Monday, September 18, 2017

Two mediums, one imagination

Looking back over the last few years as to what was the greatest help to me in learning to create better compositions for my art quilts, one of the most important things was learning to paint.
 And, latterly, learning to play piano.  There are a number of factors that apply to all creative endeavours......  many goals and techniques that will transfer from one medium to the other.  

One of the things I've learned from piano lessons is the importance of contrast: loud vs soft, fast versus slow, staccato vs legato.....all of these things occur in the fiber arts too!  Without contrast, whether it's of value, or shape, or opacity, or quality of line, color, edge quality and so on, a piece rapidly becomes boring.  Imagine the one note Samba all at the exact same volume and aural quality - ugh!!! and how many quilts have I seen that looked just like that...b...o...r...i...n...g!

One of the attributes I love in watercolours is transparency and  the sense of mystery that this conveys.   Transparency is (relatively!) easily achieved in watercolour painting,

and I think it should be possible in quilting too.  I used a lot of transparent elements in Gathering Storm (below).  And in Electric Fields (detail below)




 I also used a lot of contrast...of value especially in Gathering storm.....whereas in the cooling towers the values are similar but I have contrasted soft edges within the markings on the towers with the hard edges that outline the towers

I do love dyeing and screen printing and have the stash to prove it!  I find screen printing especially magic, as you lift up the screen, you have really little idea (well, I have little idea!) as to what amazing image I will reveal!

I particularly like to overlay prints and also have developed some ways of printing with various cut out shapes sticking on the screen, then picking them off  full of dye, reversing them and printing with another colour.  All very messy and so much fun!!  The more imperfect the print, the happier I am!

This is a detail of the screen printed base layer of the piece I’m about to start work on;  I’m thinking of layering more with organza, and maybe some opaque elements too.  We’ll see where it goes!  I’ve got some good rich saturated colour for the focal area, and need to achieve a greater range of lights and darks..sticking with my urban theme.


One of the other things I just love in music are the was said of one pianist that while he missed many notes, his pauses were wonderful!  Well in watercolor the space is the white paper....  I’ve not often used white much in quilts – apart from the black and white series I did a couple of years ago (example on right).  Modern Quilts use a lot of white to great effect.

Negative space is very very powerful in a quilt... and I have always had a great awareness of the negative space and the quiet areas -  so important in a painting  - in music, in poetery, even in stand up comedy.   
And so…. What are you up to??  Is anyone else so foolish as to try to apply learning from one medium to another?    How well did it work?
And, if you have been, thanks for reading…………………Elizabeth


irene macwilliam said...

A lot of content to think about in your post. I like the idea of looking at one skill and seeing if the things one has to learn apply to working with textiles. from Irene in Northern Ireland

Elizabeth Barton said...

It's fascinating to try to apply the concepts of good design to many different areas, I think you get a new understanding of them all! thank you for commenting Irene...that's my middle name! and there are few of us about! Elizabeth

Melanie McNeil said...

I am trying to learn how to tell stories better, both with my quilts and with my words. At this point I am most satisfied with my quilts when they tell a story. It is enough that *I* know the story, but so much better if others can see one, too.

My husband and I recently had a long conversation with friends who are instrumental jazz musicians and educators. I asked them about story telling in their music, how intentional that is, and how they teach it. One of them talked about the importance of pauses and the phrasing that allows. She said if you were singing the music rather than playing it, you would naturally have pauses, if only to breathe. When you play, you also need to "breathe" because that is part of what creates the story.

Elizabeth Barton said...

yes the breathing space...for us the negative space...really helps to make the exciting bits even more pungent, more art, in song, in music, in novels and plays.......great observation Melsnie...thank you!

Heather Dubreuil said...

I've been "exploring" abstract imagery with paint and collage for the last year or two. My intention was to develop a vocabulary of abstract images that I could then transfer to my work with cloth. Along the way I became quite seduced by the medium of acrylic collage. I like the "brushiness" one can achieve with paint.

I feel that I might finally be getting some traction with fibre again. No "brushiness" but I am relying on the depth and subtlety of hand-dyed linen to get that surface interest. Spare compositions, just a few simple abstract shapes.

One of the aspects of branching out to another medium that is never mentioned is how your art-based social groups can shift. Fibre friends may not understand why the heck you're messing around with that paint, and painting friends wonder what ever drew you to work with cloth! If you establish a reputation, however local, in one medium it can be a bit scary to let that go and "start all over" in another medium. But of course these skills are all transferable, building on each other, and I think straddling different mediums is an excellent stimulus for growth. Many of the best artists have stretched themselves by exploring other media: Chagall, Picasso and Matisse are just the first three who come to mind.

Elizabeth Barton said...

Thank you for commenting Heather - and you are so right...why be exclusive to one art form...since so much is learned across the different media...I like the painterly look (so called) too...I wonder if it could be achieved with hand stitching? ...the sense of one shape gradually drifting into another...
and while technical craftsman skills may not be so transferable, undoubtedly compositional skills would be. I've always understood visual art in musical terms, now I'm studying music too I'm beginning to realise that one can understand it in visual terms! EAch piece, for example, has a focal fact each phrase does needs unity in music...after all what is harmony but unity?!! but you also need some tension...and the same with a murder mystery! Good luck with your multi-media future!

Karen Perrine said...

Excellent thoughts! Thanks

Molly said...

I've done some creative writing, and your comment about tension in a murder mystery sparked some associations. In writing, things like pacing can translate to breathing, or negative, space. Not only each story, but each scene needs a conflict (focal point) in addition to some kind of tension (lights and darks), and the story needs an overall structure (composition). Word choices and sentence length set the mood and tone of the story, just as our colors and lines set the mood and tone of our artwork. Lots of food for thought here, and I can see how the skill sets of required for one or more forms of art can easily transfer into textile art as well. Thanks for another thought provoking post, Elizabeth.

Elizabeth Barton said...

Thank you Karen! hope you are no longer so smoky!!
And thank you Molly....fascinating to see the parallels...I shall enjoy reading all the more. Plus we must all eschew the trite - in every medium!!!