August 25, 2012

nathia gali in august: season of mist

yesterday i posted the last five pictures in this post. the ones i'm posting now are from last year's eid trip.

gravestone from the raj
old kalabagh cemetery
gravestone from the raj 
old kalabagh cemetery
after the rain, an afternoon 
view from shangrila pines hotel
view from shangrila pines 
hotel, afternoon after rain
hydrangeas in ursula's garden: a throwback 
to my childhood
cedars along the pipeline 
walk, dunga gali
tree trunk along the pipeline walk
another throwback to the 
raj: inscriptions along 
the pipeline walk, dunga gali
throwback to the raj: inscription along the 
pipeline walk, dunga gali
a rose from the shangrila pines garden
sunset after the rain, from 
shangrila pines garden
pines in the mist
this last photo, like many sunset photos, doesn't 
do justice to the reality. but here it is 
anyway: sunset after an afternoon of heavy rain.

August 13, 2012

documenting the process: revisiting the frescoes of wazir khan masjid: chapter 2

Decoupage being the art of cutting and pasting, I begin with a set of cut-outs. Having worked for over a decade, I now have envelopes of photographs (my own), and even ready-cut motifs, which are often left over after a project is complete, and which serve as inspiration for the next. Although I don’t repeat designs, I do use same or similar motifs in different projects. For instance, the Islamic tile motifs have been used many times, but the overall effect is different as I constantly add innovations, the most recent being carving into the surface of the project (see albums of past work for examples).

Many of my decoupage projects are commissions. They are very much an interactive process with the client, with whom I discuss design and colour scheme, and to whom I show the cuttings I have on hand. In the case of the chest of drawers, the client and I began with the set of cuttings shown in the first photograph of the enclosed slideshow.

Much of my decoupage is based on photography. Using semi-professional computer software, I alter colours and contrasts, or even change the colour scheme to black and white or sepia. I also crop pictures or cut and paste them to make different combinations. The border motif used on the chest, which is composed of white and peach flowers on a blue-turquoise ground, began as a single motif, made into a field of repeats by cutting and pasting. The resulting frieze was printed in two sizes. The full border was used on the front and sides, while a wider version was cut into half and used for the top. Similarly, some of the motifs used to embellish the drawers began life as half-motifs which were then mirrored to create a full motif, and blown up to make large versions.

I like to add to decoupage by using lino cuts. I already have a library of blocks in varying sizes, from very narrow 1 inch borders to five and six inch single motifs. But for this project, the most detailed large project that I have made so far, I cut a new set of blocks. All of them were inspired by motifs from the frescoes in the Wazir Khan Mosque in Lahore.

Cutting paper as well as lino takes several days, but that’s only the preliminary stage. It’s followed by priming and colouring the surface, in this case wood. For this chest of drawers, I painted the wood in solid colours where I planned to print full borders, and stained it with a wash in areas where I wanted the colour to fade into the natural wood. These areas were sanded back after they dried, to reveal the grain. I then applied sections of silver leaf in areas where I planned to use lino blocks. These were printed with pomegranate and lotus motifs. My lino prints usually feature double printing. I may do a double roll of colour so that the block is printed in two shades, and when it’s dry I may go over it with a third colour, or with a similar colour and a different block. For instance, the edges of the pomegranate and lotus motifs were overprinted with the border motif, using the same shade, to create a layering of motifs and textures. The border motif itself was printed with a double roll of white and pink, then partially over-printed in copper to allow the original colours to show through. As the design evolved, I used the copper colour and the border motif on the drawer fronts and the sides of the chest, using copper and silver inks. This printing is largely to create texture, and the motifs are only partially printed. 

The front of the chest was decorated with decoupage in the vertical sections, and lino printing in the horizontal ones. 

As with most art work, the process is an evolutionary one in which I keep looking at the work to see where I need to add or subtract. The drawers evolved after I finished the borders and lino printing on the front frame. Initially I planned to leave then unpainted, with a defined border in the groove on the front of each drawer. But when I assembled the piece after printing, I realized it would be better to give them a stain which began at the outer edges and faded towards the inner edges and the centre motif. The little silver rosebuds were very much an afterthought, to ‘lift’ the copper printing on blue-turquoise, and they were repeated on the top and sides, to bring the various, very diverse elements together. 

I seal the decoupage myself using a water based varnish, which is applied in several thin coats. This is followed by shellac. This is done by my assistant, as I now find varnishing such large projects difficult to handle alone. Shellac turns the wood darker; it also gave the turquoise a slightly yellowish tone.

What I aim for finally is a floating effect in which each layer is visible, achieved by varnishing the work over and over again.

here is the link to the slideshow that documents the process:

link to slideshow documenting the process

August 11, 2012

a decoupage project: revisiting the frescoes of wazir khan masjid

over the last month, i've worked on one of the most detailed decoupage projects that i've ever made: a large chest of drawers with decoupage, lino printing, metal leaf, and wood staining. here are some pictures of the completed project. in a few days i will put up an essay and a slideshow which will document the process, to give you an idea of how a project evolves. 

i don't know how the colours will come out on individual computers. the wood is stained in blue, teal and purple with a pink-red undertone. i know that in some of my own pictures i wasn't satisfied with the colour resolution. some of them were taken inside, and some outside; overall i found that some of the pictures had a dominant bluish tone while others have a predominantly yellowish tone. so there is already some colour distortion. the reality, as with much else in life, is somewhere in between!

front view. the horizontal 'frame' of the chest 
is first painted in blue shaded into teal, 
then lino printed in two stages: 
a double roll of white and peach-pink, 
and a partial overprinting in copper. 
the vertical parts of the frame are 
decoupage cuttings using photographs.

another front view
an 'aerial' view of the top. 
the centre features photos of frescoes, 
the borders are composed of photos 
made into a frieze, and the 
corners are metal leaf overprinted with lino blocks 
close up of lino printing, wood staining and 
printed highlights over the wood stain, 
after varnishing.

detail from the top of the chest

view of side panel. this picture was taken 
before varnishing, and before i painted
 the feet of the chest