Thursday, February 17, 2011

“tight before loose”

watching Well, I suppose that would be easy with a few drinks, right?
  But no, this was the comment the painting teacher made last night when she asked my goals. 
“Loose”, I said, “Loose!”
Her reply: “You’ve got to get tight before you can be loose”.man

Tight is easy, been there for years; there are rules to being tight! Being loose (but controlled, not just a sloppy mess, easily obtainable by yours truly in many areas!), controlled loose is very difficult.  It’s the loose of Rubenstein’s rubato or that of a gifted, experienced dancer or painter or racing car driver.  Those people who do glorious things where you simply can’t see the practice, the technique and all the structure underneath …but it’s truly there.  The difference between just plain loose, and loose with expert delicate control is not only huge but very detectable.   It’s rare that art quilters/ fibre collagers show their muses, but I happened to look at a site today where the person showed the painting that inspired her.  Her work was good, but the painting was heart stopping.  When I went back to her piece, it just look so humdrum next to the real thing.

boys So we can see it, but how to get there…to that far away mountain of looseness!!  Yes it’s practice, and doing lots of work but I must admit I get a bit tired of people saying: “just do more, you’ll get there!” Is this actually true? What have you found?


Reading about theories on the development of new inventions and ideas, it is clear (as mud!) that this is a very murky, little understood, process , somewhat akin to the beginning of galaxies!  Elements whirl around being stewed and stewed and then at some point begin to gel and coalesce and some form and clarity appear.  Can be this be directed or hurried?  How much of what we do to learn is relevant?  How much  is irrelevant and time-wasting?

For the moment, however, the dance goes: loose, loose, tight tight, loose!!
Any ideas???      And if you have been, thanks for reading!   Elizabeth


Terry Grant said...

Oh, sigh. Looseness is my goal. Tightness is my habit (or destiny or something...) Lately I find myself making two pieces. First the tight one--not that I intended for it to be tight--then a looser version. Somehow I am able to loosen up after I've gotten the precise one out of my system. Now I am trying to skip that first step. Maybe more drawings beforehand? Get to know the subject, composition well enough that when one gets to the real work we can approach it in a less concentrated way?

McIrish Annie said...

I'm trying to take my head out of it and let my heart lead. Spend more time enjoying the process and less time worrying about the product. don't think i'll go down in history as a great quilter so would rather enjoy the ride!

the watercolors are fabulous! yours? please excuse my ignorance. don't know a lot about art but I do know what i like!

Anonymous said...

Hard edges are the nature of quilts whereas a painting can be soft and spontaneous. Except for the quilt as you go geometric quilts, that feeling of quickly rendered, capturing the essence of an idea is more elusive . I tend to design as I go, having a general idea of where I'm headed and then letting the piece tell me what it needs. But I certainly couldn't call any of my work "loose." I would be interested in more thoughts on how to create the feeling of a fleeting thought or a glimpse of a subject given the materials we use. Hmmmm something to aim for.

Jean S.

Penny Mateer said...

Takes me back to your previous post about drawing. I have just begun Drawing 1, fabulous. Our teacher, Staci, reminds me don't think observe register move on just draw. The hardest thing to do is to stop thinking. It really is about the statement: You have to trust the process. And not worry about whether you are progressing or good enough or whatever.

I believe you do have to work at it looseness is the goal for every artist and not easily achieved. If memory serves me correctly Andy Warhol listened to the same music over and over to get him in a place to quiet his mind. Maya Angelou plays solitaire to loosen up.

Finally the comparison of the quilt with the painting seems a bit unfair, photos never do quilts justice and paintings are not quilts.

Natalya Khorover Aikens said...

it certainly works for me! whenever I haven't drawn the human figure for a while, the first few sketches are absolutely horrible tight messes. but I know that I must do them, get through them and then the loose free figure will take their place!

Suzanne Sanger said...

I really have not idea how you can "do" loose with fabric. You just can't get away from hard edges. And the process is so much more laborious than painting where you can grab a brush and go--in and out in mere minutes. With fabric, you have to sew, glue, fuse or whatever, and you STILL have edges. You can thread-paint. That's more like painting, or at least like drawing. But you still have to deal with the limitations of the materials, and always, not matter what, with LINE. And the line is never REALLY free-flowing even though you are dancing as you stitch. There's just something about the medium that makes loose SO hard! But you are right--the more experience and skill you bring to the table, the more spontaneous you can be. Your skillful free-cutting surely didn't come easy, but it is way looser than anything most of us can do. Maybe we need to redefine what "loose" means to fiber artists. We certainly have to forget those wonderful, loose, watercolor images you posted here. We really can't do that!

Beth said...

My friend started to watercolor as a senior (70's). Her work was soft and wonderful THEN she started to take lessons. The teacher managed to beat every bit of softness out of her and now she is so self critical that she stopped painting entirely. What to do? You know what you want, right? I'd just start step by step walking forwards what you want to accomplish. My opinion for what it's worth.

June said...

I think I'm with Suzanne -- if you analyze watercolor, the looseness comes with the water-qua-paper. There's no equivalent in textiles. You can be somewhat looser, as Terry works (and I think her processes are sound) but you can never approach the watercolor except perhaps by painting watercolor on fabric. But even that comes out differently.

The quilting I do is incredibly "loose" (ie spontaneous, etc.). But quilting requires a lot of lines to make a statement -- it's like etching. You can see an etching that is more or less loose, but it's never going to resemble watercolor. If it did, it would look like lines lost on paper.

I think we need to work on the opposite of what our temperaments and training push us to. Terry's is graphic and precise; mine is sloppy and loose. So, I work on precision in my textile work and she tries to loosen up. Such is the nature of our self-critiques.