Evolution of an Artwork

This entry is about the evolution of one of my artworks.

Vast and rugged Piha on the north-western coast was the next beach we visited on our New Zealand trip.

For my second artwork in NZ, I chose to work on the north side of Lion Rock, the landform jutting from the beach.

I decided to attempt a Maori inspired design. Since visiting Mexico, exploring Aztec art, I've been playing with a pattern-within-a-winding-trail theme. These were inspired by a visit to an arts museum in Ecuador many years ago where I saw prehistoric ceramic stamp rollers, which create a continuous pattern.

Maori art has recurring motifs, one of which is the spiral ('Koru'). My design would be an undulating central line with spirals coming off it. I would mirror this line-and-spiral so that a new combined pattern would emerge.

I started by delineating the edges of the design, marking out a huge meandering path that looped back over itself.

Next I made guidelines of the central undulating 'stalks' with the spiral offshoots using a new tool I devised to lay two even lines down at once.

Then I went over the guidelines with my rake.

The design going through textured and water-pocketed beach.
This is a portion of the completed design. The final design suffered from some flaws. The path was meandering in curves that were a bit too tight, causing extensions and shortening at the curves that threw off the symmetry of the overall design. Also, for the distance I was covering, the lines themselves were too thin to be easily visible from the height needed to photograph the entirety. And while the textured canvas added visual interest, the design was not popping through it well enough.

The next day we explored the far southern side of the beach, which turned out to be an enormous passage between the mainland and a tidal island landmass. It truly is one of the most beautiful and interesting beaches I have ever created on. But so huge! I felt that the spiral path design needed another go and so I integrated it into a larger design that included other patterns, all of which would be going in straight tracks, thus avoiding the problem of the tight curves.

So far so good!

Adding in other tracks with different patterns.

All was going really well, but just as I was wrapping up, our copter got hung up in the bushes on the oceanside cliff. Jonathan, the operator, went up to retrieve it, which ended up being a several man rescue when he got disoriented in the head high bushes as well, unable to tell which direction to go to get out, treading dangerously close to the cliff edge. We got back down from the cliff as the sun was setting. Packing up in the twilight, we had to hustle to exit the cove before the high tide blocked us. All of this meant that no final images were taken. Bummer!
That night I worked on a Google Earth image of the area. I was back out the next day, focusing my effort on the meandering spiral path design as I had done the first day, this time going twice as large and making curves that would turn very gradually. The path would go from the beach at one end, wind through the pass, and end at the ocean inlet at the other end.

The day turned out to have howling winds that blew away my guidelines. I was having so much trouble seeing where to make my next rake marks, and I was now losing my work to the returning tide due to having started late, that I decided to abort the work. We took photos from high above though so I could critique what I had done. I had three main concerns- the design had to be larger to stand out at the height necessary to capture the entire amazing beach, the lines also had to be thicker to be visible from so far up, and I had to be able to do that artwork much more quickly so that I could complete it before the returning tide could make a significant impact or the wind affect my progress.
The next day we went back to work. Whereas on previous days I used a long pole to mark the sides of the trail, on the day prior requiring multiple passes to achieve the wideness that I was wanting, on this day I used a rope held between Ember and me, allowing us to make the edge guidelines about 30 paces wide in one pass, something that would have taken 5 passes with the stick method.

Because everything was now so much larger, in order to maintain the symmetry of the design, I had Ember place flagged skewers at regular intervals for where the main stalk would undulate inwards and outwards.

Then I got to work creating the guidelines for the initial spirals. Once the guides were completed I made the first pass with the large rake with Ember making two more passes, resulting in a line about 1 meter thick.
Once all the main spirals were complete, the final phase was to add in the secondary fill lines, which were 2 rake passes wide.

We were still dogged by high winds that obscured the work we were doing. As seen here the first set of spirals are being obscured  and look white, while the final phase of the fill is still fresh and dark, resulting in the design being motley and patchwork.

In all it took us just over 3 hours, with Ember carrying a sleeping Kavi on her back for most of it(!).
The result is borderline satisfaction for me in that the patchiness of the boldness of the lines make the overall design difficult to see yet it came out so well otherwise. I feel complete with the design and my technique and effort, but incomplete with the finished piece. Such as it is with art in nature.
Piha overhead
Kavi & me
Sunset spirals
"Keyhole" cave at Piha Beach
Backyard of one of our Piha lodgings
Our other Piha lodging

Sunset over Piha Beach