Tuesday, August 27, 2013

Conveying Movement.

I've been pondering over the different ways in which one can give the impression of movement within an art quilt.  There are many of course, usually involving repetition, rhythmic elements, and/or gradation of any aspect of any element.
 Look at the repetition both of the vertical elements and the diagonal elements in this piece:
Five Mills Rampant

Can't you just see the old machines chugging up and down, the crank shafts moving?

 In cartoons, the artist uses lines: skinny curved lines around the object that is moving - havn't ever seen that done in a quilt!  but I'm sure it would work.

Snoopy on a skate board

Also, notice that a usually vertical object is horizontal - i.e. his ears.  We often see this on pictures of  flags:

You can almost feel the wind that has this flag  furling out across the deep blue sky.....

And while I've not made a quilt with a flag - you can see the same effect with smoke in this quilt: Oh, What Pretty Smoke!

 And in Heavy Metal,  I used undulating silver quilting lines in the water to give the impression of the constant movement of water on a large lake:

In a more recent piece about dancers...I split the images so that the viewer's eye must travel across the piece to complete the image:

Do write and let me know your favorite techniques for showing movement - and also comment on which of the above you think is the most effective...your first impressions are very important!

And, if you have been, thanks for reading!

Monday, August 19, 2013

A Successful Class at Arrowmont

My new class, Abstract Art for Quiltmakers, which I've been developing since early Spring, went down very well at Arrowmont Art and Craft School last week. I had an assistant, Karen Hamrick, who has photographed many of my quilts over the years, and it was so great to be able to hand over to her some of the multiple tasks involved with a dye/design/construct class. Thank you so much, Karen! Now I'm completely spoiled!

Most people composed at least a couple of dozen designs and some did even more!  Of course not every design is going to work well, and you can't be critiquing them as you do them. Nothing annoys the Muse more than having somebody breathing down her neck saying "well that looks awkward!" and "how on earth will you construct that?" or worse yet: "that's Boring!"  It's important just to get into the Zone and the Flow (yes, at the same time!) and just sketch away.
I have lots of ideas for starting points, so the ladies in the workshop had actual directions to follow but they were not so rigid that they all came up with the same thing.  In fact the sketches were all remarkably different and reflected the style of the person making them, not me - which is always my aim. I'm not like that poor old sheep in England, I don't want to be cloned!!
And here are some of the designs:

Nina-Marie's beautiful circles were not sideways but I can't persuade blogspot to put them the right way up!  However you can see it's an image full of joy - also it's all quilted!!  Just needs the  edges trimmed and the interfacing added.  On the side are a couple of her other designs, and she was well on her way to having a second piece completed that alas I did not get a picture of ..but I know it will be on her blog soon!

Connie made a couple of super pieces....this one is based on a wonderful artwork in Arrowmont's gallery.  It's such a great inspiration having a gallery with almost a hundred amazing pieces just outside the studio door...one of the many ways in which Arrowmont reigns supreme!   Unlimited photocopying in both black and white and color AND with enlargements is another real boon - plus an superb library full of art and craft books and all the latest journals.

Here are some  of Connie's other designs...

I love this frieze quilt that Elaine made....she was so busy designing after that she neither made another quilt, nor even pinned them up!!  But I'm going to be checking up on her!!!

Liz made this beautiful clean, elegant quilt - I would love to see it done Very Large - but it's gorgeous just as it is....
 Linda's wall of designs....all excellent, plus that lovely little landscape already completed in the middle - a very Abstract landscape by the way.  Abstract art can be all the way from pure nonrepresentational to abstracted from some existing source and we covered all of it.

another piece by Liz - such movement and still elegant, I love the gradation of blues.  As you can see Liz is a Very Fast worker!  And her style is so crisp and clean too.  
 Elizabeth (yes we had three Elizabeths in the class!) made this lovely shoreline piece  - it's quite wide - maybe 4' or more - and I like the mystery of it..part driftwood, part ocean...

Kathy not only made great designs, and a super start on a geometric piece, but she also had this crowd of cheering onlookers!!  She's going to make those shapes much more abstract and I think it will be a lot of fun.  Also I love the circles...and they were very painterly and textural..and I know she's going to do More!

Look at the power  of this deceptively simple design by Mary....There are all sorts of nuances to it too when you get close.  She wisely edited the sketch - it just didn't need the fringe.  Great economy!! One of the hardest guidelines to follow.
Mary was working on a really interesting piece that I didn't get a photo of and I hope she'll send me it!!  Plus those circle designs have great depth and I think they'll work really well.

Gay whipped out this beautifully balanced indigo piece...great depth - from across the room it felt really dimensional - and she had many more designs that had great flow to them....as you can see from the small one at the top here...

Marilyn made this very strong piece in a complementary color scheme.  I love the repetition of the black and white bars...and the use of negative space.  A very intriguing little quilt that I think would work in any orientation - I hope she makes more!

 Cindy had never made a quilt before - there were three complete newbies to quilting in the class plus a number of folk who had never dyed their own fabric (as you can imagine, they are totally hooked on hand dyeing now!).  This little quilt is really well balanced, but continuingly interesting - every time you look at it you see different relationships between these quadrilateral shapes AND  when you get close there's hand stitching  on some of them, like the thin white lines of an elegant pinstripe!  Very very nice.

Carmen had also never made a quilt before...she finished this amazing piece (it's all quilted, just needs the interfacing) and had many other designs, PLUS a start on a very large version of the little colored sketch below.  Carmen really knows how to use space in a quilt and I love her unique style.  It was also a lot of fun to introduce her to free motion quilting!  Within minutes she was galloping away with a big smile on her face!

 Elizabeth's second piece - also going to be huge and so fresh and new...as you can see she had just completed the first three rows of the sketch...I think these strips were at least 5' long!!  Nothing daunts these new young quilters and it's great.

I do love the mix of folk you get in an Arrowmont class - people with 20 years experience and Quilt National acceptances and folk who've never ever made a quilt before.  People in their prime, and others still young and beginning their careers in art.  We also had professions from a travel agent to a rocket scientist (wonder if they got together on some advance planning?)

I was so pleased with my Abstract Class that I plan to do another version of it at Falmouth, Cape Cod in October (see the side bar for Linda's phone number if you're interested - there are a couple of spots left).  I'll also be teaching it at Alegre in April, for the West Coast people.

And now to see if I can make something myself!! 
If you have been, thanks for reading!!  And do please comment - comments make my day!

Tuesday, August 13, 2013

Abstract Art For Quiltmakers at Arrowmont School of Arts and Crafts, TN

Having a great time in the Smoky Mountains at the famous (100 years old!) Arrowmont School in Gatlinburg, TN - yes , we were told, it was here before Dolly Parton - actually before Dolly Parton's grandaddy was born!!

Here is my quilt hanging in the main gallery: - the tiny little orange and green thing at the far end - very well lit though!

And here are some pictures of the class hard at work:

probably gossiping - but we won't comment on that!!...

However, look at all the designs up on the design walls:

Linda and Elaine working on their designs...

Cindy deciding which piece of many beautiful options to make..

Liz on the sewing machine hard at work....

it's a great class, I know they're going to get a lot done.and look at all the wonderful space in the Arrowmont Textile studio...no sitting squashed up at a small table in the dark....
yesterday we designed all day, today we dyed gradations of black or navy and tonight a small monochromatic piece will be made.  Tomorrow we'll burst into color!! (if not song!)

My next workshop will be in Falmouth on Cape Cod in October.....Abstract Art for Quiltmakers: Design and Dye.
So, if you have been, thanks for reading!!  And do check out Arrowmont, they have some wonderful classes (arrowmont.org) or if you're interested in the Cape Cod workshop, (there are a couple of places left) give Linda Gallagher a call.  (there's a link on the sidebar, or email me and I'll put you in touch with her - there's an email link to me on the sidebar too).   Elizabeth

Thursday, August 8, 2013

Immersed in Abstraction

I've been putting together a new workshop on Abstract Art for Quiltmakers since the beginning of the year - I'm excited to be teaching it for the first time next week.   The poor students who are signed up for the class don't realise that I now have a semester's worth of notes and material for them!!

The more I look at abstract work the more I fall in love with it..though not, of course, those awful chain store "home decor" monstrosities!! Home clutter and ruination is more like! There are many many different kinds of abstraction - I'm hoping it's a subject you can never come to the end of.

I'm beginning to think that abstraction is a perfect fit for the medium of the art quilt.  People look at a painting and expect it to look like something! yes they do!! but they don't expect that of a quilt. With a quilt they're happy to enjoy a harmonious but intriguing balance of shape and color.  Also, in fabric we can bring out so many other nuances - not just color and shape, but texture and stitching, softness and hardness.

Kirk Varnedoe posited the question whether abstract paintings were pictures of nothing.  Actually he wrote a whole book about this! He described how the first abstract artists were hoping to
reveal absolute and universal truths with this new style- they reached for a new spirituality, a Utopia.  But then along came the horror of yet another world war(WWII: 1939-1945) - six long years of terror and misery.

After the war, the new artists interested in abstract art were young Americans with very different goals.  They felt that abstraction was grounded in the unconscious.  Painters like Pollock, de Kooning, Rothko and Frankenthaler found new ways of getting paint onto the canvas working from instinct and raw emotion. They sought art without words.  Pollock threw and dribbled, flung and sprayed paint forcefully so as to make sure there was no obvious drawing.  "A forceful expression of chance - an anti-composition."  Jasper Johns restricted color but organized his canvasses - very often into quilt like grids - as did Lee Krasner in many of her paintings.  I bet these artists were very familiar with the grid organization of the traditional quilt - and perhaps their unconscious reverted back to childhood memories.  As children we spend a lot of time just Looking and we really See all those details and they're etched deep into memory.  As adults we have very little time to look, and usually we just see that authoritarian "To do List" threatening us!!

Above all, Varnedoe felt that whatever the style, it was important that we relate to it on an elemental level:
“between the vague confusions of individual experiences and the authority of big ideas, sign me up for experience first”. Images that stir memories from the past are more powerful, more intriguing. I think the viewer has to find some relationship to the artwork to really enjoy it.
But what is abstract art  good for? What use to society are pictures of nothing? E H Gombrich in his book Art and Illusion thought that abstract art was understandable as an extension of decorative pattern making. A very close connection to traditional quilts.  “Timeless universal forms”. At the Ringling Art School summer program this year, one professor gave a talk about Roman mosaics - and there were all the traditional quilt designs we know so well!!

Abstract art has been around now for a little over a century and is very very popular with all artists - I notice that even photographers are now discovering ways of making abstract photographs. Since the movement has lasted this long, it has stood the test of time.  It will last. Interestingly, however, it's evident from an examination of abstract art that much art isn’t the result of totally new discoveries or ideas but rather the result of taking something already in existence and adapting , recycling, isolating, recontextualizing, repositioning and recombining to form new possibilities. and that's just what we're going to do in my next week's workshop!  I plan to teach it many more times, both actually and virtually but first I want to enjoy making some more abstract art myself!!
Human beings are wired to make connections, discover resemblances and relationships and also to project meaning onto experience. Gestalt theory - artists use this a lot.  So do advertizers alas!!  And very successfully. (Have you seen those little check marks (US) or ticks (UK) on the tennis stars?  They are grooving right into your brain and your pocket book/purse!

However, abstract art still remains something of a paradox.  Traditional works of art are expressions of feelings, communications.  But what if you what to make a piece that deliberately has no reference?  You can control what is in your mind and intention (to a certain extent anyway - sometimes you need the help of a cognitive behaviour therapist!) but you can’t control what the viewer does and he/she will almost certainly begin to see things into it.  It's difficult to enforce the “abstractness” of abstraction” because of our built in survival instinct to make sense of things, to spot the danger, to recognize the mere outline of the police car behind us!

In talking about one of Cy Twombly’s scribble paintings Varnedoe writes that as we look at it we’ll think of a lot of things it represents but in the end we’ll come back to the thought that the picture is only of itself, “all of the complexity and energy that only it has and that did not exist before”. In Interpreting representational art  one needs to recognize the subject but interpreting abstract art is different, you don’t need to figure out what it is.  While ostensibly rejecting representation, abstract art actually expands its possibilities.  It adds to our visual language by including everything previously considered to be meaningless: drips, stains, blobs, bricks, tiles etc Abstract art actually makes something out of nothing! And in so many different ways!

However because to some extent abstract art is a learned language and is not always easy to understand, it helps to have some knowledge of different artists and different modes.  This can enhance our experience of it.  Many pleasures, says Varnedoe, involve appetites that had to be educated: music, art, sport, books…gourmet cooking. Furthermore, while abstraction might originally have been developed as a way of conveying timelessness or pure expression or spirituality, it is now much more concerned with showing the diversity of individual vision and independent subjectivity.

And - onward to the class!   So, if you have been, thanks for reading!! and do let me know your own personal experiences with abstract art.