Lesley Richmond: From conception to creation
Lesley Richmond was born in Cornwall, England and now lives in Vancouver, BC, Canada. She received her art teachers training in London and her MEd in the USA.
She taught in the textile arts program at Capilano University, Vancouver from 1973 to 2003 while continuing her practice as a studio artist. Lesley now works full time in her studio.
Her work is in collections in the USA, Japan, Poland, Korea and Canada. Recent exhibitions include SOFA Chicago, 2007 to 2017 with Jane Sauer Gallery and Tansey Contemporary Gallery, Santa Fe, USA.
Lesley is inspired by the architectural elegance of trees; tranquil and timeless. She says;
Trees are an important symbol in many cultures. They are used in myths and legends and are generally a revered image. Their long lives allow them to watch over many changes in history. There is a change in atmosphere as one enters a forest, which could give a feeling of a sanctuary or convey a sense of unease. Forests have been used as a setting for countless magical stories.
Lesley photographs trees, focusing on the intricacy of their branching structures and then prints these images on cloth, using a medium that creates a dimensional surface. She then eliminates selected background areas, leaving the structural images of trees as the dominant feature. The images are then painted with metal patinas and pigments.
You can read Lesley’s interview with TextileArtist.org here.
In this article, which is part of our From conception to creation series, Lesley’s gives an in-depth account of how she created her magnificent forest study, Woodland. We learn what instigated the piece and how using Kozo Bark Fibre was central to its growth.
Name of piece: Woodland
Year of piece: 2017
Size of piece: 7 feet horizontal by 4 feet vertical (213cm x 122cm)
Materials used: Silk blend fabrics, silk organza, dimensional ink, iron patina, acrylic paints, pigment/dye mixtures, transparent oxides, kozo fibre
Techniques used: Silk screen printing, collage, painting, perforation
Celebrating the seasons
TextileArtist.org: How did the idea for the piece come about? What was your inspiration?
Lesley Richmond: I had a request from the Tower Hill Botanic Centre near Boston, USA for a piece to be part of an exhibition to fill a 7 ft by 8 ft space. I decided to do one large piece for maximum impact.
The show would be celebrating the seasons and, as it was scheduled for August/September, I decided to use rich Autumnal colours using iron rust and metallic paints.
I wanted to use some dramatic tree forms that would work well in a large scale piece. I chose images from a photograph of a stand of trees, taken on winter’s day on the North Yorkshire Moors, near my sister-in-law’s house.
The trees were old and weathered and had a strong timeless quality. There was a pleasing similarity of branch and trunk shapes, but with a variation in size, which made it an interesting grouping.
Was there any other preparatory work?
I adjusted the contrast and brightness of the tree photos, using Photoshop and then printed the images on paper. I separated the trees and changed the scale. I then had photo positives made and the images were transferred to several silk-screens.
I chose a coroplast board, 5 feet by 7 feet, on which I could experiment with different compositions.
I decided what ‘mood’ the piece would have i.e. dramatic and timeless. Then I chose different size trees to create dramatic groupings and a feeling of distance and space.
What materials and equipment were used in the creation of the piece?
The main material is Kozo Bark Fibre, used in Asian paper making. It had to be cooked, separated and teased whilst moist until it dry and ready for use.
From rough to refined
Take us through the creation of the piece stage by stage.
I printed several images from each screen, processed and stiffened the separate images of the trees, so I could arrange them on a 7 ft x 5 ft board and change the composition until I got something I liked. I printed extra images so I could cut these up and add parts to existing trees to change the composition.
I start with a few strong images, then the piece evolves as I add elements to integrate the trees into the finished landscape. Many changes take place on its journey to completion.
When I thought the composition worked, I glued the trees together. I then glued two layers of fabric together for strength and texture for the ground.
For delicate compositions, I could use silk organza and sometimes canvas for more dramatic pieces. The fabric creases and distorts and I used this as part of the surface texture. I pinned the fabric on the coroplast sheet and placed the trees on top, making sure the piece hung straight.
Sometimes I had to cut and re-glue sections, making tucks and darts, so it hung properly. I then glued the trees onto the fabric and painted the fabric with the ground colour. I added ground textures i.e. grasses, leaves etc., which I cut up and glued on where needed.
When I was satisfied with the composition, I painted the images with black gesso, to seal them and create a dramatic contrast to the background. I glued kozo fibre to the ground fabric, to suggest grasses and ground texture. I used Jacquard’s Dye-Na-Flow, a mixture of dye and pigment to paint the ground fabric and sky.
Several layers of iron patina are used on the trees and ground texture and left to develop and rust for several days. I applied transparent oxides over the rusted iron to add subtle colour changes.
The piece looks rather rough at this stage and will need to be refined by adding highlights, shadows and definition, with acrylic paint, which shows up the surface texture and metallic paints which give rich highlights.
I spend a lot of time integrating the different elements i.e. making the trees look as though they are ‘grounded’, by placing undergrowth textures around the trunks. I also suggest hills and valleys by painting different tones of colour on the ground area.
As I am painting on the black surface, I need to apply several layers of colour, so I work from dark to light, finishing with metallic highlights.
I may add focal points, which help to direct the eye.
I can change the piece at any time if I think something isn’t right, pulling out selected areas and replacing them with something, hopefully, more suitable.
Hangers are made with layers of cork board attached to metal off-sets and glued on the back of the piece, so it hangs away from the wall, giving a transparent feeling as light passes through the kozo fibres.
These pieces will roll up because of the flexibility of the kozo backing, making shipping and installation easier.
What journey has the piece been on since its creation?
This piece will go to the Tower Hill Botanic Gardens, near Boston, MA, USA for an exhibition, called ‘Strand and Stem’ in August/September 2017.
If it is still available after the exhibition, it will travel to SOFA Chicago (Sculpture Objects and Functional Art) Fair, in 2017, or ‘Collect’ at the Saatchi Galleries, in London, UK, 2018, with Tansey Contemporary Gallery, Santa Fe and Denver, USA.
For more information visit: www.lesleyrichmond.com
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