Wednesday, May 31, 2017

Abstract Art for Quilters!

Anybody taking a look at the current   Quilt National exhibition will see that abstract art works very well indeed in a quilt format. And, while I love representational  quilts and have made many representational ones myself, or at least impressionistic, I do think that the medium is superb when it comes to abstract work.

I love abstract painting! I recently went to several shows in New York including the Whitney biennial and saw some wonderful work.
Any of these ideas could be "stolen" and developed! (I'm not talking about copying here  - that is not a very good idea  for very many reasons; I'm talking more about being inspired by a certain way that painter's structures work or a particular colour scheme, or a way that they have arranged particular shapes and so on)  Don't worry about "stealing" like this. As the piano teacher said to the student who was afraid to listen to Rubenstein playing Chopin because she didn't want to sound too much like Rubenstein, there is no fear of that! There is no fear that any of  us quilt makers will ever end up hanging on wall next to Rauschenberg or Diebenkorn or Clyfford Still or next to any of the great female abstract painters: af Klimt, Joan Mitchell, Bridget Riley, Elaine deKooning, Helen Frankenthaler, Lee Krasner, Alma Thomas.... just to name a few.

What??! You tell me you don't know anything about these painters! Well, now is your chance!
I have written two courses each of five lessons for Academy of quilting on abstract art: abstract art for quilt makers and more abstract art for quilt makers. The first course, abstract art for quiltmakers, deals only with women abstract painters  - and there are a lot of them  - and they are quite wonderful...... In my course I tell you little bit about each painter and at the same time I have developed a number of different exercises that will help you learn how to create abstract designs.   This course starts this Friday and if you're interested just go to the Academy of quilting website.

Meanwhile here are some goodies that I saw in New York a couple of weeks ago:  

 I think that all of Georgia O'Keefe's works can be viewed as being abstract.....she abstracts to the nth degree!!she takes the essence of the city or land scape...or the flower....and plays with the shapes and colors and their interactions to make a truly beautiful composition that also indicates such a sense of place.  I had not seen this particular city scape before....
this is from a fascinating exhibit in the Brooklyn museum of many paintings but also the clothes she made herself - all in black and/or white...incredibly fine and neat pin tucking and little architectural details:

she wasn't the only one to paint city scapes of is an almost abstract by Ault:

Lee Krasner.....imagine this in a fine wool...or silk!!
 Picasso and a real sense of fun.....and gosh it would be so easy to cut up lots of little scraps and create images.....
 One of the Biennal "new" artists....acutally a collaberation called Kaya....more below.  These were free hanging, different painting on the back....and they were so rich....
but also...wouldn't that wrought iron make a super quilt hanging?   Away with stodgy old rods and sleeves!!!

 I hadn't heard of Jo Baer before, but I really love the way she extracts landscape elements  and makes wonderfully spacious compositions, rich with tranquillity.

And this last one is Carrie Moyer who often begins with a simple paper collage to work out her ideas.

I hope you're inspired and want to have a go yourselves!!  I know I am.....

And, if you have been, thanks for reading....
also I love your comments...and I'll do my best to respond...thank you!  Elizabeth

Wednesday, May 24, 2017

Connecting with Content.

I was reading a very interesting article in the latest issue of International Artist the other day. The author of the article, Philip Miles, pointed out something that I have been aware of for some time both with my quilts and my paintings, and that is that when people buy them they do so because of the content. For example the quilt on the right sold because the person was familiar with the place...... And had very fond memories of it.

Other pieces sell because of colour - one very nice collector I know loves black-and-white - as do I as it happens.... I'm always trying to black-and-white paintings and black-and-white fabric and black-and-white clothes!
Other friends like to buy only red pieces .......

There's a lovely little anecdote about a farmer looking at Grant Wood's famous painting Stone City and saying to the artist:   " I wouldn't give 35 cents  an acre for that land."   He wasn't interested in the quality of the painting at all but rather on what it depicted......

Content, or sometimes colour, is what draws a person to look more closely at artwork.

Consider an art show: Nearly everybody approaches a piece more closely because of  the content  of your artwork than how well it's made. ( Except perhaps those nazi  judges everybody talks about!)
  Furthermore, as Miles points out, whether or not they will actually buy the piece depends much more on the content than anything else.

For example, I recently sold the following painting because the buyer said it reminded him of his mother's house.

They love to be reminded of happier times..... Places they've lived,  people they have known.... Holidays that they've taken - connections.  I have a friend who mainly paints pictures of her husband and she is surprised that nobody buys them...... Now I think a Painting would have to be unusually and extremely good for  you to want to buy an image of somebody else's husband!

So what do artists think about when they are deciding what to make....
I usually have an idea that intrigues me...something that's an interesting and challenging puzzle to think how to work it out.
And In painting, particularly, I want to focus very much on improving my technical abilities....... and certainly in traditional quilting we were all very focused on making the most beautiful stitches we could. 
I really enjoyed making a series of quilts about industrial buildings -  the very unusual shapes and forms really interested me...... However,  guess what? I was never been able to sell any of those quilts!   Nobody is interested in having the image of a factory or steel mill hanging on their wall regardless of how well it's done.    While people don't like a  complete lack of craftsmanship, they are much less interested in how well something is designed and crafted for its own sake.   The balance of the composition, the beauty of the stitch line it's not as important is the connection that they are making(Or not making) With the piece.     Or, Of course, whether not it will match the sofa!   I may think how wonderful a dress is, that is made in white wool, finely pleated in the most exquisite way - but I could never relate to actually owning such garment.

Businesses buy work that they hope will convey a certain mood..... For example cheerfulness and hope for a hospital department..... Or calmness and productivity in an office setting.

So this puts us in a kind of dilemma.  Does it mean that we should only be making work with a kind of content that we think will attract people?    Or, Do we really want a room full of quilts.... stored up.... With increasing technical skill... or paintings with  considerably improved draughtsmanship stacked up against the studio wall?

I think the answer lies in bringing the two together..... Is there a way that we can develop our ability to create a beautiful form while at the same time using content that resonates  - whether it be realistic, impressionistic or abstract.    Trying to develop technical skills that help want to communicate much better about particular imagery...... So perhaps not changing content so much as making it in richer and more satisfying way.   As Miles says you want the form and content to work together.
I think we do want our creations to go out into the world, but we also want to develop our skills I work on things that are meaningful to us.

A lot of people ask me about developing their own voice or style.... And, while predictable content does play a part in that, a consistency of form is much more important.   How  you set about creating your composition...and the way in which you carry it out.    For example you could style yourself as  the person who makes quilts about flowers..... But you could not be considered as having developed your own style if your   flower quilts were all done in different ways.

  Developing a voice is much more likely to occur if you use the same kind of technical skills whether it be related to design or construction in each piece.    It's how we express ourselves about the particular content and how we communicate our feelings about it.    Think about personal style as the way in which people tell you about the things that excite them.... What are the kinds of words they use? what are the kinds of expressions they have? what are the kinds of gestures?  In design terms, these would be the shapes, the colours, the value patterns, the textures, the favorite basic structures and so on. Do you talk about things in strong bold way, or do you put ideas across in a much more delicate unassuming manner?    Do you like hyperbole, or do you prefer nuance?    So I see style as relating much more to form than just the content itself .
Content, in fact, is just one distinct parts of  a personal style.

So going forward, Think both about what you want to say and how are you want to say it! And be consistently true to yourself.

If you have been, thanks for reading...... And I look forward with pleasure Reading your thoughts on this subject! Elizabeth

Thursday, May 11, 2017

A new approach to classes

We're trying a different approach some of my classes at the Academy of

Both my dye classes and my basic Inspired to Design class  (Upon which the book of the same name was based) and  has been my most popular class.... Are now available "on Demand".    Which means it can take them at any time you like.
 Once you have registered, you can start any time you like as soon as we have processed your registration. You have access to your registered class for  upto 10 weeks. While these classes don't feature a chat group, you can post me a question at any time or make comment, or submit an image and ask me about it whenever you like.   You could even tell me a funny story!

If you've never dyed before and want to learn how to do it in the most straightforward way without having to dte a lot of colours you really don't want then I really recommend  Basic Dyemaking for Quiltmakers.  
 I've taken several dye classes myself and was always frustrated by coming home with about 50 yards of some colour I didn't really want..... In one class we spent a lot of time making a notebook with little squares of fabric in it and the recipes that those colours ....but I found that I never actually referred to that notebook at all. And I got very frustrated cutting out all those little squares and then glueing them onto pages! As those who know me can testify, I am not very good with fiddly little details!
So, I figured out how to dye a Basic 12-step colour wheel, using the most basic dye colours I could lay my hands on and simply made a little poster for the studio that had those few recipes. From that basic color wheel one can figure out the recipe to just about any colour.
Also, I've changed the recipes so that everything is a lot simpler and more straightforward.
I don't use more than two colours of dye(Except very rarely) in the mix. Thus avoiding mud!
It always made sense to me, to identify the desired colour and then look up to see what dyes might achieve that, rather than dying all the possible combinations! That way you end up with a lot of fabric you don't want!
So I hope my way of looking at things makes sense to you and I particularly hope you have fun in the 5thclass where you choose a colour inspiration e.g. a famous painting and dye all the colours that in that painting. Make a comment or ask a question whenever you want!

My second dye class is called Dyeing to Design.   This one begins in the same way as the basic dyemaking class with instructions on how to achieved various basic colours and values in the simplest way but then goes on to work through the five elements of Design: how to achieve  colours, values,  shapes and lines and textures.    These are the five building blocks of design sometimes called elements.   
In terms of techniques, the ones explained and demonstrated are low water immersion dyeing, dyeing gradations, arashi shibori, Basic screenprinting and deconstructed screenprinting.
Each technique also leads to a small quilt and I discuss how best to use fabric dyed in that way within the quilt.

My third OnDemand class is my classic Inspired to Design class.   This is about how to work from a photograph or painting or any source of inspiration,   creating several sketches and designs and then making a quilt in a way that doesn't involve templates,  large cartoons etc, and which focuses on good design above all.    You get a lot of personal critiquing with this class - if you want it of course!

So do let me know if you have questions about any of these classes and if you taken them yourselves before and enjoyed them, please recommend them to others since they are now available to anybody at any time in any country!    The prices roughly $10 per class and some courses have four classes and some five.

Let me know what you think about this OnDemand idea....... All possible changes can be made... We are very flexible..... Except and it comes to knowing how to make a decent cup of tea!
If you have been, thanks for reading. Elizabeth