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Saturday, January 07, 2006

Trust The Process

Annabel asked 'What's the difference, then, between painting on cloth and painting on canvas'. It's a good question. I still find myself tempted to answer, £100 (give or take a nought), since the perception of textile art in the wider market is somehow 'lower' than that of fine art. And of course, what is canvas, if not cloth? You would think there would be no difference. And yet I thought there was, at least in terms of my process.

When I approach a blank canvas, I have, to an extent, had my thinking done for me. Someone has very kindly taken a prepped piece of canvas, and stretched it to a particular size, ready for me to paint. All I have to do is turn up in front of it, and paint. I have very few concerns...the traditional oilpainting concerns, of course, like 'fat over lean' and 'thick over thin', but these are technical issues, to avoid problems with paint cracking and the like, and they refer strictly to the treatment of the medium. And whilst it is possible to experiment with shape and size, generally speaking, your average painting is rectangular, square and, more often that not, framed.

When I approach a textile piece, however, it's a different thing. I start with nothing. No structure, not even a blank page (or canvas, if you like). I have a selection of cloth pieces, some on the roll, still, some prepatterned, some dyed, some printed, and I begin to pull those together in some way...painting with cloth, if you like, rather than painting on cloth. I am likely to stitch or glue these together in some way, possibly in layers, possibly in one layer. It is closer, in a way, to mixed media or collage work, than it is to painting, except that I have complete control over the form.

In addition, there are rather broader technical considerations. Textile work requires heat for some processes; am I choosing suitable cloth for the purpose I want to put it to...or will a burn mark add meaning? If I paint this, will I be able to stitch afterwards? I also have my own assumptions to challenge. Is stitch really the most important part of a textile piece? Is it what defines it? If that is the case, how does that effect the construction of the work?

I thought this was going to be an easy wee piece to write...but it is running away with me, challenging my own assumptions. In truth, in reality, there is no difference between painting on cloth, and painting on canvas; the choices I make in each case are limitless, boundless, as are the questions that arise as a result of those choices. If I accept that I can do anything I choose, that belief opens the gates of infinite potential. There is nothing that cannot be done in art...if that is what you believe.

So, in the end, it is what we think, what we believe, that shapes our art, not the techniques we use, or the media. It's all process. Trust the process.

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