In order to develop as an artist - no matter what the medium - it is important to know yourself well, your likes, your dislikes, your strengths vs your weaknesses. For how can you make progress without this? And, as I get older, I discover that the drive to improve to make progress, in whatever one loves to do, doesn't go away. We are all striving to be just that little bit better! I really think it's part of our genetic make-up ....of course for some it goes awry into a search for more wealth or more power - but that's a whole other issue!!
Most of Bernstein's book isn't relevant to textile artists, but I think his core message is:
"Productive practicing is a process that promotes self-integration".
Well, yes...he does like alliteration too!! That's fine! I love bad puns and split metaphors and all those naughties of the writing world!
So what is practicing in quilt terms? ...yes! the answer is in the title to this blog: Working in a Series.
the above quilt was the 12th in a series of black and white pieces.
As a teacher, I am frequently asked about how one can develop one's own style. We can clearly see that the Big Names all have it. but how is it done? does it just happen over time? Or can you jump start it?
I wrote a class* (and subsequently a book) about how to do just this.....having your own style isn't some result of an unusual talent (if such things exist at all) or the eventual build up of patina (as it were) over time....no...you can work on developing it.
How? by Practicing. and how to practice as an art quiltmaker? Working in A Series!
It is , however, important to figure out the right series, the right way, the right paths to take.
Yes, it is something of a road to self knowledge too, and it can be really absorbing and invigorating.
A series of objects is related by a central idea – My father always used to jumble up the slides when he gave us kids a picture show and while it was hilarious as successive images were shown: “here we are on the beach, oh no now we’re in the marketplace, oh and the next one is little brother’s birthday and then the garden, and back to the beach and then another flower..”…hilarious – but confusing, jumbling, and frustrating because you can’t get into the feel of the place or the idea.
I find that as I explore a theme gradually I get better at extracting the essence of the theme that is compelling to me. Instead of skittering over the surface sampling a little here and there (yes! I love mixed metaphors!), it’s a richer experience to stay in one place for a while. There are many reasons to do that: enhancing the experience, really getting to see the ideas, not trying to cram in everything at once, improving skills.
While, working in a series might seem hard to do if it’s hard to pay attention to one thing for a concentrated period of time, there are ways around !!! In the same way that our eyes continually flick about so we don’t habituate and see nothing, I think attention can focus on a number of things, but one should limit the number….and keep the things related.
If you have been, thanks for reading! and do please keep the comments coming!! thank you. Elizabeth
*This class is now available "on demand" at the academyofquilting.com
I'm a big fan of working in series. A visual artist can develop technique and skills by dabbling, but I don't think they'll go far in developing their own style or voice.
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