Saturday, February 18, 2017

Enjoy the Ride

the piano arrives.....some people get a Long Arm machine, I got 88 short ones!

Never pass up an opportunity!  I heard that there was going to be someone at the university today who wants to try to train people's ears!! Now my ears have long wanted to be I have volunteered!!  

 What always interests me are the numerous parallels between various art forms however different the media appear to be at first.  For example, there is an absolutely wonderful, (I couldn't recommend it more) website called Living the Classical Life  where great musicians talk about the lives, their struggles, their triumphs, fears and hopes. The interviewer is Zsolt Bognár, a fine pianist in his own right.

We all hope that our next quilt will be perfect... listening to these musicians talk about taking months (yes months!) to get just one musical technique right, or to be able to play a piece with great authority, integrity and passion, I just am amazed at the time and dedication that goes into great art.   How can we possibly hope to get there with an hour here or there?   It is evident, of course, that the really great art quilters of our time spend just about all day, every day on perfecting their art.  It all takes a lot of time, and a lot of knowledge and experience.

I do think a lot of the knowledge relates to composition and design.  Knowledge of how one goes about creating a strong design, quite possibly making numerous attempts to do so.  While the Very Famous Quilters never show us their lesser works, or even their horrors (!), I am sure they do exist - at least for a short while!!

In a way we are just scratching the surface of the art....we may never hit pay dirt!! never reveal the gold, but (as my pedagogue tells me (repeatedly!) when I moan at my failures!) we sure can "enjoy the ride". And, gradually, we'll learn to incorporate those techniques and that knowledge of how things work together whether shapes and values or notes.  We will continue to improve our efforts, not just dashing off the first idea and then spending weeks trying to correct the problems.  We'll learn to vary the shapes and the edges of those shapes, letting some stand out sharp and bold, and others softly meld into the background. We’ll learn to make music with our shapes and values!

We'll also learn to avoid the most popular subjects, or, at least, if we do use them as inspiration, we'll try to bring something fresh to the work.   I have a  good friend who paints very competently but who never gets into any art show.  Why?  Because we've seen the work way to catch a juror's eye is to show them something fresh.  And that takes time to figure out...when we first look at our inspiration source, the  more trite, the more commonplace ideas come first.  You've got to keep pushing, give yourself time ...think about the violinist who only gradually over months and month learns to play a decent staccato.

We also have to learn to use color...oh the mistakes we make when first we leap into a great palette of colors !!!  I always start my yearlong masterclass with a monochromatic assignment....and so often those are some of the best pieces!!

It does take be sure to relax and enjoy the time that it takes!! 

 Less angst, more pleasure!  
Unfortunately so many of us these days have been taught over and over  to be goal oriented, rather than process oriented.  But, in anything that has a slow process, like learning a piece of music or making a quilt (so many parallels!), it's much healthier to be process oriented, otherwise we miss out on all the pleasure and joy to be gained from just working towards that goal.

 Sadly so often we come to see the process as a nuisance!   Something we have to endure to reach the goal.   But if you think about it in terms of one's life??!!  who wants  to reach the end goal of life?  and how awful if you just went careering on and didn't enjoy the journey.  So, let's take our time...enjoy thinking of different design possibilities, different value patterns, different colors schemes and so on....Relish the time you spend doing this and be sure to enjoy the ride! 

I'd love to hear your thoughts.......please comment!

And, if you have been, thanks for reading!   Elizabeth

Thursday, February 9, 2017

Abstract Art: Advanced and Irascible

To the left is a monumental Beverly Pepper sculpture....this is about 15' high and Beverley Pepper is her 90th decade (yes there is hope for us all!!)

this is outside our local art museum...(on the right in the photo)

I'm seriously into abstract art!!  I started looking at it when I wrote my first Abstract Art for Quiltmakers class, and then got even more into it with the second class: More Abstract Art for Quiltmakers (by the way the first one is just about to start again this Friday; if you're interested go to this link)

When I started researching abstract artists I realised just how many of the Big Famous Names actually had wives who were doing work equally as good, and sometimes even  before their husbands had "got the abstract message".  Of course, as in music and politics and so many other fields, the ladies were overlooked.  And that led me to use mainly their work for inspiration for my two classes...and also to put together a (now very lengthy!) Power Point Presentation on female abstract art.

And then Denver Art Museum got in on the act with their big show of Female Abstract Expressionists last year.....and now our local museum has a very good show of the Irascibles - abstract artists from the 1940s in america.

   I'm so lucky to have such a lovely museum just 10 minutes away, no crowds, easy parking, free, extremely pleasant attendants!   So I thought I'd share a few pictures from their current show with you...and encourage you to really seek out good abstract art - it is SO incredibly inspiring for us'll come away with a million ideas!

apologies for my shadow on all the framed under glass pieces...why oh why don't museums use non reflective glass???!!!  And more apologies too for not giving artists' names....that's due to lack of time at present, each photo has to be resized etc.....but if you are really interested put a note in the comments and on a much quieter day I'll look up the painter for you.
What struck me about each of these, is what a fabulous design for a quilt...and...I think a lot of them would be quite stunning as a quilt!!!  A large quilt, instead of a measly bit of paper under reflective glass!!!  that yellow/blue quarter circles would make a great mod quilt!!!  I might design a few riffs on that to add to my Mod meets Improv class!!

well.....dashing off to a concert to which I've been looking forward...piano...or should I say Pianos!!  5 steinway grands with 25 pianists!!!  I reckon they're going to break the sound barrier.  I do hope they're recording this for Performance Today (a popular public radio show in the USA).....they often do as the hall has good acoustics.....

hmm first though, I think, a nice cuppa tea...wouldn't you agree? !!
if you have been, thanks for reading!!!  Be inspired by abstract art!!


ps...don't forget to comment!!!!

Thursday, January 26, 2017


Finding the right direction!

 We're all trying to find the right direction....and, as a result, in my classes (especially the online ones), I do a lot critiquing.    I seem to see  the same mistakes made over and over..hmm.. perhaps mistakes is the wrong word!  Rather - I feel that some of the designs and compositions just don't work as well as they might.

One of the most obvious problems is that of dividing the Picture plane–(I know that is art speak but it is a useful term so let's use it!)  The Picture plane is simply the whole area of your quilt top. It is that two-dimensional space  upon which you are creating the design.

Having a horizon in the exact middle of the Picture plane or a vertical line (such as the edge of a building)  divides the area precisely into two equal amounts.  Two equal areas that are similar are not as interesting as Unequal divisions.  We like a little variety or novelty...we're hard wired that way!  We pay more attention if things aren't quite predictable.

Split into two horizontally - Boring! and a bit confusing...what is  the quilt about?

High Horizon - much more interesting!

So put your dividing line/horizon line or edge of building line...whatever it is...slightly off center.  Some text books recommend dividing the picture plane into thirds, other recommend fifths.  I think either can work depending on what you want to emphasize.  In the image above I've shown the horizon line just 1/5th from the top of the picture plane.

If it's about an amazing sky pattern...then don't have the horizon in the middle: sky and land equally important - give the sky more space.      Or if the sky isn't important but it's the landscape ...then give it more space...maybe 2/3 of  the picture plane, or even 4/5. 

I  have a high horizon line in the quilt below,  this time it was about 1/3 down from the top.

Electric Fields
And here is a small framed piece with a low horizon line:

Another problem with dividing the space up equally is then you can end up with two quilts!  The right hand one and the left hand one, each side being equally important....because you (the artist) have not indicated which is more important.  Now occasionally you can use this device if you have a message you want to convey: e.g. something like War and Peace...the quilt divided into two equally with one side representing one thing, the other the other....showing that these alternatives are equally possible.  But we are rarely wanting to communicate that.  so think!! Just what are you trying to tell people about? 

In the quilt below, I was actually trying to communicate hard vs soft, industry vs nature or man:

Double exposure: spire
I do see a conflict in our need for power and our need for a more spiritual or natural life...and so I deliberately split the picture place equally in two.
But more generally: an unequal division will work better

A summer Day, long ago...

So.....keep your divisions unequal and you'll be just fine!!
And now for a nice cuppa tea.....and perhaps a little piano practice -  gotta prevent the pedagogue from tearing his hair out over me!!

If you have been, thanks for reading.....

PS...please do let me know about your experiences with splitting the picture plane......

Friday, January 13, 2017

You don't have to leave home!

You don't have to leave home, or at least not go very far, to find inspiration. Keep your eyes open! When I got up yesterday and looked out of the window I saw a wonderful misty morning -  I hurriedly grabbed up my camera and dashed outside. As you can see no neighbours were around to accost me in my deshabillé (!) and I was able to get some very inspiring photos.

Always keep your eyes open for an expected beauty and be prepared to act on the moment -  and you'll find things that other people overlook or simply don't bother to take the time to see.

 From the picture above I might make a quilt design with all the beautiful curves of the roads   and the trees intersecting with each other.   Or, I might simply use the colours - the browns and greys in very different values. Or I might take a good look at how the shadows of the trees appear on a wet road. 

In the photo below, I was intrigued by this strange effect of the double horizon, the illusion  of the floating row of bushes; it's something I might try in a quilt at some point. I have made a quilt little bit like this before as you can see in the photo below this one.

I've was able to captures some of the atmosphere in the photograph but not all of it. Interestingly the shibori fabric turned out to be perfect for both the foreground and for the pond reflections. But I think I would also like to try capturing some of the grace of those slender trees.

 Isn't this photo so evocative? Can't you just feel the coolness on your face and the promise of the day to come? See how the values become paler as the objects received into the distance. Notice how the texture and the sharpness of the edges also becomes much much softer into the distance. There is so much to be learned from chasing the evanescent moment!

 And it was evanescent too, in about 10 minutes all this beauty was gone and we were back to an everyday view. But I saw it and I captured it and I have it in my memory and I will use it for work in the future. Perhaps not tomorrow, But sometime…

 And now I think it's time to get dressed! And, of course, time to make a nice cup of tea. If you have been, thanks for reading. And do please comment and tell me about your evanescent moments! Elizabeth

Friday, December 30, 2016

The Color of the Year

Electric Fields    (currently in the SAQA Concrete and Grassland show)

The color of the year 2017 is forecast to be a nice spring green...
I don't know if the idea is to try to bring hope to us! Or just to take our minds off politics...but I do love the color and it will be great to be able to get some things in that color.  I'd dearly love a spring green bra!!!!  Black/beige or white just is so uninspiring!  At least with quilts one can use any color at all!!

People often ask me "well, just how do I work in a series"?
Find a theme!!   And, while there are very many good themes, color is a great one.   We nearly all of us have a favorite color and a significant emotional attachment to it...I know when I see this light yellow green I feel has a real emotional impact on me - there is so much hope and promise and lightness to it.  Of course that's just're obviously going  to respond differently both to it and to other colors...but what a great starting point for a series?

I decided to look through my  image files and see just how often I had used my lovely yellow greens:

A Summer Day Long Age (in the PGQ collection)
The above quilt (to me) is really a very narrative piece...I wanted to suggest a very active summer day..with a quiet clear summer night...or, perhaps, reflections dancing in water!

April Rains (private collection)
 And this green does look so fresh and positive!!! Color has such a profound effect on our emotions..and it very often is the reason we choose art work, clothing, furniture, even books with spring green jackets!

Emerald City (newly returned from Art in Embassies)
Again there's a sense of place....the house hidden in the trees....
But below a very different bold approach.  I had just seen the new Beverly Pepper giant strong iron sculpture outside our local art museum - she's into her 90s and her work is muscular!
ForceField 2 
 Alas, Forcefield has never appealed to any juror....perhaps it's just a bit too foreceful?

The one above, just a little fellow...but again I like that sense of place...a hint at a house with the pink..not much...come into the cool shade....
Green Mansions
The one above was always one of my's somewhere in Atlanta...I hope it's being enjoyed!!  I really do like to just suggest dwellings don't I?  it's worthwhile arranging a series of your artworks and seeing if you can detect more themes beyond the one  (in this case color) by which you selected them....  apart from Forcefield, I can see clearly how I love to show houses/homes in the middle of green....and then I remember how as a child living in a grey old city I really yearned  to live in the country surrounded by trees.  Well, you can create anything with your imagination!

Take a look at your work...have you been working in series all along?  What does the work say about you and your hopes?  What colors do you keep coming back to?   And where will you go next?

I can't say I'm really looking forward to next year (!) but I am always going to enjoy learning, creating and cogitating!  To say nothing of a nice cup of tea......which is a jolly good idea!

If you have been, thanks for reading!!!  All good wishes for 2017!  Elizabeth

Tuesday, December 6, 2016

Two new classes......Modern Improv Quilts and a Masterclass

The word spire comes from inspire!!  Reach for the top...and a good way to reach higher is with taking classes   - I'd be most embarrassed to tell you just how many classes I am already taking or signed up for in the near future!!  Let's just say they cover a wide variety of topics and I  love learning new things and becoming more skilful.
I've been listening to a wonderful series of interviews with musicians (high recommended if you love classical music) called Living the Classical Life.   Yesterday I listened to an interview with Roger Chase, the British violist and teacher, and he talked about the incredible pleasure of being by oneself for a couple of hours, working at something and actually achieving it - just a great feeling of satisfaction and personal fulfillment.

So where is this leading??? you might well ask!   Actually I just wanted to let you know about two new classes I have starting in January.

Modern Quilts
I've been interested in watching the development of the "modern" quilt movement...the idea is of spare elegance, lots of negative space and breathing room, nothing fussy, but beautifully balanced.
Not so happy, though, at seeing some wrong turns being made in people publishing books and patterns called "modern" that are basically watered down versions of traditional quilts.
So I thought it would be very worthwhile to write a class about how to design these quilt for yourself!
You don't need the latest pattern; from a few basic principles and design ideas, you can create a great many different quilts.   And then (oh yes, there's always an "and then"!) I felt that since at least part of the modern quilt movement was to make it easy and fun for the younger quilter (the one with the full time job and little children), that I should go over the basics of improvisation in quilting too.
so the class is called: Mod Meets Improv!    And it's on the website.

My yearlong masterclass has been very successful, so I'm running it again in 2017.
 (see below a nice quotes from current students ).
Each month, I issue an assignment that is specifically related to some design principle e.g. depth, value, movement etc.   You can work abstractly or realistically or somewhere between the two, any size, any method of construction.   After thinking about the assignment, you send in 3 sketches for critique (gentle!  and as anonymous as you wish), then you refine and choose one and block out the quilt on the design wall, take a picture...and send it to me.  More suggestions...and finally at the end of the month the finished work.
This all takes place on a private blog which can be viewed by class members only....but everyone in the class can see what everyone else is doing.  it's a very safe place to take risks for you can submit the work anonymously and it's absolutely fascinating to see what everyone else does.
I've received rave reviews for the class!!  You don't have to make a quilt every month, by the way...sometimes life just gets in the way....but you can always see what other folk are doing.
Next class starts Jan 1.   (be a good christmas present!).

If you're interested in more information, please just contact me directly:
elizabethyork100 AT yahoo will find me!  (link up on side bar too).
why York?  well I was born and raised there!!  and learned to enjoy a nice cuppa tea ...hmm
now what a good idea!!!
If you have been, thanks for reading!!!  Elizabeth

quote 1: 
--> This has been the best learning experience I have had. It has stretched my thinking process and strengthened my design process.  It has been very enjoyable experience.  I like the way the class is set up, the ability to see everyone’s work, and your comments.  I have enjoyed the references to other artist’s work.  The paintings were such a spark for my imagination.
quote 2:

I have had a great year of learning and creating and it is all due to your Master Class assignments, your superior teaching methods, the critiques, and the inspiration you offer because of your love of Art, Music and Life. I highly value your opinion. I am in awe of how you critique each work and offer concrete (artistic) suggestions in detail and clear explanations as how to improve one’s design. It is one thing to know when a quilt or sketch is not working but it takes great knowledge of composition, keen observational skills and great patience to explain exactly what change is needed to make the piece stronger. Your “cut to the chase” and “to the point” suggestions are so helpful and are right on the mark. All of this is given as a gift to the students while allowing them to work in their own unique style. Bravo!

Sunday, November 27, 2016

Art show entries are designed by sadists!!!

I've just spent ages resizing and relabeling and reresizing and rerelabelling images for entry to an art show and I'm convinced that the people that organize these things are sadists!!
And I still havn't got the first image successfully and correctly up on the entry website.

Why do they   torture us so???  D'you think they enjoy it??? I'm beginning  to wonder.......

This particular show wants the images labeled - not only with the name of the piece, but also with its width and height...furthermore,  there have to be little underscores (not just a hyphen which much easier to do!!) between all the pieces of information.   I've encountered this before of course...and I remember in the old days one was trying to cram all that information on the edges of a little slide.
"Please label the slide with the name of  the piece, alternating between capitals and lower case, then underscore then give the height, width and depth in that order in both inches and centimetres then underscore then your name and the name of your grandmother underscore and your shoe size!!"
I suppose at least they said "please"!!

Have you noticed - their entry system never reads the size of the piece in the same way that your computer's photo manipulation program does?   I think those entry websites just randomly decide when they will reject your image in terms of size.
And they do it in a different way each time!  You can have two images your computer describes as 5 megabytes, whereas their website will consider one to be 3.7 mb and  the other is 6.1!!!

More sizing problems
The show I'm trying to enter is an all media 6mb image was rejected...."you can only have 5 mb for your piece"...but if I was entering a video I could have 250 mb!!!!
Hmm maybe I could just walk around my quilt and take a little video of it - aha! then my sizing problems would be over!!!

Number of entries
The show request three entries...with a full and detail image of both.
BUT the entry website only permits 3 images!!! 
Of course if I entered by video, I could walk around my piece and the suddenly zoom in to get the detail shot....!!!!

There was a Help link.
So I clicked on that and gave them ALL my info, yes...including the fact that my grandmother liked a particular brand of tea...only to be lead to a page that said:
Select the answer to your problem from the following possibilities!!!!

D'you think the fates are telling me  that I shouldn't enter this show???
and! I get to pay $45 for this privilege...hmm maybe the problem is my masochism not their sadism!!

I think a nice cuppa tea is called for, don't you?
If you have been, thanks for reading!!  Elizabeth
PS This was not a SAQA show which by contrast was beautifully straight forward.
PPS.  I decided in the end that the Fates were right!

 Quilts related to the one at the top...

Remembered Lines approx 7ft wide - Quilt National a few years back

Black and White, No Grey   38"w, 53"h