Tuesday, November 26, 2013

Home for the Winter .....

...with the best class of the year being last week on Cape Cod...
We saw lots of "wonderful things"!  The ladies in the class worked hard for five days, producing many abstract designs and making at least one, often two and occasionally three (!) of them!

Here are some of the results:

Sharon's sketch (on left) looked really good...
and here is the finished piece: 

 the additions of the little white lines brings it to life beautifully.....

Betty's piece if full of joi de vivre!!  Betty is one of the smartest and liveliest 83 yr olds I know and is an inspiration for all of us.

Karen's little quilt has a real air of mystery  - are these strange beings on another planet??  that's abstraction for you!

The armchair bicyclist....Linda is planning a series inspired by a lime green tricycle she saw in Italy...

Kathy is also a traveller, she worked from marvelous photos of Africa...the catch of fish being brought in at the end of the day and all the village inhabitants gathered....baskets on heads...I love the simplicity of this outline which conveys everything...a brilliant abstraction...

Linda G managed to completely block out 3 quilts as well as draw many designs...a previous teacher had warned her off having points in a quilt - so it was great to see her using points with aplomb!!!  You can use any shape, any colour, any length of stitch - don't ever let any teacher restrict you from your imagination!

and there were many more...but now I must look forward to converting this class into an online mode ...I had so much material I'm thinking the online class might even be in two parts.  But first, of course, to catch up with everything at home.  I do not know how the average quilt circuit teacher manages any kind of creative life of their own, or do anything else at all!  But I'm learning from Betty - the secret of successful old age: square dancing!  It's exercise, it's physical contact with others (hand holding is mandatory! as are hugs), it's social and it's cognitively challenging with any one of 100 or more class per minute being required of 8 people working in unison!!  And of course the quiet side of life - in the studio - in golden solitude, working with those five elusive elements....
So, if you have been, thanks for reading!   Happy Thanksgiving here in the United States!  Elizabeth

Thursday, November 21, 2013

Workshop in Cape Cod

A beautiful Fall morning for a start of a weeklong workshop on Abstract Art for Quiltmakers on Cape Cod....

And the designs begin to flow onto the display boards....

these ladies are wonderful - unlike those at a well known conference some years ago who complained because they weren't slashing into their fabric within minutes of the workshop beginning....these ladies really want to dig into getting lots and lots of ideas onto paper...and the ideas are multiplying!!

and now time for a nice cuppa tea...or maybe even a glass of guinness!!!!
more later...upon my return home..
If you have been, thanks for looking!

Tuesday, November 12, 2013

Visiting the Institute of Contemporary Art in Boston: A versus R

Wow!! what a fabulous solo show at the ICA in Boston right now - Amy Sillman's One Lump or Two.  Though, I'm not quite sure where the sugar lumps came in because no one offered me a cup of tea!  However a very friendly guard did bring me a little stool I could carry around with me so I could sit and rest The Ankle between paintings.  ICA is a wonderful museum on an absolutely exceptional site - cantilevered over Boston Harbour with amazing views:
Amy Sillman is one of my favorite contemporary painters because she sits astride the gap between pure abstract and pure representationalism.  She also has a great sense of humour.  She published a letter on the internet some years ago (alas I cannot find the link, apologies) in which she said she had fallen out of love with A but really wasn't too sure about R either!  A being abstract work, R being representative work.

She wrote: 
"I never would have understood Process without A but I just feel like A’s really old friends are just WEIRD. And kind of pompous." 
Actually you see that in art quilt circles where the A crowd very definitely look down their noses at the R people!!

Sillman's paintings are so vibrant and full of meaning, there are forms and inferences there, you just can't quite make them out at first so you keep looking, and turning round for a quick glance....
Here's a typical example from the ICA show:

(and by the way you can photograph nearly all of the works without a guard leaping on you, though I did see one chap photograph a photo verboten work and the guard did the modern equivalent of ripping the film from his camera!!  I just sat there quietly on my little stool watching the Drama of the Forbidden Photo!)

As well as the colour and the mystery and the beautiful balance of shape and line, I really like the basic structure to which Sillman returns time and time again - a structure that balances a large quiet area against a much smaller busy one.  It's a great metaphor for life: periods of solitary contemplation versus joyful frenetic social activity.  Painters often have a favorite structure, a hidden order, that they use frequently and I think it becomes part of one's style and is one of the reasons you like/dislike a person's work.  It's very useful to become aware of it

As well as paintings there were lots of drawings and very witty diagrams - table settings for boring interminable dinner parties and meetings where all everyone has in common is mutual dislike or philosphers categorized (scroll down about a page and a half).

I did also try to see the John Singer Sargent watercolor show at the MFA - but the MFA is a much less friendly museum.  Hardly any guards to ask directions from, very misleading maps and masses of very aggressive people hogging the space in front of paintings with eye phones and eye pads and eye attitudes! It took me 45 minutes of searching to find the Sargent watercolors, stand in line and creep into an extremely crowded room - but oh! what little glowing jewels they are!  to paint something like that before you die, how glorious that would be!!  Well after all that excitement, I think it's time for a cuppa tea!  Off to put the kettle on!  Next week I'm back up to the cold dark north teaching a workshop on Abstract Art for Quiltmakers in Falmouth - you can be sure I'll be quoting Amy!

So, if you have been, thanks for reading.......Elizabeth

Tuesday, November 5, 2013

Things to do when life gets in the way of Art!

As you know I teach quite a few classes online  (link and info on side bar)- which I've thoroughly enjoyed by the way - and frequently I hear from people - "Oh, I was unable to finish the course because Life Got In The Way".  Don't worry!  It happens to all of us, I battle it daily and in fact this last month for me has been crazy with a nasty ankle injury and two shows going on.  (I have 25 or 30 quilts at La Conner Quilt and Textile Museum in La Conner, WA and 6 at the Athens Academy Gallery (Athens GA).  Both shows up till the end of the year).  So I've also been trying to battle the life getting in the way problem and have come up with a few ideas - if you have more please do tell!!

Use your eyes to Really LOOK.  Even though you have no time to actually DO art, you can think about it as you drive to appointments, prepare meals for guests, sit in waiting rooms and clean the toilets.  After all look what Duchamp achieved looking at a toilet!  I love this "fountain" dress by the way based on Duchamp's inverted urinal.

Okay. I can hear you saying, what can I LOOK at?
  Let me count the ways  (Elizabeth Barrett Browning):

1.  Your eyes are open and you can see images, is there any juxtaposition of shapes that would make an interesting composition?
If you can hold up your hands in two L-shapes to frame the view. Try it now!!
2.  How about the shadows?  What's the light pattern like?
 Does the sunlight streaming in through the waiting room window make any intriguing designs.
3.  As you drive down to pick up someone after work, is the low light at the end of the day limning the chimneys or roofs of the buildings around you?  If you're driving through trees, notice the pattern of light and shade...how the sunlight makes the edges of the trees glow.
4. And while we're on trees, look really look at the trunk and the branches - are they really all one colour all the way round?
5.  Look at the light and color on that wall ahead of you.  Notice how it's never flat...there's always shading in one direction or another - and yet how often do we use a flat background colour when we make a quilt? Why?

Carry a little notebook or a piece of paper folded in your bag or pocket, with a small pencil.
 And always have a doodle pad by the phone for those endless "holds" - many artists have made great things from their doodles!!  It always amazes me how people can just sit staring into space!  Look at the wonderful drawings of Gego.   
You can improv with a pencil just as easily (actually more easily!) as you can with fabric and everyone loves improv!
If not doodling, then think of your favorite letter in the alphabet and make a little block unit based on it...from this little seed maybe a gorgeous flower will grow!

Use the internet as an art resource.  Of course this is totally addictive!!  Choose a topic that really fascinates you, say bumble bees and search for  "images of bumble bees".  Don't just look at the pretty pictures, but consider each one as a possible start for a quilt design.
Another great thing to do on the 'net is sharpen your critical skills by researching for horrible ghastly badly designed work!!!  Look at the winners at a major quilt festival and really critique them - don't just marvel at the dedicated work that went into them and think I could never do that!!

Read art books and read artists' biographies.  The more you know about the art world as a whole, and about life in art, the better equipped you are for making your own art.

TALK  Stuck in a conversation?  Don't discuss the weather or, even worse, ailments!!  Instead, ask the person what they think about art.  What is their favorite painting or why?  If you're with fellow quilters ask them about quilts they've seen that they always remember.

Stitch. Always have handy a little scrap of fabric and some thread, let the needle direct you!!  Actually you don't even have to look as you sew - that will loosen up your stitches!

Make a cup of tea! But as you make it consider the arrangement of the implements on the tea tray, can you improve it?  would the spoon in the sugar look better pointing in, or point out?  While you wait for the kettle to boil (or the microwave - yes some people actually do make tea in the microwave as unbelievable as it may seem!) crouch down a little so you're looking at the arrangement of objects from a different angle.

Do please comment with your ideas...and now I shall go and engage my guests in meaningful conversation while rearranging the breakfast table in a more harmonious way!

And, if you have been, thanks for reading!!   Elizabeth