The old problem: you’ve lost a wallet in a field somewhere – how should you find it? (we’re assuming no tracking devices!!)
Where d’you look for a solution?(there aren’t many at the top of a mast!). so…do you…
Race around madly?
Retrace the footprints?
Methodically quarter the area?
Find out how other people have solved it?
Get friends to help you?
Give up and say you never like that wallet anyway?
There are different ways to learn and to find out the answers to those questions as artists we pose ourselves every day. And there are different ways of finding the solution. It’s true sometimes trial and error is best but often a more methodical approach is less frustrating. Let’s take a look at which of the above works best when!
Racing around madly
Believe it or not, I have seen folk doing this – they don’t know what color a certain section of the quilt they’re blocking out on the wall should be and so they run back and forth to their stash trying this and trying that. The pile of discarded fabrics grows ever larger around their feet – but then voila! And eureka! (depending on your preference for French or Greek!) you find the Right Piece! It’s magic, there it is…or …wasn’t this the one you tried in the first place?
Retrace the footprints
I’m very fond of this method. You always begin with a nice cup of tea, then you sit down with your notebook of Past Works…you don’t have such a notebook? Shame on you! Stop all else and start printing them out now..one to a page, into sheet protectors and into the notebook or file folder! My Quilts! (or, if you eschew the Q word: My Art)
Eniow – back to the notebook. Have you had this problem before? How did you solve it last time? What did you think of the solution you arrived at then? How does it look in the piece? Can you try it with the new work on the wall?
Again, a cuppa is a prerequisite! You’re looking for the right fabric for a certain area, ask yourself one by one: what value it should be ? light, medium or dark? What color temperature should it be? Warm or cool? Saturated or greyed colour? Should the fabric have a definite texture or pattern, and if so at what scale? Or should it be blurry and background in nature?
Once you have established the above facts then you can address the stash – which (I hope) is sorted out clearly so that a limited number of candidates for the missing piece can soon be found and assessed.
Find out how other people have solved it
The training of your eye is essential both to really see what other artists are doing and have done and also to create fresh work of your own. Knowing what has been achieved helps you to find your own solutions much more quickly. It’s important to develop what is known as “the cultivated eye”. See as much art as you can. Look to see how the Grand Masters have solved problems like yours. A wide knowledge of art will always help you find a solution to your problem today. If people ask me what they can do to improve their work: obviously practice it, but also know the field – especially modern art where artists have set themselves all kinds of problems to solve.
Intuition is the result of relaxing one’s critical eye, getting into the zone and a lot of experience. If you have a lot of experience, then I suggest you switch on some music, relax, lie back and look around you and see what catches your eye as being the Right Piece. Intuition is the apparent ability to understand something immediately and to find a solution to a problem, without obviously conscious reasoning. It is accepted generally to be a right brain activity therefore switching off one’s critique will help!
The reliability of intuition, however is dependent upon both knowledge and experience of similar situations. Someone who has a great knowledge of gardening may just “know” what a certain plant needs in order to thrive without having to figure it out. A busy doctor in the emergency department (medicine still being more art than science!) will “know” instantly that this patient has a case of X disease even before the tests come back. More knowledge doesn’t always mean a better answer of course, but the likelihood of its being so is much greater.
Get friends to help you
Well of course the Beatles knew that “a little bit of help from my friends” would get you through a lot of problems. And many have found that critique groups, formal or informal are a great way to problem solve. When someone other than yourself looks at your work they only see the work, they don’t see the frustrated hopes and dreams, the various things you’ve tried and failed, the wrong directions you have taken. They can just look at what you’ve got so far in much purer design terms. They don’t have the dross blurring their vision (nothing like a choice mixed metaphor!).
Give up and say you never liked that wallet anyway
There’s nothing wrong with this – as long as you don’t do it every time!! Some ideas just aren’t strong enough to make it all the way through. But most will, with a little bit of time and coaxing. Listen to yourself if this is the answer you come up with. Is this your usual way out of design difficulties? If so, then seek an answer above…if this is a fairly rare occurrence for you and you feel you started a piece for all the wrong reasons - a group challenge you really didn’t want to do , a red piece when you’re in a blue mood and so on, then stuff the whole thing into the thrift store bag and have done with it!
I do hope you find your wallet! If it’s a nice sunny day – it’s glorious here – maybe give up the search for a while, stretch out on the grass and contemplate nature….. So if you have been, thanks for reading! Elizabeth
PS after 14 million pieces of spam and emails from readers saying they were getting spam as a result of reading my blog, I have had to put back on the step of typing out a few numbers and letters from a photograph before you comment. But believe me doing this will only increase your visual intelligence! So – please, feel free to comment!