Category Archives: Part 2 – Screen printing

Exploring screen printing, Assignment 2, Application of design ideas

1 February 2016

The final activity in this assignment is to produce a piece of cloth, either from my practical printing or directly from my sketchbook.

I started by asking myself a series of questions:

  1. What screen printing techniques worked well in stages 2 and 3?
  2. Where there any colour combinations which I particularly liked from my sketchbook or practical printing?
  3. Were there any patterns which I particularly liked from my sketchbook or practical printing?
  4. What shapes/textures/colours would combine well together?
Particularly successful prints from stages 2 and 3
1. Contact brown paper stencils (design inspired by residential blocks, Petropolis, Book 1, page 35). SAMPLE 6.
2. Masking tape resist. SAMPLE 8.
3. Vilene stencil (design inspired by Hotel SECS, Copacabana – buildings incorporating sunscreens/blinded, book 1, page 38). SAMPLE 9.
4. Newspaper stencil, simple square. SAMPLE 1.
5. Flour paste resist (design inspired by concrete texture and marks, University, Brasilia, book 1 page 24). SAMPLE 7.
6. Cobweb spray stencil (inspired by concrete textures, University, Brasilia, book1, page 24) SAMPLE 16.
7. Speedball filler mono print (design inspired by concrete textures, University, Brasilia, book1, page 24). SAMPLE 14.
Why no techniques using thickened dye-pastes?
It is worth explaining that I did not feel sufficiently confident with getting good bright results from dye-paste colours, nor in my ability to mix them accurately, to use them for my final piece. I therefore decided that I would use Seletacine print medium.
Favourite ideas from my sketchbook

8. Museum of contemporary art, Niteroi (book 1, page 30-33)

I am strongly drawn to these colour combinations and the bold designs.

9. University, Brasilia (book 1, page 24)

Textures in the concrete and weathering.

10. Office buildings, Brasilia (book 1, page 41-42)

Derived shapes

11. School, Belo Horizonte (book 1 pages 2-10)

a) Particularly the use of florist’s paper to give depth when used underneath or on top of the building shapes

b) ….and the many wonderful pattern variations possible with the ‘asymmetric V’, a shape derived from the corner of the building.

What type of cloth and which techniques/designs could be used together?
Next, I gave consideration to the type of cloth that I wanted to produce. Most of my work in stages 2 and 3 had been taking a single technique or idea and testing it with different stencils, screen and print media. I wanted to see if I could combine the designs to make a layered cloth with lots of visual interest.
I found Benn and Morgan’s book (1) to be a most useful starting point. At the back of the book they have a section on projects and how to build experience through exploration. They suggest starting by making a series of prints which could be used as backgrounds:
  1. Line into texture
  2. Texture/background from shape
  3. Layering value
  4. Layering colour
They suggest that from this starting point it will be easier to determine the next step, and what will move the fabric forward in terms of creating visual interest.
I decided that I would start by making a series of samples, then evaluate the success of each.
12. Texture background from shape
I took a simple shape (similar to capital B) from the print at item 1. of this blog post (residential blocks, Petropolis, Book 1, page 35). 
(N.B. I did not use the “V” stencil shown on this screen)
SAMPLE 25: I made a freezer paper stencil and printed it many times, overlapping the shapes to create texture.
Although I like the textural effect, I do not like the amount of “ghosting” on this sample. This is impossible to avoid unless multiple “B” shapes are incorporated into the stencil (to minimise the need for repositioning). The only way to avoid ghosting completely is to use a block print instead of a screen.
13. Layering value
I made two samples to explore how a background fabric could be made by layering value, one using the cobweb spray screen (item 6. of this blog post), one using the Speedball screen filler mono print screen (item 7. of this blog post).
SAMPLE 26: First I tried the cobweb spray. I used different shades of grey, starting with the lightest and progressing to the darkest. I overlapped and moved the screen slightly each time to vary the value. This is really a combination of the techniques at item 6. and 4., because the screen itself also makes a rectangle-shaped print.
SAMPLE 27: I then tried a similar technique with the mono print screen. I think this background has a lovely texture and also cadence, due to the repeating nature of the print pattern.
I like both these prints which remind me in different ways of concrete texture.
14. Layering colour
SAMPLE 28: I continued with the stencil I had made at item 12., but introduced a second and third colour. In the middle of the process the centre of the stencil broke down and I was left with a solid shape.
I don’t like this print. It is confused by too much ghosting and the red colour has been almost entirely changed to purple, loosing it’s vibrancy (through mixing with the blue). The grey colour just looks like a muddy mess. Maybe it would have been better if I’d let each colour dry before printing on the next? However I think the ghosting is the real show-stopper.
Next stage – exploring layering
I decided to work initially with the mono print silk screen as a background and do some preliminary investigations to establish whether my preferred colour schemes and shapes were likely to work. I really love the colours at point 8., so I started my making a blue layered background. I used blue Selectacine first then printed over using the same stencil and grey print medium. When dry, I tried two approaches to introducing shapes – SAMPLE 29: angular shapes (first photo below) and SAMPLE 30: florist’s paper stencil (second photo below).
N.B. I had to make my own stencils from brown paper similar to the florist’s paper design because the florist’s paper was too heavy to work well as screen print stencil.
What is immediately apparent is that the colours don’t work together in this context. They are too far apart on the colour wheel to have any harmony and are not complementary, split complementary or triads. Also, the background is a very stark pattern itself, with strong (too much) contrast between the white cloth and blue/grey print. It seems in both these samples as if the background and foreground are fighting for dominance.
What does work quite nicely is the soft floaty effect of the florist’s paper stencils. I like the small accents of colour and how they seem to meander across the fabric.
I know that the colours I have used are not good replicas of those in point 8. (the red should be more scarlet and the blue less turquoise and more towards the violet end of the spectrum). However, the samples above gave me enough insight to realise that even if I mixed the colours correctly, they would still not work with this design. Why they work in the analogies at point 8., I’m not sure, but I can only image it’s to do with the relative proportions of each and the fact that they form adjacent solid colour blocks rather than small overlaid shapes.
Revising background fabric choice
I decided to work with the cobweb spray screen as an alternative to the mono print design (as it was a more overall pattern for layering). As the grey shades had worked well, I stuck with them and produced a background cloth (see below)
The cloth includes not just the shape of the screen (rectangles), but some column-like shapes which were inspired by the Dance Pavilion walkway, Pampulha (see book 1, page 45). The photo below shows the stencil I used with the cobweb spray screen.
I think this background works very well, especially as the layering gives rhythms and movement.
Revising colour choice
I started by mixing a blue which I really liked. This happened to be a shade of blue-violet. I used my colour wheel to find and mix the complementary shade of yellow-orange (dark mustard). From these two colours, I made tints (added white), to obtain lilac and light mustard respectively (see below). These would be the main colours for my fabric and I felt secure in the knowledge (from colour theory) that they would work together.

Building the layers
I started by adding columns in the background using dark mustard, which were inspired by the columns at the Dance Pavilion walkway, Pampulha (see sketchbook, page 45 and photo below)
I made these follow approximate diagonals to harmonise with the dark grey blocks.
I was really surprised how dominant these columns appeared (being dark and in the foreground), but continued with the layering.
I started by softening the columns with overprinting of lilac. I used the negative image of the florist’s paper to create a subtle stencil. 
The dark mustard columns were still dominant and I wasn’t sure as this stage whether the layering was going to integrate the shapes/patterns sufficiently. I continued…..
I wanted to blue-violet to be an accent colour and to be quite dominant in the cloth. I therefore chose it for the positive image of the florist’s paper stencil. I tried to print these shapes in a way that the ‘meander’ across the cloth, similar to the contrast between hard edges and curved shapes in Niemeyer’s buildings. I also wanted to emulate the many examples where hard landscaping is softened by seeing foliage through glass or columns. 
At this stage, I felt that the cloth was starting to work (due to contrast of shapes and tonal variation). However, overall it was becoming rather dark. I added columns using light mustard (below)
The new columns appeared extremely bright and by this stage I felt that there were too many ‘horizontal’ lines. I added a few verticals to balance the pattern. Now it was coming to life.
Still rather dark, I thought about re-introducing the very light grey colour of the background into the foreground. As white is usually partially transparent, I thought it would help to soften the harsh shapes of the vertical and horizontal columns, and bring harmony by uniting the background and foreground. I used the florist’s paper stencil but scaled up the size, so that I retained continuity of shape as well as colour.
At this point I was wondering whether to stop the process. However, the design had the feeling of being slightly fragmented because of the use of so many small shapes. I decided to add one final layer of light grey rectangles, using the cobweb screen to soften their effect.
SAMPLE 31: Above is a photo of my final cloth. I think that the balance of background and foreground shapes, colour and movement works very well. What I am slightly disappointed with is that the dominant colours have turned out to be light and dark grey and that the wonderful complementaries seem to have lost their impact. I think this could have been addressed by not using greys in the design at all but instead making the background colours very pale lilac and pale mustard.
  1. Benn, C and Morgan, L. (2009) Screen printing: Layering textiles with colour, texture and imagery. Committed to Cloth. 4 Print Ltd. Nottingham.

Exploring screen printing, Stage 3 – Screen printing

23 January 2016

When I looked at the course notes I did not really understand the distinction between this stage and the previous one. I can only assume that it is intended to be a more in depth look at screen printing techniques, including some consideration of design aspects.

The course instructions are quite prescriptive too. The first page is about designs with acrylic paint and suggests applying the paint in different ways such as doodling, dripping, stamping. As I had already done some direct painting and spray painting in stage 2, I decided to start with painting the acrylic onto plastic to take a mono-print.

1. Mono-print using acrylic paint and Selectacine print medium

I painted acrylic onto a sheet of acetate and made some marks using a plastic credit card. Around the edge I dabbed with a sponge (below). I hoped to recreate some of the textures of concrete in the image of the University of Brasilia (page 24 of my sketchbook).

Despite applying plenty of paint, I could see when I held the screen up to the, light that a lot of the mesh was not blocked. Unfortunately, it was not the type of pattern that I could ‘go over’ again with a brush, so I had to accept it was it was. I took a couple of prints anyway (below)

SAMPLE 13: As I expected, I was very disappointed that none of the delicate marks has transferred onto the print. On the plus side I found that when I scrubbed the screen, the acrylic paint came off completely, so I was able to reuse it without re-meshing.


2. Mono-print using Speedball ‘filler’ and Selectacine print medium

I repeated the previous experiment using Speedball screen print filler.  

I made the screen with two separate designs. The top half is a loose design based on the filler being pulled across the acetate with a squeegee and gaps left, and in the bottom half, swirls have been marked in the filler with a credit card after it had been spread on the acetate. A single mono-printing was taken.

SAMPLE 14 (two prints): I got some very pleasing results with a single colour (left) and two colours simultaneously on the screen (right).

I decided that I liked the images so much that I would keep the screen for future use.


3. Spray painting with acrylic webbing spray and Selectacine print medium

The notes suggested that I either spray webbing spray directly onto a screen or use it with stencils to create a screen with areas of resist. I decided that it would be more versatile to spray the whole screen with the webbing spray, then various non-permanent paper or sticky-backed plastic stencils could be used as a when required.

A search of the Internet to find “webbing spray” revealed just one type, manufactured Krylon. I soon found out that it had been discontinued and was unavailable to purchase in the UK. Luckily my friend had just completed this module and leant me her screen.


SAMPLE 15: I produced a lovely image on linen cloth (see below)


4. Spray painting with “cobweb spray”, Selectaine print medium

When thinking about alternatives for webbing spray, I came across “cobweb spray”. Described a “artificial cobwebs” and containing solvent, resin and propellant, I thought it might be suitable.

I stretched my own screen using an old canvass frame and 43T polyester mesh (which is suitable for use with Selectacine). I sprayed the cobweb spray less densely than the webbing spray example above. I found it made a robust and interesting screen.

SAMPLE 16 (two prints): I made a really nice test print. Left is using a single colour of Selectacine. For the print on the right, I put the same blue print medium alongside scarlet in the well and allowed the colours to spread and mix on the squeegee.

5. Screen printing with stencils, Selectacine print medium

As I had previously used newsprint and brown paper stencils, I decided to try two different approaches – sticky-backed plastic and freezer paper. I used a design derived from Oscar Niemeyer’s school building, Belo Horizonte (page 7 of my sketchbook).


On the left is the freezer paper stencil, attached by gentle ironing it to the back of the screen. To the right in the negative image (and not visible, because the stencil is clear) is the sticky-backed plastic.

SAMPLE 17 (two prints): I made a simple print using a single colour. Both stencils gave good, crisp results.

Both stencils were robust. In general I found the sticky-backed plastic more difficult to handle. Positioning was especially tricky because it is clear. As it seems to offer little advantage over freezer paper, I would tend to use freezer paper in preference in future.

6. Screen printing with Vilene stencils and dye paste thickened with Manutex

I had already made a Vilene stencil with a cut-out and incorporating a single motif hand-painted acrylic mask, so I decided to extend the painting with acrylic to make an all-over texture.


SAMPLE 18 (series of 6 prints): I painted a pattern on the Vilene using black acrylic paint and the edge of a credit card. When dry, I taped it to a screen and used thickened Procion dye-paste to make a series of prints, during which I changed the paste colours.

The photo shows the prints just complete and still wet on the print table. Unfortunately, when they were dried, rinsed and set by ironing they appeared washed-out in appearance, which was rather disappointing (see below)
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Exploring screen printing, Stage 2, Printing techniques

20 January 2016

The course notes give an overview of screen printing techniques. They say to choose one or two, or try all of the following:

  1. Spray painting with acrylic
  2. Contact or brown paper stencils
  3. Masking tape
  4. Vilene stencil
  5. Hand painting with acrylic paints
Techniques 1. and 5. are permanent, meaning the screen cannot be re-used for another design. As a complete novice I certainly did not want to try these on one of my expensive ready-prepared screens. Instead, I used some mesh stretched over an embroidery frame so as to only use a small piece of mesh and to make it disposable.
I also tried some other techniques in addition to those stipulated. The two books I used were “Screen printing” by Committed to cloth (1) and from the suggested reading list “Art Cloth” by Jane Dunnewold (2). These give lots of ideas and tips for screen printing techniques. In each case I used laundered cotton sheeting which I pinned out on a padded table.
Newspaper stencil (simple square), Selectacine print medium
As I have had very little experience in screen printing, I wanted to start with a basic technique. Similar to using a blank screen for colour value and texture, I made my printable area smaller with a simple newspaper stencil. The design was inspired by an exercise from reference 1 (see page 13 ‘using a blank screen for colour, value and texture’).
My objective was to practice using the squeegee. I did not worry about ‘ghosting’, and allowed the screen/squeegee to become cross contaminated when I changed colours.
I started with mauve, then built up layers and depth by introducing orange-yellow and printing over the first colours. The stencil held up well, but eventually it stuck to the fabric rather than the screen, so at this point I could not continue to use it. This issue was not due to the stencil getting soaked with ink permeating through the screen mesh, but rather the stencil getting soaked from contacted the wet printed fabric. 
At this stage, I decided to continue, using the screen corner as a stencil and scooping up the ink to give two sharp and two rough edges wit each print (see pink colour below)
SAMPLE 1: I was really pleased with the effect of overlapping these simple shapes. 
I think the effect could have been even better had I dyed the cloth first (so that the background was a toning colour).
Unfortunately, I damaged my screen when I was scrubbing it clean. The brush I used had very stiff bristles and I also scrubbed too hard. As a result, I separated some of the threads on the mesh (see below).
Resist printing with string, Selectacine print medium
This was a technique explained in reference 1. I selected some crochet cotton and pinned it across some cotton fabric stretched on my printing table.
The design was inspired by the photograph on page 46 of my sketchbook for this assignment (Book 1) – Nightclub/casino, Pampulha.
I then used a squeegee to draw ink across the fabric. The result was not very satisfactory. I found that the screen deposited lots of ink on the fabric and that the ink ‘pooled’ in ripples (see below).
SAMPLE 2: Once the ink was dry and I removed the thread, I did get some interesting patterns. 
I think hat the ripples/over depositing of paint may have been due to the newspaper under my table crinkling during the application of printing process. As a result, I removed the newspaper layer.
I then tried using the waste thread laid in a ball (see below). The inspiration for this design was an exercise from reference 1 (see page 14)
SAMPLE 3: Again, I laid a blank screen over the thread and took a print using Selectacine print medium (Note: I over printed cloth made a SAMPLE 8, which appears later in the blog)
There was an interesting ‘marbled’ effect, although there was a tendency for the print medium to ‘pool’ between the thread in areas of lots multiple overlap.
SAMPLE 4: Next, I used some thicker parcel string and repeated the exercise for SAMPLE 2. Again I overprinted fabric from SAMPLE 8 (which appears later in the blog)
There is good definition from the resist, and although there is still a tendency for the print medium to ‘pool’, it is not excessive and the results are pleasing.
Dye-cut stencil and polypropylene fruit net, Selectacine print medium
I used some pre-cut florist’s paper which I had saved from a bunch of supermarket flowers. On the second half of the screen, I placed orange fruit net to act as a resist. 
The inspiration for use of the fruit net was from the course notes. Use of the florist’s paper was borrowed from the analogy of the ‘school, Belo Horizonte’, page 3 of my sketchbook.
SAMPLE 5 (two prints): I was disappointed by my first screen print (left). When I removed the screen the fruit net was left on the fabric rather than adhering to the mesh, so another print could not be taken. To make it worse, ink had seeped under the mesh, so there was no resist.
Strangely enough, the fruit mesh had left a resist on the screen, so I took a second print (right). I had variable effects with the pre-cut florist’s paper. Some shapes were crisp prints, some the ink had crept under the paper. This could have been because the paper was too thick or maybe the surface was too soft/padded?
I blotted the print with a newspaper. Unfortunately some of the colour from the ink transferred to my fabric. Note to use newsprint instead next time.
Brown paper stencil, Selectacine print medium
As suggested in the course notes, I cut a series of stencils from brown paper using a scalpel. I used some of the shapes from an aerial view of a complex of Oscar Niemeyer’s buildings (see sketchbook, page 35, residential blocks, Petropolis). I changed the scale and re-arranged the shapes, using both the positive and negative cut-outs.
SAMPLE 6: I laid them on the fabric with the screen on top and printed using the whole screen. 
I was pleased to get sharp, crisp images, and the brown paper stencils held up well, even the small shapes. One difficulty I had was getting the paint to cover right to the bottom of the screen and I had to make several passes. I’m not sure why, but I don’t think it was due to lack of printing medium, rather my technique being not quite correct (squeegee at the wrong angle or too fast/slow pass?).
Flour paste resist, Selectacine print medium
The inspiration for this design came from the marks on the concrete at the University, Brasilia (see sketchbook, page 24).
Reference 1 describes a method whereby flour paste is spread onto the screen, allowed to dry, then inscribed with a wooden skewer. Although I mixed up the paste recipe according to the instructions, I found difficulty in getting a smooth even film across the screen. On the first pass I thought it was covered, but when I held it up, I could see light passing through some areas of weave on the mesh. As a result of making sure the weave was covered, I ended up spreading the paste rather too thickly and unevenly (see below).
I had to wait overnight for the paste to dry. 
I decided to make a simple ‘doodle’ which I sketched onto the flour with a pencil. I then scratched away the design using a wooden skewer. It was impossible to scratch away the paste in areas where it was applied thickly, so I decided to leave ‘gaps’ in my design, as I didn’t want to damage my screen.
SAMPLE 7: The results show a lovely crisp image where the flour paste was scratched away. In contrast the areas of thick paste cracked and let print medium through the mesh. Whilst I really like this crackled effect, it was not intentional, so it’s good to know the cause.
I think if I was preparing the flour paste again, I might try and make it slightly less viscous in an attempt to get an thinner, more even coverage. 
The disadvantage of this technique is that the screen can only be used a few times, and the pattern is difficult to repeat of the screen had to be re-made.
Masking tape stencil, Selectacine print medium
As suggested in the course notes, I used masking tape of various widths to make a stencil on one of my screens.
SAMPLE 8: Now that I had removed the layers of newspaper from my print bed, I wanted to get lots of practice improving my squeegee technique in an attempt to get a crisp image with smooth, even application of (not too much) paint. I started with turquoise and over printed with mauve.
In general I was very pleased with these results and I like the effect of over printing. I did observe that my first mauve print did not seem to have enough paint going through the mesh (see below)
Although my second print was fine (below)
I’m not sure why this happened. Maybe different squeegee technique, or less paint penetrating through the mesh on the first pass.
Vilene stencil, Selectacine print medium
I started by cutting a piece of fine sew-in vilene to the size of the screen. I then drew on a stencil shape in pencil and cut it out. Underneath, I also painted the vilene with a series of patterns using acrylic paint. I then taped the vilene to the screen frame and made a series of four prints with a single colour of print medium. 
SAMPLE 9: Series of four prints
First print: The stencil cut-out is bold. Only a small amount of print medium is beginning to penetrate the vilene, which acts as an almost total resist. 
Second print: The effect of print medium penetrating the vilene can start to be seen. The areas of resist created by the brushed on acrylic paint can start to be seen.
Third print: A substantial amount of paint is starting to penetrate the vilene. As a consequence the bold cut-out areas is beginning to be less differentiated from the background. In contrast, the acrylic mask is becoming more obvious.
Fourth print: The final print is similar to the third, but with less background texture from the vilene itself, as it has become saturated with print medium. The acrylic mask still shows the texture of the vilene, so several layers of paint would be required if the desired effect is for a solid mask.
Acrylic spray paint, Selectacine print medium

I wanted to compare the effect of using a delicate mask like fruit netting with a more solid paper mask.
Unfortunately, the first time I applied the spray I had the stencils on the back of the screen (as if I was using them as stencils during printing). Therefore, I sprayed the entire front of the spray and did not achieve any mask!
None-the-less, this uneven application gave an interesting cracked surface with some solid (unpainted) areas where the paper had stuck to the net, and peeling it off removed the spray paint.
SAMPLE 10: I decided to go ahead and print this screen anyway (below)
The result was quite dense, but I imagine that it could make a lovely background for discharge painting.
Next I made another screen, this time putting the stencils the rights way round! 
SAMPLE 11: The stencil effect looks good, although when I took a print the result was rather more subtle than I would have liked (see below)
I think the problem was that I did not apply enough layers of spray paint to properly block the screen mesh. 

Direct painting with acrylic paint, Selectacine print medium

I tried to make a variety of marks in this sample, using different implements. The ‘brick-like’ pattern (painted with a brush) was inspired by the window frames in the school, Belo Horizonte (see sketchbook, page 2).
When I painted on my design with acrylic paint, I realised that the mesh was new and that I had forgotten to scrub it first with Cif cream. When I scrubbed the painted design, I found that the acrylic paint came off, and I had to re-paint.
SAMPLE 12: As a result of the re-painting, the edges of the finished resist are not as crisp as I would have liked (see below)
As the embroidery hoop was small, I had to use a credit card to spread the print medium instead of a squeegee and it was more difficult to spread the paint evenly.
  1. Benn, C and Morgan, L. (2009) Screen printing: Layering textiles with colour, texture and imagery. Committed to Cloth. 4 Print Ltd. Nottingham.
  2. Dunnewold’s, J. (2010) Art cloth: A guide to surface design for fabric. Interweave Press. Loveland. 

Exploring screen printing, Stage 1 – Sketchbook work

19 January 2016

The topic for my sketchbook is “The work of Brazilian architect Oscar Niemeyer”, who designed in the movement of International Style. I had intended to supplement my sketchbook by including a few images of Brutalist architecture, but Niemeyer’s work generated so many ideas, that I decided to include the Brutalist material a new sketchbook on the subject of architecture (in general).

I started by collecting images which interested me from the following sources (1,2,3). I also looked at magazines articles (4,5,6). I then produced a sketchbook, taking images and making my own analogies and drawing design ideas from them.

Niemeyer’s work was bold and distinctive. He designed not just for his native Brazil, but also countries worldwide, including Spain, Algeria and the UK (1,2,3). 

The characteristics which I love about his work are:

  1. The contrasting use of straight and curved forms (Niemeyer frequently used the human form as a starting point for his designs (2), in addition to bold angular shapes).
  2. The bold and daring use of colour (frequently painted concrete), and the way in which the colour schemes incorporate the landscape (e.g bright blue sky, grass, rock).
  3. The use of plants to soften hard architectural forms – The use of palm trees, mahogany trees, vines and other vegetation as a foil for the abrupt corners and hard edges of his buildings
  4. The use of shutters and sunscreens as a design feature, diffusing and reflecting light and modifying the perception of colour to the eye, and also to add textural interest to a building’s surface.
  5. The use of reflections in water – to make symmetrical forms, to make new shapes and textures (e.g. ripples in a building reflection)

 I have filled a whole sketchbook with ideas based on 17 buildings. In particular, have concentrated on:

  1. Extracting the main shapes from a building or building complex design
  2. Analogies of texture using different media
  3. Changing scale (enlarging an image or taking small sections from an image)
  4. Adding to shapes and textures (with my own ideas), or subtracting from them (simplifying a design idea)
  5. Re-arranging shapes to make new visual ideas
  6. Cutting shapes into smaller pieces to make new shapes
  7. Using the negative shape from an image (or both the negative and positive shapes)
  8. Looking at the effect of a tonal study
  9. Looking at the effect of different colour combinations
  10. Using the images more or less unchanged
I would have liked time to develop several of my ideas further, however I had to select my favourites to concentrate on. Designs which stood out with lots of potential for development were:

1. School – Belo Horizonte
Window frames and building shapes as a starting point for collage work

2. Palace of the Dawn – Brasilia
Shape, tone and texture. Reflections.
3. Museum of contemporary art – Niteroi
Studies of colour, texture and form.
4. University – Brasilia
Concrete texture and weathering. 


  1. Hess, A. (2009) Oscar Niemeyer Buildings. Rizzoli, New York
  2. Papadaki, S. (1960) A117 Masters of world architecture. George Braziller Inc. New York
  3. Anon (2003) Oscar Niemeyer Serpentine Gallery Pavilion 2003. Serpentine Gallery. London
  4. Jordan, L. (2015) Brasilia Metropolitan Cathedral. Travel Design destinations. Elle Decoration. January 2015.
  5. Thomas, T. (n.d.) Oscar Niemeyer – architect of the people. Escape Into Life. Available from: [Accessed 1 February 2016]
  6. Niemeyer, O. (2012) Oscar Niemeyer: a life in architecture – in pictures. The Guardian. 6 December 2012. Available from: %5BAccessed 1 February 2016]


Initial thoughts on “The man-made environment” theme

December 2015

I have decided on architecture as the theme for Assignment 2, stage 1 (topic the “man-made environment”). In particular, I wanted to focus on the work of Brazilian architect Oscar Niemeyer. His bold and flamboyant designs are in the movement of “International Style” (1) and combine neat rectilinear forms with lack of ornamentation. His  buildings often use bold colours. His style extends to open, light-filled interiors which are also a fascinating source of inspiration. Norwich University of the Arts library have many books on his work from which I have selected a ‘scrapbook’ of inspirational images. The only concern I have regarding Niemeyer’s buildings is that I will have to work entirely from photographs because I am unable to visit and sketch his architecture. I considered How I could extend my theme.

When searching for Christmas gifts on the National Trust website, I came across a book with a very engaging front cover. The book was “Brutal Utopias – A National trust guidebook” (2). The image provoked a strong and immediate response. Nasturtiums we’re growing in a way reminiscent of that in which wild flowers would grow on a natural cliff; clinging with little light or soil, peeping out from a hard, cold, grey edge. 

In the world of “Brutalist” architecture, the human is removed from the natural environment. The Park Hill development in Sheffield is a series of concrete “cliffs” winding high on the top of a hill. The idea was that residents would walk along “streets in the sky”. In doing so, however, they are isolated from their natural environment – from trees, grass, the scent of Autumn leaves…. It reminded me also of another Brutalist building which I visited – The University of East Anglia. I remember on an undergraduate open day walking along cold windswept concrete walkways – like the path of a river artificially channelled, my path was pre-defined. I could not leave the path and run across the grass, I could only move backwards or forwards. It was perhaps this inhospitable environment which contributed to my decision not to study at UEA. The conflict between human and concrete is a concept which I still find fascinating, and UEA provides a series of brutalist buildings which are geographically close enough for me to visit and sketch. 

So I have decided that my theme will be “the International Style of Oscar Niemeyer” and “Brutalism”. I am in the process of sketching my ideas and developing designs based on the images I have gathered. I am finding it much easier to draw visual responses to this topic than “cultural fusions” because I can better relate and attach meaning to these images.



1. Dempsey, A. (2010) Styles, schools and movements. The essential encyclopaedic guide to modern art. New and expanded edition. Thames and Hudson. London

2. Watson, T. (2015) Brutal Utopias. The National Trust. Swindon.