Abstract to Concrete – Marks Over Time

How do we take an abstract idea and turn it into a concrete project?

Abstract thinking or ideas are relative.

Concrete thinking or ideas are specific.

Our minds often flood with interesting ideas, topics or facts but struggle with how to make something from them. Each of us will approach this process differently but here are a few ideas and an activity to try – to kick start you off.

Research it

The more you know about a topic the more likely you are to recognise, pinpoint or simply stumble across that “thing” you were searching for.

Describe it in words

Write a paragraph or 2 about what you have discovered. This is a tried and true technique for all things – the act of organising the words helps to organise your thoughts. Try to keep the paragraphs concise, use adjectives, be very specific.

Use Metaphors & Analogies

This is particularly useful. If you can liken the topic to something familiar, everyday or even a stereotype you will get a clear vision of what it is that fascinates you. Stereotypes are steroetypes for a reason – they typify a broad or general topic. This is not to say your work should be a stereotype but the process is helpful in understanding your topic.

Let’s take the tree ring topic as an example.

Research it – rings are a year’s growth, they are different sizes, they record changes in the climate and environment, the science is are called dendrochronology

Describe it – Tree rings are an example in nature of marks over time as they vary according to the environment the tree experiences which influences each year’s growth. Tree rings are an invisible badge or honour that is only discovered upon death

Analogy – Tree rings are like the layers of paint on an old house.  They tell the history of the house’s interior. And are often only discovered when renovated or demolished.

Ideas this one progression sparked in my brain:

  • A 3D house – opening doors
  • Tree house
  • Multi coloured tree rings with household items embeded in them

Group Activity

Draw four boxes on a piece of paper and in each box draw one of the following:

                        Love               Anger                        Justice           Trust

These are well known abstract concepts but we still have specific images of each in our heads. What did you come up with?

Or maybe you have a concrete design that you want to be more abstract?! The same process still works.

Exhibition Theme – Marks over Time

Why do we have a theme? 

A theme brings cohesion to a group – it is the heart of the exhibition.  If there is no theme it would be a disjointed collection of items that the observer probably wouldn’t connect to.  The theme is usually a broad message about some aspect of life that we wish to share with the audience.

So isn’t that just a topic?  No. Topic is a vehicle for illustrating theme. So each of your individual works maybe on a different topic that still relates to the theme.

For example in our theme of Marks over Time.  This is a broad theme that can be interpreted in many ways – which we will talk about in a minute, but, if I create a piece of work let’s say a wall hanging that is about the concentric growth rings that mark the life of a tree.  I am illustrating the overall theme of marks over time through my topic of tree rings.  My artist statement would reflect my interest in the topic and how it relates to theme.  I might say something like “Humans are not the only beings that make marks over time, trees express time through their concentric growth rings.”

The main thing to remember about topic is that it pertains to the piece’s “what.” It’s driven by facts and specifics, whereas theme deals with the big picture and overall meaning that reveal why the piece matters.

We will have a session on Artists Statements later.

Some things to think about to get your inspiration for our theme flowing.

What is a mark?  How does time affect it?

Two Broad Definitions for Mark

  1. Blemish or stain
  2. Symbol, line or figure that records or indicates something

After a brainstorming session at Toss n Tell these some of the topics the group came up with:

Th whtieboard from our Brain Storm

October Toss n Tell – Abstract to Concrete

Marks Over Time Exhibition Process

Marks Over Time – Exhibition by Feltwest

We are extremely pleased to have obtained the Gallery Central TAFE for our first exhibition since 2016 the very successful MACRO|micro.  Entry is open to all members as we are hoping to involve as many as possible – no matter what level of experience, or past participation in exhibiting your work you are encouraged to participate.  One of the wonderful things about a group exhibition is bringing everyone along on the journey.

To facilitate this – we plan to have a series of talks and activities designed to guide our membership from inception to exhibition, in September next year. These talks will be at each Toss n Tell covering topics such as our theme – Marks Over Time, artist statements and bios.  As part of this process we are also very pleased to announce our new Work in Progress (WIP) club – hands on felting days to foster mentoring and sharing of skills and techniques.  This will also provide the perfect opportunity to discuss exhibition ideas or simply work on pieces.  We plan to hold regular WIP days on the first Tuesday of every month with additional days added when the opportunity arises.

A focal point of the exhibition will be the collaborative work in the Timeless installation.  Timeless is an exhibition within an exhibition with a contribution from every exhibition participant.  It will be an installation of hanging scarves all made in greyscale, black to white, and of a similar size 1500mm x 200mm.  They can made with any felting technique and embellished using any textile technique but the only colours are black through to white and any grey in between.  The scarves will be hung so that viewers can walk through them like a forest.

All information about the Exhibition including the talks and sessions will be under the Members section of our website.  Choose Marks Over Time from the menu that’s where you will find things like the Sessions, Registration Process & Entry Fee, the media and promotion kit for downloading, key dates and checklists.  More information will be added as the dates are confirmed with Gallery Central but the general overall process is:

  • Attend the Sessions at Toss n Tell
  • Start your pieces
  • Attend WIP days
  • Register and pay online, upload artist statements & bios, and adhere to the key dates.

And of course our eNews will have everything you need at the appropriate time.

September Toss n Tell – Exhibition Theme – Marks Over Time and Timeless

Inspiration – what, where, how & why? by Soosie Jobson

This is a relevant article from our MACRO|micro Exhibition on Inspiration

Inspiration is an elusive muse.  When is strikes it is powerful and driving.  When it falters it is depressing and nagging.  So what is “Inspiration”?  It is the driving force behind creativity.  It is the unstated, undefined thing that springs into our heads.  Suddenly you know what it is that you want – no- need to create.

So where do I get my inspiration from?  I am a very visual person so it is no surprise that what I see inspires me.  My last three major projects have been inspired images – my Honours degree in History was driven by a watercolour painting by Thomas Rowlandson “Vauxhall Gardens” 1784, my Zooxanthallae coral reef installation by Glen Cowans photography and my Felted Cactus Garden by Nancy Ballesteros’s holiday images from the USA.  This is not to say that visual things inspire everyone. Sound is a great inspiration for many – that favourite song, guitar riff, bird song or like my car crazed husband the roar of a V8 engine!   Perhaps for you it is smell – baking bread, star jasmine or wet grass.  But it is one of our senses that triggers it because our senses also trigger our memory and emotions.

IMG_4200 IMG_1866-690x460

How does it work?  Creativity and emotions  are strongly linked – it was once a given that artists had to “suffer for their art”, I don’t think this is true for all but it does show that those who did suffer used that as their inspiration or driving emotion for their art.  I know when I am having a creativity drought it is directly linked to my state of mind – I also know that when my creativity is about to erupt I am usually restless – ready to produce.

Why do we need inspiration?  Life needs inspiration otherwise we will only produce or indeed live the mundane.  What inspires you?


How to find inspiration from the Micro and Macro world by Mary Ann Dawson

This is a relevant article from our MACRO|micro Exhibition on Inspiration

Inspiration can come from almost anywhere, but as this subject covers a visual world that we do not usually see, some research was required.

It’s rare, if ever, we are able to see our world from an altitude high enough to remove any of the visual clues we rely upon on a daily basis, making this aspect merely a collection of colours, shapes and textures. For me, this is the ‘macro’ view, but macro will mean different things to different people.

Most of my focus has been on the micro though, merely because my access to visual inspiration has been predominantly in this area. Of course, the same applies to micro that applied to macro. When things become so tiny we can no longer relate them to our world, they become just a visual feast of form, hue and texture. This is what I love, to take something out of its usual reference and use it as an art form.

The next thought process I have is……….

Do I create something based on colour?

Using reference from these very interesting Brainstroming photos of neurons.



Or should I keep it monochromatic using this as inspiration, a microscopic look at a wood cell of a Silver Fir Tree.



Maybe more textural….



Or maybe follow Soosies lead and get into the sculptural side of things, like this fungi.



The choices are somewhat overwhelming! If you don’t know where to actually start, my advice would be to just pick one of the ideas you like, any one of them, and just begin! You have nothing to lose and everything to gain, be brave!