Thursday, January 26, 2017


Finding the right direction!

 We're all trying to find the right direction....and, as a result, in my classes (especially the online ones), I do a lot critiquing.    I seem to see  the same mistakes made over and over..hmm.. perhaps mistakes is the wrong word!  Rather - I feel that some of the designs and compositions just don't work as well as they might.

One of the most obvious problems is that of dividing the Picture plane–(I know that is art speak but it is a useful term so let's use it!)  The Picture plane is simply the whole area of your quilt top. It is that two-dimensional space  upon which you are creating the design.

Having a horizon in the exact middle of the Picture plane or a vertical line (such as the edge of a building)  divides the area precisely into two equal amounts.  Two equal areas that are similar are not as interesting as Unequal divisions.  We like a little variety or novelty...we're hard wired that way!  We pay more attention if things aren't quite predictable.

Split into two horizontally - Boring! and a bit confusing...what is  the quilt about?

High Horizon - much more interesting!

So put your dividing line/horizon line or edge of building line...whatever it is...slightly off center.  Some text books recommend dividing the picture plane into thirds, other recommend fifths.  I think either can work depending on what you want to emphasize.  In the image above I've shown the horizon line just 1/5th from the top of the picture plane.

If it's about an amazing sky pattern...then don't have the horizon in the middle: sky and land equally important - give the sky more space.      Or if the sky isn't important but it's the landscape ...then give it more space...maybe 2/3 of  the picture plane, or even 4/5. 

I  have a high horizon line in the quilt below,  this time it was about 1/3 down from the top.

Electric Fields
And here is a small framed piece with a low horizon line:

Another problem with dividing the space up equally is then you can end up with two quilts!  The right hand one and the left hand one, each side being equally important....because you (the artist) have not indicated which is more important.  Now occasionally you can use this device if you have a message you want to convey: e.g. something like War and Peace...the quilt divided into two equally with one side representing one thing, the other the other....showing that these alternatives are equally possible.  But we are rarely wanting to communicate that.  so think!! Just what are you trying to tell people about? 

In the quilt below, I was actually trying to communicate hard vs soft, industry vs nature or man:

Double exposure: spire
I do see a conflict in our need for power and our need for a more spiritual or natural life...and so I deliberately split the picture place equally in two.
But more generally: an unequal division will work better

A summer Day, long ago...

So.....keep your divisions unequal and you'll be just fine!!
And now for a nice cuppa tea.....and perhaps a little piano practice -  gotta prevent the pedagogue from tearing his hair out over me!!

If you have been, thanks for reading.....

PS...please do let me know about your experiences with splitting the picture plane......


Anonymous said...

Hi Elizabeth... I really appreciate your critiques of my work as well as of the other participants in your excellent "Mod Meets
Improv" class. I am learning so much in the class as well as here in your blog. Glad I remembered to check in. I would love to take your abstract class at AQ but want to fully soak up all the great material and exercises in MMI first. . Will you be offering the abstract class again?
Val from Southern NM

Elizabeth Barton said...

Hi Val - hope you get this message!! Yes most of my classes repeat twice per year, the new ones (like Mod Meets Improv where we had to close the class because it was full) we'll run 3 times if we can. It's all by popular if there's something you want...speak up!!!!
I'm so glad Mod Meets Improv is generating such wonderful designs and work from the's a joy to open the class folder and see what is happening!!!

Anonymous said...

All credit to your talent, class content and great critiques, Elizabeth! Should I let AQ know I am interested in your abstract class at a later date? Also I believe I will be able to access MMI lessons on the site even after the class is over?
Love the picture of you in the boat! Really enjoyed the abstract art in your other post. You are very lucky to have such great museums nearby.
Hope to quilt all day today.

Elizabeth Barton said...

You can access the classes for 2-3 weeks after the end of the class, but not forever. However you can download and print out as much as you like.
yes, just contact the Dean about the abstract class, she'll have the schedule and know when registration is open.
yes I loved trying to sail that little boat....alas boat, the "captain" and the opportunities to sail now all gone, we really have to Carpe Diem (seize the day!).
Thanks for your comments!!