Lost In Execution: Binary Centre 02

Binary Centre explores shifts in perception. I transfer the physical media of watercolour strips to digital media and manipulate it to produce the illusion of circles and spirals with more than one centre.

These are the base images that I overlay and manipulate to explore digitally the theme of Binary Centre.

Binary Centre - Base Image01Binary Centre - Base Image02Binary Centre - Base Image03









Base Image01 The original digital image shows the strips of colour overlapped around a central point which somewhere in the timeline moves to create two distinct centres – partial illusion of ellipses.

Base Image02 The strips are interwoven digitally but echo the original image.

Base Image03 A version of the double curve that was initially produced on paper but showing a digital weave. Proportionally correct to the original paper strips and while digitally manipulated, taking into account and understanding of the limitations of physical manipulation.

Binary Centre - Pattern Hints in Chaos Swathes

Binary Centre – Pattern Hints in Chaos Swathes


Pattern Hints in Chaos Swathes

I digitally overlay and rotate the pattern by hand and eye, seeking symmetry while avoiding perfection. I look to project concepts of symmetry interrupted by elements of chaos. The underlying structure offers a sense of balance between chaos and pattern, but with neither dominant. I also adjust the colour using saturation, colour shifts and tints.

I use the strengths of the computer as a tool to explore different elements of the image, but I use it in a `hand-made’ way, seeking a balance between the physical and the digital.







Binary Centre - Life's Golden Section

Life’s Golden Section

This is a close up from the previous image. As you move to the centre you see the full colour of the original image with no saturation. You can see that the circle is not smooth; you see the structure and rotation of the elements of the image and you can sense the conflict between balance and chaos. There is a lack of the precision that is usually associated with computers; you see the hand-made element and approaches within a digital environment which feel inherently paradoxical.

Binary Centre - Built By Hand Holding Numbers

Built by Hand Holding Numbers


Built by Hand, Holding Numbers

I like the chaotic movement of the previous image but here I look again at the underlying structure.  

I weave together the initial patterns then use a combination of horizontal translation and scaling so that the image gives a sense of movement and recession.

This is done manually to avoid that perfection of the number so easy to slip into with computers.








Binary Centre - Reason's Edge Revealed

Reason’s Edge Revealed


Reason’s Edge Revealed


In this detail from the previous image, you see that the left and right-hand side of the image have similarities but not perfect symmetry. You can see differences in the way the images are woven and the manner in which it recedes. The same elements are there but it is not mathematically precise: it is digital but hand-made.









Binary Centre - Laid By Man and Nature's Whim

Laid by Man and Nature’s Whim


Laid by Man and Nature’s Whim


A busy image. Two overlapping figures of eight (like Venn Diagrams) with a circular centre that suggests symmetry. The illusion of symmetry grows with distance but breaks down on close observation.










Binary Centre - Broken Line Forests

Broken Line Forests


Broken Line Forests

 I like taking sections from the larger images where you can see the physical qualities of the watercolour strips.  They remind me of driftwood locked together on the seashore.  This image opens lots of associations for me – the circle I associate with the sun and church `rose windows’.


Binary Centre - Eye Seeks Out Reason

Eye Seeks Out Reason


Eye Seeks Out Reason


Chaos, pattern and symmetry enclosed in a regular circle to provide a sense of restraint and balance. At this stage, I look to reinstate the balance, emphasise the rotation of the piece, and the circular quality of the gap in the middle built of irregular straight lines. The scale changes our perception of the image.

I have reinstated the symmetry but ask why is it symmetrical?




Created by hand
Objects become metaphors
Links are forged by thought

Lost in Execution started with a drawn plan. Plans are a definition of a process; a structure that you work through. If working with a plan or a defined process what you end up with is often more complex and, in unpredictable ways, may be different from the original ideas. It is this translation, the movement between what is planned and what is finally achieved that I find interesting.

Each medium whether physical or digital imposes its own structure and pushes the work in its own direction, You are constantly either going with the flow or fighting to push it elsewhere.  It would be easier and faster to use the digital facilities available to rotate, duplicate and shift the elements of the picture but there is a balance to be achieved between the digital and the physical and I want the hand and mind of the artist to be central in my work.

Lost in Execution: Binary Centre 01

Binary Centre explores working with an initial watercolour piece and manipulating that initial piece through the digital to form a circle.  The idea, which initially I thought of as `Bi-Centre’ having 2 centres, developed into the idea of binary as I explore the perception of multiple centres. A single binary digit gives the possibility of two values (0 or 1 ) with each-each additional digit the number of values doubles (2, 4, 8, 16…) it felt to me like this is what was happening.  The Haiku are not explanations of the image but hints at some of the thoughts behind their production.

The Complex Resolves to One

Binary Centre: The Complex Resolves to OneThe circle contains spiral elements. A strip crosses the image horizontally, creating a barrier between the viewer and the circular image. The background is digitally created as a watercolour wash from photographs of the original strips of torn paper (see my previous Blog Lost in Execution: Binary Centre – Process). Photographs of the torn, coloured, paper strips are digitally manipulated by hand to create the circular image. In the foreground, there is a digital image of a strip of torn paper, covered by a green gradated wash.

The band across the front of the image and the wash in the background give a greater sense of depth.

In this series, I play with multiple centres on the Z-axis. If you look from a specific point the image retains the same XY-axis but presents the impression of disappearing into the background. It is also a record of a process over time as it moves into the distance. The concept of time is related to plans and processes; plans are predictions forward in time while a process is something that happens over time.  This is something that I explore in much of my work.


 Seen From A Distance

Binary Centre: Seen From A DistanceThe background is a tonal grey translation of the wash used in The Complex Resolves to One with the colour digitally stripped away. Elements of the receding line are also translated into monochrome.

There is a tradition in English watercolour of aerial perspective which is the changing of colour as it moves into the distance. In this case the change is a jump to neutral monochrome.









With Effort One Can Be Seen

Binary Centre: With Effort One Can Be SeenA vertical blue strip travels down the centre of the image. The circular image now has an overlay with two distinct centres, both of which are hidden by the blue strip. Straight lines begin by resolving around a centre point in the lower half but then seem to shift and resolve around a second centre point which is higher. The main image has been reduced to a monochrome with hints of green and red

Even within abstract work, I play with multiple illusions; the illusion of depth, of paper strips and of circles in an image made up of straight lines.








Models Reveal Part

Binary Centre: Models Reveal PartTwo strips cross the image. The background shows all the original torn strips that were used to create the physical watercolor piece, laid across and down the page.













Seeking One Centre

Binary Centre: Seeking One CentreThe foreground elements of a vertical and horizontal sloping cross create a barrier pushing the viewer back from the central element.

The background tonal colours have changed.  To achieve this I selected certain colours from within the image and `shifted’ them muting the blues towards the monochrome and increasing the colour saturation of the reds.










Suddenly Beyond

Binary Centre: Suddenly BeyondThis image removes the visual barrier and lets you enter the image. The reds have been enhanced and the circular image now jumps to the foreground and attempts to leave the page.

Change is constant; the change during the process of creating an image and the change between creating one image and another. It can purely be perceptual change, for example a shift in awareness caused by revisiting the image.









A Rhythm Lost Creates Noise

Binary Centre: A Rhythm Lost Creates NoiseThe final image of this series is much simpler as only echoes or shadows of the original complex circle-spiral remain. The two centre points are a vertical reflection. The four strips of colour that cross the image show three in front of the image while the top strip appears to go behind the shadow of the circular image.



Lost in Execution: Binary Centre – Process

Process is the art.

This is part of the Lost in Execution project, which continues to explore the nature of plans, process and observation.

This new series of work is essentially an exploration of the process of moving from physical media, in this case from watercolour on paper strips, to digital media.

I begin by using watercolour to paint on and over the edge of an A3 piece of paper. In this way I create two lines – one is on the A3 paper and a second is on a larger sheet that lies beneath. Once the paint is dry, I tear off the narrow strip of paper which is covered in paint at the edge of the A3 sheet. I now have a strip of paper and a line on the larger sheet that is the same colour.  I choose a different colour and repeat the process, so creating a range of coloured lines and torn, strips of coloured paper. I start to explore the shapes and colour combinations.

Often, the process is the art…




Lost in Execution: Rail Tracks

Rail Tracks started with an exploration using Biro and simple paper and card stencils. The work was responsive, rapid, gestural mark making; while at some level considering things that leave tracks.

Interactions create patterns of interference, transferring material between the ideas and objects.

I spent my early years in a village that was split in two by the ghost of a railway, killed by the `Beeching Axe’. I remember the iron rails tracking through the village and across the tarmac road.

A thick, charcoal-black line littered with wood chocks marked the scar left when the iron tracks were removed. I never heard the sharp sound of iron wheels on iron track in the village yet this is the soundtrack of my childhood memories.

Using Lego train wheels and an ink pad, I track parallel lines across paper. Using paper stencils I interfere with these tracks; they pass over stencil leaving no mark on the paper.

Passing sharp plastic wheels over soft paper I hear the sound of iron wheels on iron tracks. Such is the nature of play and the transfer of one idea to another.

The digital transformation of these marks into circles and spirals felt right. I go round in circles, in spirals, examining and re-examining an idea, but also I see the iron wheels of the trains following tracks from my childhood across the world I explore.

You can now view and buy work from Lost in Execution by Cliff Crawford on
Saatchi Art saatchiart.com/cliffcrawford


Lost in Execution: Parallel Tracks

Tracks that move in parallel across a plane demand our attention. They jump at us from the page or screen. When used as hatching our perception shifts and parallel lines become planes of shade and tone. I find such apparent contradiction interesting.

Hatched and cross-hatched parallel lines form layers, form tone, create depth and conceal what lies beneath.

As this collaborative work progresses, plans change and the initial, relative simplicity of an idea meets the complexity of physical and digital realities – it has to adapt.

This is positive compromise opening a creative space to explore the complexity of interaction.

Two realities
Interference lines reveal
Patterns lost between

The function of the colour change is to broaden the association of a track from the physical, to a metaphor for change resulting from any interaction.


Whether physical or perceptual, change is a constant. Focus on an underlying pattern can isolate it or bring it to front (perceptual change) the following three images present that shift by a physical manipulation.

Lost in Execution: Tracks and Spirals

I found myself thinking about lines as paths, and paths are seen by the tracks left by people following them, whose crossing identify points of convergence. Spirals are a specific form of convergence, a point of attraction you are drawn towards while seeming to be heading elsewhere.

SpiralPerceptions01: A physical print in blue ink, produced by using LEGO vehicle wheel tracks.


Spiral Perceptions 01

SpiralPerceptions: Overlaying the patterns from the previous print with some additional line work to give emphasis to the focal point at the centre of the spiral tracks. The vertical and horizontal lines suggest incidental tracks not reaching the central point. Is there a tension between the two types of track? A path less chosen?



SpiralPerceptions2ndRotation00: I looked for a pattern; a symbol within the circle with movement into the centre. I chose a triangular shape to reflect this. I kept the pattern and drew it in rotation around the central point, responding to and overlaying the circle.



SpiralPerceptions01: Heightens the spiral by taking the symbol from the previous image and creating multiple versions of the symbol in rotation.



SpiralPerceptions2ndRotation: I kept the spiral rotation and removed the original background so that only the symbols created in a spiral form remain.



SpiralPerceptions05: This is a return to pure vector graphic line, based upon the image SpiralPerceptions01





Lost in Execution: Tracks

Looking back at the initial line work describing the plan of the building and how our individual ideas evolved, we realised we both had the same start point but saw that our separate paths kept crossing. I started thinking about lines as paths; paths seen by the tracks left by the people following them and whose crossing identify points of convergence.

When we travel we leave a track. I sought a mark which was more than a line that would leave a track across the paper. Experimenting with the plastic wheels found in a box of LEGO, I considered a range of digital and physical approaches (some which I may yet use).

I used the LEGO to create a simple printing tool that would feed ink onto the plastic tyre wheels as I moved them across the paper. Using this method I made a series of images. I created found marks that demonstrated qualities of repetition with random variation and loved them; they gave me what I was looking for.

Tracks Reflections

Tracks Reflections

This image is from the initial part of the exploration (not a finished piece). Having created a set of tracks I sought to look at the balance between the regularity of the track patterns and the randomness of the a movement of the physical object creating the tracks upon the paper.

The track is not the same throughout as they overlap and create new shapes and different patterns. I then look to pick out patterns within the random crossings of the track. I selected a pattern and then duplicated the pattern. I moved from the pattern in the track to turning that selection into a repeated pattern, rather than an identified pattern.

Tracks Reflections01

Tracks Reflections01

I moved the physical patterns that I had created into digital form. The manual rotation became a digital rotation as by hand and eye I digitally rotated the image in a four pattern progression.

Tracks Reflections02

Tracks Reflections02

This image has lost most of the original that were created in `Reflections’ and only subtle hints of that image remain, however, the rotation of the four pattern is still there. I took part of this repetition and another physical representation of the repeat pattern created earlier and produced a coloured vector graphic in `Illustrator’. Using vector graphics allows me to change the scale of the image, select an element and then enlarge it. The selected element remains `sharp’ as I create a circular rotation of the four pattern.

A series of concentric circles disappear into the centre giving the impression that it continues beyond what can be seen and also extends outward beyond the unframed image – we are seeing just part of the whole.


Lost in Execution: Branching Paths

Paths Converge

The main collaboration of this work is that of an agreed starting point with a sharing of images produced and regular discussions carried out via SKYPE. This sharing is allowed to influence any work produced as we discuss our methods of process and production, new paths are chosen, visited paths are redefined.

My working process is to move naturally between the production and manipulation of physical and digital media. Therefore I applied this process to some of the physical work produced and shared by Nigel Bird, the other artist in the collaboration, with his agreement of course.

And so another production path reveals itself where the physical media is not my work, but I apply my repertoire of digital processes creating new images in response his comments, his production techniques and our discussions of process.

Lost in Execution: Returned

Lost in Execution: Returned

Lost in Execution: Returned04

Lost in Execution: Returned04

















Lost in Execution: Branching Paths

Paths of Salt

My exploration of the divergent paths involved the production of a video which traces the creation and removal of paths of salt. The base was a dry point Intaglio print produced using other elements created during the exploration of process.


The flow of table salt forms opaque white lines that follow and then intersect elements of the base image. These lines form patterns and cross-hatching until they obscure the image while presenting echoes of the structure.

The video progresses with the salt being intersected with lines; first using rubber-tipped shaper that create furrows in the patterns in the salt. Brushes are then used to remove salt and reveal more of the underlying image: sometimes clearing narrow tracts to the image below and other times to leave thin, translucent layers of salt through which tints of the image are glimpsed.

The rhythmic movement of covering and then revealing the image moves towards the hypnotic and suggests parallels with the methodical revelations of archaeological digs.


Lost in Execution: Branching Paths

“Everything else that could have happened, and many things that did, are cast into shadow as one path is chosen and followed.”

A Path is Chosen

The work continues to develop along a number of paths, branching with possibility. The selection of two pieces to show in the Summer Open Exhibition offered a `pause point’ and the opportunity to combine visual materials chosen from the various branching paths explored. These included materials produced using digital line exploring the base image of the sketch plan, manipulated photographic images, Intaglio prints and gelatine mono prints and images of the gelatine mould itself.

The pieces shown in the exhibition are:

A Path into Shadow

A Path Into Shadow

An Intaglio print collage, combining digital and physical media. Size 297 mm x 420 mm

A Path Chosen


A Path Chosen


High-quality digital print. Size 297 mm x 420 mm

Both pieces combine divergent exploration of the material produced based upon the original sketch plan.

The exhibition is at Murmurations Gallery, Parkhurst Road, Bexhill on Sea, until 25 August 2016.

The original, framed, works and unframed limited edition prints of the works are for sale at Murmurations Gallery. Or you can contact me by email cliff@cliffface.co.uk