Tuesday, July 20, 2010



I have been experimenting with creating abstract black and white drawings. For this I have been using the computer. Several related pieces of the series started with the same basic shapes, including lettering in some shapes, and rearranging them in different configurations.

Drawing has been done on the computer with various techniques. These include, erasing through a dark layer to a white layer beneath, or through a light layer to a dark layer beneath, directly with the paint or pencil tool in black or white on a contrasting shape, or cloning from another area of established texture to put bits of it somewhere else. Some shapes were cut out, copied and rotated to complete the design. Lines and directions were accented to make the composition dynamic and balanced. Cutting a shape creates an additional different set of shapes. Often I use the “invert” command under image, to create dark where there was light, and vice versa. This too creates different shapes.

I was inspired by a fashion design I saw in Vogue, recently, and wanted to capture the rich textures of the different fabrics, using ink and pencil.  I used my own model for the face. I changed the fashion design slightly from the one created by Natalie Chanin, from Alabama, in my drawing. I included her name as a tribute to this woman’s work, because she is both an innovative artist and a person who values recycling.

 Notice how she collages different patterns and textures into one design, and then sculpts the figure with the volume and depth of fabrics and cording in the clothing and headdress. As an artist who works in collage, and has also worked in fabric collage, how could I be anything but inspired by her designs?

The drawing was rather light or high keyed in value next to the stark darks and lights of the background behind the figure. I increased the contrast of the drawing so it didn’t get lost, but left it in a grayscale to contrast with the background. The background creates the impression of a patchwork quilt. I think the blacks, whites and grayscale tones are very effective. You almost get a sense of color where there isn’t any.

Writing and Art work by Ruth Zachary © Rights reserved.

Monday, July 12, 2010




Playing with Letters, unfinished study 

for black and white abstraction © by Ruth Zachary. 

The Shape Shifting Approach to Composition

Moving varied shapes around the picture plane is my first step in starting a composition.
When using color, the shapes are best when they are varied by hue, value, and size. I prefer organic, irregular shapes in uneven numbers. I prefer to work in related hues, or family colors on the color wheel. The values of the shapes might range from dark to light, unless they are to be placed against a background, which should contrast with the shapes.
Some of the same principles apply when arranging shapes in a realistic composition. A variety of blacks, grays and light tones are effective when limited to black and white, as I have been showing  in planning this series of illustrations.
In collage the first step is to put the shapes, either 3, 5, or 7 into a pleasing arrangement. When working on the computer, I create a set of irregular shapes, and try the same shapes in several different configurations. Diagonals are more dynamic, and often suggest depth.  The more rectangular the shapes are, the more the composition appears to be on one plane.
In black and white I do not use layers in different modes. I use layers one over the previous layer to arrange shapes. I began with the letters on the bottom or background layer, gathered from an assortment of sources to vary the texture from the first studies in the series. Over this I arranged the shapes in different relationships to each other. There will be several versions of this same beginning, with different textures, drawn lines, etc. 
One way to change relationships within the picture plane is to divide it into thirds and reposition . This often changes the number of shapes as well as the relationships, offering surprises and challenges.
The last step is usually to move some of the shapes within the picture plane to a new position, to rotate them, extend some of the lines to carry the eye, repeat some shapes or accent colors, and to balance the dark areas, by deepening or lightening the values, moving them, (or changing the hue when working in color.) To compare this process to working in color, see my post on ruthzachary.blogspot.com

I like the connotation of Shape Shifting as a title, because it is a metaphor for adjustment within the self, the way an artist tries to put various design elements into good relationship with each other in a composition.
Writing and Images on this blogsite are the sole © Copyright of Ruth Zachary.