Category Archives: Art

#79 Découpage a Table

Such an evocative word, découpage.

It conjures images of hidden Parisian streets harbouring tiny shops containing all manner of long forgotten artisanal works, like hand painted marionettes lying on a dusty bench, or glimmering, lacquered trays adorned with olde world photographs.

So now I have the time, why not give découpage a try?

#79 Découpage a Table

Put simply, découpage involves cutting out pictures, gluing them to an object and then coating the pictures, and the object, with layers of varnish.

But exploring this activity has led me to the realisation that there are two distinct forms: the Art of découpage and the Craft of découpage.

The Art form involves exquisite design and a dedication to perfection. Beautiful pictures are chosen, meticulously cut out and then pasted onto a surface in ever increasing and overlapping patterns. Layer upon layer of varnish is applied, with careful sanding between coats. I’ve been told up to 70 applications might be in order. This results in a finished design that shines with a glorious lustre and depicts a three dimensional scene with depth and colour the envy of any Renaissance painter.

The Craft form, however, involves cutting out a pretty design, pasting it onto a surface, then coating with—oh, maybe five or six applications of varnish. This form of découpage has any number of YouTube and Pinterest and Instagram examples. I quickly realised that this was my level of découpage.


Step one: Select your surface

I had an old Queen Anne dressing-table stool of my mother’s which no longer had its dressing-table and so cried out for conversion to a small side table.  After removing the cushion insert, my talented Bunnings Buddy was able to make a solid table top for it. All it took was a coat of paint to make it ready to be découpaged:


Step 2: Chose your pictures

This is where the artistic skill comes in. Choosing a montage of photos I’d taken over the years, my original plan was to stick these on before varnishing:But it was pointed out to me, by someone with more artistic skill than I, that this was looking like a table littered with old weekend magazines. Not quite the image I was after.

Then I thought of using a photograph of a bunch of gorgeous flowers a dear friend had sent me recently, after she stayed for a weekend: So lovely, but could this be enhanced even further to incorporate the idea that a découpaged piece should have hidden depths behind the picture?


Step 3: Increase the level of complexity

It was then I hit upon the idea of turning this photo into a photomosaic, using dozens of smaller pictures from my photo album.

So I turned to a clever website that allows you to instantly turn your photos into photomosaics. Simple to use, and free—or, if you’re after a higher definition, relatively inexpensive—the image it produces can then be copied across to a USB for printing at a photo shop.


Step 4: Glue and varnish and sand, glue and varnish and sand …

After a few days of glueing and varnishing and sanding the photomosaic, the final result wasn’t half bad:And if you look very closely at the picture …No, go in closer…you’ll see the entire picture is made up of hundreds of tiny snapshots of a life.

Now this is going straight to the pool room!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

#75 Learn to Tessellate

It’s a sad fact of life that there are always massive gaps in one’s eduction, and the most glaring one for me is in the field of art.

Thinking back to my school days, I have no recollection of any enjoyable art classes and no instances where I learned any techniques or tips about either art execution or art appreciation.

So it’s only recently, thanks to hearing about the Escher exhibition in Melbourne, that I gained a minuscule understanding of design principles, which has now made me to want to:

#75 Learn to Tessellate

Although I didn’t make it to the exhibition myself, several friends raved about it, so we had an Escher afternoon where photographs were shared and we discussed various aspects of his life and work.

Being more scientifically inclined, I chose ‘Escher and Mathematics’ as my topic. Talk about naive. Escher is mathematics! Why was this information never explained to me in those rudimentary art sessions I had in primary school? Or in the more complex maths classes I enjoyed at secondary level where they didn’t bother to mention there might be a functional aspect to recurring decimals? Like I said—massive gaps in my education.

It turns out that “Mathematics as it applies to Escher’s work” is a topic way too complicated for a ten minute dissertation over afternoon tea.

How on earth did he conceptualise something as glorious as Sky and Water I ?

So the best I could come up with for my contribution to the afternoon was a short demonstration on how to do a very basic tessellation, also known as how to cover a surface by repeated use of a single shape, without gaps or overlapping. The technique can result in an endless array of mosaic designs and gives one a certain modicum of personal satisfaction.

There are some excellent YouTube tutorials on making a tessellation here and here so I followed one of these and managed to produce something that might scrape a pass in an art exam in grade two or three. Quite an achievement!

I began by cutting out a small square 10cm x 10cm and drawing a curvy design along one side like this,

before cutting the shape out precisely, sliding it across to the opposite side of the square and aligning it perfectly before taping it down like so:

Then I drew another design on the adjacent side of the square, cut it out, slid it across and taped it too:

This little brown template was then used to trace a design onto a larger sheet of paper repeatedly, and

… thanks to the magic of design and recurring patterns, it fits perfectly into itself—over and over:

All that’s needed is a peaceful 30 minutes to colour it in and to add a few markings.

Presto! I had an original design—

This is possibly the most artistic thing I’ve ever managed to create.

I love you M.C.Escher!