Friday, January 22, 2010

Finding Yourself, the Art Quilter

Terry Jarrard-Dimond and I were discussing the development of a personal aesthetic, or “your own voice” as it’s sometimes termed, a few weeks ago.   I’ve also given several workshops on “Finding One’s Own voice”,  so I was very interested to see an article in this month’s (Feb/Mar) edition of International Artist about exactly this point.

Alex Powers writes about finding out what kind of artist you are; he speaks from personal experience having for years made one kind of art, while really preferring another.  He describes ten questions that he feels would have helped him to realize his own aesthetic a little earlier.  Not all of the questions are appropriate to the art quilter, so I won’t copy them here (and they’re in the magazine!)…but I thought it would be fun to take the idea of a self assessment questionnaire and apply it to the art quilter.

1.  Design Elements:  usually 5  are listed in any art book:
      shape, line, value, colour, texture.
Which one of these is most important for you?  
I was surprised to realize that Line is the one I tend to emphasize. 
I love the line made by the edges of buildings  or trees against the sky, or the repeated lines of mountains receding into smoky distance.

april rains k

barton overture





On the left look at the line of the buildings against the sky, then the line of the sunlit buildings against the shadowy ones behind, and finally the line at the edge of the water.

On the right, see how I’ve made a quilt about these delicious calligraphic lines, the skinny white ones on the black, and then the reverse in the window space.

Trained as a sculptor I think Terry J-D might go for shape…and looking at her work that definitely comes to mind, but I hope she will comment!


Linda Levin I think goes for texture, looking at her very dense recent cityscapes (see left), it’s the overall patterning that speaks loudest.  






After Line, Value is the next most important for me:  I’m a great fan of very dramatic value patterns, and I think this might be why I love black and white quilts.

So – what appeals to you most and can you see it in your work? 
If not, hmm…are you making the right things for you?

2. Design
Some people work from a very detailed full cartoon, some from a small value sketch and others just begin with a blank design wall and one piece of fabric in their hand.
How much you plan a piece out beforehand clearly speaks to what kind of a person you are as well a what kind of an artist…however Alex Powers warns that: “Design usually has to be learned before it can be used intuitively”.
I do often like to have my cake AND eat it…so I often go for the middle road.  I can see the virtues of completely planning everything out, AND those of complete spontaneity.
So I like a small value sketch, having that helps me with my main shapes, lines and direction of attack, but allows lots of room for serendipitous choices along the way.  I like to know roughly where I’m going, but I don’t need to know the exact detailed route.  So my working method is definitely in sync with how I like to be. Is yours?

3. A picture plane is often divided into 3: background, middle ground and foreground.  Do you use all three?  focus only on one?  Flatten the plane so there is no depth?

bartonheavy metal 72

Answering this question I realised that (and I was surprised at this) I tend to be much less interested in the foreground…in fact frequently I like to have plain texture in front, little line or shape….my interest is in the middle ground…and often too in the sky.  this gives me the sense of space that I love so much.

And as I write this, sitting here in the middle of a wood with trees right upto the windows, I realise I’d love to swop them out for a nice lake?  Any takers?

Isn’t this fascinating?   I’ll cogitate upon the types of questions one could ask oneself some more in another posting – come back next week, or make a comment yourself, I’d love to hear from you!   This is getting a bit long and it’s time for a nice cuppa tea!!!  If you have been, thanks for reading!  Elizabeth


Clare Wassermann said...

very interesting - thank you

magsramsay said...

Thought provoking(as usual!)
How important would choice of format, proportion or size be? (3d,shaped edges, square,rectangular etc). I notice even most of my photos are portrait rather than landscape orientation.
Focus on detail or vistas? - that's not just about foreground , distance etc but also about how abstracted or photographic the subject is.

Unknown said...

Love your comments, now I have to head for the library to get the publications and see what I think about the artists you mention. I googled you because I'm interested in your class at Penland and wanted to see your work. I'm a local and will have to be on stand by, hope the class doesn't fill up. I laughed when I saw your comment about wanting to trade for a lake. Won't trade but I'll loan you mine, It's about 4 miles from Penland, we'll have a cuppa tea even if I don't get in your class. Sharron Barnes

Ruth said...

I am currently reading "Finding and Improving Your Painting Style" by Carl Schmalz. It goes into these same ideas in depth. I haven't finished the book but it seems very useful in "finding yourself". He talks about choosing your subjects, looking at focal distance and space, what size and shape you make your work, taking fresh approaches that you haven't considered etc. I really appreciate your blog and have been trying to follow your advice about learning more from the painting world. I can definitely see that it will help my design skills. Thanks!

Kay said...

After reading your blog for a while and seeing your work, I wasn't surprised at any of the things you discovered about yourself! Funny--an example of how we don't see ourselves as others do in many ways.

This was an interesting post, as usual.

Raphaela said...

Thank you for these thoughts. I have never thought about the question which of the design elements is the most important for me. But the answer is clear. For me it is texture. That is why I love using buttons, beads and silk ribbons so much - they create great texture.

Magpie Sue said...

I'm new to your blog, directed specifically to this post by NH Beader (blog title). Fascinating thesis. As one who finally is feeling like she's coming into her own it will be great to sit back and reflect on the questions posed. Have you done the follow up yet?