Wednesday, February 27, 2019

No Scoffing at Abstraction!

Don't be afraid of abstract art!!
Nor scoff !!!
i have one of those "know it all friends" and she happily says when looking at any piece of abstract art "well my five year old could do that!". I hate to tell her that's such an old cliche about abstract art that she may as well check her brain in for a replacement!!!

Farne Islands: Detail
In the quilt, Farne Islands, I added together several details from photographs of water and arranged them geometrically....something that several abstract painters have done.

There are so many things that a little more knowledge of them would lead to so much more appreciation and enjoyment.   I know that's true of sports...I know very little and so seeing people dashing around on a football field for about 20 seconds then stopping for a 4 minute analysis seems both bizarre and deadly boring to me....but to the aficionados that's all part of the game and requires close watching and gives hours of fun and discussion.
Same is true of music, if you understand Scriabin you'll be more likely to love it...
or vintage cars etc ....

You can't really expect to appreciate something complicated at first go, not really appreciate it.
Having said that, I do think that all art should be beautiful and/or meaningful.  Not just pretty and banal!  BUT perhaps that is the downside to knowing too much!  One hears  the cliche or sees the banality where you might not if you were fresh into that subject.

Looking West
In the quilt, Looking West, I drew the actual landscape using only straight lines and triangular shapes - something many abstract artists have done.

However, good art lasts, and weak art does not. So sooner or later if you keep looking at or listening to (or enjoying whatever it is with which ever sense it appeals to) you will be able to tell what is good and lasting  from that which is shallow.

You know I think the same thing might be true of friendships - the first time you meet new people and like really don't know if with a year's exposure you would still like them.  and if you were both marooned on that mythical desert island with just a few coconut trees to sustain you, would you still like them in  a year's time???  Would you be admiring  their strengths, or all too aware of their weakness?  Actually come to think of it, this is a great analogy for knowing what would work longterm for you in art...or music.

So, if abstract art puzzles you, don't scoff, rather think about exposing yourself (not literally no!) to more and more over a period of time...and see what happens???  Honestly, I think you will find at least some kinds that you really love.

watercolor: The Tree down the Lane...
In the above watercolor, I didn't try to literally depict the tree, but rather its exuberant branches!  something that many abstract artists have done.

Abstract art is a really wide field...with many different approaches ...there's bound to be something you DO like!  And....something you can steal!!!

You might also like to check out one of my Abstract Art for Quiltmakers  online classes....

the next one begins March 1st.  

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

Monday, December 3, 2018

Af Klint, the FIRST abstract painter, at the Guggenheim

Sorry for the long gap in posts!
I went on a marvelous trip to Maine and New York City, and on returning home got bogged down in art fairs and recitals and whatnot!  Especially whatnot!

When in New York, I saw the Hilma af Klint show at the Guggenheim.
it is a MUST see!

Here is an introduction to af Klimt I wrote about 3 years ago:

Hilma Af Klint

While a number of male artists, for example Kandinsky, Braque and others, are generally regarded as the pioneers of abstract art, it is more likely that it was a woman who was the first abstract artist.
Kandinsky felt that he had painted his first abstract picture in 1911; he wrote about one of his paintings that it was “Indeed the world’s first ever abstract picture, no other painter was painting in an abstract style"..
Look at this detail with the effect of stitching!!  Love it....
Various artists vied with each other as to who was the first: as well as Kandinksy, František Kupka, Robert Delaunay, Piet Mondrian and Kazimir Malevich were amongst the earliest abstract artists.

What Kandinsky and the others did not know is that a Swedish painter by the name of Hilma af Klint (1862-1944) had created her first abstract painting in her Stockholm studio in 1906, five years before his first abstract painting. Hilma af Kllnt was lucky enough to be born in Sweden, a country that allowed women to study art long before other European countries. She enrolled in the Royal Academy of Fine Arts in Stockholm in 1882 for a five year course of study, after which she rented a studio in the artist’s quarter of Stockholm and developed a reputation as an excellent landscape and portrait painter.
In the 19th century, few believed that women could be inspired by spiritual or philosophical matters but a Russian, Helena Blavatsky, was an occultist who co-founded a “religious” she called the Theosophical Society.

What is interesting is that unlike other such organizations, in the Theosophical Society women were allowed to hold senior positions and were considered equal to men – this idea, of course, was way ahead of its time. af Klint had joined this group even before she went to art school and attended her first spiritualist séance at age 17.
So Klint was in a place and time and with people who did not discriminate against women or limit them in any way. During the séances, she made drawings (automatic drawings) which were said to have been made unconsciously and in 1906 she began to paint a series of abstracts, small canvases called Primordial Chaos. Some look like seascapes with mysterious lights, others use geometric shapes like spirals, letters, and other symbols.
During a séance, Af Klint was told by a spirit guide that she had been ‘commissioned’ to make paintings “on the astral plane”. She said: ‘The pictures were painted directly through me, without any preliminary drawings and with great force. I had no idea what the paintings were supposed to depict”.

She worked in watercolor and gouache on large (3m) pieces of paper which she laid on the floor creating enormous, dazzlingly beautiful paintings. ‘The Ten Largest’ is a visual study of the four ages of man from a spiritual perspective.
Alas, none of her work was ever shown during her life and even today, few museums accept her as a great artist.
Thank goodness!! This is no longer true....
What led Klint to abstraction? People at that time had a great interest in invisible forces; there were many new scientific discoveries such as infrared light, X-rays and electromagnetic fields. These discoveries led artists to wonder if one could paint these phenomena. Could one paint abstract things like music?
There are groups of smaller paintings too in the Guggenheim show:

The show is a marvelous step forward in the recognition of women artists, but it is also a great inspiration for all of us, no matter what medium we work in.
Go and see it!!!  It's up into the Spring.....
If you have been, thanks for reading!
PS love comments!! So have at it folks!!!
Also write me:  elizabethmasterclass   AT gmail   if you are interested in a master class next year - you can join for 3,6 or 12 months..specific assignments or independent study.

Wednesday, September 19, 2018

6 hour Quilt Class.....and painting!!

Well, I've been a bit remiss with the blogs lately...I got a sudden burst of energy having been unwell for many months and am rushing around doing all the things you can't do when you have no energy!!

I started a new series of's a result of walking at dawn every day in the summer - which is the BEST time of day to be outside for SURE!!  At least in the south east of the US.

I took a lot of photos, and am trying to figure out how to create the effect of light on the trees....
I was very much taken with a poem called The Waking by Theodore Roethke and all the images it conveys.    It seemed like it brought together some of my thoughts on the dawn walks and my delight at my renewed energy ...and I wanted to make art about it!

Not sure how to do that with fiber, so figured I'd start with watercolor.
I've uploaded quite a few images to my watercolor page.    Scroll down to see them all....this is my morning walk!

The Six Hour Quilt Class

I'm starting my six hour quilt class again this Friday with Academy of quilting   run by a lady who is now a good friend even though we've never met!!!  Plus it's good to have a boss at the opposite end of the earth!!
The Six Hour quilt class is a very fast paced class (though obviously you can take it at any speed you like) with one hour for each of the six crucial steps in quilt making.  It does assume that you can run a sewing machine  and know the basics of sewing two small pieces of cloth together but you don't need to know much more than that.  You design your quilt, choose your fabric (all from your current stash! - no extras needed), cut it up, sew it back together, quilt it and finish it....every step is clearly outlined and illustrated with short video clips from an actual class I ran in my studio last summer...nobody in the class had ever made a quilt before!  
it's a good class if you don't have much time, but want to try your hand at an art quilt, or if you want to try quilting for the first time but don't want to be bothered with rules and minutiae!!  Or if you'd like to see how to teach a one day class for your guild!   Happy to answer any questions....

Happy looking! Happy sewing!!!
And, if you have been, thanks for reading!!!   Elizabeth

Monday, August 27, 2018

An abstract moment!

No! your five year old could not have painted that abstract picture!!!
 Abstract painting  is actually quite sophisticated even when apparently simple...

In a way all painting is abstraction - if you think about it.....


Even a fairly literal painting like the one above has many abstract qualities...I've abstracted the colors of the new spring leaves...and then massed the shapes into large soft areas...I've played with the push pull of the dark versus the light..I've created a basic vertical structure but added dynamism with the diagonal lines...some going upwards, others grounding.... and the diagonals balance out so we don't have a sense of falling...

I find I get SO many quilt ideas from looking at abstract paintings.  From some you can "steal" the structure, from others, the color palette, from others a detail will suggest a motif.

It's so much fun!!! If you're interested in learning more....then I'm starting an Abstract Art for Quiltmakers class this Friday with

I often begin my abstract work by looking at art...then I'll play piano a bit, or go swimming and see what aspect of the art stayed in my mind.....and then do some sketches, or value see how things will work out.

Life is good, right??? when the creative juices are flowing.......
if you have been, thanks for reading!   Elizabeth

Monday, August 6, 2018

Hanging a show...let your artwork breathe!

St Ives, Pond in Winter, Rainy Rainy Night

I've been lucky enough to have quite a few shows, solo or two people ...but never before have I actually hung the show myself....and that's what I did this morning with the help of two lovely guys.
(Forgive the quality of the photos, by the way...quilts look better in fairly low light I think.)
It was so much fun and we laughed the whole time...and the crazy thing was I had been dreading it.   But in the  right place, with the right kind of help, everything went so smoothly and happily.
And it was so much better being able to choose for myself just which way the quilts and paintings (watercolors) would interact instead of having a curator (who hadn't sweated over the work) do it.

Emerald City  and 3 small watercolors

One thing we noticed was just how much better the quilts look spaced out beautifully on a gallery wall, than they do draped on a bed in a spare room (which is probably where many of us keep our quilts).  This show is going to be up for a year, I doubt there's much possibility of sales...but the quilts are breathing, and being seen and giving life to this gallery space.   When we create art we want it to be enjoyed, not rolled up in a closet!

Another artist (not fiber, a sculptor) turned down the chance of showing his work with me for he felt the gallery was not prestigious enough!!  But surely with our art we want to reach the people?  We want to convey our vision of the world?  They can agree or disagree but it will (hopefully!) open their eyes to all the beauty that is around us,  even in these very challenging times.

Heavy Metal, Swimmer, The Last Glow

So ...let your art work hang out in all possible places....and it's so much fun arranging and rearranging the pieces so they work together just right....when I was a teenager I was always rearranging my bedroom furniture - all 3 pieces of it!!  This morning I had the fun of doing just that with 30 pieces and, moreover,  without the heavy duty hammer, drill and ladder work!!! (Thank you so much to J and L for helping.)

For those in NE Georgia...this show is at Athens Academy, in the Harrison Art Center, (3rd entrance off Spartan Lane)  and will be up throughout the school year.  Opening reception Nov 4th...sometime in the afternoon - I think!!

If you have been, thanks for reading!  Elizabeth

Wednesday, August 1, 2018

Mod meets Improv! a class.....

D'you like Modern quilts?  The best are very attractive.
And of course, like any other "style" of quilting, there's good , very good, okay, ho hum and downright poor!!!

However, I think the Modern Quilt movement is very encouraging...the work is often very refreshing and reminds me of the blankets, and similar strong fiber works, that we see from Peru..made hundreds of years ago.  There's an elegant simplicity to them, an economy of style that really celebrates fibre.   

However, one thing is happening in the modern quilt world that isn't so good.   And that is that lots of "easy" "modern" quilt patterns are being published....the quilting companies are commercializing things yet again.....I remember one time I was teaching at a place where there were other teachers...and, at lunch, I asked a student in another class about her class: "how is it going?"...and she said fine, she liked the teacher...but she had had to buy a whole lot of extra equipment to make the particular patterns and it  was all getting a bit tedious and expensive.

That's sad!  I see all quilting, but especially a new young type of quilting, as a way to help people realise their own creativity...while it's often good to start with a simple pattern to get your feet wet... after that you really don't need to be printing out complex templates - or worse yet buying expensive ones - when you could be designing your own quilts and using your brains to work out how to put them together!

so....I thought...well I want to write a class that addresses that!
The class is aimed at anyone who is interesting in modern quilting...what is it? how is it defined?  how can I learn to make one?
AND, most importantly, how can I learn to design my own modern quilt? 

Furthermore, how can I use improv techniques to make this quilt?

 Well... do check out my covers all those topics. and more!! starts this Friday...but doesn't matter if you're a bit late starting....
it's at the Academy of Quilting - online of course...very convenient!   
It's called Mod Meets Improv....because not only does it cover modern quilting and its design, but also it introduces you to Improv methods - no templates!! Freedom!

Happy to answer any questions about it....(email link on side bar)....and would love to have your comments:  do you like Modern Quilts?  What do you think about the movement?
What d'you feel about commercial patterns being pushed so hard?

as ever, if you have been - thanks for reading!!!  Elizabeth

Wednesday, July 4, 2018

Abstraction: the continual fascination

Say what you like about abstract art it continues to fascinate, tantalize - yes sometimes frustrate and annoy (!) people...
As quilt makers, I think abstract art is a lot more inspiring than more realistic art.  And of course abstraction spans a very wide field - from the throw and see what happens of abstraction expressionism - though some were a lot better at throwing or dripping or pouring than others! - through to the precise geometry of people like comma Abts.  From the Impressionists' abstraction of light...through to those who focus on a detail, or an unusual angle....already I can feel my mouth watering at the design possibilities!!

I was lucky enough to stumble across a very fine review of abstraction at the Met (NYC) this last spring as well as a wonderful example of paper/fabric collages by Miriam Schapiro at the Museum of Arts and Design (MAD).  

Look at some of these great mind boggling inspiring images!!

here's Jennifer Bartlett, a long time favorite of mine...notice how she organizes the three elements of fish, lily pads and a grid (she loves grids!!) - into a balanced design.  She's not interested in realism or perspective but rather in the contrasts of shape and movement...and the grid helps to pull everything together as well as provide interest in the negative areas...We can learn so much from analyzing how the abstract painters just do it!!

Below is Anselm Kiefer and the Met's notes - always interesting....from this we can take the idea of flattening out the shapes created by plants and weeds, the drama of the black and white...we don't have to include bloated corpses of course!!! The way the plants are arranged into a  coherent jumble is inspiration enough!!

and below a little Mondrian I hadn't seen before....I love the way he balance and contains that huge red square - see how some shapes are bounded on all four side, some three, some two and so on...not chance..this all carefully worked out...also the balance of the two very heavy black rectangles with the red....and the line across the top of the red....

Here's the whole painting...and a detail of this Joseph Stella painting...doesn't it look so quilterly???
He's divided the images he was inspired by into that's something we could do!!  There's a Welsh fiber artist whose name I'm blocking on right now!!! Edwina or Edith....Hughes or hews...or something similar....she worked in this way too....

And of course one of my other favorites, Kandinsky...before he got too spiritual!!!  this series of paintings around the time of the magazine he started, Blaue Reiter, always seem to tell a story....and yet they are beautifully composed and designed even if the story is totally mysterious......and we can see how he pulls all these disparate ideas together and organizes them.....

And now the two Schapiro pieces....a lot of cloth, in some there was a little paper too....I'll make the images as large as I can.  These were big full "quilt" in size...the lower one is very formally organized like a traditional quilt pattern but a great deal of variety and fun going on.
The upper one I just love with all its wonderful energy and yet it is all of a piece...and you can see just exactly how she has done that.

I do hope I've intrigued you  into thinking more about abstract art as a great way to inspire your own quilt designs....I do just happen to have a couple of classes with
that focus on many different ways of coming up with designing inspired by abstraction!!!  One starts this Friday - July 6th - the other will be later this year...I just found so much inspiration there was too much for one class!!

So, if you have been, thanks for reading...AND think ABSTRACTLY!!!!  so much more fun!!