This week, we look at damask motifs from a new perspective. I challenge you to make this traditional motif your own and use it in your art!
It all started from a dream I saw a few days ago. “You should wear more decorative clothes, Paivi,” I was telling myself. “Like the old historical dress that you had at a ball as a teenager.”
I still have the dress. It has damask motifs – woven ornamental patterns that seem to never go out of date (more about their history). The idea of perfecting not only the actual swirls but also the shapes between is a good drawing practice that doesn’t have to be boring at all!
This week, I played with colored pencils mostly, but in 2015, I made a mixed media piece called Rococo. So check out this post too!
The reason for my dream was an unfinished page in my colored pencil journal. I had started it at the end of last year but found it terribly uninspiring. I didn’t feel any connection with the figure, and she looked like someone had forced her to be there. In a way, that had happened. After a series of big paintings, I was knackered, as readers from the UK and Australia would describe. I had no motivation to take a brush and only a little to do something with colored pencils.
First, I added a bit of watercolor to cover white and then colored intuitively without any predefined ideas or models.
Sometimes it’s just that when you are tired, it’s best to leave the piece and come back later, even if it would be a tiny spread in a small journal. After the dream, I knew what to do: play with damask motifs!
I feel drawn to this damask lady. She looks both curious and self-confident – everything I would like to be in this new year!
Looser Damask Motifs – Nature
I got so inspired by coloring the swirly lady that the next spread was born quickly. Again, first some watercolor splashes, and then details with colored pencils.
If you compare the flowery spread above with the portrait below, you see the change in looseness. The flower is much freer than the lady, but I like both. I like how damask motifs can be seen as a part of nature – snow on trees, water drops, butterfly wings and their spots. But I also like how they can be more architecture- and design-related and a part of human fantasies and mysteries.
Which take do YOU like more?
Sketching a Damask Motif
Next, I wanted to go even further in stiffening the expression. I would design a damask-inspired motif so that there would be no looseness at all.
I started by sketching the motif in the middle of the spread, using the fold as a guide to achieving the required symmetry. In damask motifs, the negative – the shape of the background – is as important as the positive is. So after the careless sketch, I then went through the surrounding area and adjusted its swirls.
This motif felt like a forbidden fruit. I was surprised to hear myself saying: “You have crossed the line now, Paivi. Even if you always paint the inside, now it will be reverse – illustrating the outside world.” I didn’t get this first at all – I thought I was just drawing was a simple flowery ornament inspired by damask motifs!
But when I was making the finishing touches, I realized that my drawing did illustrate the outside world – our living room: a wooden ceiling, windows on the left, a wall rug on the right, a vanda orchid hanging without a pot, and the snake plants growing lower.
Here’s a picture of my vanda when it was blooming in 2020!
This spread is not loosely made at all, and yet I find that the looseness is how I unconsciously picked and interpreted the subject.
Which of the pieces of this post inspire you the most?
Are you inspired by the stiffness or looseness?
How do you want your damasks to look?
Please leave a comment! It would be so interesting to know!