I'm travelling into a new way of working, a new country, a new language, and a new hobby which I'm passionate about. Come with me for some of the journey...

Saturday 28 July 2012

La Scapigliata (or Bad Hair Day)

What a sensational challenge set by Anita Houston over at Frilly and Funkie - to pay homage to any one of four great "Renaissance Men" - Leonardo, Michelangelo, Donatello or Raphael (not the mutant turtles, as she points out).  Talk about setting a benchmark!  Well, I can't allow my week to be dominated by one gender only... so I decided to see if I could even out the balance by combining the Renaissance Men with the challenge over at Simon Says Stamp and Show, which this week is "Hey, Girl!" (Or, to redress the balance more fully, you could make that 'woman', of course.)

I did a Google image search for some inspiration, starting with Leonardo da Vinci.  I've always loved the bare bones of his notebooks and preparatory sketches, preferring them to the full oil paintings (hmm, just realising that this is probably connected to the fact that I love the projects I see in monochromatic browns), so that's what I looked for.  Almost immediately I found this beauty, and fell in love...

Nobody is quite sure whether this was ever developed into a painting, or who the model might have been.  She's known as La Scapigliata, which translates as 'the dishevelled hair girl'.  When I discovered that, it was a foregone conclusion - we were made for each other!

One of things I find so extraordinary and so beautiful about the sketches is the amazing three dimensionality achieved with just some white highlighting over the area, so that tonality was part of what I wanted to play with.

All I had to do now was create something based on this drawing that wouldn't let her down.  And here is where I ended up...

With this project I really tried to listen and let the work develop (as I've done several times recently, with results which give me pleasure).  I tried to allow La Scapigliata to dictate what grew up around her.

I often allowed the piece to just sit on my craft table, and would stop by to gaze every now and then, to see what wanted to happen next.  So, for instance, when there seemed to be a need for some more dimension, I'd look for a charm or accent that would fill the space; when I started to get an itch to work up the background, I would set to work on that.

This is a real change in process, even from just a month ago, when I would pretty much have things planned out in my head before starting.  I'm astonished by the changes in what I make and how I make it, even in these few short weeks.  What a journey this stuff takes you on...

Really, I would have loved to work on a canvas - what more appropriate tribute to the Renaissance masters could there be?! - but I didn't have one, so I decided to pretend... making a 12x12 piece of Kraft cardstock into my "canvas".

From very early on, I had the three separate colour-fading twinchies (not quite 2 inches square, but very close) as well as the large version.  I was only messing around with the colour on the computer, and suddenly there were these three, gradually fading, versions.  I felt quite strongly that they should all be part of the work.

And the mesh also put in an early appearance, and established its position overlaying the three smaller pictures.  Somehow, it just felt right and interesting visually.

I think that that's related to a political layer of meaning for me.  I feel there's something quite provocative and interesting in having them 'caged' in a society which still tries to define and constrict women's roles and behaviours.

I sometimes worry about my beloved niece, Anya, growing up surrounded by the pink, fluffy 'girliness' relentlessly marketed to her, and on the other hand by the reworking of the 'raunch' culture, where oversexualised images, especially of women, pervade our society.

How and where do you look for the female role models which compare to the great Renaissance men that the other challenge asks us to celebrate?

Of course, the women are out there too - but you often have to work a little harder to find them and their stories.  That's why I loved hopping round the SSSaS Design Team projects with the strength and life and power of the female being celebrated both in general terms and in very specific personal projects.

So the quote and the words are just as vital a part of the project for me...  (and I guess that's a key part of what I'm really about - combining the verbal and the visual - it wasn't just a random blog title!)... the whole piece holds a message for Anya, and for all girls/women to be as magnificent and extraordinary as you are.  Dream, fly!

The quote had been buzzing around my head for a while.  I read the Diary of Anne Frank when I was her age (at writing), and a more remarkable and yet, at the same time, ordinary girl is hard to imagine.

I caught a radio programme about her a few weeks ago, and went online to remind myself of some of her writing - and this quote was one of the things I found.  It bobbed back to the surface when the 'Hey Girl' challenge came up, and seemed also to complement La Scapigliata perfectly - when you look at her face, I think you see an immensity of soul shining out of her.

It's stamped on to a piece of the Tim Holtz Crowded Attic paper with the architectural drawings, in a nod to the Leonardo notebooks with all their engineering and architectural plans and sketches.

Then for some rugged texture, it's backed on to a piece of rough brown textured card, ripped out of one of the seedling pots I've found so useful in crafting!

The engineering also makes an appearance in the gears - a girl can choose any path in life - and the pen nib is an obvious nod to poetry and words as part of the teeming soul.  The music darting around is another part of what's going on inside...

I gave the music a coating of the wonderful Rock Candy Crackle Glaze. Another great product from Tim Holtz and Ranger - I love it!  One drawback though: I did at one point try crackle glazing La Scapigliata, thinking it might look like an old painting that way.  Unfortunately, the printer ink is not 'fast' and started seeping yellows and purples.  I suppose really the drawback is with the printer ink not the crackle glaze - I take it all back, Tim!

I liked the metal accents of the jump rings - circles of life if you like, or just some pretty dimensionality! 

The mesh ribbon started to play a larger part in the piece, providing accents as an element in itself, but also as a stencil to add texture to the background and papers.

As the piece progressed, it became clear to me that it was crying out for a frame... but I was using the whole 12x12 sheet, so it would have to be large and square - not that easy to get hold of.  So I made it myself! 

I'm very pleased with how it came out, especially that lustrous gold gleam. You can find out more about what it's really made of in the "Making Of" section below!

And even though I wanted a 'proper' frame, I also wanted the elements to be breaking out of it, since there is 'so much' going on in the young girl's soul; so the mesh, the music, and the woven ropes (my disintegrating doormat again - how's that for a metaphor for breaking out of domesticity?!) flood over the sides of the frame.

I played with these positions for ages before I found out where they should be... in this splayed relationship with one another, echoing the angle of the torn backing paper.

So that's my Leonardo tribute, with a strong focus on the female.  If the technical stuff doesn't interest you, you're welcome to scroll straight to the quotes now... the next bit is mainly for the craft obsessives!

I'd like - just quickly - to show the background to you in a bit more detail, as so much of it is now - hah! - background, and therefore barely visible in the finished piece.  I layered lots of techniques, essentially just playing, and allowing it to build up.

There's some stamping with Distress Inks: you can see Kaisercraft Script and Music but mainly flourishes, brick and woodwork from the Tattered Angels Architectural set.  

I was using mainly Walnut Stain and Archival Sepia blended onto the stamp.  (I know, I know, shouldn't really mix probably - but so far I haven't vanished in a puff of smoke...)

There's also some stamping using thick acrylics, white and a very dark brown, dabbed onto the stamp with paper towel, to give a really dimensional effect.  

On some you can still see the bricks quite clearly; others are more impressionistic - and yes, I know that's the wrong artistic era for the great masters.  What can I say? -  I'm a 21st century gal - I like to mix and match!

I stamped the flourishes in Versamark Watermark and clear embossed them to give me a home-made Kraft resist effect.

There's some stencilling (using the mesh ribbon which had migrated onto the project from the windowsill, and was being pretty insistent about being included).

And the TH flicking technique, splashing water onto the Distress Inks which are reactive with water, and so give you great effects when the drops hit - you can let them run, or dab them up with kitchen roll.

For some of the solid colour, and to work around the resist areas, I used Distress Inks in Walnut Stain and Vintage Photo with a blending tool, and in other places I brushed on (and wiped off!) some gesso, to get those white highlights I mentioned right at the start.

So you end up with what Douglas Adams would call a WSOGMM (Whole Sort of General MishMash), to provide, I hope, layers of texture and depth to the overall project.

The need for a frame provided a whole fresh challenge.

At first, I thought I'd just stick it on a larger piece of card and paint/tissue tape/cover the edges.  Fortunately, I had ordered some 12x12 paper by post whilst staying here, so there was some packaging large enough to do the job.

But then I decided I really didn't want the 'canvas' standing proud of the frame... I wanted the frame to enclose the canvas, and therefore it needed to have some depth and substance.

Hurrah for Grungeboard, say I!  Who makes it?  Need you ask...?  The genius Tim Holtz has come up with the crafting material from heaven.  It's easy to cut; it's flexible; it can withstand any amount of painting, inking, distressing, embossing without losing its cool; it's made from recycled materials; it even smells delicious!  I'm not kidding - it's kind of marzipanny...

In any case, I had a packet of the Striped sheets, to which I gave a coat of my very dark brown acrylic.  Paint goes on to Grungeboard like a dream... great coverage.

Left like that, it was a bit too slick and dark, though, so I took an emery board to it once the paint was dry, and distressed the strips I'd cut it into, getting plenty of rough, light patches on the raised sections. I then used a blending tool to apply Tea Dye Distress Ink to those places, so that it got a lighter, rusty tone into the mix.  Final step was some very light spritzes of the Heirloom Gold Perfect Pearls Mist... gives it a great vintage lustre, just lifting the colour again, but with a lovely aged look, I think.

Here it is still at the background stage... I was pretty reluctant to start covering it up I must say!  But once my (Leonardo's) lovely La Scapigliata took her place, I was happy to go right ahead!

A long post today... but probably my last bit of crafting here in the Czech Republic for now, so I had to make the most of it!  I now have to brave the journey across Europe (taking several days, stopping with friends on the way) and, following advice from other addicts - sorry, I mean crafters - I think I will pack a small bag of emergency stash supplies in case the itch strikes en route!

I can't believe quite how the last few weeks have changed me and the work I'm creating.  I'm entering this not only in the Renaissance Men at Frilly and Funkie, and in Hey, Girl! at Simon Says Stamp and Show, The Fashionable Stamping Challenge who want us to 'Get Messy and Inky', but also as a second entry over at La-De-Dah, for Sarah Engels-Greer's My Mojo Monthly.  The July task/inspiration/prompt there was to try to show 'My Style', and I launched straight in at the beginning of the month (even though I'd only been going a couple of weeks with the blog by then) with a card which, at the time, I loved.

I still like it as a piece - and at the time it was a big step forward -  but while shabby chic still attracts me, it's certainly not where I want to live full-time.  And I seem to have taken so many more big steps since then.  I suppose the truth is that I'm still right at the beginning of my crafting explorations, and it's probably still too soon to be trying to claim that I know what 'My Style' is - but I think this project comes a good deal closer to somewhere I'd like to explore in more depth at this stage of the journey!  And, most importantly, I absolutely loved creating it.

I do hope you've enjoyed your visit today.  Thank you so much for your support; your lovely comments are so wonderful to receive, and to have such loyal and lovely followers is an honour and a joy.  It really makes the journey special...

It is good to have an end to journey toward, but it is the journey which matters in the end.
Ursula K. Le Guin

One's destination is never a place, but a new way of seeing things.
Henry Miller


Candy C said...

Ursula...your piece is so inspired and absolutely beautiful! I completely love everything about it and so enjoyed reading about your journey from the beginning to the completion of this piece. Inspiring... Everything about this piece works so well with everything else. Love the Leonardo da Vinci image as your focal point. Love all of the brown tones that surround her. I love all of the texture. The mesh is amazing...and I like your interpretation for using it on your piece. Love your words and the Anne Frank quote. It's perfect! Beautifully done! Thanks so much for sharing this inspiring piece of art with us at Simon Says Stamp and Show. <3 Candy

Victoria said...

You share the most incredible artwork with us. Absolutely amazing! The quotation is perfect with this beautiful face.

trisha too said...

Lovely piece, very pretty indeed!


Shelby said...

Another gorgeous piece of work! Love the multiple use of the image and the little details from the mesh to the gears to the music sheet are just perfect.


Alie Hoogenboezem-de Vries said...

Wow this is amazing Ursula, what an amazing details that fit together so well. This is great great artwork! Thanks for all the detailed pictures so we can enjoy everything!

Greetings, Alie :-)

Words and Pictures said...

NOT URSULA!! Hello - butterfly here... and before the confusion goes any further - I'm Alison not Ursula... I've sorted it out with Candy (a quiet word outside!), but didn't realise it might catch on here! Whatever you call me, I'm very grateful for the lovely comments, but still...
Alison xx (yup, that's Alison!)

Alie Hoogenboezem-de Vries said...

Hihihi...ALISON ALISON ALISON...so sorry for the confusion about your name...as a new follower I'm not used to your namen...big apologies for that!
The honour is all yours of course...because this creation deservers the right name of the creator! And now I can also mention that the Anne Frank quote that you've used is great!

Greetings Alison, all the best, Alie :-)

Janny Jager said...

Wauwwwwwwwwwwww Alison wat a beautiful piece of Art you made.
Love all the details and also the colors.
Really very very beautiful.

I also wanted to become a follower of your site ,but indeed it does not work ,so i also try again tomorrow and hope it will work so i can become your follower.

Greetings Janny

Craft Addicts - Tracy Evans said...

Wow what an absolutely stunning piece so beautifully executed. Loved reading your step by step process and must admit I am one for stepping back and revisiting a project and letting the ideas flow with time. I love the beige, brown muted tones, my favourite. Your background is perfect for such an iconic image and I love the two inch squares on the side echoing the larger image. This is one to treasure. Thanks so much for joining in the Simon Says Stamp and Show Challenge. Tracy x

Pia said...

woooow what a beautiful piece of art, love it!!!!
hgs Pia

...the yorkshire fox... said...

...this is truely a magnificent piece of work Alison, your attention to detail is shining bright, the dishevelled hair girl got under your skin & your creative mind flourished and did her proud...a superb piece...Mel :)

Anita Houston The Artful Maven said...

I so agree....I love most of Leonardo's drawings more so than a lot of his paintings! This one has been a favorite of mine for years, and I have often searched for a stamp depicting her! I think her hair looks fantastic! I am thrilled you used an actual piece!!!! This project of yours warms my heart...actually I am swooning! I love all the layers elements and embellies! The sentiment is fab here and that background is MARVELOUS!!!! I wish you lived closer so we could play together ALISON!!!! Thank you tons for playing along with us at Frilly & Funkie this fortnight!!!!!!

Anonymous said...

This is beyond stunning! So much great texture and detail. I really enjoy all of your process photos as well. The Simon Says Stamp & Show design team thanks you for participating in this week's challenge! - Ashli

Yvonne Garner said...

Oh this is so, so gorgeous! I love it. Thank you for joining us at FSC! Best, Yvonne

Marjie Kemper said...

What a gorgeous creation! I know just what you mean about letting something sit and not rushing it, visiting it now and then to see what might be called for next. That's the best kind of creating! I really like the way you have the elements popping out of the page and onto the frame... the whole piece is eye candy. Thanks so much for joining us at Frilly & Funkie!

Shirl said...

One amazing piece of artwork everything about it is stunning.

Thank you for sharing with us at FSC.

Hugs Shirley x x

Mrs.B said...

WOW - this is absoluely stunning and so please you showed the 'making process of the background' because as you say, mos of it is covered. Such a beautiful project.
Thanks for sharing with us at FSC
Avril xx

chrissie said...

A truly beautiful tribute to this wonderful artist. Love everything about your piece and what you have written about the painting. I too wonder when I see the use of a little white in the right places how such effects can be achieved. My passion is looking at lace on the old masters painting-even close up it looks impossible to have created such beauty.

Love Chrissie xx

Valerie-Jael said...

Just wonderful love everything about it! You really had fun on this one! Enjoy your journey back through Europe! Greetings from Kaiserswerth in Rhineland, Valerie

Fliss said...

A fabulous creation. It seems that the more you look, the more you see.
Thanks for getting messy and inky again with FSC.
Fliss x

cheryl said...

oh wow what more can I say hun that has not been said,your work is incredible,and the attention to detail you have added is amazing,love it hugs Cherylxxxxxx

Terry said...

Well this is amazing! I looked, looked some more and then again! So many awesome details in this work of art! Love all the details and texture! Truly gorgeous! Thank you for joining us at Frilly and Funkie!

Claudia N. said...

You did an amazing peace of artwork here, Alison!

Leonardo would have loved it so much!!! I do too!

I will come back later to have a long and close look at your masterpiece and all of it's details!


die amelie xxxx

Anna-Karin said...

Wow, this is amazing! Love the inspiration image you used and your description of your process. The background is fabulous, great textures. Love everything you added to this gorgeous piece and you even made it a frame! Thank you for joining us this week at Simon Says Stamp and Show!

Brenda Brown said...

This is truly magnificent Alison. All the time and effort has paid great dividends and I just love your masterpiece with all the wonderful techniques and effects.
hugs {brenda} xox

Asia King (aka Joanna K) said...

Stunning, absolutely amazing piece Alison! So much detail and texture, a true work of art - inside and out ;)) xx

Inkypinkycraft said...

This is a truly beautiful piece, love the colours and I love the you have combined allthe elements. This is so beautiful, and shows a great touch! Trace. X

Sandra said...

Gorgeous piece! It's very beautiful! Love all the texture and layering! And to read how it came about! Stunning!! Thank you so much for joining us at Simon Says Stamp and Show. Hugs, Sandra

House of Bears said...

Wow this is stunning. We are in awe of your artwork

Anonymous said...

The juxtaposition between the delicate almost ethereal image with the hardware elements is stunning. Adds incredible interest.
Thank you for sharing with us at FSC.

Katherine said...

So beautiful and so much detail, the image is gorgeous and I love how you have worked it into your page :)

InkyAndScrappy said...

Hey sorry only got your comment now. If you will email at johnandjaime@arvig.net with your snail mail, I will forward to Whiff of Joy for you. Lovely project btw! Did you know we are looking for a few new DT members? hint hint

Anonymous said...

Hi Alison. Absolutely stunning! Wow! Fab post and photos. Really enjoyed the read.
Regards Florence xx

anna christensen crafts said...

Wowsers! Loving your inking, loving your thinking! Wishing you a good journey home xx

Sarah said...

what a fabulous piece and great post - thanks so much for sharing your thoughts and creative process. I love this image and the delicate layers and shades of vintage tones. The wire is a great addition and adds great texture and interest. Thanks so much for sharing with Simon Says Stamp & Show and My Mojo Monthly! Sarah.

Ana K. said...

Absolutely amazing piece of art!! Wow

Janny Jager said...

Congratulations with the Top3 place at FSC

Greetings Janny

Neet said...

You do the most amazing work, it is a pleasure to come and see. This piece is no exception and I think it may have brought Mr Mojo back to me. Instead of keeping on striving to make a card I have now decided to do a canvas. Thank you for the inspiration you have given to me with this work of art.
Hugs, neet xx

Claudia N. said...

Just saw that your "bad hair day" (*lol) made top 3 at FSC, Alison!

YESSSSSS!!!! Knew it!

Hugs, die amelie xx

Annie said...

Hi Alison my jaw has hit the floor ! This is an amazing piece with so much attention to detail. I wish you all the best in the challenges. Crafty hugs Annie ( your newest follower) x

Kezzy said...

WOW WOW WOW wow wow I can't think of anything to say I am amazed I (sitting her gawping!!) It's truly inspirational, the story behind it is amazing, I love it. I was going to have a go at the frilly and funkie but wasn't sure if I could print off the internet etc. Oh wow you are truly a inspirational artist. I'm think of starting a journal of feelings, my goodness I think if you did a journal I would definitely would want to see it as I could imagine it being amazing. Hugs Kerry xxx