The Art of Refinement

It is always interesting to study an artist’s work throughout the years and notice how they progress or change their style. Modern artists such as Picasso and Matisse learnt how to draw and paint during early life and at art school in quite a traditional and realistic fashion. They went on to develop their own styles  by breaking the  rules and becoming  forerunners of cubism and fauvism.

The role of the artist even today is not just to sit back and be satisfied with what we have achieved, but to question what we have done, to use what we have made  to experiment and develop the idea, or to rework,  start again and remake it.

The other night I watched a programme called “The Seven Ages of Britain” on tv and  was interested to see  Josiah Wedgewood’s famous reproduction of the Roman “Portland vase”. Originally made of glass, Wedgewood made it using black and white jasperware.  Wedgewood was known for his experimentation in  clay during the 18th century, becoming one of the main producers of fine china in England.   Had I not seen this programme I may have asked the question ..” is a reproduction of a previous work of art really art?” And in this case I would have to say that it was.  Apart from the fact that making a copy of a work of art demands great skill, and using an entirely different material to reproduce it also requires experimentation and skill, the real art I feel was in his persistence and perseverance to get it right. It took him over 3 years. David Dimbleby showed three other versions that had gone wrong, where  the glaze had bubbled and the relief drawing of the mythological Roman scene had come away from the vase.  But he got there in the end and it was perfect.

Many artists rework and rework. When old paintings are restored or tested for pigments they are often found to have paintings underneath, where the artist has been dissatisfied with what he achieved and has painted over it.

In mosaic it isn’t so easy (although not impossible) to make adjustments. Sometimes it is necessary to make an entirely new piece that “will be much better”.

But what is it that makes it better?

When the artist has completed a piece and considered it for some time, there may be certain elements that are not quite right about it to the artist’s eye. In mosaic these elements will be design, type of material used, colour, grout lines and the overall composition with all these elements taken into consideration.

Here is an example of what I mean.

Have a look at my glass on glass piece “Sea”

Although I quite like the design, the colour and the materials I have used, there is something that doesn’t  feel quite right. I like the red glass in the design, and I love the marbles, I even like the mirror that makes up a sort of eye shape either side of the marble, but altogether it is too much. There are too many elements in the design to confuse the eye and the asymmetry makes me feel a little uncomfortable.

Therefore as I know what I like about the design and I know what makes me feel uncomfortable about it, I am able to refine my design and make another.

I am much happier with this simplified design. It is called “See”.

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  1. Hi Kate,
    It’s very interesting, what you said.
    I didn’t see the tv programme, I am curious now and will find it to watch on the computer later.
    I agree with you in contrasting the two pieces of your work. I much prefer the toned down piece. Which is quite unusual for me because I love colour and sparkle. But in this work, is it too busy like you said and does it becomes about prettiness, rather than strength? Don’t know, what do you think? Is it a classic case of less is more, I hate sayings like that, but, does it fit here?
    I also want to tell you how much I like your work. I’ve followed the creation of Zillion, it’s brilliant. I love the idea too.
    I look forward to seeing more of your inspiring work. And I like reading your thoughts.
    Although very new to it, I am an artist and photographer for about 2 to 3 years, there is such change. Being creative is a journey of change and development. isn’t it? It’s a great journey.

    1. Hi Karen
      I am sure that “prettiness” does have some indirect influence upon judgement, however I do not look for prettiness when I make a piece of work, but whether it is “pleasing to my eye and to my senses”. This is influenced by the elements I described. There is a fine balance of colour and composition that affects the “strength” of the piece. So therefore yes it is about strength. And I also think that simplicity is often more powerful , adding to the strength of the design.

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