Wednesday, October 23, 2019


Went to get my flu shot this afternoon...what a glorious day it is!!!  periwinkle sky, the leaves and red and orange and yellow and gold...burnt sienna, and permanent rose, and quinacridone gold...and those beautiful dye mixes of fuchsia and sun yellow....just shifting proportions in each dye bath...
color so beautiful and delicious you want to bottle it to drink all winter!!

I was thinking while I was waiting about a TV show where the dancers were being critiqued and  I was struck by how applicable those comments were to Art Quilts and to paintings , or any art work.
The most frequent criticism was that the dancer’s technique was flawless, but the performance lacked something.   And oh, haven’t we all seen quilts just like that? Beautifully pieced, neatly assembled, straight binding etc but just blah.  They don’t grab you.   Recently I’ve seen some exquisite pieces with tiny bits of painted fabric, lots of extra stitching, many details…but they’re dead.  Oh yes, beautiful, but on to the next one, this one’s a corpse.

And technique isn’t limited to sewing and assembly skills.  I think it applies to the composition too.  You can have a piece that is harmonious (no sore thumbs, no kitchen sink), that is well balanced, where the rhythms  and repetitions are appropriate and varied, where there aren’t any elements that are unnecessary – but they don’t come to life, they don’t fascinate you.  Like a room decorated by a run of the mill interior designer: safe, beige....

So I was interested to see if the judges would give any particular advice on how to jump beyond these basic levels.
One obvious necessity was that the piece should cause an emotional response in the viewer.  There was one dance where the audience went totally quiet, it was chilling – the dancer was able to create a raw emotion which all watching felt immediately.  I don’t quite know how you’d achieve this in a quilt!!  But I did once show a piece to 4 friends, two said they loved it, two hated it – and they wanted to argue!  Maybe that’s a start.   I’ve also read many a juror’s statement and one of the things they always mention is looking for a piece that creates a visceral response from them.  You have to try to put the feeling into the art work as the dancer put it into his dance.

Another judge made a comment about the emotion being revealed by the details: little compositional adjustments that bring out what you feel about the piece.   So your quilt is about a crisp fall day where you literally feel you can can you push the freshness, the fall-ness, the bounciness?  What details must you be sure to include?  You might think of the colours of fall, the temperature of fall, the intensity of the colours, the turning of the leaves.... shown by an upward movement in the lines and shapes.  The temperature in Fall is often  cool, but occasionally you’ll hit a warm burst of air in the sunshine – include that.  The air has more space – make sure you have that space and openness in the piece.

Sometimes the judges talk about forgetting technique in favour of pushing the performance?  How could that work in an art quilt?  Your piece is about raggedy lonely old ladies….d’you want the quilt to be raggedy?  d’you want to surround those old ladies with space?  The piece is about fireworks – should the colours explode screamingly off the piece even if the colour scheme is then a jarring one?
One of the dancers clearly wanted approval from the audience throughout her piece and was told  that the first approval for a work must come from yourself, not an audience, real or imagined.  Don’t think “will they like it?”  (though, sadly, quilt sales might be better if “they” do; decorative and cute being ever more popular than real, fresh and meaningful).   Instead always seek to satisfy your own standards, does it say what you wanted it to say?  For this you might have to look deeper into who you are, and what you want to say and your motives for saying it.
The judges defined the successful dancer as one who had beauty, quirkiness, athleticism, technique, who knew  who he/she really was and also knew exactly what they were creating.  Some goals to reach!  Might manage the quirk, not sure about the athletics! 

And onward, ever onward.... so, if you have been, thanks for reading.  Elizabeth
Oh! and comment…do please comment!

Friday, October 18, 2019

What is a "modern" quilt? What is "improv"?

People often ask me about "modern" quilts.
Are they actually any different from traditional ones?
 Where did the term come from?
 What is so special about them?

 And: what does "improv" or "improvisational" piecing mean?

Well all of the pieces you see here were cut and sewn together using Improv techniques...they're probably a little more elaborate than your average "modern" quilt - yes I got a bit carried away!!! - but if you look at just a small section of any of'd be close to a modern quilt...for example...just the lighter rectangle on the right hand side of the quilt below...would be considered modern.

Modern quilts have really revolutionized the field of quilting, bring into it younger energetic folk who are in a hurry!!!  and that's great!  I completely applaud the movement.
What I don't applaud is then trying to create and sell specific "patterns".....for the whole thing about being modern and improv is that you take a few basics...and then make it your own!

To find out a bit more about my thoughts and prejudices (!) and have a go on your own, consider my Mod Meets Improv class - and see you how go.  I think you'll enjoy it, plus you have unlimited access to me - which may or may not be a good thing!!!

I'd also love to read your comments about the modern movement....I promise to answer every one!!

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

Saturday, October 5, 2019

Color theory 101

Have you ever been flummoxed by color choice?
There are so many gorgeous colors out there, how do you create a work of art that looks rich and satisfying without being cloying and hurtful to the eye.

Oh but the lure and seduction of color!!!
Nature does it so well...but it's so easy to get it wrong in one's art work....

Have you ever seen an image (painting, photograph...) where the  selection of colors was so beautiful that you just wanted to eat in it, bathe in it, surround yourselves with it???

And here's another one...these are just in our garden by the way....

The first one is a complementary color scheme...colors opposite on the wheel...all those lovely pinks contrasted with the greens....the second one is largely monochromatic...with a neutral added which not only makes the yellows glow but gives you the needed dark value.

Above is an image from color?  Look again, my friend!!!  see all those pinks and purples and silverly sage grey...oh so delicious...

So from nature we can extract the most gorgeous schemes...but we can also analyze them and see how they are working...and how we might enhance them...deepening saturation, increasing the spread of values etc...

And each wonderful combination has a different "feel" or mood or ambiance to it...

Above a cold wintry morning over the neighborhood pond...analogous plus black...color used as the focal point ...high contrast....and oh so gorgeous!!!

So many people, when you ask them what inspires them, say "oh color, colour, colour is what I love!" (no matter how you spell it!)...... the right colors really work to attract, nay, seduce!, people...


On the other hand, I've noticed that when I'm teaching, and ask people to bring images from which they'd like to work to design their quilt, the photos or prints etc they show me often have gorgeous colors and it's really hard  to get beyond that to see the "bones" of  the design.  Very reluctantly, some can be persuaded to photocopy the image into black and white we can really see what's what.  And some look great in grey...others just disappear into a moosh of flat nothing!!
It is hard to get beyond  color, its siren song is so powerful..... 

Some artists are strong on color,  some on the basic design... a few can manage both. 
I advocate one step at a works for mountain climbing!  First, decide on the shape of the mountain!   Then go into color...and a lovely way to choose colors for a project is to work from those gorgeous photos you've collected over the years.

Color Immersion

But, one of the problems for our medium, when it comes to color, is actually finding cloth in the right hue/saturation/value/temperature - even knowing what to call the colors  is difficult sometimes!
Much easier with paint, thank goodness!
If you look at the picture above, the turquoise on the left is in several different values...and it also shifts from a cool to a warmer blue.  The pink on the right goes from a warm orangey pink, through a slightly greyed pink to a blue-pink and then into mauve.  And then what color is that shadow?  What kind of a grey is that?  Is it important to the image?

Want to know more about color and how to use it?   Well, I'm just about to start a new Color course at
The class covers basic color theory in videos and text with simple examples - You can learn about the 4 properties of color, how to use them to enhance your artwork, how to choose great color schemes and visual effects...and how to generate specific moods with the use of color.  
Think about it!  wouldn't it be great to make no more expensive mistakes with cloth, or having to start over on a watercolor?  and the basics are easily learned and very straightforward and with a little practice you'll develop an intuitive sense of color that will serve you well.

Please ask any questions in Comments!  or email me - there's a link on the sidebar at the top....
or:  elizabethyork100 AT will work too!
And, if you have been, thanks for reading!  Elizabeth