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


Connie in Alabama said...

Listen to any comments that children may have about art! One told me on Saturday that a piece looked like writing, but in a language we didn't know. I was working in our artists' coop, in an old cotton mill repurposed as studios, where we have lots of families who visit.

Elizabeth Barton said...

What a great idea, Connie! Even better get them to draw something for you!

Christine Staver said...

That reminds me a a project I was involved in once back in HS. We created blank coloring books for kids to draw in. The only thing on the page was a word or two (like black power, family, etc.) We took the books to 2 different schools. One was poor and black and one was rich and white. We had the kids draw a picture to represent the word. I don't recall what age the kids were. I do remember some of the pictures were great and funny. The only one I specifically remember was a couple of the drawings for black power. One kid drew a man with a huge arm muscle. Another kid drew a plane with a lot of black smoke coming out of the back of it. I wish I could remember more. I don't remember if there were many differences between the schools.

Elizabeth Barton said...

that would be a neat idea for a workshop...you could actually show a video about impressionists or realistic painters to half the class and an abstract art vid to the other half and then present them with that task - anybody looking for a PhD project is welcome to the idea!!!

Moonsilk Stitches said...

I spend much more time at work or with my hubby than I get to dedicate to "me," i.e., art. I do all these things. Luckily, hubby shares my visual interests so we visit galleries together (and we do make sure to make all the local kid art shows and displays we can find), get out into nature and really look. I need all of these things (especially tea) to keep me going some weeks. I've found Pinterest and pop in there on occasion when I need a visual break. I don't pin much--I don't know that I want my stuff that public and don't want to step on anyone's toes--but it is a visual feast. Or Google Photo. And I keep a little notebook with me for when inspiration strikes. If I don't note it down these days, poof! Thanks for the reminders. I need to do these things more the busier I am at work.

Sharon Robinson said...

Funny, I was just noticing this while doing housework this weekend. An interesting combination of shapes caught my attention. The ever-present iPhone captured it. Here's a picture. http://miloscave.blogspot.com/2013/11/finding-art-wherever-you-are.html

Madalene Axford Murphy said...

Life is definitely getting in my way as my husband and I are in the middle of a year of transitioning from PA to MA--and I am going to put to immediate use your suggestion of always having fabric and thread with me to do some improvisational stitching. But I have also found that the kind of looking you are talking about can have therapeutic value. We were in the middle of a tense week about house repairs last summer and were driving somewhere, probably Home Depot, when I looked ahead and saw an intriguingly textured cloud bank. For a few seconds I was lost in following lines and folds and I could feel about three layers of tension leave my shoulders. And I managed to get three good shots of it on my Iphone before it morphed into something less interesting! Those clouds will show up in a quilt some day.

Elizabeth Barton said...

thank you so much Moonsilk, Madalene and Sharon for your comments. It's great to hear about the different ways people are making creativity work for them even when they can't put hands actually on fabric.

Jackie said...

Even though I have been quilting away, I felt my brain needed more exercise, so I went to a bookstore's Salon night. Even though the topic was of little interest to me,the conversation stimulated my brain and I've been enjoying my precious work even more. So, certainly visual stimulation is important, but don't overlook mental stimulation--ideas!

Unknown said...

Ahh! Elizabeth, your comments are very timely, as life is definitely getting in my way at the moment! I've been making an effort to take more notice of the little things around me while I'm involved in this other 'life', and your suggestions have opened my eyes to more options. A few months ago (when life was less intrusive and I managed to have a morning cup of tea in bed!) I noticed the play of sunlight on my bedroom wall, as it slanted through the pergola outside and a small bird was walking along the fence, also casting its shadow. The shadows were so intriguing that I grabbed my phone and took some photos of it, which I've been pondering for a future piece of work.

Elizabeth Barton said...

thank you for your comment, Deborah. Having a camera handy is great when you see something fresh and beautiful - or even a little notebook..
I keep a file on my computer of "inspirational photos" and try to look through it frequently...sometimes having them printed out and pinned up on the design wall helps a lot...though a wall can soon fill up!