Wednesday, January 28, 2009

Further notes on Feedback: use the whole brain!

There have been some very interesting comments on the last two blogs and I’ll attempt to respond to some of them!

Marina suggests that personality type may underlie whether you work analytically or intuitively. And Wolf Kahn (not in a comment! but here) also indicates he works very intuitively:

“I just work here! I don’t constantly judge my work”.

He advocates that you

“follow the brush, don’t keep imposing your will”.

While I definitely think that constantly judging would soon drive you batty (!) as well as dry up all creativity, there comes a point where you must stand back and evaluate.

Antoine de Saint-Exupery wrote that

“a designer knows he has achieved perfection not when there is nothing left to add but when there is nothing left to take away”.

To me this implies a cold hard look at every shape or mark (or word!) or sliver of stone to see if the piece is “just right”. I think true intuition is a high level of experience where the judgment has become somewhat automatic and instinctive. But I don’t see that as an instinct one is born with, rather a skill that has been honed over years! Think about writing – very few people, in fact probably no one!, can sit down and write a story that has everything you need to see the characters, follow the plot etc and nothing extra. If you read potboilers (and there are plenty of them out there – virtually the whole of a well known “best seller list”!), you will see all the extra comments, repetitions, unnecessary details like the kind of shoes the heroine wore, or fluff like “she took off her coat and hung it in the clothes cupboard on one of three matching coat hangers made of plastic”.

When you make a quilt, or a painting or whatever, you begin with a rough value sketch and a lot of possibilities, gradually you eliminate the ones that don’t work, or are superfluous, and find the elements that are absolutely necessary to the Main Idea. Your brain should be operating on all channels: where you have enough experience to work intuitively, then go with the flow, get in the zone! Where you are stuck, pull back and instead of floundering, helplessly grabbing at every bit of flotsam and jetsam!, (yes I’ve seen those quilts! and made them too!!) , get the analytic side of the brain going to help you find the next right step.

I also think it’s good to choose a point at which to stand back and evaluate the whole thing…for me that point is usually at the beginning of the day when I can see the piece with (somewhat) fresh eyes. “Ok, how is it looking?”

While I can’t find a sequence of in process pictures at present ( I take them, but then dump them!), I do have a couple I can use to illustrate some points.

Here's a start I made on one called "Beehive":

I kinda like the scattered feel here now and was fascinated to read that Wolf Kahn says he likes chaos!

"An artist should have the courage to celebrate mess - create chaos out of order! Order is too predictable..."

At the time, however, I was interested in the idea of the city being more like a beehive with all the little workers located in their own little channels within the hive, so I discarded some of the above elements and repeated others:

With the one below, I felt I had added in extra unnecessary extraneous and redundant (!) material since my main interest was in the rhythm of the chimney I cut off the bottom section and yes! I had not used my brain but just gone blindly ahead, and bound it and sewn a sleeve on the bottom, so all that had to come off too! But I do think the later version is much more concise.

I will try to take a series of process pictures on the next the moment it's just a bunch of sketches on the wall, and I'm trying to decide which one I find the most interesting and see if I dare to risk chaos!

and if you have been! thanks for reading,


Jackie said...

Excellent! Very helpful! Thank you, thank you! Being intentional doesn't mean never responding to feelings and intuition; it means to actively evaluate those efforts along with the more rationally made ones. We're making art here, not tractors, but still, we need to learn how to see what we're doing. Thanks for teaching.

Connie in Alabama said...

Your writings address what I've been trying for the past 6 months, trying to work intuitively initially, playing "like a 12-year-old," as someone in a class recently said. I let it rest overnight, and then bring in the analytical part, looking at composition, too much detail, etc. I reach a point that I like it, sew it together but not quilt it, and then put it away to revisit later. And this is when the trouble begins, because then I want to improve it more, to perhaps cut it up, add another figure, and so I'm reluctant to get on with quilting it. How do we know when to stop with the analysis and finish it?

Nina Marie said...

After trying the rough sketch method this summer, I find it so useful. Before I was relying on intuition only when it came to my designs. What was happening though, was that I could "feel" a design would be weak but I would have no clue why. Now with taking hours roughly sketching a bunch of design possibilities, I can use my intuition AND the design elements to chose the one I want to explore more. I guess - for me - its always about balance. (go figure LOL!)