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Nikki Douthwaite In Seinne Dot Art

Medium - hole punch dots on canvas
306cm by 207cm
Completed June 2008
Owned By Ripleys Believe it or Not

The first time I stuck a dot was not in 2008 for my degree piece, as often thought. You can't jump into a 3 by 2 metre picture for your degree show without some practice. I played with hole punch dots and other items, drawing pins, buttons, and many many other things before I settled on hole punch dots. So I had some practice making awful, never to be seen portraits of loved ones. Nowhere near enough practice for what I was about to embarque on, but some in the years before I jumped into my first official dot picture, "In Sienne" in February 2008.

I had been studying "Optical Mixing" for my dissertation and became quite taken with Georges Pierre Suerat's work. Partly for the use of colour in a "scientific" manner and colour relationships, but also for the repetition of the tiny little dots. You see, to understand why I have become addicted sticking millions of tiny little dots over and over again, stems back to when I was little. Instead of toys, I would ask for felt tip pens and squared paper. I would sit in a quiet corner in our house (which living with 4 siblings was always a task), and colour the squared paper into different patterns, over and over again. I found the colour relationships fascinating, that a colour looked different when placed next to different colours, if I coloured lots of red and yellow squares together, that it looked orange from a distance. So I feel that as young as I was then, it was already apparent where my future was heading!

Seurat A Sunday afternoon on the Island of Grande Jatte

I decided for my degree show I would re-create Suerat's "A Sunday Afternoon on the Island of Grande Jatte", but I was not going to use paint, I was going to hole punch and stick every little dot by hand! My plan was to find the spot in Paris from where Seurat painted this picture and paint whatever I found there at this time. What had changed? What would Seurat see if he were to paint this picture now, 125 years later? So I tootled off to Paris on a mission! First I had to find the right spot, and I did this by matching photographs from the internet along with trees and the skyline from the original painting.

I sat for 4 days, sketching people coming and going, which was not that many as it was January 2008 and very cold! Then I went home and drew it out to the same scale that Suerat had made his. After the first 2 days of sticking it was apparent that this was going to take longer than I thought, and that I would have to work 14-17 hours all day, every day until my degree show. After all, it had taken Seurat 2 years to paint, and I had just under 4 months!

To cut a very long story short, I did complete it in time for the show, but not in time for the examiner. I was still sticking dots in the gallery at Manchester University on the day he came to evaluate our work. I kept a blog, so you can read the trials and tribulations of making this picture here. I gained lots of weight, dislocated my thumb lots of times, and could hardly move by the end of it. But for my efforts I received my much awaited Art degree (I was a mature student at 34 when I graduated) a World Record, and lots of press attention.

"In Seine", completed May 2008 - 587,000 hole punch dots on canvas, now owned by Ripley's Believe It or Not

Named "In Seine" by my friend Foxx, obviously the river in the picture, but sounds like my state of mind during most of sticking this picture.

Little did I know that years later I would be still sticking these tiny little dots. In fact they would practically become my life. I look back on this picture now with fondness as my first picture, but with also frustration that if I made it now, with what I have learned along the way, I could make it so much better. At this point I had not mastered mixing the coloured dots like I have now.

"IN SEINE" now belongs to Ripley's Believe It or Not, and currently is on display in San Fransico.
Appeared on BBC Northwest Tonight live coverage, published in National and International newspapers with Worldwide web coverage.

Copyright © 2013 Nikki Douthwaite All rights reserved. All Images are the property of Nikki Douthwaite unless stated otherwise and may not be used without the written consent of Nikki Douthwaite.