Thursday, October 30, 2008

Simplicity, style and personality

The view from my window and the ideas in my brain this morning!

Style is like your handwriting – when you write you don’t think of the calligraphy but rather of what you have to say. The same is true in quiltmaking . (once you have learned to string the letters together!!) The important things are to feel strongly and richly but see simply and clearly. Think of some of the paintings that remain in our mind’s eye for ever: Hokusai’s Great Wave. A strong clear idea…nothing extra. No cute details!

Color is also very individual. Although, people see colours somewhat differently having slightly different physiology their preferences and choices are very individual and personal. You could probably take each of the 5 elements (line, shape, value, colour, texture) and each of the ways in which those elements can be organized and see strong individual differences. One person likes thin lines, another prefers a very heavy edge. Another prefers shapes and blocks of colour. One works in squares and triangles, another in bold diagonals. Some like big pieces, small like small. Some like muted colours, some work in limited complementary schemes. Some like lots of texture, some plain colour. Think of the quilt makers you know and love and observe their preferences.

Can personality be read from these choices in the same way handwriting experts purports to be able to tell what kind of person you are from your handwriting? Do optimists slope forward and pessimists lean back? It’s interesting to speculate and certainly some general themes are evident. You can definitely get a sense of how careful or bold a person is – but “reading” a design beyond such generalities would be an impossible task because of the huge number of variables. However, to look at a quilt of your own in process and ask “ what does this quilt say about me and my view of the subject?t” is worthwhile.

Are we saying what we feel about the subject and are we doing it in the simplest way? Often the most striking work is the simplest. One magnificent simple idea - where you say “that sums it all up”!. Where you remember the piece for a long time…

Omit the superfluous – for it is!

Describe only the essentials – i.e. the essentials for you in your response to the object. One person could look at a tree and see blocks of colour, another the individual leaves, another the lines made by the branches. Some like to look up as if they are sheltering beneath, others like to see the tree across a meadow, others like rows of trees, others like their trees espaliered. Others want to see flowers or fruit. It is what you see, and wish to make a piece about, that is important.

But: make it beautiful and make it simple!

Pick out what is important and arrange it well!

I very often start with a sketch of all the obvious elements in a scene – but as I block the quilt out on the design wall, then I begin to simplify. Not only would it make the piece boring if I put everything in – but it would weaken my message. Only those things that really stick in my memory, the “abiding qualities” will I choose – well…in an ideal situation!

And, if you have been, thanks for reading! Elizabeth


Deb Lacativa said...

I've often wondered if someone viewing my body of work might send the Men with Nets someday.

Elizabeth Barton said...

there arn't any men with Nets anymore, they all have guns now!!
vote vote vote!!!