Tuesday, July 20, 2010
What are the compositional questions that bedevil you?
I'm laptopping from Canada where I'm enjoying cooler air...and sailing on Lake Ontario....but still thinking about how to make better quilts..
If we take the composition of a quilt apart we see that it is composed of only a few elements, but like any chemical composition those few elements can be designed into an immense variety of arrangements.
One of the main elements is color and I’ve noticed that a lot of people struggle with colour:
some are addicted :
“Colour is why I make quilts, colour is totally what attracts me….”
They use so much colour their quilts sound like a brass band 2 feet away – everything blaring at the same time.. Yes it sure does knock your socks off…and everything else too!
Some are very uncertain and play too safe, often resulting in pastel mud!
“ I always make mistakes with colour, I’m never quite happy that I have the colours right”.
Others keep using the same palette over and over and the colour is too predictable – it is good to have a little unexpected taste in there mix!
A common problem is only to think about hue…and not consider the other properties of colour: value, intensity and temperature. This is a little like thinking only about size and colour of a meal. A quarter of a plate of green, a quarter orange a quarter brown and a quarter white!! Yes, I’ve noticed that’s the plan most airlines use….!
Many people cannot see the difference between a warm yellow and a cool one, or a warm red and a cool one. To them, the concept of temperature within colour is as strange as thinking of hot ice, or cool fire.
You are losing a dimension if you can’t use all the properties. It’s like having a machine and only using it for one thing – sadly, of course, machines now come with so many twiddly bits and add on functions that require a mathematical equation to figure out that I fear we have become used to ignoring anything other than one or two possibilities. Give yourself time to explore it all!!!
And, Sadly, too many people allow themselves to be limited by what they have in their stash. I think the answer is to be more purposeful when dyeing, or purchasing fabric. Don’t be seduced by pretty patterns! (unless you want to make a quilt about pretty patterns of course!! In which case go ahead!!) But you’ll have less problems if you Think about your palette!
And I do think it would be hard to have full control over colour if you can’t dye your own fabric – especially trying to get good gradations in value. If you are not in a situation to dye fabric at home, check out your local art center’s facilities..many have an art room with large sinks, etc. Working only with purchased fabric is a bit like making a meal from only packaged prepared foods.
Other common problems involve contrast: too much or too little between adjacent colours. It’s important to be sensitive about the effect one colour has upon another: a tiny smidge of this or that can often make all the difference.
I’ve only covered a few of the common problems with colour…and I’ve written enough for one post! So please comment and tell me what difficulties you run into when composing a piece – whether you do it on paper first, or directly onto the design wall. What are the battles you fight with colour, with value, with shape and line? What gradations and proportional puzzles haunt your dreams? Describe your unsolved crimes and mysteries and let’s see what we can figure out!! I love a good conundrum.
And… If you have been, thanks for reading! Elizabeth