval inks from wasps nests, producing galls in oak trees; and natural dyes (again, the fading oak galls and alum; and the darker, more permanent logwood) and the dubious use of mommia brown, made from dead Egyptians!
There are so many more fascinating stories, illustrated with line drawings and a few colour plates, about the other colours: White, Red, Orange, Yellow, Green, Blue, Indigo and Violet, that this book is essential reading for anyone interested in history, art and colour!
The same author has also turned her attention to the semi-precious and precious gemstones and jewels, including Amber, Jet, Pearl, Opal, Peridot, Emerald, Sapphire, Ruby and Diamond (the last four being precious gemstones), with equally fascinating histories and anecdotes. Buried Treasure: Travels Through The Jewel Box by Victoria Finlay 2006 (photo above) is another terrific read!
The Natural Paint Book: A Complete Guide to Natural Paints, Recipes and Finishes by Lynn Edwards and Julia Lawless 2002
This book deals exclusively with natural paints and finishes with chapters on the story of paint; the environmental and health consequences of our choices concerning paint products; and a swag of natural paint recipes using quark (milk curd, the basis of casein paints), lime, borax, cellulose glue, linseed oil, plant dyes and tannins, beeswax, egg yolk and egg white, gum arabic, gesso, and even lager beer!
The book then details a large number of creative decorative techniques and effects, including roller fidgeting; shading; colour washing; layering; sponging; creating texture with a roller ; stippling; dragging and combing; rag rolling, frottage and bagging; stencilling; wax resist; freehand painting; glazework; oil finishes; liming with wax; distressed casein; clay, Venetian and coloured natural gypsum plasters; and frescoes.
There is a section on the art of Feng Sui; the principles of decoration (space, style and features, light and lighting, colour, materials and harmony and contrast), as well as design suggestions for interior decoration of each room of the home. This is a very useful book for artists wanting to make their own paints, as well as people wishing to use natural paints in their homes.
I have already covered Colour in Nature by Penelope Farrant 1999 in my post: https://candeloblooms.com/2017/08/01/our-beautiful-earth-part-four-natural-history-books-reference-guides/.
While many of my books on embroidery, knitting and appliqué have separate chapters on the principles and elements of design, I have always loved the following book:
The Textile Design Book: Understanding and Creating Patterns Using Texture, Shape and Colour by Karin Jerstorp and Eva Köhlmark 1988;
I have always loved this practical and inspiring book! While specifically written for textile designers, its exercises with sketching unconventional and natural materials; colour; texture; patterns (including stripes, squares, borders and stylised decorations) and design simplification are pertinent to any design medium from painting to collage; fabric and clothing design and dyeing; knitting and weaving; embroidery, patchwork and applique; pottery and jewellery, glass and paper craft; and even interior design and architecture.
Alice Starmore’s Charts for Color Knitting by Alice Starmore 1992/ 2011
While specifically written for knitters, I found all the charts in this book very applicable for cross-stitch (and weaving) as well.
There are traditional (Norway, Sweden and Finland; Latvia, Estonia and Lithuania; Russia; and South America) and adapted patterns from textiles and other arts like Japanese porcelain and Celtic Metalwork (Celtic; Greece; the Caucasus; Middle East and Far East) and Alice’s original, topical geometric and nature-inspired patterns covering: Birds and Flowers; Sea and Shoreline; and The Inner Landscape.
Allover patterns; single motifs; and vertical panels and horizontal borders are included for each section and there are practical instructions for incorporating all these into unique designs. The book starts with a section on Designing Patterned Sweaters and finishes with a A Word on Colour. This is an excellent source book for all craftspeople interested in design.
Sources for inspiration are infinite and only limited by your imagination! Where you find your inspiration is really determined by your art practice, as well as your interests. For example, I really enjoy hand embroidery, so some of my sources listed below include books involving line and repetition of pattern, as embroidery is really drawing with thread. For example, books on Mehndi (Henna Art), Celtic Artwork, Pen Illustrations, Zentangles and Mandalas. I also find tattoo art and the abstract patterning of linoprinting inspirational. My interest in toymaking is inspired and informed by books about fantastical creatures, medieval bestiaries, symbolism and children’s novels. My interest in gardening, nature, birds, archaeology and history; and reading, many books of which I have already described in previous book posts, also inspires my work and let’s not forget that modern-day marvel, the internet, including Pinterest, which encompasses information and inspiring ideas from all over the world and over many different time periods. Here is a brief selection of some of the books in my library, which I have found useful, but first, a final word:As with the previous book, cross-fertilisation of ideas from a number of different art and craft practices is very beneficial. For example, I have two tiny Paper Salon Catalogues, (photo above and below) which illustrate the various patterns of rubber stamps, available for purchase and used to decorate stationery, greeting cards, envelopes and invitations. While excellent for advertising, I also have found them to be a wonderful source of ideas for embroidery patterns, and while the patterns are obviously trademarks of paper salon, the designs can be tweaked for originality and will often be thus anyway with the different type of medium and techniques. Here is a sample page, page 7 of the pink book: which I used for my French cushion design, a gift for my neighbour’s 60th French-themed birthday!Nature
Another useful pattern book, complete with a downloadable CD, is: 5000 Flower and Plant Motifs by Graham Leslie McCallum 2011, which includes designs from different geographical areas, historical time periods and artistic styles (Mesopotamian; Egyptian; Greek; Romanesque Byzantine; Medieval; Islamic; Chinese; Japanese; Folk; Art Nouveau and Art Deco) and subject areas: Flowers and Leaves; Fruit and Vegetables; Nuts, Seeds and Cereals; and Trees. The designs can be copied, enlarged, traced or developed further for creative use in any field from embroidery to ceramics, woodwork and metal work. There are also a number of border patterns and an index in the back.
This book is an excellent source for inspiration, especially if you are a keen gardener as well! From this book, it’s a short hop to combining those patterns with the following book:
2000 pattern Combinations: A Step-by-Step Guide to Creating Pattern: For Graphic, Textile and Craft Designers by Jane Callender 2011
Slightly more complex, this book discusses a huge variety of technical aspects: Tiles, Tessellations and Grids; Basic Geometric Shapes and their Positioning; Bold Geometric Designs; Colour Theory; Symmetry; Varying Scale, Tonal Contrasts and Building up Colour; Borders and Corners; The Use of Diagonals and Checks; Abstraction; Disguising the Repeat and Hiding the Motif; Backgrounds; Emphasing Line; Overlaying Colour and Playing with Tone; Shadowing; Shibori; Dots and Splodges; Links; and Damask Patterns.
Art Forms in Nature by Ernest Haekel 1904/ 2014;
Ernest Haeckel (1834-1919 )is a favourite of mine for his meticulous and other-worldly illustrations of life’s miracles.While the book begins with chapters on his professional life and his devotion to art and science, as well as instructions for viewing his pictures, and finishes with biographical notes and a list of plates, the majority of the book is devoted to Haeckel’s amazing artworks, reproduced on 100 black-and-white and colour plates, which inspire a sense of wonder and an appreciation of the beauty of nature and all its inhabitants.
The Mandala Book: Patterns of the Universe by Lori Bailey Cunningham 2010
This is a fascinating book, which explores universal patterns and geometric forms in nature: circles and radials; dyads; triangles and squares; pentagoms and hexagons; and patterns including branching, cycles, waves and fractals. Its explanations are based on the concept of the mandala, which is defined as ‘an integrated structure around a unifying centre’( page 6), a symbol of unity and wholeness in many religions, and an expression of life itself.
There are some wonderful photographs and images in this book, which really get you thinking and inspire a myriad of possibilities for the next artwork! The book finishes with a selection of mandalas to colour in.
The Celtic Art Source Book by Courtney Davis 1988
The Celts were masters of symbolism and decorative stone and metal carving and knotwork. Like the Islamic faith today, copying or portrayal of the works of the creator (plant, animal, fish, reptile, bird, mammal and man) was forbidden, so the artistic representation of natural creatures is highly stylised and abstracted, with body parts intertwined in intricate patterns.
I love the abstract patterns, the spirals and clever interlacings and the symbolism and mythology behind their artwork. This book describes key patterns and knotwork designs, like the Thread of Life, the Sacred Dance and the Celtic Cross, as well as spirals, the cosmic symbol; zoomorphic ornamentation and Celtic myths and legends.
Throughout the book are wonderful black-and-white and colour illustrations of their artwork, including borders and calligraphy.
The Art of Mehndi by Sumatra Batra 1999
There are some wonderful symbolic designs and patterns employed in the art of mehndi or henna body painting, which has been practised for over 5000 years in India, North Africa, South East Asia and the Middle East. Spanning many different countries and religions, it encompasses a wide variety of styles from the fine floral and paisley Indian patterns, the larger floral Arabic motifs drawn on hands and feet, and the bold geometric shapes of African designs. This book describes the history, use and customs and symbolic meanings in each area, including its use in the contemporary Western world, as well as giving practical advice about its manufacture, application and techniques.
However, the best part of this book are the patterns themselves: the individual motifs; spirals and vines and designs for fingers; wrist cuffs, armbands and anklets; hands and feet; necklaces and chokers; and even designs for the back! It includes a list of resources in the back. Not only is it a much more acceptable (in my mind anyway!) and less permanent and damaging alternative to tattoo art, but like the latter provides much inspiration for other art forms involving line work like hand embroidery and graphic art.
I loved the images in this book and could easily wear them in an appropriate situation, especially if I was younger! Maybe, I am a closet tattoo wearer after all, but I still prefer the monochromatic nature of henna art- to my mind, it is far more elegant, understated and visually appealing then the multi-coloured mishmash of contemporary tattoos!
One Zentangle a Day: A 6-Week Course in Creative Drawing for Relaxation, Inspiration and Fun by Beckah Krahula 2012
Another way to get the creative juices flowing is Zentangle Art. A more sophisticated and contemporary form of doodling, this meditational art form is also often monochromatic in nature, but can also involve colour. Zentangles are defined as ‘miniature abstract works of art, created from a collection of nonrepresentational patterns on a 8.9 cm square piece of paper called a tile’ (Page 13).
The Zentangle process is described on page 25:
It is unplanned, limitless and judgement-free, as there are never mistakes, only a constant unfolding of surprises. Below is my free-form zentangle:
Materials can include thick art paper zentangle tiles (Tiepolo) and sketch pads, drawing pencils (2H and 2B) and white pastel pencils; black pigma micron pens (sizes 005, 01 and 05), Sakura gel pens, watercolours, gelatos (opaque paint sticks), Inktense colored pencils and water-soluble oil pastels, copic sketch markers, Pentel colour brush sets, an ampersand clayboard, plexiglass, gum Arabic and a protractor, although zentangles can really be drawn with anything on anything! Here is my Zentangle Tortoise:This book progresses over a six week period with daily practice with chapters on the basics; tangles and value patterns;and geometric and organic patterns; to understanding and using colour; defining and using style; paper batik and zendalas; and techniques for monoprinting, creating ensembles, painting fabric and using resin, and the use of calligraphy and folk patterns, as well as providing an inspiration gallery in the back. My daughter Jenny is a very accomplished Zentangler, as can be seen on the cover of her CD of original songs.Children’s books, art books, in fact any books, are wonderful sources of inspiration and are the subject of my next post next week. Until then… Happy Dreaming!