Stars and Crosses
Stars and crosses – cross swords with somebody, cross one’s heart, cross-eyed, cross patch, cross hatch, cross purposes, cross to bear … stargazing, stardust, starry-eyed, star anise, star quality, swinging on a star and, of course, star-crossed lovers – just like Shakespeare to give us both words in a single phrase.
According to the Concise Oxford Dictionary, a cross is ‘a mark, object, or figure formed by two short intersecting lines or pieces (+ or x)’ and a star is ‘a fixed luminous point in the night sky … a stylized representation of a star, typically with five or more points’. As I have worked through Chapter 1, though, I have been persuaded that the cross, setting aside its symbolism, is a subspecies of the star. For me, provisionally, a star is a shape with some degree of rotational symmetry, with protruding points (which may not necessarily be all that pointy). If it has four protrusions, it may be a cross.
My collection of images of crosses and stars has been growing for the last week and a half, and I had a good pile to puddle around in by about mid-week:
I didn’t want to commit too soon to either stars or crosses so have collected both. The first page of inspirations consists mostly of stars (a few crosses), all from architectural sources – the Alhambra at Granada, Samarkand, Amiens Cathedral, Christ Church Cathedral in Oxford, the Queen Victoria Building in Sydney, and more mundanely, my house and my sister’s. I’ve been seduced by the Islamic interlace designs.
The second page of images is a mixture of heraldic and symbolic crosses sourced from the web, a Mucha lithograph, a ticket to the Book of Kells exhibition at the National Gallery of Australia, a bit of my stitching, an origami compass rose folded from scans of a topographic map (trust a geographer!), a square of Japanese patchwork fabric with an imitation- sashiko print, and some gift wrapping accoutrements:
The third page consists of images from nature (mostly captured from the web, although the succulent – not the actual plant, only the photograph – and the two photographs of the teak seedpod are mine). Information about sources for published material appears at the bottom of this post.
I particularly like the sea urchin and the diatoms (to think they make cat litter from these!)
The next step was to make line drawings of a selection of my research images, as well some rubbings of starry or crossy items, as shown on sheets 4 and 5:
I already had a few gouache paints, in primary colours. I had chosen primary blue, spectrum red and spectrum yellow ages ago, in the expectation that these would tend neither to the cooler end or the warmer end of the primary colour range (room temperature hues?). So, for the purposes of the colour circle, I supplemented them with the warmer and cooler variations. Sheet 6 shows some brush-outs of the primary colours, and also the secondaries mixed from the ‘correct’ variants of the primaries. The green looks a bit flat in the scan – it is brighter in real life.
I thought it would be interesting to try mixing secondary colours the ‘wrong’ way, so sheet 7 shows the results. These are muddy but interesting.
Sheet 8 shows my mixing experiments for the colour circle. It was interesting to find out just how little red or blue is needed with the yellows to make orange and green, respectively. I mixed quite a bit more paint than I needed trying to get it right – next time, I’ll start with the yellow and add the other colours in small increments.
Sheet 9 is my colour circle. I stayed with the hues labelled ‘primary’/‘spectrum’ as the primaries – they generally look OK, except that there is a rather abrupt change between blue and indigo.