I think it’s really important to be aware of the best (as we see them) exponents of our art form; who brings the golden vision to reality?
We can learn from them what can be achieved, how it can be achieved – their inspirations, their design strategies and their working processes. We can also learn about our own taste – what sort of artists do we want to be when we grow up?
So I try to look at as much art as I can – obviously beginning with those I admire most in the art quilt and fiber world, but beyond that into painting, sculpture and all the other amazing mediums in which creative work is being done.
I think it’s very helpful in discovering your own voice to realize which artists really speak to you. Having got the gut reaction of “oh I really love this piece” then I try to take the next step and question myself: Why? What is it about this piece that you love? Is it the workmanship? The design? The colour? The repetition of key forms? The chiaroscuro? What is it? I try to define very clearly what I’m responding to so that next time I’m in the studio and about to start on a piece I can decide whether or not I want to “borrow” and then make my own some element that I admire in another’s work.
For example one of my top favorites has always been Dorothy Caldwell. I love all the evidence of handwork on her pieces – all the hand stitching. I’ve incorporated a lot more hand stitching into my own work this last year. I hadn’t done any hand stitching for years having been so indoctrinated by those traditional quilt police that hand quilting had to be tiny pinpricks created with the perfect up down motion of the needle on a piece of cloth stretched tightly!! Well no more tight stretching for me!!! I gave that up years ago! However from Dorothy I learned that one can be much more free with the stitching. I also love her rather mysterious compositions that allude to her themes rather than boldly hitting you in the face. I still havn’t learned that one! But I have used a lot more black and white.
Another favorite is Rachel Brumer – her work has so much meaning, such a strong clear message that is never trite nor obvious. From her I can learn to have the courage to make work about what really matters to me.
I really love Carol Shinn’s work: especially her cropped compositions and the colour shading she uses. Her inspiration is often something you might see with a sidelong look and never quite realize just how dramatic and interesting it is. Her work makes you see more.
I’m definitely going to try to get more dynamic compositions into my work, less predictability. I also feel that it’s really important to use lots of grey and neutral colours.
For a long time I’ve admired Pauline Burbidge’s quilts – she likes high contrasts of colour and repeats that vary in a fascinating way. She also uses a lot of texture and black and white in her work. I really dislike flat work (one reason I don’t like fusing) and would love to get more texture into my quilts.
My final artist (for today!) is Elizabeth Brimelow – another British artist – working with texture.
I’ve put a link to all of these artists from my website go to the Links page and you’ll find them all. They show depth, thoughtfulness, an appreciation of quiet strength, individuality, texture and high contrast! And that – I must remember!!!
And, if you have been, thanks for reading!