Wednesday, May 28, 2014


I'm at Quilt Surface Design Symposium in Columbus Ohio for the week - with some very keen and very talented ladies!!!  My class is about turning inspirations into art work.  Inspiration is everywhere, not just in the great scenes of nature - which are hard to work with anyway - it's better to visit the Real Thing!!  But rather in the little every day things.  I think Georgia O'Keefe's painting of the black door in the snow (there are a million posters of it!)

It's a painting that really demonstrates the beauty of subtle scenes.
And this is something that the students in my Master class have been doing - with great results!!

Keep your eyes open!  Look for large simple shapes and clear value patterns...don't focus in on details.  Keep your mind attentive to those things that catch your eye - don't miss them in your hurry from point A to point B!

 Look for an unusual shape or juxtaposition of shapes - I'm looking out at the slanted side of a building which is really intriguing...alas I cannot show it for I left my Card Reader at home!!

Look for great color combinations, or the effect of one bright spark of color in a rather duller background.    Always ask yourself what it is about the scene that you find interesting?  Would it make a good design, What would you want to communicate in your art about this scene?

Why is this catching your eye?  And how?  You can use the answers to further your own artwork.  Try to record and remember those very personal first impressions of a specific scene for they will form the backbone or theme upon which the art quilt is based.

It is important to be aware of your emotional response for the work should be about what is important to you –otherwise why make it?   Art happens where your emotional response is added to your original straight forward visual impression.  I know that it's often hard to put words to your feelings about a scene, but the more you practice the easier it gets – and you need to know what those feelings are before you can make art about it!  Don't just think "Oh I like this" or "Oh I don't like that!"  Always question yourself: why do you like it, what is it about it that really grabs you, delights you, titillates you!!

Remember that when you're working from a photo - you don't have to be Literal!!!  Make a rough sketch as to how you would really like the scene to be arranged, leaving out awkward bits, maybe adding to some of the beautiful sections...and make your art based on that sketch rather than the photo!!  It's helpful to really push your emotional expression.  Whatever elements you use to express the feeling: shape, or line, value or color - push it a that you can make the idea into something really special.

And oh !  like I've written so many times, people get so literal about color!!!!  They'll nod their heads and make their notes as I talk about this and then go right back to the design board, matching fabric to the original photo!!!  Work from your sketch - a sketch without color, but with the values indicated.  Work from a black/white photocopy....hide the original away from yourself!!!

A good composition is the result of adding, subtracting, moving or changing what’s in the photo - not just copying!!!  Let your inspiration Inspire you, not Dictate to you!!

next week I hope to show photos from my QSDS class......
And, if you have been, thanks for reading!!!  Elizabeth

PS Several folk have asked me about my online classes with Academy of Quilting - here is the link:


Chris said...

I am surprised that no one commented on this blog.

You are right about using the photo as inspiration rather than trying to copy it. Taking out, rearranging, and adding are all good ideas. It has taken me a long while to move away from copying the photo because I think I was assuming that nature had it right and who am I to change it? Now I know that nature does not always make a great composition and I can make it better. Also now I tend to pick photos that have a pretty good composition to begin with. That does make them easier to work with.

Moving away from the colors in the photo I think is harder. One of the things that attracts us to the photo is the color so I think we try to duplicate it. Of course we can choose any colors that we want. I find that I am fascinated by nature quilts done by others that do not have realistic colors in them. I usually think I would not have thought of doing that scene in those colors. I am learning to open my mind to working in unconventional colors. Good suggestion to work with a sketch with values or a black and white photo and to hide the original photo.

Anonymous said...

Thanks for the post but about the sketching, what if one cannot draw? I use photos because I cannot draw and get proportions beyond kindergarden stage. Thanks

kay said...

Anonymous, you could start by tracing a photo - just the outline of the main shapes - in pencil. That may make it easier to continue on your own, subtracting and rearranging as desired. Just a suggestion. That blank page can seem so daunting when trying to figure out how best to begin!

Elizabeth Barton said...

Tracing is a good way. If you cannot draw and you need to draw, then probably drawing lessons would help. It's a skill like any other, you have to learn it, and then practice it frequently. but I think you can get by without being an excellent drawer.
There are also lots of books on learning to draw. It does help you to really see things and appreciate their relationships to each other.