Our SAQA Pod took on the challenge of understanding perspective through a fairly simple landscape/seascape image.

Here is lesson should you like to give it a go:

Perspective 101

Instructions by Greta Hildebrand, September 2020

Don’t let the idea of perspective prevent you from going in this direction.  Perspective is not difficult once you know what to look for and what to do!

I have Googled the word and find that there are several definitions, but basically, if you can understand just 2, you’re well on your way. 

a/ Perspective can be, LINEAR meaning the lines in your image diminish into the background.

b/ Perspective can be ATMOSPHERIC, meaning that the objects close up are generally brighter and more in focus than those in the distance.  This is caused by the amount of water in the atmosphere, impairing our vision of objects far away.  It’s also because our eyes don’t focus that well on distant objects.

Combine a. and b. and you have something that gives the illusion of space.

Here is a photo that I took last week on Lake Erie from Windmill Point, looking West along Lake Erie. It’s one of my favourite walks since moving to Ridgeway this summer. 

Looking West from Windmill Point, Fort Erie

We are going to create a pattern, then, using our preferred materials/medium, create our own version of the scene.

Next time, we can work on an architectural image, but for now, this is a much easier way to understand the concepts.

I would like you to take a piece of unused paper – letter size is good for this exercise.  Also, a nice pointy pencil.

  1. Orient the paper vertically and divide in half, widthwise. You have just created your HORIZON LINE – where water and land meet the sky in this case.
  2. Now, in the centre of your horizon line, make a tiny dot – this is your VANISHING POINT. If you look at the picture, you have just made 2 markers:  one to divide the skyline from the water, and the other, the end of the beach, as we can see it.

If you look carefully, you’ll see that the lines are not straight and that’s because our subject is found in nature.  We call these lines “organic”.  There are lovely curves/arcs in this image.

  • First bring your horizon line to the right, horizontally, in a nice curve about 2 inches down from the horizon. This line is now the base of the tree line.
  • From your vanishing point, create the waterline in a curve to the left, just a little lower than the treeline – notice that the line is not perfect and goes in and out – the result of waves.  The curves are closer together in the distance than in foreground.

Look at the way the debris on the beach forms a line on either side of the vanishing point, forward.  It’s really wide in the FOREGROUND and diminishes towards the VANISHING POINT in the BACKGROUND. 

  • Now, create a line for the top of the trees – note how high the trees in the MID-GROUND look compared to those that extend the coastline right to the left edge of the HORIZON LINE.

See below for the 5 steps as diagrams.

Diagrams leading to a pattern for your own creation.

Congratulations.  You now have a grasp of perspective and a vocabulary to go with it:

Linear perspective, atmospheric perspective, horizon line, vanishing point, organic lines, foreground, mid-ground and background – and, I bet you knew all of this before.

There’s still the other form of perspective, ATMOSPHERIC, that gives further dimension to the image:  bright and sharp in the foreground and less so in the background.  Colour is affected as well, as objects close up are brighter than those further away. This concept also applies to the sky – lighter on the horizon and much more intense in colour directly above.  The size of clouds overhead are much larger than those further towards the horizon.  Check this out next time you’re outdoors on a clear day.

Let’s take what we have done to be our pattern.  From here, you use your own fabrics and other media, using this one as a starting point.  Create your version of the beach scene.

Today was our regular meeting date; replaced by a combined email in-Facebook record of how people were working through the perspective exercise.

This is how my own efforts progressed:

I worked on a tiny piece measuring approx. 5 x 7 inches that I would like to insert into a deep frame to give a rounded 3-D effect.

Starting out I lay the wool fibres on the loose Merino felted wool base. This provides me with a foundation composition – note that I am following the horizon line, the vanishing point, the base of the treeline, the water line and the top of the treeline. I’m not too concerned about shading at this point.

Next I lay carded/blended silk fibre over the top tor the sky, then white wisps of white silk for clouds. Next I work on the waterline trying to achieve somewhat of a wavy line, but this will be enhanced later.

I am next going on to the trees which have more texture and detail. There is a little of early autumn showing in some of the trees; however this has to be very subtle. As the treeline diminishes into the background, the colours become more faded as atmospheric perspective.

A little rough green silk is added to the beach to give the impression of the seagrass – larger in the foreground and very subtle hints into the background. I add a little more white silk to the beach in the foreground to bring it forward.

Clouds become more obscure as they fade into the horizon. I turn the edges of the felting under and felt to the back to create a “turned” edge. I back the piece with 3 consecutively smaller layers of backing to give the piece some rigidity, then stitch through the layers to anchor and further enhance the treeline. I have bent the piece into the deep frame so that it curves towards the centre. I think I’m done!

Hope you enjoyed this exercise in perspective. Next time we can do an architectural piece. Let me know through my website or email if you’d like to join in.

Here are some of our group’s results, including mine above. Some are still works in progress.

Can you find and correct these challenges?

How could you improve the shape of these deciduous trees?

What happens when the horizon line is not horizontal?

What direction do waves normally roll into shore?

What happens to the foreground when a wave is as long as the beach-line?

Where is the sky most intense in colour?

Where is the darkest part of a cloud, usually?

These are not meant as criticisms, but observations that allow perspective to be seen for what it is. Creativity, however, can trump realism, and in so doing, allows for our own creative interpretation of reality.

Spring represents rebirth and the start of something new. In these troubling days, a project that represents this idea is all important to me. Last spring I photographed a magnolia in our little town of Fenwick. I had the photo printed on fabric as well as a second version that was printed a little larger, with the intent of adding a foreground dimension to the work.

I am using the larger overall image as background and started here by outlining and working some of the foreground flowers. Turning the quilt over, you are able to see the trapunto technique which employs stuffing to add dimension. Tiny slits are made in the batting underlay (I am trying bamboo for the first time) and polyester stuffed into the pockets.

The second printed version is now started. Sections are roughly cut out, backed with a stabilizer, then backed with polyester backing which I use to provide more puffiness and dimension. The sections are then trimmed back closer to the stitching line, polyester trimmed back to the stitching, then seam allowance pressed. Below is the start of the quilting detail.

The mid ground employs some of the combined flower imagery. I backed these sections with a thinner cotton quilt backing. All has been stitched around and trimmed back. The detailing employs my side to side “smocking” technique that provides texture to these more distant images.

I am now at the point of playing with the add-ons. It’s really just working on the composition to provide balance and lines for the eye to travel through the composition.

The visible background areas will be the next to work on.

In previous works of this applique series, I have researched the medicinal and other interesting information about each species. I may incorporate a textual component to the perimeter of the quilt. I’m undecided on colour as well.

Since my last update I have been working on the quilt as a daily “indulgence.” My mind becomes so consumed with the repetitive tranquillity of the process that the outside reality of our present day world is shut out. I have been working up the texture and dimension of the background and foreground. Stems are worked with stitches side to side to raise the tube-like fore. Appliqued petals are stitched strategically in some spots to create raised forms and tunnels where underlying images can be seen in darkened shadows.

I have now reached a point where the border is necessary to continue. I had just enough blue from my Turbulence quilt to add a border on 3 sides. I don’t think the bottom requires a border so this quilt will actually reverse what I had bordered for Turbulence. I want to extend the imagery over the edging to create the feeling of the sky extending infinitely. But until this step has been completed, I won’t know exactly what I will need.

Once I had the border stitched down I began the methodical and decisive process of selecting imagery from the remaining fabric remnants that would extend the magnolia into the infinity of sky. Mid-ground imagery was backed with iron on fusaline to prevent fraying but as I got towards the smallest petals at the top, I simply cut the pieces out. There was enough size in the fabric to keep the pieces intact. I used the finest needle that I could thread the quilting cotton through to stitch these delicate pieces down. Last of all I went around all edges with wallpaper size to strengthen and prevent fraying. Any fibres that did not flatten were trimmed away.

Below I have added the quilt as it presently stands. It’s interesting to analyse the composition from a photograph. I think the bottom right edge needs something to add “weight” and “balance.” I had originally wondered about adding words, but now I think the quilt will stand on its own, or could that be something to add to the bottom? Time to reflect again.

Magnolia on Canboro, last step is to finish with backing. Do I need to add weight to the right, bottom third edge?

For many years I have picked up and admired the “lace leaves” that tiny insects create – you’ve seen them, the leaves that lie on the ground with the most delicate and beautiful of structures left behind after insect feasting and devastation. Here is a paradox worth considering!

I have knitted 2 of these sculptures now, each measuring approximately 48 inches long by 18 inches across. They can be made smaller or larger and that all depends on the size branch that I use as an armature support. Here’s how I make them for those wonderful people who love them and want to discuss the process with their friends.

I start with a branch that is freshly cut and which offers a pleasing symmetry – I am, after all, turning a branch into a leaf with life-supporting veins. After searching my garden trees I decided that the Linden tree on our boulevard offered just the right structure, and the branches that would have needed pruning, were not being cut unnecessarily.

From the selection of images above you can see the first stages from finding a real “lace leaf”, selecting a symmetrical branch, pruning it off the tree, removing the leaves, squashing flat on a large sheet of paper, tracing the outline that will provide the pattern for each individual section of knitted lace to flattening the branch under plywood while I am working on the actual knitted structure. I estimate 3-4 weeks on each leaf as I reserve this work as a portable project to work on when I’m waiting somewhere or in the evenings when I’m too tired for my studio.

So now you can see the sections being filled with knitted lace blocks, each shaped to fit exactly. My lace stitch is “free-form” meaning that there is no pattern and that is intentional. Do insects follow a pattern? Highly unlikely, so that’s my rational. If a pattern looks as if it’s emerging, then I intentionally take the pattern in another direction – a little harder to do than it might seem. I knit in sections partly to keep the lace confined and to create a “vein” between the blocks, which will eventually be dyed with walnut dye – of my own making from partly decomposed walnuts, thanks to my squirrel helpers. I use a very fine cotton slub-linen blend that have have had for some time, which I obtained from the Cambridge Mills in Cambridge Ontario. I wish I could find a similar yarn as this cob has almost run out. I intend to call the mills to see if they might have something to replace this precious resource.

Work on the leaf is progressing. Meantime, new ideas are evolving. I am always amazed at how unlikely objects have elements that relate: texture, colour form and sensibility. Here I am showing a new photo taken of my summer “Tomato Fields” in Fenwick, only this one is the first snowfall of our 2019 winter, early November. I can see this as a fairly large piece worked up using my needle felting with silk technique. I am also working on a new sculpture that I’m presently calling “Carrara Marble in Silk.” It stands about 4 feet tall and 18 inches wide x deep. Over the initial armature of wood and wire I am layering paper maché paper, then will build up quilt underlay before the final silk fusion of various types/tones of white silk. I can’t wait until I get to this point.

Hopefully, they will be completed for installation at the Jordan Art Gallery by early December.

Just to show where I’m up to with the leaf. About 4 more sections to complete the main structure, then the centre stem is knitted separately. The two sides are stitched to the centre stem and all stitched to the wood frame – still being pressed.

Here are the last stages of completion:

The centre stem of the leaf is knitted in stocking stitch to create a solid fabric. The piece starts off wider and tapers towards the tip of the leaf. Once the long centre section is completed, the two side sections must be aligned correctly with the side “veins.” When all is pinned in place, the stem is sewn down to the sides.

Once the centre stem is attached the completed surface of the leaf is loosely tied in place then stitched securely. Although I do not have an image, there is a step in which the entire under surface is coated with my clear cellulose paste to shrink and stiffen the fabric. When dry, the leaf is flipped over and using walnut dye which I make myself by boiling ripe walnuts, I stain the centre and side ribs of the leaf. I like to start with a diluted solution and repeat the process several times to build up the intensity of darkness. This enables a more controllable and natural result as in the actual leaf, the centre and thicker part of the stem is darker, lightening towards the tips.

My leaf is just about done. The ends of the branch are trimmed back then I coat these ends and stitches on the back of the branch with white glue which adheres to the edges of knitting and seals the stitches in place.

I am excited to see the end result:

Carefully transported to the Jordan Art Gallery, it is now suspended below my newly installed Christmas selection. The leaf can be hung vertically, horizontally against a wall or suspended in a space to create a light partition.

Hope you enjoyed watching the evolution of my “lace leaf.”