Thursday, December 4, 2014

The List of Important Features

It is a truth universally acknowledged that an artist should have a singular “voice” or style. 

People say this is important.  One's work should be recognizable for various commercial reasons, getting into shows and so on.... but I think a much better reason is that the only way to become really really good at something is to practice it over and over and over.  If you’re practicing a lot of different things at once, you simple won’t get as much practice at one thing. Of course I'm as guilty of this as the next person !!!

It's so much fun to try a lot of different new things, but like any kind of performance, whether gymnastic, or pianistic or artquiltistic you need to practice and perfect one type of piece.  In quilt making, at least, we don't have to work on the SAME piece over and over - though it really seems like a few (well-known) people do!!  But I do think we need to be making the same kind of work - whether it's delicate little appliqués, lots of embroidery, amazing chunks of surface designed fabric beautifully balanced (nobody is better than Elizabeth Busch at this), or the ubiquitous "improv', knock-offs from Gees Bend, quilts.

And talking about Gees Bend, I saw they currently have a show in Atlanta airport, and the pieces are small and completely unfinished - they are small framed tops...definitely worth checking out if you're in the area.  It's at the T gates - I can find no mention online as to how long the show will be up, but Bonnie Hunter's blog has some pictures.  Also the Metropolitan Museum in NYC has just announced a gift of 20 of the earlier Gees Bends quilts from Southern Art collector William Arnett.  Brilliant!

But back to our own work: while having a clear style  is partly the result of much practice and experience, it is also, I think, a matter of knowing your own taste.  Some day - when you've nothing better to do! - it's a great exercise to print out (or line up on your computer screen if it's big enough - scrolling through on a "smart" (so called!) phone does not count! - to print out at least a dozen images of quilts you've seen that you really really like and admire.

Looking at them all at one go, what similarities can you see?

1. Is it color?   or black and white? neutrals, restrained sophisticated color schemes?
2. Representational, impressionistic or abstract?  landscape, cityscape, figurative?
3. Improv or designed?
4. referring back to traditional quilts?  or not?
5. Using a lot of surface designed fabric?  Or commercial fabrics? or solid colors?
6. does the content relate to a specific topic?  like nature? or social commentary?
7.  what is the emotional impact?  An expression of beauty? of elegance, of energy? or something else...
8. Is fine workmanship a major feature, what particular skill does the artist demonstrate?

I'm sure you can think of other topics, and the images themselves will suggest topics to you - please put them in the comments so that we can all add them to the List of Important Features.

Once you have the list...take a look at your own work - how does it compare?  are these things that you find are most important when you are Looking at other people's work, evident in your own work?  And if not, why not?  Why are you not making the work that really turns you on??

Well...after so much cogitation, I think a nice cuppa tea is in , if you have been, thanks for reading!   Elizabeth


Beth said...

Great post. I love instructions!! Very helpful

Turtlemoonimpressions said...

Ah! A practical philosophy that I can ascribe to! I will try this exercise.

Anonymous said...

I think pinning them all to a locked Pinterest board would be an ideal way to save trees and still be able to look at them altogether at least in small scale. Then you can click to look at detail.

Sandy said...

Thank you. This is the most sensible thing I have read in a long time about how to begin to capture that illusive voice. It has seemed to be one of those things you can only discover if you look at it out of the side of your eye!

I can also think of ideas of imagination...humorous, fictitious and or fantasy and so on.
Sandy in the UK

Elizabeth Barton said...

I like having a structure or format for really helps to solve a problem if you have a method for so doing!! I read a lot of crime novels and I see that good problem solving is partially methodical and partially imaginative. But never begin by staring at a blank wall, a blank page....etc. Even improv generally begins with something - but more about that next week!!
Pinterest would work - especially with a big screen....
I just love the physicality of actual printed out images!!!
I like the concept of "how novel or imaginative the quilts are" being added - good one Sandy!

Elizabeth Barton said...

It shouldn't be harder for them to critique a quilt than a painting - but they do seem to find it difficult! Why not just print out a photograph so they're just looking at something much more like a painting? After all you want the critique on the design..and they should be able to do that.
On line people will only be nice!! but you could say which one of these 6 quilts should I finish and which ones should I not bother going any further with!!

Edith said...

Superb post and advice, thank you!

JudithK said...

I am always inspired to get to work after reading your posts. Thank you for the links, especially to the work of Elizabeth Busch.