Tuesday, November 10, 2009

Charles Hawthorne on adding beauty

I’ve been reading some of the timeless advice given by Charles Hawthorne to artists (Hawthorne on Painting)..much of the book refers to specific paintings – which we can’t see – and so it’s hard to learn from them but there are so many good points overall.  I think often we get more focussed on entering shows and agonizing over rejects (yes, I too was rejected from Fibrearts International – but I know I’m in good company!) and finishing work for this or that event that we forget about the Main Task.  It’s hard sometimes to remember what it’s all about! 

Hawthorne points out that it’s important to look for subjects everywhere:
Anything under the sun is beautiful if you have the vision”. 
Dominie Nash and I have been exploring unlikely places for beauty and this will be the theme of our show at the Festival of Quilts in Birmingham, UK next year – if we can figure out a reasonable way to ship the quilts and also get them there and back through customs without being charged duty – I’ve heard horror stories!  We’re calling our show Elusive Beauty
I think we were both frustrated by the easy charm of landscapes and I certainly was well aware that some of my medieval street scenes were bordering on cute. Ugh! to be anything but Cute!   So now I’m quite fascinated by industrial landscapes – especially the ones that are disappearing so quickly in the western world: the steel mills and their immensity, the collieries with the winding wheel macabrely echoing the sinister wheel of fortune – O fortuna!  Dominie is exploring  clutter in domestic scenes: be careful if she visits you!

Hawthorne feels the goal of the artist is to provide art that helps people through the boring routine of their lives, to give them a jolt and make them take notice of what is around them.  Above all to make them believe  beauty can be found everywhere.  I’ve never understood why people would put up nothing more than a flat screen telly  on the walls in their homes, or even worse (or is it? hmmmm) some pallid reproduction of an improbably sweet scene (usually involving kittens – all very well in their way – but hardly a metaphor for glorious beauty!).  Don’t they know how much having a gorgeous art quilt on their walls would improve their lives?!!



It’s important, says Hawthorn, for artists to show people something they had not already seen.  We all know that kittens and babies are cute, so a piece that portrays just that will not add anything.  Whereas a quilt that makes a wonderful exciting pattern out of a pair of scissors and a pot of pencils will.


Nash: Stills from a Life #30, 79” square










                                                 Barton: Colliery  18”w, 24”h



Adding to the world by revealing the beauty of an ordinary or even ugly scene is almost alchemical!  This is literally turning lead into gold and it is something we actually can do if we just work, work work!   I guess I’d better get off this dratted computer then….! 
And, If you have been, thanks for reading!   Elizabeth


Jackie said...

Indeed, beauty is everywhere. I've a ton of quilt ideas but more keep popping up. thank you for the reminder to stay alert.

Ruth said...

I love the name you picked "Elusive Beauty" - perfect!

Nina Marie said...

From the woman who is up to her elbows in cows right now, I just want to say of course I agree that there is beauty in everything. That said, I still think that an artist needs to be conscious of what he's trying to communicate with his work. I understand that need for an artist to "jolt" his viewer but at the same time, I've seen many viewers repelled by that jolt. They just don't "get it" since the beauty is not what/where they expect. I think good art showcases beauty with a subtle hand - almost like the beauty of the subject sneaks up on you and draws you to it. Then you end up not wanting to look away.

Tangled Stitch said...

It's so easy to forget the beauty and get caught up in all the extras.