Friday, May 15, 2020

Illusion and ironing

...there is some evidence that if you see things as they really are, you'll probably get depressed!!
so at times like these, it's good to read Oscar Wilde's advice:

"No great artist every sees things as they really are.  If he did, he would cease to be an artist".

In the cat photo above see how the photographer has carefully angled the shot to create an amusing circle on top of another!!!   An interesting composition...but not as things really are.

Distortion and change are very important in design of any art work no matter the medium.
Feeling free to exaggerate or minimize, lengthen or shorten, double or halve.

Staying loose! And open to new ideas, new views.
 One of my favorite loosening up activities before I start a new quilt, is to iron the fabrics I'm going to use...I see them and feel them and smell them. (fortunately I rarely hear them!)
I see how they play with the others, what unexpected combinations of colors or patterns are new and fresh and lively.....

so the main message of this blog?  Stay loose in times of stress, value your animals and your means of smoothing out the wrinkles....they'll take you a long way!

and, if you have been, thanks for reading!!!
and do please comment with your art processes that relieve stress and encourage creativity...I'd love to read them.

Thursday, April 30, 2020

The Purpose of Art

I love this pond in our neighborhood and walk by it every morning...and often in the early evening too when the light is quite different.  
And here's my quilt based on it...

There are positive things about a lock discover all these wonderful gems right under your nose!!  And there isn't much traffic to bother you!
Yesterday (on the back road into Watkinsville for those that want to know!), I saw this wonderful sight........

It's a meadow lying fallow and full of wild flowers.  The yellow is those little bobble headed fellows!! and there were tiny blue flowers intermingled.

My daughter yesterday was asking me the purpose of art  - and my reply was to bring beauty and joy to everyone, to point it out where we might not see it, and to celebrate it.

Dostoevsky wrote:

"...mankind can live without the Englishman, it can live without Germany, it can live only too well without the Russian man, it can live without science, without bread, and it only cannot live without beauty......"

And, if you have been, thanks for reading!  Please comment!! I'd love to know what you think art is for!  Elizabeth

Friday, April 17, 2020

Use value not color in designing your art work!!!

I’ve been thinking more about color …..
Everybody loves color and quiltmakers can’t wait to get to it!  In my workshops (both quilting and watercolor) I try to persuade folk to judge a design by its value pattern, but alas the seduction of the color addiction has folk slavering and shaking – “oh color more color I’m so deprived, when can I get my next fix?!!” 
And color is such a visual feast!   I’m just as bad as everyone else for wanting to gobble it up, for making sure I’ve got the biggest dollops on my plate!! 
The children always ask “but when will we get there?” and the quiltmakers say “when can we use color?” with the same plaintive tone!!
Here is a quilt I made that has a lot of color:
a new day 72
The design for this quilt, however, didn’t have any color in it – it was a black, white and grey value sketch.  So let’s look at this piece desaturated i.e. without any color:
a new day desat  One thing that is evident is that I have quite a range of darks and lights…several of the darks run together to form interesting shapes (though I probably could have used to have done more of that and it would have been stronger).    There are just a few lights – this is because my main theme was the first light of a new day just beginning to catch the buildings…and that fits the theme.  The sky also is a mix of darks and lights just as you see at dawn (I’ve been walking a lot at dawn this summer!  100 days over 90 will do that to you!) which again is very relevant to my theme.
Now how would this quilt have looked had I not had this strong value pattern underpinning it:
a new day reduce contrastWell…it looks like I dropped it in dirty dishwater!! dragged it through the mud…even so it’s rather hard to reduce the contrast in a piece that has a lot of contrast enough to make it clear that all mid tones are a bit dull!!  But I think you get the idea.
So…avoid the mud puddle!!
but what if I was one of those color junkies that uses all saturated color?
well …..look:
a new day too intenseNow, do not tell me you like this!!!  I’ve had to get a pair of sunglasses on to even view the screen!!  too much saturated color definitely spoils the broth, ruins the child and leads to sensory overload!  And I’ve seen plenty of quilts like this!
Very interestingly, reducing the intensity of the color actually isn’t so bad, at least not to my neutral loving Armani clothes desiring self:
a new day lower intensityThere’s something both restful and mysterious about all those beautiful neutrals….but of course I know it wouldn’t sell and probably would never catch the juror’s eye in those tachistoscopic presentations they have to choose work from.   But this image does show, I think, that a good design doesn’t need color to work – it does need value contrast however.   If I subject this to the mud bath, I get:
a new day lower intensity lower contrastIt looks something like what I had to drive through on foggy days before they began to work on clean air.  Of course, this is what the politicians and big business want us to go back to; this is how China is doing so well economically.  However that’s another issue!!  sorry to bring it up, the picture just reminded me.
Another thing to watch out for in designing with color is the balance of color temperature.  It’s best to have a distinctly warm feel, or a distinctly cool one.  My original idea (the first picture above) was that the overall temperature of the piece would be warm, a warm fresh new day.  But what if I was uncertain and had an equal mix of warm and cool colors?
a new day equal tempsDoesn’t that look so weird and unsettling?  it’s looks as if  I’m uncertain about my message.  And the equal balance just doesn’t look “pulled together”.   Part of this too is because once you have an equal number of cool and warm colors, you’ve also probably got more colors than you need – too many colors is far worse than too few. 
Color is a complex dish!!  You need to make decisions regarding value, hue, intensity and temperature to get it just  right.  And now for a cup of tea – I need to get the temperature, the freshness of the water, the steeping time just right!  and it’s got to be in my favorite mug too!!  Think on!
If you have been, thanks for reading!! 
And do comment on your reactions to these variations on a color theme……  Elizabeth

Thursday, April 9, 2020

Time to be creative....

A beautiful morning....and no need to go out! Can't go anyway, also nowhere to so many I'm at home for the went for a walk around the garden (or yard as it's called in the USA) see what inspired me..I love the misty sense of the new leaves on the maples and and gauzy veils of redbud flowers....
I'm also fascination by the way they can obscure the branches to some degree...
it's all shapes and values folks...and color! 
But like a good cook (which alas I'm not!!) Nature puts the colors and shapes together so beautifully to create something magical...

 I love the way the clouds of color drift horizontally.....
and all the different pinks and golds and lavenders....
see how the pink appears like dots on the tree trunk below???

Look and look and look...take a few photos...and into the basement aka "The Studio" when VTBI (visitors to be impressed!) com.....
to try my hand out at painting ...

so...tell me what you think???  I got the composition from the third photo, but most of the colors from the second one...and the idea from the first one!

and...if you have been...thanks for reading!
Love comments!!!  c'mon---you have time today!!!!  Elizabeth

Thursday, April 2, 2020

Love, Plague and Quilting!

We are enduring one of the greatest pandemics of all time...and I keep thinking about a book I read some years ago called Love in the time of Cholera by the Columbian author Marquez.

Here's a good review of it

In the story, the heroine has to decide between two men: she makes the pragmatic choice for her mate...but he is a doctor who is devoted to finding a cure for cholera...that's his first love!  and so.....we see how that plays out over time!

And it brings up the point of  WHAT we love as well as WHOM we love!
Right now, many of us are focussed on very dreary stuff - all that sanitization for example....our house has never been so clean!! Which is not a bad thing really. (I think!).

Also there's an awful tendency to stay glued to the internet or cable news for the latest disaster number...but actually - once you have the best game plan at hand i.e. staying home with sufficient basic staples in the cupboard to keep you going - it would be healthier to switch off the dire news.

There are good things to be learned, and practiced.   In my former life - of 3 weeks ago (!) I was racing around town, socializing, teaching classes, taking classes, exercising at the Y, checking out various dance opportunities - square - swing -  salsa - ballroom....
going to the library, shopping endless round of activity.

Now, I'm quietly at home, taking life much more slowly...and realising that I probably didn't need all that rush and bother!

Now I can relax with a book, or some paints or a pile of fabric and the sewing machine....
and it's great!!!  It's time to try out some new ideas...I have taken a lot of classes in the past, and also bought a bunch of DVDs, and I'm reviewing those and thinking where to go next.

 I do miss not having easy access to a teacher for critique/evaluation though.  and also the encouragement of fellow students and artists...

Noting that...I have made a point of being Very Available for critique/evaluation/coaching etc to my online students at
Take a class with me, and you can ask me a question any time, show me your work and we can discuss your next steps.  And that feels good.  For you and for me.  And that's what my doctors and my dear pedagogue are doing...
And there are lots of other classes on that site, and many other sites on the 'net.  Think on!

We actually can enjoy our various beloved activities in the time of the plague.....and that will help us get through.

And, if you have been, thanks for reading!!
Please add your thoughts in the comments....I will reply!!!


Monday, March 16, 2020

Creating Depth in two dimensions...and how to overcome cabin fever!

Elements and Principles:space: deep or shallow?

Traditional paintings (prior to the late 19th Century) usually portrayed a sense of depth or 3-dimensionality –  foreground, middle ground and background.  Once cameras were invented, painters began to explore ideas other than the reproduction (however beautiful) of a specific person or scene.  Many painters chose to flatten the space in the picture as they wanted to emphasize the idea that a painting was just that: a painting.  It does seem ironic that after the struggles of painters in the Middle Ages and Renaissance to develop depth in their work, just a few centuries later artists would be eschewing such pictorial ideas!!  In fact, some of them even pushing in the other direction with reverse perspective such as David Hockney has played with.

Most traditional quilt patterns don’t involve ideas of depth: their abstract designs were well ahead of abstraction in the fine art world!  (Which, of course, the Whitney eventually realized with their show of the Gees Bend Quilts a few years ago!).   So for art quilt designers today there is a choice – shallow space or deep?  Do we want to convey the illusion of deep space or not?  If we do, there are a number of devices by which this can be done.

  People ask me about perspective; I personally rarely use it to indicate space – but I do, however, think it’s important not to get perspective wrong unintentionally.  Quilts that have a lot of perspective drawing are of a much more controlled style than I am interested in.    If you look at books on linear perspective drawing, all the illustrations look like blueprints rather than art. However I do think it’s worthwhile to read a couple of articles or books on the subject and work a few examples, so you have a sense of the different kinds of perspective (one point, two point etc), how it’s indicated in a reproduction, where the horizon or eyeline is  and what effect that might have upon various 3D objects in your design.

Apart from actually using perspective there are a number of tools you can use to indicate depth - and these are the ones that most artists do use.

Overlapping: if we see a picture of an apple in front of a box…we “know” the apple is in front, we don’t think that the apple is behind the box which has an apple-shaped hole cut in it!  The same for a man in front of a wall. or a tree in front of a lake.  Overlapping is one of the major ways by which we judge depth.  Think about it when you’re driving around town!
edgeoflightIn this quilt, “Edge of Light”, I’ve used overlapping to indicate the rows of cottages being in front of the water and the distant hills. I haven’t really used any other devices as my interest was in the way the far group of cottages caught the light, rather than distance or other concerns.

Size:  if we see a tree in the distance, it actually looks much smaller than a man right in front of us standing on our feet!!  we don’t think we have a giant right next to us and a bonsai in the distance…our brains automatically compute – smaller therefore further away.

In the quilt on the right, Ferrybridge, I don’t mean to indicate that the terrace houses at the bottom of the quilt are larger than the cooling towers at the top, rather that they are a lot nearer – so they are bigger.

This quilt also uses placement on the picture plane to indicate depth – the lower an item is on the quilt, the nearer it is to us, the higher it is, the more we read it as being further away.

That's obvious, because if something is small and far away it's not going to be visible behind everything anyway.  Our brains soon get used to figuring these things out.

Interestingly, it is the brain's experience that does figure it out - it's not built in.  If your brain was deprived of distant views from infancy, it would be much harder for you to see and understand this kind of depth.

Colour can be described in 4 different ways: hue, value, intensity and temperature.  Each of these can be used to indicate distance or closeness.  Things that are further away tend to be bluer (as we are looking at them through all the moisture and dust in the atmosphere), the colours are less intense, the values are lighter, and the temperature is cooler (towards blue, closer things being toward red).  You can see some of these colour changes in the quilt below (Overlook):

The amount of contrast and detail you put into an area can also indicate distance: more contrast, more detail..nearer the foreground – less contrast, less detail…the background.
In Greenhouses, the trees in the front  are more detailed.  The foreground of houses and trees is much more detailed and with a lot more contrast, than the middle ground of darker more amorphous shapes, and the distance of soft hills has very little contrast or detail.

Of course in real life and in designing life, you wouldn’t just choose or use one device alone to assess distance, usually there are combinations.  And, as you can see from above, you don’t always have to follow all the rules!!
If you want to experiment with designing with space – consider foreground, middle ground and background: 3 distinct levels of space. Starting with the furthest point in the landscape and building forwards..developing more contrast etc.
and if you're getting cabin fever - already!!! and we've only got 5 months to go...consider an online class.
the academy of quilting has some really good ones, and there are about ten different ones you can take with me personally.... I'm really interested in design and getting a strong composition from the start, and very happy to critique/evaluate your sketches or work as you take the class.  Think about it!
Happy to answer any questions in the Comments area...or email me directly:
elizabethyork100 AT

And, if you have been, thanks for reading! Now for some space!


Monday, March 2, 2020

Learning makes you feel good!

Have you looked in the mirror recently and seen your mother?

(or your father?)

Well, I have the answer!!!


It gives you immense zest for life when you can feel learning taking place.
And you'll soon forget about the person in the mirror!

There's actually some science to back this up!!
well sort's a bit of a goofy site, but the little video is hilarious and laughing creates endorphins too!
  I love learning and it always makes me feel good.  and....learning leads to happiness, and the happier you are, the better you learn.  It's all to do with the endorphins of course.

but...what to learn??
Well you could learn something new...take a look at what your local community centers have to offer, and art centers etc...there's nearly always a lot going on.  Don't be afraid that you won't be any good!
Of course you'll be no good!!! you've never done it before!  Also please don't think you need something magical called "talent"!!  yes, to get really really good at something very difficult - whether in music or science or athletics - you need the right kind of body and mind, the right kind of upbringing and excellent coaching and masses of persistence....BUT enjoy learning, to learn something new in just about anything is a real boost.  And teachers are very happy to help and they don't expect you to know it and be an immediate success!
Ferrybridge - Quilt made after 20 years of persistence!
Well, having said that I have run into one or two people who gave up on me after ten minutes because I was not immediately brilliant at what they were trying to teach me...but that does tell us more about them than about me.

Martin tried to blow me off!!
What makes a good learner?  Willingness, enthusiasm, alertness, an open mind, and a sense of humour!!

Dancing Trees
Now if you live in Athens, GA...or thereabouts, come and learn watercolor with me at the Winterville Community Center......or you could learn aikido there too!  or Zumba!! or oil painting.  you can learn to swim at the YWCO   or a whole multitude of things at Lyndon House or OCAF or many different kinds of dancing downtown!
Mike...still dancing at 97!!!!!

okay I know it's very unlikely that you live here! But I'm sure your community has all kinds of things to offer.
and you can also take classes on line...I teach here and have new classes starting all the time - last week was The Great Scrap Quilt!  And this week it's abstract art for quilt makers...
Join me in learning!

and, if you have been, thanks for reading.
Do write and comment on what you have been learning recently and the effect it had upon you.