I’m always interested in reading about ways to make my compositions stronger. I once read somewhere that the equivalent of the old realtor’s adage – yes the one old realtors produce over and over! – of location x 3 – for artists is “composition, composition, composition”.
And when I look at shows of contemporary quilts (alas since I live miles from anywhere – mainly on the ‘net, or in books), the quilts that really intrigue and then satisfy me, the ones I could live with for a long time, are those with a strong composition. For me, all the embellishment in the world will not rescue a weak or trite arrangement of shapes, colors, and values.
Trolling through my notes I found a number of hints for strengthening compositions and I’ll go through them one by one in the next few blogs.
A strong subject.
Picking a strong subject has been emphasized by some writers.. I think the subject is less important than the treatment of it. It helps definitely if you don’t go for something really trite and cute – a good example was the old faceless Sue who never took her bonnet off! Definitely trite – but remember the hilarious quilt about all the deaths of the dear creature?!! Now that artist took a trite subject and treated it in a new way. And along came some more “bad” Sues – here’s a nice one from early 20th century:
But then…if we have too many..it gets trite and boring and predictable again.
So avoid the most predictable subjects (cute animals, old red barns, images with every detail photographically perfect) …but otherwise work from whatever sparks your enduring interest – and (most important) treat it in a new, fresh way.
Gugger Petter, a Danish artist who works in paper - made a wonderful series of pieces about dogs - not cute! but really intriguing - the view through the dog's eyes...feet and ankles of strange two legged creatures, not important above the calf, curbs and paving stones.....
Little dogs per se could be really the most saccharine of subjects, but look at it differently and it's new and strong, make it beautifully and you have something wonderful!!
Mary Porter has made a series of gorgeous paintings about the chaos in her house! Now who would think a mess would make a good subject? But get a strong composition, exciting colours, and an intriguing underlying value pattern…and you’ve got something to look at and enjoy for a long time. This painting hangs in my physiotherapist’s office and sums it all up!!
and, if you have been, thanks for reading!