So...what do you do when you're too physically tired to do anything, much, but your mind is turning cartwheels? Well... there's drawing, of course, and hand stitch...but I really like a jigsaw. With two cats, however, that's really not advisable; they bat the pieces all over the floor, attempt to eat them... you get the picture (or rather, you don't, because at least one piece gets lost as a result). Reader, I discovered online jigsaws, and I am hooked. I've had a wonderful time on Jigsaw Planet
reconstructing other peoples' paintings and photographs. And then I thought.... maybe I could do this with my photographs... so I did.... and that was great fun, too.
So what's that got to do with the price of cheese? Well... I've talked about it elsewhere on this blog
, quite recently (not that I'm obsessed). It gets more interesting when it's your own image, though. I realised a number of things.... firstly, that I don't really think about my photography as being an end in itself. I tend to take pictures either for reference, or to stitch into (see an example of my stitched work here
, one of my personal favourites). So it's useful to look at these images as potential jigsaws, look at their construction, decide if they're interesting enough to use in this way.
Secondly, I already knew that I'm mostly interested in detail, so most of my photos are macro. I try to find details that might otherwise be missed. The image at the top of the post is a Norfolk flint wall (I think, if I remember rightly, it was a church in Wymondham), It makes a truly evil jigsaw; all those little stones... you have to observe carefully to fit the pieces together. The jigsaw format helps you to look at each piece separately, to consider how it fits into the whole, to see even more of those tiny details that make up what I hope is a good image, at least for reference purposes...it might want cropping if I were to print it out for stitch. Flaubert said that 'God is in the detail' (or the devil, depending on which of these similar sayings you ascribe to). Looking at an image this way seems to take me past detail, and into nuance, which usually would be picked up by my unconscious mind, but I don't think it does me any harm to contemplate them in a more overt fashion. Most of the nuances here are about texture and light; the direction of light, the way it hits a particular section of the flint, the way that flint responds.
Thirdly, I hadn't noticed until I made a couple of jigsaws that my colour palette in my photographs is very narrow, almost monochromatic. The same cannot be said for most of my work, although the ME piece I wrote about here
is moving in that direction; I now have a small bag of fabric in these subdued tones and colours to make more pieces in what I suspect will be a series. I hadn't realised, though, that my photographs were leading me in that direction, probably long before I consciously chose to explore it.
Finally, the act of jigsaw assembly is not unlike the creative process. Artists and writers both talk about the blank page... jigsaws, at least, give you a jumping off point, encourage you to look for the edge pieces and assemble them to create a framework. I think we all need that in some way; my equivalent of edge pieces, in textile, is usually the creation of a small piece using whatever I have to hand (usually, up until now, from the bits lying on the floor). In paint, it comes from the process of selecting colours for my palette, which I do intuitively. I think that creating a starting ritual, and using it consistently, is comforting, but it's also a springboard into creativity.
And then there's the point where you've got the edges more or less assembled (there's always one or two that I don't find til the end, but I don't let that get in the way of assembling the rest of the image). And then I'm face to face with my own doubts; this is hard. How will I ever manage? Well... partly through intuition... that piece looks as if it should fit there... no... but it does fit two pieces along... and on I plod. Emphasis on the plod; building jigsaws seem to go in fits and starts, depending on how easy it is to group colours together, to assemble little, but obvious, details so that they can then be fitted into the whole. And there's something about perseverance, too, just keeping going, pushing through the problems (most of which are in my head) to create the image.
Yes, it's harder for artists; they don't always have a clear idea of what the end goal is, making deciding what the end product actually is, quite challenging. Fortunately, we don't have to limit ourselves to Just One Ending or Just One Process; that's what working in series is about.
If you'd like to do the stone jigsaw, here's the link
; if that doesn't work, look for artmixter...I only have three images up, this one and a couple of floral ones. There are a surprising number of quilt images available as jigsaws, but I'm not sure that my work would lend itself to that kind of treatment. Above all, in jigsaws as in art, have fun.,,that's a significant part of the process.