Tuesday, June 30, 2009

From Inspiration to a Series

In my last blog I showed the picture of Durham (UK) castle and cathedral.

durham castle 

    That picture and several others I took across the river Wear which flows around the base of the rock upon which the castle and the cathedral are built  were very inspiring. Durham is a town really worth visiting – if you can figure out how out how to use the car park – we had to have assistance from several passersby! Probably be better to go by train!  You can get all around the UK by train and it’s great just to sit there and dream your way through landscapes.  I sure wish you could do that  here.  I live in a major college town, there is a huge metropolis about 80 miles away – and no public transport.

Eniow!  (this is a very useful Yorkshire word that should be in the dictionary but isn’t ….yet!)
Eniow, enough of political moaning and back to inspirations.  The castle rock at Durham with all the buildings piled up upon it actually inspired a whole series of quilts – I continually went back to this photo and to my notes and postcards from my visit there and this is the series of quilts I made .   They are all about 60 inches square.  I worked with different techniques, different materials, different lighting, different  myths and fancies – I did have a show in Atlanta with all five displayed and that looked great!  But now they are split up and gone their separate ways.


In the above picture I was focusing on the weight of the buildings and their texture.


In this piece I wanted to contrast the earthiness and domesticity of the houses with the  more abstract concepts of religion.


In the above piece I was thinking about the light in late spring, everything warming up!


And in the quilt above I was more involved in the overall pattern created by the buildings.


In this piece I was thinking of myths about castles and strange lands: the golden castle above the town where the princess sleeps for ever, the land where the bong trees grow to which, one day ,we might sail!

So…you can see how easily I can get into a series!  I’ll be talking a lot about this in my class at Quilting by the Lake later this summer.  Meanwhile, if you have been, thanks for reading and looking!  Elizabeth

Saturday, June 27, 2009

I am NOT a camera!

I don’t like entering those shows where one has to put one’s work into a category: abstract, pictorial, traditional, innovative etc. I think of my quilts mainly in an abstract way. Yes, sure, I begin with a photograph of a group of buildings, chimney tops or industrial buildings that has caught my eye…but my interest is beyond that surface description and way beyond what the camera actually caught.

rainyrainynight 300

What intrigues me is usually a dynamic arrangement of shapes, particularly where there’s a mixture of skinny shapes and block like shapes where they’re interacting with one another. The fact that’s it’s a building is of far less significance.


I like the way the chimney pots poke into the sky in a rhythmic way – especially when there’s some syncopation going on - as there invariably is when rooftops don’t exactly coincide.

Industrial buildings often involve complex diagonal and unexpected twists and turns. Often there are odd connections between large shapes – quite fascinating and with their own erratic beauty. It’s good to spot something that catches one’s imagination, to see a beauty where no one else has noticed, and finally to be able to convey it to others.

steelyardfrieze 300

I I love looking at paintings where the artist has shown me something I had not seen. I’m especially fascinated by seeing a photograph of the original scene and then the painting side by side. Then you can truly realize the skills of the artist. The colours are richer, the boring irrelevancies and uglinesses are omitted, shadows are mysteriously full of colour – not just a drab grey pall. The artist rearranges the objects slightly to form an interlocking pattern of intriguing negative and positive shapes. Instead of the flat tonal plain evident in a photograph, remember the reality of simmering textures and dipping shadows.

durham castle


It’s important to be able to articulate what it is about a scene that captivates you; otherwise it might get lost in overly laborious and concrete rendition of the parts. It’s necessary to sort out the freshness or the mystery from the merely mundane. Don’t lose that observation!! Hold it, keep it, present it!

When we look at something we’re not standing there on one leg with one eye shut (well, at least I’m not!) – but this is the camera’s view. Instead we’re looking around an object – try looking through one eye and then the other – you’ll be amazed at the two very different views. Now, how to portray both of those views? Also you’re not standing still…there are always subtle movements, the landscape moves and changes constantly. How to convey that? Don’t lose this dynamism with a flat, still, one eyed view!

For more pictures of my quilts, please take a look at my website…..and, if you have been, thanks for reading!! and ….don’t forget the comments!! Read with interest and pleasure! Elizabeth

Wednesday, June 24, 2009

An Interesting Exercise

Watching the Fashion Show last night, Bravo’s answer to the stalled-in-court Project Runway, I was fascinated by the “mood board” that Mizrahi showed designers to help them grasp the main concepts of his next group of fashions.   A mood board is a tool used in designing many different things: music albums, websites,  interior design, fashion collections, film, jewelry collections, flower gardens and so on.  The board can be presented in landscape or portrait mode.  It includes the main colour scheme, styles, inspirations, theme and mood for the intended opus.   You can actually even download a template from the net! (Not that I think you need to do that.) 

  I have long advocated collecting inspirational material – ripping out pages from magazines (where e’er you encounter them!), or copying pages from books, or jotting down a few words or a quick sketch onto paper, collecting postcards on trips – and sticking them into a note book.   When I need a jolt of inspiration I’ll look through the notebooks….or sometimes I’ll just look through them anyway to see all the pretty pictures!!  Ripping them out as you go also saves you from having piles of magazines lying around that “might come in useful” one day – rip out the juicy bits, and recycle the rest!

Now I’m thinking it will be interesting to go through my “inspirations” and see if they will naturally group  together onto Mood Boards.    It would be good to add a few sentences outlining a clear theme, scale, value key and color scheme.  The quality of the lines and shapes could also be included.  In one space you could pull together the whole intent and elemental outline of the piece…or the series!



Meanwhile, back in the studio, and away from feet up watching telly and catch-stitching the interfacing down on the Cement Works 1 piece, I’m still struggling to complete the top of Cement Works 2: The Red Castle – well that’s the tentative title!!  here’s the piece so far:   (feel free to comment!).

Critiqueing myself:  I find it helpful to put an image of a piece I’m stuck with up on the computer – sometimes I’ll photograph 2 or 3 different versions and put them up side by side to compare. 

One of the things I did with this piece was to take away everything I didn’t like, even if I  loved the little bit in and of itself – it can always be used for another day, or decorate a corner of the design wall!!  Having done that I realise I still need to push back the top right hand pale element…I’ve tried substituting other fabric but the whole thing went dead..while I love the complexity of the little walking rail platform things (in black), it may have to move…also since I’ve got curves on a lot of elements, those without curves look a bit odd, so they may have to be rounded out somehow!!  I do like the lightening (by hollowing out) of the long diagonals, and the drips on the big red container (actually it was a sort of peeling paint effect on the original) – but with the shape of the drip, I’ve echoed the shape of the big funnel on the right.   I’ve not yet found a resolution for that bottom right hand corner..so some way to go yet.  also I want to add a few touches of a cool color, it’s a bit too suffocating at present, and my theme was the height and complexity of the buildings not a feeling of suffocation!!    A little touch of the opposite temperature  (warm colors are the yellow-green, yellow, yellow orange, orange, red orange, red, red purple side of the colour wheel, and cool the opposite ones) will always help  in balance  and clarity of colour as well as intensity.  Don’t just use all warm or all cool!

so back to a cuppa tea, and then to work!  If you have been, thanks for reading!  Elizabeth
…..and don’t forget to comment!!

Monday, June 22, 2009

colour and color

I do hate it when the jurors in a quilt show give a prize for “best use of colour” to some quilt that has a million different colours on it: “Most use of color” might be a more apt designation!  Using more different hues than anyone else does not constitute good color practice!  Think about it in terms of interior design – only one thing worse than beige beige beige is red yellow green blue brown and pink in one room!!

In the same way that a composition is strengthened by harmony within shapes/lines and textures, so is color harmony something to be sought.  I know because I’ve been struggling with it this weekend on the piece I’m working on now!!dog

Not this one…this is a “dog” (apologies to all real canines!) that I made about 15 years ago now – I definitely should have got the “most use of colour prize” for this one!  as well as “most use of different shapes”!!!  I have pink and red and orange and yellow and purple and turquoise and ultramarine and brown and black and white!  This is an example of what not to do!  I do have some awful dingy beige beige pieces that were before I started painting, dyeing and printing my own fabric.

I wouldn’t have struggled quite so much this last w/e if I had taken my own advice and worked out the colour scheme I was going to use aforehand.  I think it’s a great idea if you can discipline yourself (sadly something I’m not very good about!) to cut a small swatch off every fabric you own (that’s a different color) and work out a scheme from the swatches.  I usually do this with the whole chunk of fabric which means the studio looks like a tornado came through flinging fabric into the air.  But the process a WYSIWYG one – you can’t decide colour schemes from words, you have to do it from the actual color.

As most of us know there are really a limited number of generic colour schemes: monochromatic (one color), analogous (several adjacent colours on the colour wheel) and complementary (colours opposite to one another on the wheel). (split complementary is the same only you add the colors adjacent to the opposites).  Yes you CAN take 4 colours that form a square or rectangle on the wheel but it’s difficult to make a harmonious scheme doing that.

flora and ferra k

                           I love monochromatic – there’s nothing better for really giving a crisp result than one colour and white:  and I’ve used it a lot in my buildings series.

A monochromatic scheme is also great for setting a mood – I had a lady in class one time do a lovely icy glacier piece all in blues…I don’t have a picture sadly.  But here’s one I’ve done several all in greens giving a soft woodland mood.


And grey has been another favorite – grasping the softness of a misty morning:


    I spent a whole year on grey!! 

An analogous scheme gives a soft rich mood – 3 or four adjacent colours on the wheel can be  so luscious.  Think redorange/ red /red violet – how sumptuous!  Or turquoise/blue/blue violet – cool and marine.  Or yellow/yellow-orange/orange – so tangy and fresh!  Yes you can almost taste those colour schemes!  it’s good with an analogous scheme to add a touch of a complementary colour as a minor note, a 7th note!  This can really pull your eye to the focal point.  In the largely green piece above you can see how I’ve a tiny touch of pink in the windows..


Complementary schemes: blue/orange, purple/yellow and red/green – and all the ones in between – yield a more complex harmony.   It’s important to make one of the colours dominant, however, in order that there’s no Battle of the Colours!  The choice would relate to the theme.   I have used the purple/yellow scheme many times, especially in the night scenes I’ve done.

But while I’m advocating restraint re hue in color, I certainly think it vital that value and intensity are varied as much as you can!  Yes, limit yourself to blue and orange….but many blues: warm and cool, many values: light and dark.  This makes the piece so much more exciting and it’s one reason why the old traditional quilts where the maker used different blue fabric remnants to piece the pattern are so much better than the modern equivalents where one might buy one yard of a blue fabric, one yard of an orange one, and one of a white one.

well…getting lengthy!!  More on colour next time.  And, if you have been, thanks for reading!  Elizabeth

Friday, June 19, 2009

The Artist’s Progress…or lack thereof!

I find there’s always a time after a long exciting trip that one enters into the Doldrums: calm dead seas with not much happening.  Well not much being actually finished!  It’s always helpful for me to try a little painting after a rich visual experience…so I’ve been attempting a few watercolors based on some of the lines and spaces I saw in Western Scotland last month. 




Nothing much yet, but it IMG_1588helps to get my eye and hand following some of those landscape lines…it’s good to dig deeper into it, and look and look.   I also need to do some research and see how accomplished brilliant experienced painters like Turner solved the painting problems of such glorious places.  Thinking of research, I remember Ian McEwan’s answers to questions about the validity and clarity in his work: vast amounts of research – one or even two years spent researching the next theme.  It’s so important to take your time and really examine the idea and all that goes into it.  I do dislike quilts that look like the person just took scraps from the floor and threw them at the wall!!



As usual I’m working on several ideas at once….here I’m printing some fabric for another black and white piece, tentatively entitled Plant Life – occasionally I’ll get the title before anything else!!  Of course it’s double entendre – it’s going to be another industrial piece, but not sure whether to go with a horizontal or a vertical format on this one….


I was hoping to work on quilting my first Cement Works  piece but the machine started smoking!!!  I didn’t know I was that hot of a quilter!!!   IMG_1590

Here’s the space (on the little brown table – I like to quilt really low) where the machine should be.  As it happens we’ve no nearby Bernina dealers, daughter Jane is going to take  the machine to the Bernina Center in Atlanta, sadly they are known to be very slow about repairs.

I once tried the next nearest store – in Augusta, GA…and their service was worse!  I didn’t get the machine back for 6 months and when I did it was damaged – they denied all responsibility.  Oh for a nice friendly Bernina dealer locally!!  We had one for a few years and it was great.

!   IMG_1591

But not being able to quilt does give me opportunity to finally get solved the problems I’ve set up for myself with the second Cement Works piece – this one is in red!  I’ve got a lot of difficulties here – the values don’t balance out well yet, nor do the shapes…and I think it could use a tiny smidge of a cool colour, it’s just a little too hot!!  But there are some really neat bits…I love the way it almost looks like a castle in places!    Also I got a good photo of a similar kind of building up in Cleveland, GA last weekend……possibilities!!


So now, to work to work!!!

If you have been, thanks for reading!


Wednesday, June 17, 2009

Quilt National; definitions of “body of work” and “series”

Thank you for you interesting comments to my last blog!!
So interesting that in fact I’d like to continue the discussion…….

But first I’d like to post a picture of my Quilt National ‘09 piece:

remembered lines small                                                                            Remembered Lines (69”w, 41”h)

I hadn’t posted this picture before because of the Quilt National rule that doesn’t permit one to enter a piece that has been seen before – anywhere.  In fact, I’m told, they hire a researcher to check on all the accepted pieces to make sure they hadn’t been published, posted, viewed or aired in any way.  So for several months I didn’t reveal  this piece, or the two 0thers that I was entering!  While QN’s care in this seems a little excessive, I do appreciate the fact that the show and the catalogue are then definitely New Work.  I’ve been quite irritated in the past by seeing the same quilt in several different shows, catalogues and magazines.  Furthermore, QN have a very quick turnaround time from entry to notification for which they should definitely be commended. 

The reason I’m showing the piece now is because this quilt was the 12th one in a series.  Here’s the first one in the series:

edging into line k  I would define a series by the way as a  group or succession of related things – objects that go together.  They can go together in a number of different ways, some I think more meaningful than others.   This series for me was related because I used the same very limited  palette, the quilts were inspired by (but not copies of) timbered houses I had seen in York, Stratford and Warwick.  I found the drooping lines of the roofs fascinating in that as age and time prevail, the “man made” aspect of the building begins to echo more and more the natural curves of the timbers used.  I also got a little carried away by the abstract patterns created by the timbers, and in the 12th piece, repeated some of those elements several times – just taking the bits I liked and repeating them like a doodle!!

  So a series of objects could be related by a central idea – e.g. all containers (though the colours and shapes could vary), or by a certain shape that repeats, or by colour, or any other of the basic elements with which we work.  A collection of pieces that bore no relationship to one another would be more confusing to view as a whole.  My father always used to jumble up the slides when he gave us kids a picture show and while it was hilarious as successive images were shown: “here we are  on the beach, oh no now we’re in the marketplace, oh and the next one is little brother’s birthday and then the garden, and back to the beach and then another flower..”…hilarious – but confusing, jumbling, and frustrating because  you can’t get into the feel of the place or the idea.

I find that as I explore a theme gradually  I get  better at extracting the essence of the theme that is compelling to me.     Instead of skittering over the surface sampling a little here and there (yes! I love mixed metaphors!), it’s a richer experience to stay in one place for a while.  There are many reasons to do that: enhancing the experience, really getting to see the ideas, not trying to cram in everything at once, improving skills. 

While, working in a series  might seem hard to do if it’s hard to pay attention to one thing for a concentrated period of time, there are ways around !!!  In the same way that our eyes continually flick about so we don’t habituate and see nothing, I think attention can focus on a number of things, but one should limit the number….and keep the things related.

I don’t think though that one should be working in a series just because the judges want to see “a body of work”!  For one thing, the phrase “body of work” has been sadly misused in the quilt world.  Basically it means an artist’s entire oeuvre – and while it would be good to submit all one hundred (or whatever) quilts one had made to the jurors for a specific show – I don’t think they’d ever get to go home on that one!!  For another – individual growth will develop straighter, more surely, more validly and honestly if one is not overshadowed by the imagined comments of a juror.  Don’t make the work for a juror…make it for yourself.  Make it your best shot at conveying that idea you had when you looked at the tree, or saw the rocks under water, or observed the pattern of shadows on the wall.  And, if you don’t get it the first time….try again – maybe from a different angle, maybe closer, or further away, or in a different light…

When entering a show, however, it is important that the judges not be confused by 3 very separate ideas.  They say this is because it’s evidence of a shallow oeuvre, and that might be so…but also it’s likely that it’s much harder to see the individual’s style with 3 very different pieces.  Furthermore, you might wonder about 3 different workshop influences, and it’s very hard to figure out which is the best piece when comparing apples and movies.  So there are  lots of reasons to enter 3 pieces from the same series. 

A series doesn’t have to be planned out all ahead of time, but I think certain parameters  either have to be set or will emerge.  If there’s no central idea, or nothing that relates one piece to another then it’s not a series.    It might well not be deliberate in the sense of  I Am Now Going To Do a Series…but it could be!  I think it more likely that the serial quiltmaker (of which I consider myself one!) gets fascinated by something and says after the completion of the first piece: “oh!! I wonder if I’d just looked at that from a different angle”….or: “if I’d just tried a different arrangement of those same shapes”….or “what if I just cropped that a little”….or perhaps: “hmmm, it doesn’t look bad but it doesn’t quite reveal what I saw that day…let me have another go..”.

If you keep making pieces where you didn’t quite get the idea across that you wanted, but you then abandon that idea and try something completely different, I don’t think you’ll progress.  It’s practice (i.e. repetition) that “makes perfect”, not dabbling.  Actually, the research shows us that it is both practice and coaching or critiquing that leads to improvement in performance – but that’s another issue!

Some people have commented that they’d feel very limited by only working on one series.  I totally agree!!  There are many examples of great painters, e.g. Gerhardt Richter, who work in different series simultaneously.  I definitely don’t want to “close” a series and in fact I’ve stopped dating my quilts because I don’t want to be chronologically constipated!  For the moment I have nothing more to “say” in the black/white timbered series…but one day something will spark.  I also began to feel I was repeating myself in the nighttime medieval street series and so have left that one alone for a while until a fresh idea occurs.  I am still very drawn to roofs and chimneys – and got several neat examples in Kendal on my last trip….so will definitely be going back to those ideas very soon.  Whereas the drowned city series were beginning to look like one another just too much, so that one may well be done.

Working in a series would be one way to help you define your style, but not the only way.  In fact I think developing a style tends to happen as one makes more and more work.    To define someone else’s style one might very much want to look at different series that they had made – to observe the consistencies across series.    I definitely think that it’s a good idea to become aware of one’s style, which I see to be a result of making specific technical, compositional and thematic decisions as you make more quilts.  I don’t think it would be very honest to try to force it, or to develop a style solely based on someone else’s.   In my workshop Inspiration to Fulfillment: developing your own style, we discuss how to look at your own and someone else’s work for evidence of a certain style.  I think a good pathway into it is to look at a catalogue without looking at the names of the makers and everytime you “know” that is a quilt by X or by Y, ask yourself how you “know” that?   If people say to me – you have a definite style, I ask them what it is that they see.  Style is a combination of a set of technical preferences, a tendency to solve problems in a particular way, and certain outlook on life.  This isn’t a single suit you put on, it’s a way of being in art that develops over time and work.


yikes! this is getting way too long!   If you have been, thanks for reading! and do please keep the comments coming!! thank you.   Elizabeth

Monday, June 15, 2009

Working in a Series: stages in development

Some years ago I was part of a group jurying artists and one of the main reasons that people were rejected was because their work was very scattered: One realistic piece about cows, one improv piece with random rectangles, one arashi shibori squares, one digital image etc.
There is a time for learning new techniques and exploring different types of work but sooner or later as an artist if you want to develop your skills, you have to focus in on one theme and one technique/format. You can't be an expert in growing dahlias if you have a garden with a flowering shrub, a rock plant, some annuals, a rose bush, 2 tomato plants and a row of potatoes - plus one dahlia! Nor will you become a rock and roll icon if you spend your 2 hours of practice per day on 15 different kinds of music! (well, that didn't work for me at least!).

To improve one's skills: you could practice the same thing over and over again - like the old Chinese story of a man who commissioned a scroll from a master painter.
Having paid over his money he went back the following week for the piece:
"oh", said the master, "it's not done yet".
A month later: "no, sir, sorry, not ready";
6 months went by: "not yet".
Finally, after a year, he marched into the artist's studio: "I'm not leaving till I have it!".
The master sighed, pulled out paper, ink and brush and with a flourish painted the scroll beautifully with a few elegant strokes.
|"But that took you no time! why did you not do it before?"
The master opened thedoor of the cupboard behind him, and out fell several hundred attempts at the same piece.

Though this is the way that an aria or lieder singer, or any classical musician would work, I know I, for one, don't have that kind of discipline!! Also, it does rather presuppose that one has the elegant whole completely in mind and that it's the execution alone that is important. However, it underscores the need for constant frequent practice. And there are definitely artists who have made the same work over and over again and become very good at it!! But there are two aspects to a piece: composition and execution.

So, I think working in a series gives one the practice with both execution and composition. Pedefining the parameters - particularly those involving the theme and, to some extent, the format will help you to stay on task. Decide what visual image really fascinates you. It could be shoes, skies, grids, puzzles, arrangements of triangles, photographs of old ladies, haystacks, icons like Marilyn Monroe, graffiti, pixelated portraits - look to the great artists and observe their themes. Look and see how they worked within a strict thematic focus and developed it but were able to examine different aspects of it at the same time. Monet's haystacks were observed in many different kinds of light, Warhol's Marilyn Monroe screenprints were in many different combinations of colours. Chuck Close's close up portraits were of different people....Thiebaud painted different kinds of cakes! Picasso and Mondrian rearranged similar elements.

Considered repetition will lead to improvement, and working in a series rather than repeating the exact same thing over and over is much more interesting!! I'll be exploring the possibilities of making better work by serializing at Quilting by the Lake in July -come join us!
And, if you have been, thanks for reading!! Elizabeth

Saturday, June 13, 2009

Why be an artist?

I do enjoy reading comments from readers - a dialogue is so much more interesting than a monologue! ( unless you're Hamlet contemplating why he should be!! )
Nine-Marie's comment on my last post :"it frustrates me that the people closest to me can't see the potential in a picture or scene that strikes me so strong" leads straight to the why of the artist's "be". I think one of an artist's chief goals is to communicate - to help others see what they cannot, do not or will not see.

Will not see - in the sense of conveying some very negative messages....how much more potent is Picassa's Guernica, or the photo of the naked running child in the Vietnam war..or Linda MacDonald's quilts about deforestation....than a factual newspaper account or 10 unnecessarily expensive pages (with "free" gift)from a charity seeking one's support. (sorry, need to get off the soap box on that one!). Most people do not want to think about such difficult things, but terrific impact can be gained in seconds from a compelling visual image.

Cannot see -many people are unable to appreciate the beauty that is around them, that as artists pulls our eyes constantly....it needs some education - and sadly art education has been cut from many schools- to know how to look. But if we can show them the vast landscape of beauty contained with a single small flower (Georgia O'Keefe), if we can say - this is how to look at things - observe the shapes, the colors, the values, the textures... then we can open their eyes. What magic!

Do not see - everyday life is so busy, and getting busier and busier - people work longer hours and take fewer vacations in the US than in any other "developed" country. When your focus is totally on the dragging minutiae of daily life and work you actually become less efficient - brief art and exercise breaks make a difference. Every work place should have good art displayed, and all the workers given a few minutes every couple of hours or so to stretch and appreciate it!! Also it should be moved around every few months so as to become unexpected. Any manager wanting to increase productivity - think on!!! (as they say in Yorkshire) - you could do a lot worse than buying some good art.

So whenever we think - ar are asked - Why am I doing this?
The overall reason is because Art is Vital.
The first purpose of making art is to Communicate.
Communicate beauty, surprise, enchantment to uplift and refresh but also to communicate horror, disgust, fear to help motivate people to change.

And I think the second thing (for me anyway) is to Develop skills so that the communication becomes ever more powerful and clear. Of course there are many other motives after that could be added to the list:money, fame and glory (ha!), personal growth, satisfaction and enjoyment (yes!).

well, if you have been - thanks for reading! And please comment! Elizabeth
(Sorry no pictures today, I'm writing from an alien computer).

Thursday, June 11, 2009

Inspiration: everything is grist

Do all who create – whether it be in threads, pigment, words or quavers – walk around constantly sensing possible ideas? Now, when I look at green, I think hmm could be viridian with a touch of burnt sienna….or maybe a mix of Sun yellow with Cotton black! Looking out of the train window on my trip to the UK I saw a great quilt! I’ve already made one about the cooling towers at Ferrybridge.....................


(Actually, it’s going to be in the SAQA show (or maybe one of the SAQA shows!) at the Festival of Patchwork in Birmingham this August. I won’t be there, by the way…but maybe…. next year!)

.......................................................................................so it was fascinating to see another possible Ferrybridge quilt from the train from York to Birmingham:

uk 09 232 uk 09 233 uk 09 234

My first glimpse…including the back of the seat! don’t think I’ll include that! but that line of trees is quite nice, in the second picture, the towers line up too much but there are some interesting other verticals, and in the third picture I saw the wonderful contrast between the field of rape, the trees, the towers and the clouds!

I also saw some wonderful chimneys and rooftops!! Lots of inspirations….here’s just one from Kendal – the two people looked a little surprised thinking I was taking their photo!

uk 09 003

There’s some definite possibilities…..but I also like the stone cottage below with the sky and the road to the loch!! (This is Iona, about 10.30 pm!)

uk 09 096

Seeing other people’s artwork is also inspiring. I visited the National Patchwork museum in York and saw their current show: Pearls, Pearls, Pearls. Each quilt had a pearly theme which made for lots of circles and beautiful pearly colours! Most interestingly, at least 3 people had sought further inspiration from poetry. Given the pearl theme, they had researched how poets had dealt with the image. A good way of approaching a task through a different sense – so that way you wouldn’t get overly influenced by how someone else had dealt with the theme. My favorite piece though was Kaffe Fassett’s pearl button vest: blog kaffe

I could certainly see myself wearing that!! The only thing was, he had only put buttons on the front and I think you’d need some on the back too so that the front didn’t pull down with the weight.

Can you still buy pearl buttons by the jam jar full? You used to be able to just dip your jar into a big box for a dollar or so…or am I just showing my age!

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

Tuesday, June 9, 2009

Getting back into studio routine

Getting back into studio routine is so tough after a long trip! I just got home after 4 weeks in the UK including two weeks in Western Scotland in the most beautiful scenery. 

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This is the beach on the north western tip of Iona – it really was that beautiful, that sunny and that empty!!!
Iona is a tiny island off Mull (a much bigger island) in Scotland.  Many of these islands have been settled for centuries.  On Iona a monastic community was first developed in 563 AD  by St. Columba.  From this beginning Celtic Christianity spread to Scotland and on to Europe.  His original wooden buildings were replaced by a stone abbey begun around 1200 AD – this has now been fully restored.  The island takes some getting to!!  About 12 hours and 7 different forms of transport…..but so inspiring, so endlessly fascinating.

The island has glorious walks in every direction, open spaces of daisy covered fields and sky – but maybe too beautiful to try to copy, in any medium.  should one even try?  Isn’t it the artist’s task to show beauty where we might not have seen?…  rather than make a pallid attempt at describing such awesome natural beauty?  Perhaps it would be a more valid task to attempt to show a more personal or limited aspect, not the overall grandeur of the landscape.  I found as I sat on the beach attempting one watercolour after another that I needed to simplify more and more each time – have you seen Georgia O’keefe’s watercolours – where she describes the entire arc of the sky in one tremendous whoosh of colour?  Oh, to reach the whoosh!!!

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One day I took a boat trip to Staffa and clambered along the path (holding grimly onto the rail!) into Fingal’s Cave: that’s me on the right with my five layers of clothing!

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After Iona, I stayed a week on Knoydart – a very remote peninsula with no roads – we came in on a RIB (rigid inflatable boat) eating fish and chips (of course!):uk 09 160  - this is the jetty – and look at those wonderful rain clouds!!!





Talking to the postman (mailman) one day I was thrilled to learn that Ian McEwan (a favorite author of mine) was going to give a rare reading of his work at the village hall later in the week.  What a treat! and how unexpected!!  The  tiny hall was packed with 50 or so locals and summer visitors. Ian read from the book he is working on right now – beautifully – a wonderful reader.  The book is about global warming and he has done an amazing amount of research, spending a year or more on a ship in polar ice (I’m sorry I’ve forgotten which pole!).   He answered loads of questions  about his research,  writing experiences, filming experiences, many anecdotes etc.  Despite admitting to being “very dark”, he can be really funny.  He stated that he was definitely getting warmer as he got older – but maybe that’s because of the climate!     It was interesting that his creative process in writing a book is not dissimilar to that of creating a visual piece in that he would determine a main theme, secondary points of interest, ways into the story, balance, scale and harmony and contrast – all the important things for visual composition.  

And now…to get back into the Discipline of Studio Routine – but with such inspiration and expanded vision…
If you have been, thanks for reading!!  I’ll put up more pictures, and talk about the trip to the Patchwork Museum in York in a day or two.