Saturday, June 27, 2009

I am NOT a camera!

I don’t like entering those shows where one has to put one’s work into a category: abstract, pictorial, traditional, innovative etc. I think of my quilts mainly in an abstract way. Yes, sure, I begin with a photograph of a group of buildings, chimney tops or industrial buildings that has caught my eye…but my interest is beyond that surface description and way beyond what the camera actually caught.

rainyrainynight 300

What intrigues me is usually a dynamic arrangement of shapes, particularly where there’s a mixture of skinny shapes and block like shapes where they’re interacting with one another. The fact that’s it’s a building is of far less significance.


I like the way the chimney pots poke into the sky in a rhythmic way – especially when there’s some syncopation going on - as there invariably is when rooftops don’t exactly coincide.

Industrial buildings often involve complex diagonal and unexpected twists and turns. Often there are odd connections between large shapes – quite fascinating and with their own erratic beauty. It’s good to spot something that catches one’s imagination, to see a beauty where no one else has noticed, and finally to be able to convey it to others.

steelyardfrieze 300

I I love looking at paintings where the artist has shown me something I had not seen. I’m especially fascinated by seeing a photograph of the original scene and then the painting side by side. Then you can truly realize the skills of the artist. The colours are richer, the boring irrelevancies and uglinesses are omitted, shadows are mysteriously full of colour – not just a drab grey pall. The artist rearranges the objects slightly to form an interlocking pattern of intriguing negative and positive shapes. Instead of the flat tonal plain evident in a photograph, remember the reality of simmering textures and dipping shadows.

durham castle


It’s important to be able to articulate what it is about a scene that captivates you; otherwise it might get lost in overly laborious and concrete rendition of the parts. It’s necessary to sort out the freshness or the mystery from the merely mundane. Don’t lose that observation!! Hold it, keep it, present it!

When we look at something we’re not standing there on one leg with one eye shut (well, at least I’m not!) – but this is the camera’s view. Instead we’re looking around an object – try looking through one eye and then the other – you’ll be amazed at the two very different views. Now, how to portray both of those views? Also you’re not standing still…there are always subtle movements, the landscape moves and changes constantly. How to convey that? Don’t lose this dynamism with a flat, still, one eyed view!

For more pictures of my quilts, please take a look at my website…..and, if you have been, thanks for reading!! and ….don’t forget the comments!! Read with interest and pleasure! Elizabeth


Nina Marie said...

Every once in a while I will make a piece that will lean more toward the realistic side. The problem with that is then it seems I have people comparing it exactly with the actual subject. Although I have seen fiber pieces that look quite real its not as easily done as with other medium. The one thing that strikes me the most is faces. If a face on piece isn't done just right - it will through the whole design off.

Jackie said...

Well said!! Thank you for your clear articulation of my feelings as well! Yes, they are buildings, it is a city street, but it's also shapes and lines and blocks and colors, shadows and light. Some of my work is to evoke how I felt standing there, not how it looked exactly. Thank you!

Anonymous said...

Stunning pieces. I really enjoyed reading your analysis of how one sees, the different ways of seeing. Your images seem to vibrate with vitality, and you have definitely captured this mystery and magic. That is really what art is all about. There are so many different ways of perceiving and expressing a scene or an image. What renders the art as special and original comes from the artist's unique interpretation.

Ellen Lindner said...

Elizabeth, you do SUCH a good job of utilizing the process you've described! I loved seeing the actual photo and resulting quilt at the bottom of your post. They clearly show your talent and vision!