Artist Of The Day #6 (THROWBACK TO A LEVEL)

FARAH SYED Painter and Printmaker

Painter and Printmaker

I first came across the printmaker and painter, Farah Syed, whilst studying my A Levels. For people that know me they will recognise how the colours I use in my art are strong, bold and organic. This is why I have been inspired by Farah Syed’s work. Her paintings are inspired ‘by the variety of naturally occurring patterns and depict the incessant transformation and volatility of biological processes’.

Screen Shot 2015-02-06 at 19.49.31

She uses oils as it creates a ‘rich manipulation’ of colours and the imagery in her paintings and prints contrast from simple seeds to complex, tangled botanical structures. The intricate, individual marks that build up to reveal detail creates an abstract quality, however also produces the detail of the small, fragments of organisms embedding themselves in a ‘field of colour’.

Farah Syed was born in Pakistan, raised in Europe and graduated from ‘The University of the Arts’ in Berlin, in 1997. Since then she has been a practising artist in London. Her work has been held in private and public collections in the UK and internationally.

When looking for information and her collections of work on the internet, I realised that there wasn’t a huge amount of information on her, as she’s not as well known as your picasso’s or Dali’s. So I decided to email her!

I was a bit hesitant to email her, but I’m so glad I did- she was incredibly helpful and interesting to talk to, and emailed me back with reams and reams of information on the processes she uses, as well as her influences, etc.

Here’s what she replied with…


I am looking for something unknown to me, I am looking to make a discovery. I have no idea of the finished painting so I set out with an interest in certain micro marks and a loose idea of what the temperature and dynamics I want to embed them in.

I usually start with a coloured ground, just a acrylic wash, to set the overall tone after which the painting is built up slowly through a process of layering (in quite a random, painterly way with thinned oli paints) and mark making (hand painting very small repetitive marks with a tiny brush). Often I will ask areas with latex so that things don’t get lost in the process of overpainting. It is about building and taking apart, about how forms appear, disappear and reappear.

The use of oils allows for a rich manipulation of the colours, and enforces a discipline in keeping with the theme of painting: a gradual revelation. Imagery suggesting biological structures is superimposed on a ground which remains abstract and unidentified: Detailed formations, perhaps a veil of dots or a cluster of cell-like forms drift across accentuating the foreground.

There are always two ways of looking at a painting: as a viewer and as the person who makes it. One makes the work and then needs to lose contact with it and start evaluating. When one paints, one thinks in a completely different way, as if painting had its own language and it is always about negotiating between different languages. Occupying a space between abstraction and figuration, I wish the paintings to be complex and engaging, to allow for multiple readings and ambiguity.

Screen Shot 2015-02-06 at 19.48.34


Although my source material are often scientific images, I dont intend the paintings to emulate or illustrate a scientific concept. Their field of enquiry would rather be the metaphorical language that often reveal itself when looking at scientific images depicting the inner workings of ourselves.

My paintings are informed by the incessant transformation, fragility and volatility of biological patterns: self organisation of cells forming tissue being synonymous with individuals creating complex societies- the many shaping the one and in doing so altering their identity; a swarm in flux, reassembling itself after a minute disturbance in its path; a collapsed web.

(The scientific concept of ‘self organisation’ refers to diverse pattern formation processes in the physical and biological world, from sand grains assembling into dunes to cells combing to create highly structures tissue to insects creating sophisticated societies and individuals forming swarms… collective intelligence).

Screen Shot 2015-02-06 at 19.50.17


Primarily a painter I became interested in printmaking and specifically colour intaglio techniques.

Whereas in painting there is potentially no end to layering and manipulating colour, making prints requires a different kind of rigour; both image and palette need to be simpler, devised at an early stage- an approach which tends to feed back into making paintings in the same way as painting always has a voice in my printmaking.

Screen Shot 2015-02-06 at 19.49.42


Still lives and interiors of the 17th and 18th century, mostly but no exclusively Flemish (Jan Brueghel the Elder, Vermeer… Zurbaran, Chardin…)

Islamic miniatures, often paintings from the Mughal period for their colour, precision and complexity.

Early scientific illustrations (Ernst Haeckel, Robert Hooke…) many of which peculiarly manage to amalgamate romanticism and science.

Ross Bleckner for many reasons: the transitory, elusive quality of his paintings, the richness and variation of surfaces, the change of focus from obfuscation vis degrees of blurriness to high definition, the objects emerging and disappearing, the atmospheric qualities of light and dark, fragile and fleeting.

Ian McKeever: the light, the space, the sense of time and presence in paintings that appear abstract. The loose, seemingly random application of paint and the defines controlled shapes.

This helped me through A Level art and design (fine art), especially being so interested in Indian Florals and the texture of prints. Her use of colour is just exquisite and visually stimulating, making her work so inspirational to me.

Screen Shot 2015-02-06 at 21.56.00

some quick drawings inspired by Farah Syed’s work

Screen Shot 2015-02-06 at 19.48.48

KNITWEAR: Chanel to Westwood Exhibition Review

KNITWEAR: Chanel to Westwood Exhibition

Have a read!!!

Knitwear embraces structure and form, as well as fashioning textile and garment simultaneously. The ‘KNITWEAR: Chanel to Westwood’ exhibition at the Fashion and Textiles Museum demonstrated this, by displaying influential 20th Century designer’s work. The perception of knitwear is said to have been redefined by the likes of Elsa Schiaparelli, Zandra Rhodes and Julian Macdonald.

I enjoyed how Sandy Black curated this exhibition, displaying fashionable knitwear chronologically, giving one an incite to inspirational vintage and contemporary knitwear during the 20th century. We were taken from 1920s sportswear and the restrictions of WW1, to Elsa Schiaparelli’s influence on fashion during the 1930s along side Coco Chanel, right through to 1970s Bill Gibb, into the 1980s/1990s designers like the intriguing Vivienne Westwood, finishing with beautifully intricate knitwear produced by Julien Macdonald.

Although the gallery was small and therefore only a certain number of pieces could represent each era, it was displayed elegantly. The pieces were exhibited in small wooden boxes dispersed around the room- each box held its own with a different style of knitwear displayed inside it, presenting information about the designers and what it was like at that time.

Knitted fashion became popular in the 1920s, where young people embraced their new found freedom after the restrictive years of WW1. Knitwear became of high demand for sport, such as; swimming, skiing and tennis as it responded well to the need of movement and fit. Sporting fashion included garments such as; sweaters, swimming costumes, vests and pullovers, which were simple with little or no embellishment. ‘Fair Isle’ sweaters became immensely popular, as the Prince of Wales (later known as Edward VIII) wore these sweaters in public during golf matches in The Fair Isle in Scotland making this design an incredibly desired look.

I enjoyed looking at the sportswear, as I felt that at this period in history it was important for people to carry on with their lives after the devastation of WW1, and sport clearly helped people to do so. The significance of knitwear in this era was essential.

Chanel had a huge influence on the 1920s, producing striped and checkered jersey twinsets inspiring a generation of designers. Although her neutral coloured knitwear grew popular with the designers around that time and still to this day, these garments remain understated classics of the 1920s.

Elsa Schiaparelli, an Italian couturier, began to knit sweaters introducing witty touches to serious fashion during the 1930s. Schiaparelli noticed how sweaters lost their shape, quickly creating a ‘sloppy appearance’, resulting in her producing sweaters with a ‘double layered stitch’. This enabled her to produce a jumper with a ‘steady look’. She also incorporated geometric and abstract shapes into her garments, that were said to be inspired by surrealist artists. Schiaparelli secured her fame in the fashion industry by designing a sweater with a white bow placed round the collar, which she had knitted into the sweaters.

Another early exhibit introduced us to the restrictions of WW2 and how women had to be creative during this era. Women would unravel the yarn from old sweaters to make new, original, multi-coloured jumpers using a variety of wool. Knitwear was used as a practical way of recycling materials and producing new clothes.

The first few years after WW2 might be seen as the period of transition. People began to feel more free within fashion, especially during the 1950s, as they didn’t feel as if they had to conform to a certain look. The ‘wandering waistline’ became a phrase most women were familiar with; as some women favoured the tight-fitted Dior dresses, whereas others enjoyed wearing dresses with no waistline- ‘sack dresses’. Therefore a variety of shape and structure to dresses were available at this time allowing women to have the freedom on what to wear.

Clothing from the 1920s also became popular within 1950s fashion, such as; Coco Chanel’s jersey sweater. Chanel also became well-known in the knitwear industry for her 1950s knitted suit; which is now considered a classic. Resurrecting looks from the past, as well as continuing the new found freedom with fashion choices changed people’s outlook on fashion, and innovative and inspiring creations were made. The knitted cardigan featured in the exhibition, carefully placed over a sleeveless white dress. The decorative elements scattered down the lining at the front of the cardigan with beads gave the outfit a glamorous touch.

Here we can see knitwear in the 1920s being of practical use, to knitwear becoming a statement in the 1950s; knitwear had become more elegant and chic as the decades past. The popularity of knitwear was huge during this decade, due to it being favoured by Hollywood stars and worn by famous designers- everyone desired this newly glamorous look.

As the 1950s rolled on, cocktail dresses and silk skirts were later embellished with sequins, lace, rhinestones and beads; knitwear was not only seen on pullovers and sweaters, but dresses and skirts too. One piece that caught my eye was the 1950s, gold, hand knit, Rayon Dress- I thought the sparkle in the gold stitching gave it a subtle and sophisticated touch and the use of different stitching made the dress more decorative. It had a 1920s feel, as the same stitching was used and neckline was incredibly similar.

The mini skirt. The pillbox hat. Le smoking tuxedo. Although knitwear was still popular, the 1960s was about producing innovative ideas. Therefore hemline and pattern were some important aspects of knitwear that sparked the 60s. Embellishment along the neckline became a huge success, when looking at fashion in terms of knitwear. Missoni knitwear also became popular featuring a zigzag coloured print, and Mary Quant’s mini dress ranged in different materials and stitch, including jersey and crocheting.

André Courrèges presented a radical approach to fashion, using fabrics such as gabardine, which was heavy, allowing him to create angular mini dresses and trouser sets. He experimented with shape, often cutting out midriffs in his garments, as well as producing elegant backless dresses worn without a bra. He was said to have introduced the ‘space craze’ to the 1960s.

Along came the 1970s, where styling became tongue-in-cheek and had references to pop art inspired by the likes of Allen Jones, who became famous in the 70s for his ‘Woman-Splash’ and ‘Right Hand Lady’. This period in time was integral for knitwear especially knitted garments designed by Bill Gibb.

Bill Gibb was renowned for his unusual knitted garments, his impact on Vogue and his partner, Kaffe Fassett- an influential textiler at the time. Bill Gibb and Kaffe Fassett worked together to design knitted garments; one of which was made ‘Dress of the Year’ in 1970 by Vogue- ‘Baccarat’. Gibb’s dress was later described as ‘the epitome of the new emerging trend for romantic eclecticism in British fashion design’.

Models approached Gibb and asked to wear his designs, including Twiggy- who later discussed possible historical-inspired garments that she could wear. He created a Hans Holbein inspired dress known as ‘Renaissance’ that she wore to the 1970s Fashion Celebrity Dinner and in 1971 wore another one of his dresses to ‘The Boy Friend’ film première.

Bill Gibb’s designs were popular as the materials he used in knitwear were put together in unexpected but flattering combinations. He manipulated and used materials such as; feather, fur and printed leather, as well as using unusual stitching, including the ‘jacquard’ technique and multi-coloured wool.

My favourite 1970s pieces in the exhibition were the space dye knits; the colours were vibrant and this style of knitwear was copied by manufacturers around the world, showing just how popular it became. I also enjoyed studying these knits, as this style is still current now- presenting the modernisation of knitwear in today’s fashion.

Technology had also advanced, allowing people to use domestic knitwear machines at home. Chunky knits became fashionable, especially for men. Sportswear was developed further by the help of a designer called Geoffrey Beene- creating sequinned jersey gowns and minidresses, with a sporty feel to them. And finally, as the 1970s was coming to a close, knitwear was ripped, holes were made and the style of the garment was destroyed- the punk era was born.

1980s was visually stimulated with the use of colour and pattern. Sportswear became fashionwear; and the colours were becoming more garish and vibrant as the years went on. Knitting on the other hand wasn’t practiced as much, although it was still taught in schools, as it was considered old-fashioned and the mass-produced knitwear was more appealing, as it wasn’t as time consuming and became more affordable for the industry.

Men’s knitwear being neutral in colour and subtle in pattern, turned to more daring colours and the patterns became more jazzy and ‘out-there’. Sportswear also took on colour and pattern,as well as becoming unisex- it was also a sign of wealth in some regard, as some sportswear was more expensive than others. Designers like DKNY and Tom Hilfiger were popular in this era.

Punk was continued into the 1980s, Vivienne Westwood and Malcolm McLaren influenced this movement in fashion by creating a ‘shock-factor’ that teenagers of that time relished. Bondage trousers, the hobble skirt and the cowboy tee, were some of the garments that were welcomed by teens. The excitement of escaping and the element of DIY was favoured in that society at the time, especially with young people. 1980s was a time where people were unique in their styling.

Finally, the exhibition led us upstairs to the 1990s/ the noughties, where there were only a few pieces by the incredible designer Julien MacDonald, who revolutionised knitwear in the 1990s. The pieces were glamorous and the materials used were unorthodox, making industries perception of knitted fashion to become radically changed. In this day, knitwear has become modernised and is a type of fashion that is seen everywhere; whether it be as casual wear or worn during a night out. Julien MacDonald allowed this change to happen, by combining materials together with the use of feathers and fur and a variety of stitching to create garments with a sophisticated perception featuring on the high end of fashion.

My favourite of all his knitwear designs, was the Utopia beaded dress, although this was axe in 2014- we can see how knitwear has changed from being practical, to glamorous, to then becoming modernised through society.

Screen Shot 2015-02-06 at 19.15.21

Postcards from the exhibition.

Artist Of The Day #5

Screen Shot 2015-01-14 at 20.40.43

AMY GENSER- Dimensional Collager

I came across Amy Genser through my interest in researching different textures using paper. She cleverly intertwines the aspects of colour and texture in her artwork, creating abstract and producing visually stimulating compositions.

Genser started working with paper and exploring the textures and patterns, at the Rhode Island School of Design where she studied Graphic Design. Growing up frequently visiting the Rhode Islands allowed Genser to create collages of stunning underwater reefs and incredible landscapes.

I find her work sensational- the colours she uses are organic, creating a soft but intense quality, complementing the disordered and irregular patterns and textures that find there way onto the canvas. Her fascination with the flow of water, irregular patterns and her obsession with the disorganised reality of nature is beautifully portrayed by the techniques and skill she has with paper.

Her work has inspired me to become more textural and 3-Dimensional with my work- and to visit the Rhode Islands!!

Here is some of her stunning artwork… Screen Shot 2015-01-14 at 20.53.18

Screen Shot 2015-01-14 at 20.41.16 Screen Shot 2015-01-14 at 20.42.07 Screen Shot 2015-01-14 at 20.42.36 Screen Shot 2015-01-14 at 20.44.57 Screen Shot 2015-01-14 at 20.43.44 Screen Shot 2015-01-14 at 20.43.57 Screen Shot 2015-01-14 at 20.44.23 Screen Shot 2015-01-14 at 20.43.14

Printing Experiments

Over the past two weeks, I have been in the print room learning about the different printing techniques from monoprinting to using ‘lino’. I found this rotation useful as I want to incorporate print into my fashion work when I specialise next week, so it was important for me to gain a good understanding of the techniques and the equipment I was taught to use.

First of all we started by producing monoprints, which I found simple but incredibly effective. This allowed me to play around with colour and create bold, sharp lines with precision and ease. Our subject matter was ‘numbers’ so therefore the aim was to incorporate numbers into our prints, using the colours given to us.

Here are some of the monoprints that I produced.

My monoprints.

My monoprints.

I felt that my use of colour made my prints dynamic and interesting to look at, as I carefully overlapped numbers on top of each other, as well as using bold colours in some of my prints and faint and less precise lines to give contrast to the prints when displaying them together.

After creating some monoprints, we were taught how to create Lino- prints, allowing us to use the technique of reduction printing.

What numbers did I use?

What numbers did I use???

I enjoyed creating these prints, as I loved overlapping patterns and creating a Lino-stencil that was abstract so the numbers were almost un-identifiable! However I felt that I didn’t cut enough of the Lino and therefore some of the colour didn’t come through the other layers, this could have benefitted my prints and made them slightly more colourful and abstract.

The third technique was known as a collagraph, this is a print where you cut from a piece of card different patterns, etc and add on materials to gain a print that produce shades of the colour. I also experimented by overlapping the prints with different colour and placing the collagraph in different position to create different shapes.

Here are some of my prints.


My collagraphs using numbers to create this design.

My collagraphs using numbers to create this design.



My experimental collagraphs using the printing techniques above and dry point techniques.

My experimental collagraphs using the printing techniques above and dry point techniques.

The final printing process was called a dry point. This is where we scratched into metal to create another design using numbers. I enjoyed creating these as they were subtle, however when you layered them with different colours it produced a bold print that was rich with colour and contrast. This is actually became my favourite printing technique as I enjoyed the process, although it was slow, as it felt the finished result was stunning and almost looked like a painting or a drawing.

imageI really enjoyed these experimental few weeks, as I felt that  it enabled me to focus on my use of colour,  my experimental work by using more than one technique on one print and also creating abstract designs using numbers. I feel that my prints show experimentation and show the different techniques clearly.

Digital Collage- finally completed!

Over the last few weeks on the side of my other projects, we have been getting to grips with Photoshop! Now if anyone knows me, they will tell you that I am useless with technology- however, I have worked incredibly hard to be able to create my first piece of work on photoshop to a good standard I hope!!

Our project was to create a digital collage inspired by your box. (Look at ‘My Box’ post to look at my box!)

First of all, I experimented with cutting out old magazines that I had collected and produced a couple of collages that would allow me to focus on the way each layer overlaps.

In this first collage, I focused on overlapping layers.  (Apologies for the poor quality photo!)

In this first collage, I focused on overlapping layers.
(Apologies for the poor quality photo!)

In this second collage, I focused on bring my box into my collage, hence the use of triangles on the left-hand side of the image.

In this second collage, I focused on bringing my box into my collage, hence the use of triangles on the left-hand side of the image.

After experimenting with magazine cutouts, I decided to create more collages using triangles, but also with a fashion approach to the images. Here are some of the outcomes.

image image image

After experimenting with collage, I then went on to think about what my final outcome was going to look like. I decided that I would use the concept of direction from my box, instead of literally putting the triangles on to become the main focal point of the piece. After playing with Photoshop and familiarising myself with the tools, I started to sketch a few outcomes that I thought could work with my box, as well as creating something with colour and meaning.

First of all I started with this sketch, I incorporated the triangles in the background, and also displayed a visible contrast between the two parallel worlds. However I didn't feel that there was much of a deeper meaning.

First of all I started with this sketch, I incorporated the triangles in the background, and also displayed a visible contrast between the two parallel worlds. However I didn’t feel that there was much of a deeper meaning.

I then produced this sketch that felt displayed my interest in fashion and also was inspired by my box conceptually- showing that the Arabian girl had bigger dreams and higher goals that she wanted to achieve.

I then produced this sketch that felt displayed my interest in fashion and also was inspired by my box conceptually- showing that the Arabian girl had bigger dreams and higher goals that she wanted to achieve.

I found this sketch more appealing, as I found it more exciting to look at with the contrast in colour and the contrast between the two worlds. My box was inspired conceptually by the direction this Arabian girl wanted her life to be achieved, this is one of the reasons why the triangles were so subtle.

Here is my final outcome!

image image

YES!- that is me becoming the Arabian girl in my Digital collage!!

I had a challenging time creating my collage, as I am very much a beginner when it comes to anything technical, however I found it quite therapeutic by the end of the process when I became familiar with the tools. I decided to change a few things from the original sketch, eg- the triangles becoming arrows, the photos becoming illustrations. I found that during the process I became more confident and let myself experiment with Photoshop a little more than I thought I could initially. Although my digital collage isn’t anywhere near pro-worthy, I really enjoyed experimenting and creating an outcome I never expected myself to achieve.


For more information about the research in to my digital collage, check out posts titled ‘Digital Collage Inspiration’ and the artist research featuring John Stezaker.


3D; Plaster and Clay

During the last two weeks, I have been taught how to use clay, plaster and alginate. I experimented with different tools and equipment to create marks and 3D shapes, producing interesting outcomes and designs. Firstly, we were asked to experiment on square pieces of clay by piercing and slicing the clay to gain different marks, as well as using other techniques to distort the surface. Once we were happy with our design, we were told to create walls of clay around our design and pour plaster onto our distorted and marked surface.

This was my first outcome using this process.

This was my first outcome using this process.

I was happy with the way my outcome looked, however thought that the surface could have had more depth using the markings.imageI also focused in on the nails that I had pushed into the surface, and wanted to experiment just using nails. The detail of the nails came out strongly and although the nails were embedded into the surface, they gave the plaster-casting an interesting texture. So, I created another outcome just with the use of nails. imageimage I really enjoyed looking at this plaster-casting, as I felt it was very tactile and the angles of the nail created an effect that made the person looking at it, want to touch it. I loved how this plaster-casting was more three-dimensional, and would love to produce a latex skin of this surface and perhaps create a garment using industrial ideas and to display something very thought provoking. Although I was happy with this result, I still wanted to create a plaster-casting with more dimension, so I decided to produce one that was larger than the other two outcomes, and almost make something using elements of animal-skin, as I find this incredibly interesting to look at on garments, and I feel texture is hugely important in the fashion and textile industry. This is my final result!

This outcome had more dimension, as well as featuring an element of animal-skin. I also found that when creating this design, that it was made architecturally.

This outcome had more dimension, as well as featuring an element of animal-skin. I also found that when creating this design, that it was made architecturally.

I found that when creating this design, unlike the others, that it was made architecturally. I started by making the layers of the skin, before carving the pattern onto each layer, giving this plaster-casting more structure and depth. This is by far my favourite, because of the way in which it was produced, but also because the final design has a vast amount of texture, depth and elements of animal print/skin. imageimage I thoroughly enjoyed this project, as I loved experimenting with new materials, creating 3D surfaces with texture and depth and also liked learning the processes and how these surfaces were made. I can see myself using these processes in the future, as I feel that there is so much one can do in the fashion industry using these skills, and cannot wait to learn how to create latex skins, work with resin and stitch different surfaces together producing new and exciting outcomes.


First Photography Project!

Yesterday, I set up a blog purely for any photographs I take and want to share, and any photographs that inspire me. I found that this website made my photographs look well presented and loved the way I could post a series of photos together in a style that I think is easy to look at. This week, we have been focussing on 3D and photography, so I thought now was a good time to let you know that my first project on my photography blog ( has been posted!

In this project, we were asked to play around with a DSLR camera and tripod. Maddie ( and I decided to have a bit of fun in front of the camera. Here we worked on focussing and blurring an image, to gain contrast in our work.

Here are some of the pictures. (Below).