Monday, July 12, 2021

Time management for artists

Time Management for Artists

Like everyone, I never seem to have enough time to do all the things I want to do. So I’ve come up with a Time Management checklist for myself so see if I can’t just squeeze a little more juice out of those 24 hours!!

1. I definitely have to have a diary/planner/appointment book. This is especially helpful for combining appointments and errands since I notice that leaving home even for something as small as picking up more supplies somehow seems to waste a whole morning. If I can combine my art supplies, office supplies, shipping, library and dentist appointments etc into one journey....then I’ve saved 4 mornings!

2. I like to plan out the next day the night before – a nice to do list with items ripe for crossing off! I used to write it out at breakfast time but found I was waking up the night before thinking oh! I must remember to do so and so, and thus, and such and the whirling mind would lead to a whirling bod, wakefulness, finally dropping off to sleep just before dawn, sleeping in and wasting half a morning! Whereas now I can just drop off into dreamland knowing that the next day is taken care of.

3. Like a lot of people, I’m great at displacement activity – if there’s something I don’t want to do I fritter away time on inconsequentials while I work up to the Dreaded Deed! So now I put the thing I least want to do as Number One on the to do list, once that’s done and checked off, the rest of the day’s tasks seem easy by comparison. Checking off items on the to do list is also very satisfying.

4. I’m very aware of Initial Inertia – I used to drive an old Rover 75 (1948!); it took about a gallon of gas to get it moving, but once it was rolling it was a great ride – very stately!! So I’ve found that if I can just make myself do that very First Step, I’ll often get rolling along quite nicely (not necessarily stately!). When making a quilt I outline the quilt I’m going to make on the design wall with ripped off selvedges - just those first four lines: the top, bottom and sides...with an empty middle hoping to be filled! If painting, I'll lay out the paper, the inspiration, the value sketch, paints brushes etc….

if it’s a phone call I don’t want to make, I've discovered that saying to myself:"all you have to do is look up the phone number"...somehow gets me over that inertia.

5. I also try to notice where I’m losing time each day– which is one reason why, when quilt making, I like to plan out a color scheme and have all my fabric pulled from the outset. I used to start with a couple of pieces then hunt through the stash for a third and so on, creating a veritable tornado of fabric by I was done. Then it all has to be folded and put away – another time waster.

with a painting...deciding which inspiration photo to work from, printing that one out, and not having a great pile of "possibles" saves me a lot of time. When teaching workshops, I've sometimes seen people taking a whole day to decide which photo is the one to start from.....

Another time waster is Looking for a particular tool: if you find yourself more than a couple of times taking time to find a basic tool, buy some more of them! I have scissors Everywhere! – then I don’t waste time looking for a pair. I also fill about a dozen bobbins at a time and just have 3 bobbin colors: light, medium and dark. In the garden I have a spade and a trowel and gloves waiting for me in each area of the garden.

6. I really try to avoid other people wasting my time – politely of course! If it’s a nuisance call, obviously one just puts the phone down and lets them prattle on to thin air; if a friend or relative, I say “well I mustn’t keep you…” (translates as “I’m afraid I’m NOT going to let you keep me”!).

A great way of avoiding them wasting time is to combine social time with exercise – makes the exercise easier and makes double use of the time.

7. I try to use distractions as reinforcements: e.g. checking for emails only AFTER so many minutes on task! Studies have shown that office workers spend almost a third of their time on emails, social media etc!!

8. Simple filing systems help to organize papers etc so they don't get lost - I have spent hours looking for a vital piece of paper!

9. Talking of paper,try to handle each piece of paper once only. If you write to me you may well get your card or letter back with something scrawled on it! If you email me, I tend to reply straightaway so then I don’t take the time to read it twice – quicker to hit reply while what you’ve said is still in my mind. Of course some friends hate me doing this!!!

10. And of course, it’s important not to do that which does not need to be done!! Such as ironing all the fabric….just iron the bits you are going to work with…yes I know ironing is lovely…smoothing out the wrinkles of the world..but it does take time! Tidying up the studio – do you really need to have everything arranged just so? I must admit I don’t understand the drive to have the perfect studio…do we really need to know who has the biggest one?

11. I try to set goals well ahead of time with the Big Task split into many little ones and something accomplished towards it each day…like writing a book or an online course – 30 minutes a day is, I find, much more possible, than larger chunks of time which take a lot of working up to.

12. When I write a blog, I try to make it relevant to something I need to do – like manage my time more wisely! Having said that, I’m off to make a cup of tea – a very wise use of my time!

So, if you have been, thanks for reading…and I do hope you found it a good use of your time! Do share any time management tips that you have too….we all would love a couple more hours of creative time per day! Elizabeth

Sunday, June 13, 2021

I've been vlogged!

Above are some of the many photos I shared with popular French Vlogger Liana Voia....also there's a long interview with yours truly! You can see my new covid hair do (i.e. nothing done except washed!), and Power points of many quilts and watercolors and photographs over the years. The top photo is a book a friend and I self published back in the '80s!!!! Next is one of many local newspaper clippings..... the third one is to commemorate me donated the two quilts hanging behind us to the public library....they are they to this day...and I added a third. So much better than malingering in a cupboard! and the last photo is of the member of AQN(NY) at least 20 years ago...you'll recognize some famous faces I'm sure!WE did have one male member - Michael James, but he went on to bigger things!!

Please do go and look and the vlog! and let me know what you think! Here's the link: Elizabeth Barton

or, if the above doesn't work, please copy and paste: https://vimeo.com/561805092

All good wishes....Elizabeth

Friday, May 14, 2021

Sewing Therapy

Recently I was hospitalized with a disorder caused (or at least aggravated) by stress....and when I got home I decided to add in several more stress relievers to my day (as well as the damned pills they prescribed!!! And I discovered that giving myself 30 minutes of time to do NOTHING but sew, no tv, radio, podcast or (most importantly!) people! Just me and the cloth and the scissors, pins, needles and sewing machine. I discovered that this was the most calming thing of all...

The important thing is not to feel guilty for taking time for yourself, nor to have any sense of "having to " reach a certain goal or certain time frame. I know a lot of people use yoga for this, but that never worked for me. Instead just calmly cutting and sewing and not feeling like I need to get anywhere or justify the activity to anyone at all, getting totally into the flow of sewing movements and focussing only on those, seeing it as an important activity for health. Breathing into it... This is what works.

Now I know it would not be calming if you couldn't sew! you'd just get frustrated...but I'm sure everyone that reads this blog is a sewer..oops I don't mean a drain!!! No! but the calming quiet contemplative activity WILL drain away your tension. Don't see this activity as an excuse, but rather a very important medicine for your life! Try it! A full 30 minutes, at a particular time each day, with NO pressure, completely quiet, your space, your time...nobody can interrupt. Feel your tangled thoughts smooth out, your heart rate drop, your breathing become calm and rhythmic... AND let me know how this works for you! I'm sure hoping this will keep me out of hospital!

And, if you have been, thanks for reading. Elizabeth

Thursday, April 29, 2021

Designing art quilts with line - two problems - SOLVED!

While in art quilts our main medium is shape, pieces of cloth cut into shapes, most of us usually design using line. And this can often be misleading, because our lines simply delineate the edges of the shapes! to me, this creates two difficulties...

First, we're designing one thing...but making another! So it's really hard to see what the quilt will look like finished. so many times people say to me - but I know what I want in my head, but what comes out is nothing like it!! I know we've all felt that. My answer is that if you want your quilt to be a beautiful and exciting arrangement of shapes, then DESIGN with shapes! cut out the shapes in paper - or in cloth - and arrange and rearrange on a background that resembles (in value at least, also texture) the background of your finished quilt. You don't need to glue them down...just take a photo of every arrangement you come up with and then look at the different ideas simultaneously on your computer...you'll easily see the best one.

Second, we're missing an opportunity to create a design featuring LINE itself...and these can be very beautiful and elegant. Not so easy to reproduce in fabric, you say? ACtually not so difficult as you would think...cut fairly narrow strips - as narrow as you can comfortably work with...but sew very wide seams thus reducing the width of the narrow strips considerably. As I did in this quilt below.

When considering a linear design, begin with a sketch - which obviously you'll design by drawing lines on a piece of paper! If your design is based on a photo or some similar inspiration, then, one you have your sketch, take the photo away! Just focus on the sketch. This is your blueprint. Now: are there any lines you can remove and still retain the idea that inspired you? Get rid of those first. They are surplus to purpose!

Then, see if you can extend, or add, or augment your lines. For example: drawing strong lines that go through much of the design and create a basic structure. Remember that horizontal lines suggest a peaceful scene, vertical ones strength and stability, and diagonal ones (my favorite!) are dynamic. Don't have just one kind of line, but do have a PREPONDERANCE of one kind. If you use diagonals, be sure to have a few that go in the opposite direction...otherwise you'll have all your viewers leaning to one side......!!!

Next...think about the quality of the lines: sharp pointy ones give a feeling of energy, perhaps anger! smooth undulating ones are calm, tender, loving. Short bold ones are dramatic, fine whispy ones are smokey, suggestive and tentative. What mood do you want to create? Use your lines!

Some lines should be avoided - because they are boring, or affect the balance of the design. These are lines that are exactly parallel to the edges, or lines that bisect a corner, or "cut" the design into two equal halves. You don't want your quilt to be really predictable...like elevator music!

Use the fact that our eyes tend to follow a line to direct your viewer's gaze: towards a focal area...or around the piece...whatever you want!

And, if you have been, thanks for reading!!! I do hope you'll try some of these ideas ...let me know if they are helpful! And I love comments...and will always reply! So please..feel free! Elizabeth

Sunday, April 11, 2021

A change of subject.....

A friend asked me yesterday why she wasn't getting into local art shows when her paintings were actually much better than several that had been accepted. I went down to the show...and realised that the juror just didn't like traditional landscapes...everything she had chosen was about rawness, ugliness and distortion. Protest was another major theme. In fact she even expressed surprise in her remarks in the catalogue that landscapes were still being painted!!!

So I advised my friend that if she wanted to get in, she would need to change her subject matter. BUT, I felt strongly...that one should always make work (in whatever medium you use) about what is in your heart, what makes YOU glow or shimmer or weep or jump for joy.

And then I started thinking about my own work. when I first made art quilts, I was still a fairly new immigrant to the USA and still visiting my home town (York, UK) regularly and again walking and dreaming in the old Roman city with its medieval houses. It wasn't surprising that that became the subject of my quilts.

But ...this is not what is in my heart now.....now I live in a beautiful green oasis, a large garden, two lovely and intriguing parks close by, a university that prides itself on its landscaping....every window looks out onto amazing beautiful natural patterns of tree branches and leaves and sky. And it is so inspiring and uplifting... So....my art forthcoming will be about the trees, I want to make a quilt and several paintings of the photo at the head of this blog...and for the first time in ages...I can't wait to begin!!!

Follow your heart, said Joseph Campbell, many years ago....and he was right. Jurors who prefer the ugly - bedamned!!!

If you have been, thanks for reading! and do please comment! Oh yes! I will respond! and now my desires lead me to a nice cuppa tea....Elizabeth

Sunday, February 28, 2021

Lockdown diary and dubious "accomplishments" plus a project!

I keep reading about all the amazing things people are accomplishing during this time of isolation - like teaching your children to tap dance! Well I don't have the oomph for that! or the child who wants to learn...but I have got quite a few things done.

Decided to try to learn spanish ....again!!! it is much easier than English...but I can't get out of the habit of pronouncing words the french way - sort of high in the back of the palate!

exercise! what to do ? As a swimmer I was a bit stuck with the pool closed, hard to swim on dry land after all! but I did discover a couple of parks very close and duly masked have perambulated through mud and leaves in the hope of achieving "fitness"!!! (not yet! but still hoping!). In the park I saw people trying to play tennis on small courts with little paddles and whiffle balls! Turns out it's a new sport called pickling!!! So I'm trying to pickle!! Not very good at it and my first teacher gave up on me cos I wouldn't take it seriously and kept laughing...!!! I mean PICKLE! of course you should laugh!

Getting into "death cleaning" as the Scandinavians call it - i.e. clearing out all the clutter, those bulging cupboards of stuff that "might come in" some day!! has lead to several projects - 2 summer bed quilts made from scraps of Liberty fabric I brought to the USA with me when I emigrated years and years ago...a big pink scrap art "window" quilt for a friend which nicely used up all the pink fabric I have never ever wanted to use in any quilt!! It's funny how there's one color you avoid! I am just not a pink person!! I also sorted out all my knitting yarn and now have it divided into neat piles with a specific pattern or idea and the right size needles...I only allow myself 4 rows a night of knitting (arthritis) but it's surprising how quickly you can make something with just that little amount. I often use 3 strands together and that works up very quickly. it's also a great way to make something unified that could be very bitty.You take one yarn that you have a lot of ...which is usually a boring dreary color that was on sale! and then you add in all the fun stuff...the boring yarn holds it all together visually and the bits of fun..give it pzazz!

So then my death cleaning got into my class notes and power points...I've taught a lot of classes over the years....and working with them, I updated a couple of my www.academyofquilting.com classes.... the Art Quilt from Start to Finish, formerly Inspired to Design, and Abstract Art for Quiltmakers.

I usually work from a rough sketch (like below), sometimes from a watercolor, but the most fun - and useful I think - is from a collage.

Working from a collage is a lot of fun....you can use plain paper in just 3 values...or.... Cut out images, or parts of them, from magazines - NOT quilting magazines! - just from the adverts in an ordinary news magazine....and try to make little compositions with them...fitting them together onto card and glueing them down...or you can use those sticky sheets you get in photo albums - if anyone still has them! I like to take apart old christmas and greeting cards and just keep the blank bits...or glue the cuttings over the existing images... make a few of these...and you'll begin to be able to get a sense of what makes a good composition. then take the best one...and make a quilt based on them!!! Send the others off for birthdays etc! have fun...and let me know how this worked for you...it definitely shifts you into working another way and thinking along different lines...which I love. And, if you have been, thanks for reading! Elizabeth ps. please comment! also look out for my article in the upcoming issue of Quilting Moderne.

Friday, February 12, 2021

Getting started on new work after a hiatus...don't set deadlines on creativity!

d'you find it really hard to start work again after you've been away from the studio for a few weeks? I know I do...I futz around tidying fabric, getting the scissors lined up, picking up pins, replacing thread and so on...but once you start refolding fabric from the bottom of the pile...you know you're stalling!!! Time to get some action going!

In order to be creative you need to be experimenting, playing, having fun, trying out possibilities in between major pieces...this is what leads to discovery. Looking at art - preferably very good art that has stood the test of time...and then thinking...hmm how could I play with that idea? Please don't feel that you have to have something ready for the next show, the next challenge etc. don't set deadlines on creativity. Become a curious person! No!!! not to others...!! but to yourself...being curious about whether you can arrange eleven triangles and one square to indicate comfort....or alienation! Can you look out of the window and "discover" 6 new design ideas? Exercise your curiosity each day...and it will grow stronger, just like muscles!!!

don't switch off your artist mind when you leave the studio or sewing room, be your artist self all the time...seeing the beauty and wonder everywhere...plus possibilities for new quilts or new paintings!!! So many people seem to repeat the same old thing over and over...don't be one of them!!!

pull out your notebooks...is there anything that you didn't follow up on? look at the photos on the phone...should any be sent to your printer for further manipulation? Take the first likely possibility and start playing - whatever your preferred method is...I like to trace or sketch and then layer and collage...just with 3 values of paper. But everyone has their own preferred technique.

think of all the different ways you can manipulate the ideas you find: smaller, larger, different proportions, details, upside down and inside out, values reversed, straight lines curved and curved straight, everything in dots ...or dashes! all lines going all the way to the edge, everything slanted, try out all the filters on your photo imaging program! The quilt on the left? I cut into 6 vertical strips and rearranged them!!! Try that!

pin up the best possibilities on the wall, and consider which could be refined...

Be aware that you are improving and let that encourage you and lead you forward!! it will, honestly!!! and while you're encouraging yourself, consider reaching out and encouraging others too....there's nothing so energizing as having a friend exclaim in delight over something you've made!! "Motivation is in the world around us. We have an infinite amount of material at our disposal, in the lives of those we meet, in what we see, feel and discuss." (Pablo Picasso) and, let me know how you do!!!!

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

Friday, January 29, 2021

Give yourself a art show!

When it comes to dispaying art quilts at home, it's impossible to get a really good idea of them as you'd need a huge house to put them all up on one wall. I've loved it when I've had a solo show in a gallery somewhere, because that's what it takes to really get a sense of where you are going with your work. But alas, at present, gallery opportunities are not available!

However, it struck me that I could clear a wall in my basement studio and hang my paintings. First I had to mat them - well the mats got hung up with covid! But eventually arrived....so that took several weeks. Then I ordered frames - I have tried a number of different ones, including some surprisingly pleasant looking and inexpensive ones ...but made in plastic and purchased from That Store we ladies do not patronize! Finally I decided if a painting is worth hanging it's worth a decent frame...and you can order the elegant simple Neilson metal ones from several places on line. The paintings now chosen (all from 2020), matted and framed...the next job was to clear all the junk off the wall!

This accomplished, I decided on a salon style of hanging which is a fancy way of saying hang as many as you can in one space!!! And so, you can see the result in the photo! Room for more too....which is great gives me an incentive to get to work.

The best thing is that seeing a body of work at one go you can really get a sense of your direction, your style, your focus, where you might challenge yourself next. I do have one or two "odd" ones in the mix where I tried something else...but I love the impact of a number of works based on one idea. And you can ask yourself when you see a whole show like this: is my work any good? is it strong? Am I moving forward, or just repeating yesterday's ideas? Am I learning? Am I alive?

e.e. cummings: “…It is Art because it is alive. It proves that, if you and I are to create at all, we must create with today and let all the Art schools and Medicis in the universe go hang themselves with yesterday’s rope. It teaches us that we have made a profound error in trying to learn Art, since whatever Art stands for is whatever cannot be learned. Indeed, the Artist is no other than he who unlearns what he has learned, in order to know himself; and the agony of the Artist, far from being the result of the world’s failure to discover and appreciate him, arises from his own personal struggle to discover, to appreciate and finally to express himself…. …“to become an Artist” means nothing: whereas to become alive, or one’s self, means everything. …

What d'you think? Dare you give yourself an art show? I recommend it!

And, if you have been, thanks for reading.... Please comment!!!! I will read AND reply....but now for a nice cuppa tea......Polly! put the kettle on! would you, dear? Elizabeth

PS to see the paintings individually please check the watercolor page on my website.

Thursday, January 7, 2021

Taking Classes....

I've always loved screen printing...it's such magic when you lift the screen up ...very slowly....and see what's happened!!

REcently I came across some images of prints I'd made in my first surface design class which was on screen printing....in those days(35+ years ago) I used textile paint rather than thickened dye, but either works.

You can learn screen printing with dye (thickened) and many other surface design techniques in my www.academyofquilting.com class Dyeing to Design. The class covers simple dyeing, arashi (storm!) shibori, and several types of screen printing including deconstructed. It's really a taste of all the different surface design techniques I know. Taking a class can change your life - it has mine - many times! In the Uk I took screen printing...and judo...and pottery...and watercolour. In the USA I've done a lot more surface design and watercolor, and my very first quilting class...when I came to Georgia in 1984. And what an adventure that lead to!!! Meanwhile I also did lots of different kinds of dancing, and aikido and water aerobics and swimming, and pickleball and French and Spanish and and and....

Learning something new opens up your whole life!

So...if you have been, thank you for reading..! Do comment and tell me what classes have changed your life. oh, and while you're perusing the offerings at the academyofquilting, check out all my other classes including the new one: Simple Secret to good design - easy guidelines for strong designs.

What can we do when we can't socialize? we can learn!!!!

Take care everyone...masks hide a multitude of wrinkles!!!! Elizabeth