Arts Sample Student Proposal

Botanical Motifs and Surface Layering in Arts and Crafts Design

As an artist I have always been interested in botanical subject matter. As a painter I am currently exploring unique ways to express the beauty and spiritual essence of plant forms by creating the illusion of atmosphere and mood. While training as a docent at the Delaware Art Museum, I studied the English Aesthetic Movement and the work of the Pre-Raphaelites. Further investigation of the movement's influence in America revealed the commonality of purpose shared by all artists and designers working in the Arts and Crafts style from about 1875 to 1920.

Of personal interest to me is the common usage of botanical subjects in abstract and stylized form to decorate the surfaces of Arts and Crafts metalwork, ceramic, textiles, artglass, and furniture. In response to John Ruskin's, ideas these artists returned to the observation of nature in their work; many artists of this period kept sketchbooks filled with botanical drawings of local plant life which inspired their designs. I find that the stylization of plants in the work of this period has influenced the way I perceive and render flora in my own work. I am also interested in creating with paint on canvas layered surfaces which echo the effects created by hammering metalwork, layering ceramic glazes, and embroidering textiles.

In my research I intend to identify local artists active during this period and to study examples of their work. Was indigenous plant life a source of inspiration for them? Were they interested in creating perceptual effects on layered surfaces similar to those of other artists of the period? Did they work individually or in guilds? Were these objects and designs produced purely for artistic fulfillment or with the intention of marketing them? Finally, how did they show and market their work?

My advisor uses actual and conceptual layering in the mixed media dimensional work she creates. In teaching and within her own work she stresses the use of unique figure ground patterning techniques that encode references to subject matter in many different styles of representing form. She has been involved in identifying late 20th century industrial means which individual studio artists can use to create art works. She is hopeful that more cooperative liaisons between industry and individual artists or groups of artists will be encouraged by the end of the century so as to enable the production of otherwise cost-prohibitive high-tech projects.

Possible resources included the following: The Delaware Art Museum, Winterthur Museum, The Delaware Historical Society, and Longwood Gardens, as well as the University Library and Collections.

Projected Timetable:

Week 1-2 Visit local archives to find records/actual work of regional artists
Delaware Art Museum Collections and Library
Winterthur Museum, Library and Gardens
Delaware Historical Society
Longwood Gardens

Week 2-3 Identify individuals/groups of regional artists working in Arts and Crafts style

Week 4 Locate sketchbooks and diaries, establish their parallel to finished works
Identify intentions for art works
- for private use or artistic fulfillment
- for public use with the intention of marketing
- for commission
- individual production or guilds

Week 4-5 Ascertain subject matter commonalities: floral motifs and botanicals

Week 6 Consult with botanical experts to help identify any indigenous plant forms used in these works

Week 7-10 Go out into the field to produce my own sketches of identical or similar plants and simultaneously work on ideas for a series of paintings
- Use regional botanical subject matter
- Experiment with surface layering techniques
- Integrate new age materials
- Consider marketing options


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________. Arts and Crafts in Britain and America. New York: Rizzoli, 1978.

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Kaplan, Wendy. The Art That is Life: The Arts and Crafts Movement in America, 1875-1920. Museum of Fine Arts, Boston: Little, Brown, 1987.

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________. The Arts and Crafts Movement (A Study of its Sources, Ideals and Influence on Design Theory). London: Trefoil Publications, 1971.

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