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Saturday 11 November 2023

Citadel: A Tapestry of Escapism

Citadel is more than a creation; it's a passion project that weaves together threads of escapism. Crafted from old work shirts I've physically and figuratively outgrown, this artwork represents a journey of transformation and a convergence of diverse ideas into a singular, visually striking image.

The genesis of Citadel mirrors my transition from bureaucrat to aspiring artist. Instead of being tethered to a computer screen, I found solace in the realms of my imagination, immersing myself in a world of fantasy and adventure.

Having a vast inner world, the pandemic introduced me to Dungeons and Dragons, where the allure lies in living an entirely different life with a distinct personality. I aimed to translate this escapism into a tangible creation—a haven for those trapped in a monotonous 9-5 work lifestyle, seeking refuge and excitement.

The desire to live the life of an artist, however, often feels like a fantasy itself. The hope embedded in Citadel is a beacon, a testament to my belief that I can create something beautiful and make it accessible to others.

Beyond a personal exploration, this project served as a canvas for experimenting with new techniques and technology. It posed the intriguing challenge of translating the solidity of brick and stone into the soft textures of fabric and thread.

In a year brimming with various projects, I sought to produce a standalone piece that would also be enjoyable to create. I decided to test my skills in landscape design and play with color theory to examine how an image would unfold through the medium of thread.

The genesis of this project can be traced back to a conversation with my driving instructor, who expressed concerns about Artificial Intelligence (AI) rendering artists obsolete. I countered with faith in the adaptability of artists, envisioning a collaborative future where technology enhances our creative endeavors.

While I harbor concerns about fair compensation for artists, the broader perspective is that both artists and AI draw from existing materials and references. Picasso's assertion that "a great artist steals" reflects the idea that art, in its essence, builds upon what came before.

Despite reservations, I acknowledge the inevitability of technology playing a larger role in artistic processes. In Citadel, I tested this concept, exploring how AI, specifically using the Wonder app, could be a tool to complement and expedite my creative practice.

My process involved experimenting with different statements and prompts in Wonder to generate various architectural styles. Drawing inspiration from well-maintained castles worldwide, I aimed to create a fantastical super castle, blending diverse architectural influences.

The digital collage phase in Krita, an open-source digital art program, brought this amalgamation to life. From this digital image, I hand-drew a large-scale version, embracing the inherent differences in colors and shading from the original castle references.

Once this new image had been created I approached construction akin to lithography or painting, I began with basic values—deep navy blue for shadows and white for light. Opting for a split-complementary color scheme, I meticulously selected blues, yellows, and oranges, seeking a harmonious balance distinct from my previous vibrant work.

Sewing freehand allowed me to layer the fabric, learning to manage stretch and warping as I progressed. Working with a limited space on a simple sewing machine meant cutting the image into five strips to manage material effectively.

Challenges arose in aligning uneven layers, compounded by the needle's influence on the fabric. Adjustments were made throughout the process to ensure a cohesive final piece, striking a balance between detail and a coherent overall impression.

Upon completion, I marveled at the results. This proved to be my most challenging large-scale quilting endeavor, and the satisfaction derived from the final product was immensely gratifying.

An intriguing revelation followed the completion of the project—Wonder's new feature allowing the upload of personal images as references. Could this pave the way for Citadel V.2.0? The potential for future iterations sparks excitement and further exploration.

In essence, Citadel is a testament to the intersection of art, technology, and personal growth—an intricate tapestry of escapism that transcends the boundaries of imagination.

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