I've now completed this painting by adding the chromosome elements. It was holding me up, finding the right colour - then I found a free sample of Cyan Blue included with some paints ordered a while ago - perfect.
I've been fascinated by the embellished cloths of earlier generations, the care that went into perfecting the even stitching and crochet work, the cut work and embroidery. Tray clothes, chair back covers,doilies and runners, little cloths for wash stands and side tables, for dressing tables and more. I started life in the last years of the great cotton trade; mills were everywhere in the North West of England and no-one questioned that they might one day vanish from the landscape. As a schoolchild I saw inside the local mill where cotton arrived in bales to be cleaned and carded before being spun then woven on busy looms, it was a part of our education to see how cotton cloth was made.
So the cloths represent a phase in history when individual artisan workers were forced to adopt a lifestyle dominated by machines; to accept the factory system in place of freedom to work as and when. They also represent the theft of trade from other countries, and the exploitation of millions through the slave trade, The exploitation of poor with the condemning of little children to mill work for long hours at the time when others of higher income families had time to sew the domestic cloths I now use.
They also represent the movement in society towards a more democratic parliament in which the weavers and spinners of the North West played a large part.
more to follow
It's always good to have more than one piece to work on. Sometimes it's necessary to step back from a painting as a way of being able to detach from the intensity of painting. Then it becomes clear what needs to be done next.
I had a small table cover. for a tea table perhaps, that was made by my great aunt Ada Louise Flint. Over the years the cotton fabric has become very thin and fragile to the point that it could no longer be repaired.
It will survive now as part of my current series of paintings - not as a whole but torn into four quarters to be hung together.
I use discarded domestic cloths as the basis of my work. Here, I am just showing you the way I process them into being part of a painting.
This particular cloth is a former wash stand cover. Before bathrooms became standard people used wash stands in the bedroom with a large bowl and jug of water ready to use for washing themselves. It belonged to a friend of mine, it had been in use in his parent's day. A tear has been carefully mending and on this repair there is a drop of blood which came from a shaving nick. I decided to keep the stain as it represents the DNA of the past owner.
The cloth is laid and secured with clips over a plastic tablecloth and I have started pinning it to the board ready for painting with gesso..
The cloth has now had gesso applied and has been glued onto a stretched cotton canvas. Before completely gluing the cloth I painted a dark maroon stripe under where the openwork pattern was to lie, and continued the colour down the middle of the cloth followed by gluing the ends of the cloth onto the canvas. A little complicated but it gave me the effect of partially obscuring the cloth. I then painted opaque pale blue areas to disguise the oval shape.
You might not believe this but it takes a long time deciding on colours and shapes. Keeping a balance of colours, tones, shapes and composition requires much looking at the canvas after each new step. Very little is pre-planned. I am aiming to achieve a feeling of depth in this painting,and rely on use of colour to do this.