Tuesday, February 19, 2013

Filography: Beautiful String Art from the '70s

In my spring cleaning quest I have come upon another book that was hidden away up in the attic. When I was growing up in the 1970s and '80s, my dad always had some sort of in-depth project going, whether it was putting together an intricate model of an old race car or building a telescope. But I also seem to recall him doing "string art" at least once, because I remember him teaching me how to recreate the same effect using lines on paper. So when I uncovered this book, The Beautiful String Art Book: 100 Projects You Can Create, written by Raymond Gautard in 1978, I couldn't help but spend the rest of my allotted cleaning time leafing through it. The book not only features geometric "filography" designs (betcha didn't know there was even a term for string art...neither did I!), but pictures that can be made, like butterflies and even the Eiffel Tower. And it includes detailed instructions and diagrams. Here are some highlights.










The attic is so messy that I can't even get to my stash of childhood artwork right now, so I couldn't find the filography drawings I did as a kid in time for this post, but I decided to do a quick version in Illustrator, to show how easy it is to do two-dimensional versions on paper, or virtual paper in this case. No string or nails necessary!

First, to make a basic curve, place dots down a vertical imaginary line, equidistant from each other. Here I placed them 1/4" from each other. Group them, then Copy and Paste and rotate 90 degrees so the copied dots are now horizontal. Place them at the bottom, 1/4" below and 1/4" to the right of the bottom-most vertical dot. So now you have vertical and horizontal axes. Next, you can either physically number the dots as shown, or just imagine they're numbered as such. With a line, connect the #1 dot on the vertical axis to the #1 dot on the horizontal axis, then connect the #2 dot on the vertical axis to the #2 dot on the horizontal axis, etc.



Once you have connected all the dot pairs with straight lines, you will have a curve! (Looks very Space Agey, doesn't it? Kind of like those '80s video game matrices... And didn't they use something like that for "Friday Night Videos"? Sorry, I got sidetracked there...)



Group all of the dots and lines together. Copy and paste the group three times. Rotate one of the pasted groups 90 degrees, rotate another 180 degrees, and rotate the last 270 degrees (or -90 degrees). Place them on top of each other so they form a square.



Now you can colorize each grouping, or even each line, however you wish.



Copy and paste and rotate as much as you like, and play around with all sorts of patterns.



Even size them, big or small!



Do you think you might try this? If you do, send me a photo!

Incidentally, when I tried to find if the book is still available out there, I found some copies on Amazon, new and used. Used copies are pretty pricey, and don't even look at the price of the original copies in new condition! You can also find similarly-priced used copies on AbeBooks (great resource!), along with a couple other related vintage string art books.

1 comment:

The Domestic Plate said...

How fun! What a great little book. I remember doing these types of drawings in Geometry class. I did NOT know there was a name for string art. Thanks for sharing!

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