Tuesday, July 30, 2013

Still retreating but reading as I go!

From the mountains of North Carolina to coastal South Carolina.....

....and thankfully, due to excellent wifi here, I'm in communication with the outside world!  It's hard to realise it's just a few years ago that we never even thought about wifi and keeping an eye on the 'net. Now it feels essential.
Books are still the main source of wisdom, however, and I'm enjoying reading some of the ideas put forward by Maria Konnikova in her book: Mastermind: how to think like Sherlock Holmes.  She renames fast and slow thinking (the quick automatic intuitive vs the slower more analytical and considered) as Watsonian and  Holmsian and illustrates all her scientific examples with quotes from Conan Doyle - fun!    Sherlock Holmes instructs Dr. Watson to really observe as well as just see.    For example (don't look!) how many human figures did you see in the above picture and were any of them children?  Is this sunrise or sunset?

             The class I took last week was in Figure Painting which I quickly learned is all about observation: relative sizes, angled and curved lines, values, colors, texture and overall configuration of shape.  Plus' you have to compose those observations into an interesting shape within the outer edges of the picture plane.  I'd often wondered why in traditional art schools the students spent so much time on Figure Drawing - now I know it's not about the figure, it's all about accurate observation.  I can hear the strains of Holmes' violin as he nods in agreement!

 And now, to practice practice practice - I don't want to get to Carnegie Hall, but I do want to really see and understand and remember what I'm looking at..I want to break from "the autopiloted mind" which is helpful for split second reactions (as in leaping back when an alligator growled at me from where he was hidden under a bush I was approaching last night!) but not good for coming up with original fresh ideas and then arranging them in dynamic ways. 

  One other fascinating thing I read is that motivation really improves performance.  You can ask two identically experienced and talented people to do the same thing, if one is highly motivated they will outperform the other whether it's making art, learning a language or a scientific inquiry.  It makes sense, of course, but it's much more important than I had actually thought.  Motivation also improves memory..now where did I put that book down? !
So, if you have been, thanks for reading!!  Elizabeth

Saturday, July 20, 2013

High on a Mountain Top!

 I'm on retreat! something all artists should do - high on a mountain top off the Blue Ridge Parkway in North Carolina taking a couple of art classes and thinking about new ideas for the work ahead.  And more importantly talking art art art with like minded folk!
This is sunrise...amazingly beautiful sunrises over the distant hills.....
and the picture below is the "smokiness" of the Smokies after one of the many sudden heavy rain showers..love all those shades of grey.

Alas (or is it fortunately?!!) internet is limited, one has to return to civilization to find an internet cafe which I'm doing right now sharing a booth with a very young couple  and a 3 week old babe who obviously loves black and white - the child has great taste! 

Give yourself a treat...and re-teat a little!

Tuesday, July 9, 2013

If they have no bread, then give them cake!

Winter on the Beach

I'm working away (not yet at the beach!) organizing and consolidating my many notes for my upcoming Abstract Art for Quiltmakers class which will debut at Arrowmont School of Arts and Crafts in August (the class is full by the way) and then I'll give it again at Alegre Retreat in April.  I know some other teachers have tackled this subject, but from my research they all approached it differently from me.  It's so frustrating to develop an idea and discover it's a well worn path!!

Dancera (detail)

  As people who take my classes know, I love a five day class where I can get deep into the topic and my research on it in the first day.  I love to learn (and then to teach) real solid information.  (don't worry, it's only one day of five!).

 I'll also be developing this abstract art for quiltmakers class into an online format which I had planned to do some time ago before we had any idea that QU would be coming to a close.  But, good news!
Ruth Blanchet, a former QU teacher, (www.academyofquilting.com) is taking over the quiltuniversity domain name and several of the teachers. The website and overall organization will be different but upgrades in the way the forum and the galleries are handled will please everyone I think.  It will take a little while, of course, for the Academy of Quilting to become as well known as Quilt University which had gained a great reputation over several years and continents.  My classes will be starting at the Academy of Quilting in the Fall soon after Quilt University closes.  I'll definitely be posting announcements.
Waiting for Dawn (detail)

I'm organizing my abstract art notes into definitions, the artists (particularly the female artists) and the processes. I'm turning up some really interesting ideas and concepts.  Research is so enthralling - you can spend days travelling new highways and byways!  

Abstraction can be total freedom from reality.... or the result of abstracting something from the real thing.  It can be free and instinctive as we see in abstract expressionism (Willem de Kooning) or highly intellectual as in Sol Lewitt's geometric abstractions.  Many artists have worked from photographs; Sean Scully's wonderful geometric pieces began with photos of old wooden doors that he's taken all over the world.  
Windowseat (detail)

But whatever the label, all quilts use scraps of fabric cut into shapes, organized in some fashion by color or value or texture.  It's just amazing how very many arrangements are possible.  When I was a child I was given a "creativity" game but soon discovered that the arrangement of wires and beads was NOT endless - how horribly disappointing that was!  They should have given me cloth!  If they have no video games, give them cloth and scissors!

So, if you have been, thanks for reading!  And do send in your comments - or suggestions!   (for blog topics or classes).
Next two weeks I'm up in the mountains off the Blue Ridge Parkway in NC taking art classes; if the internet gets up that high (!) I'll post from there!

Tuesday, July 2, 2013

Experiment and Play: the goal of no goals.

Black and White, No Grey.
How often do we allow ourselves time to just play and experiment? What's wrong with just playing with ideas?  Everything now is goal oriented: both work and recreation. Even the children in school now have to complete so many worksheets, so many specific units of education!   So many of the quilt magazines are about Making a Project and Making it Fast so that it will be Done!  And then you have all those projects piled up in a cupboard!  And have you grown from doing that?

 I recently started piano lessons (well actually I'm a volunteer in a university project to see if learning piano will not only stave off brain rot but also improve one's cognitive powers!  (here's hoping)) and the first thing I realise is that you do a LOT of practice and very few Performances.  In quilt making, few people seem to want to practice.  You wouldn't believe the resistance I get when I suggest - " make a sample of each of the different ways you could do this"  or  "I think you should do several different value sketches before you begin - practice trying different value patterns".  And if I dare to suggest that one should NOT always be goal-oriented!! Well that's when I get the organizers taking me aside and whispering in my ear "get on with it! they want Something to Take Home"!!


I do it to myself too, of course.  If my actions in the studio are not directed towards a specific outcome I feel very guilty...but in this last year I've begun to relax and allow myself time to explore and experiment.  Let's see how many different color schemes I can put together - just for the fun of it!!  I wonder if I tried a small experiment with just using line to depict figures, how would that work?  Can I insert poetry into a piece, now what are the ways I could do that?  Let yourself ask yourself these kinds of questions and I think you'll move forward into richer waters and deeper pastures.  (Oh I love mixed metaphors, so much more engaging!).

I absolve you ahead of time for all those dinky little projects you won't do..while you're playing and experimenting.  Learning is about trying, not necessarily completing; learning is about the journey and not the destination.

so - if you have been, thanks for reading!!  And do write and tell us how you PLAY!!  Elizabeth