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

Sunday, April 30, 2017

No words necessary


 I've always been puzzled by the way some show entries require one to complete an artist statement especially as they don't require this for a mixed media art show.  Who wants it?
I doubt it's at the juror's request:  the couple of times I've been a juror, I didn't  look at the statements - or the title.  I did, however, consider the size of the piece...but that's a whole other matter!

What is the point of the words?  if the work cannot speak for itself in order to convey the artist's intent, then it is ipso facto a failure surely?  (hopefully the quilt above looks chilly enough without me having to go on and on about it in a statement!)

 We don't turn over a Picasso painting to see what he wrote on the back:  "Dear Viewer in this painting I was endeavouring to show the many sides of woman since I've had trouble with women all my life".  Actually, though, thinking about it - that might be kinda of fun to read!!!  Michelangelo : "oops...just couldn't quite get those two fingers to connect, but you get the general idea".....Matisse -  I mean Monet (where is my head?  thank you Renate!)  "I did wonder if I was seeing things a little blurry, and then I found out I had cataracts...I wonder how that will affect my painting? My intention was a botanical representation of those water lilies...but it seemed like they floated out of focus". Stuart Davis: "well it all seems like a jungle to me".  Mondrian: "Actually, it was a map to show where we were meeting tonight".

But, back to the words? if we do NEED them, then it suggests that either the work isn't in itself successful....or that perhaps a quilt was the wrong medium for the idea.  I have sometimes wondered "why cloth?"  at times when I saw people trying to recreate a photograph in cloth, desperately trying to match up exact colors and include all details.....

If the work is valid and true: No words are necessary!

Can you imagine a sign in a gallery?


fSince I became interested in Abstract Art and have give talks about it - particularly about those long forgotten female artists (thankfully museums are beginning to catch up there) - people have often asked me to Explain a painting to them. 
But I begin to think that good art shouldn't need an explanation. The subject is either quite clear: a portrait of a person, scene or event etc...or, being abstract - then it's just that: Abstract!
 i.e. Addressing concepts, ideas, emotions for which we have no words.  Consider music.  Do you feel that the composer should give you a "composer's statement" before you hear a piece?
I was fascinated to read that the brilliant British pianist Stephen Hough said one of the reasons he loved music was because it did NOT need words....

So, what d'you think?  do we need the words?  The laborious explanations? Or should we just let the art and the music speak for itself...opening our eyes (or ears) and just absorbing......

If  you have been, thanks for reading!!!!  and thank you so much for commenting....

Sunday, April 23, 2017

It's all about learning.

Sometimes I sits and thinks, and sometimes I just sits...
WE all hate waste!  I'm as bad as anyone else. I really don't like cutting into special fabric I've saving for ages,  the piece of fabric I just take out and stroke once in awhile. I'm so afraid I'm going to waste it; And so , it might sit there for years And  even start to get that thrift store smell!

And then, when my heirs are dealing with my estate, they will think "why on earth did mother  hang onto this all these years and never use it"?

I see this frequently in workshops, people will use the cheapest fabric. And I will say "why? when you have this beautiful bit of burnt orange in your stash, that would be perfect".
But, they say,  I would hate to waste it!  I'm saving my good stuff."
And  yet they have spent a lot of money coming to the workshop! And Will probably be going out to dinner that night, maybe even having a couple of glasses of water to recover!

Something else  I see:  a design blocked out on the wall..but the pieces aren't cut out rather they are folded up bits of fabric, sometimes the whole yard folded it up into  lumpy wodge... and we're trying to decide if it looks right! I don't know about you, but I don't really like lumpy wodges in my quilts!

How do I know all of this??   I've done it myself, a thousand times!

Do not disturb: I'm fixing to think about learning.....

Another situation that happens:  you have a design  - it is not quite right but you plough on any way, and you try a lot of different fabrics. You sew it all together, and then pull it apart again, you rearrange every section, you're cut out a big big chunk, you add a great deal of black in the hopes that somehow that will put it altogether ...and still its not working. Now many designs can be fixed and improved and this is usually best done at the design stage. But there are some that are just hopeless from the beginning.....  so have you wasted your time?  No! Not if you think about it in terms of learning.  You probably learned more from from that unfixable piece then you ever did from the one that went smoothly from start to finish. It's a case of altering our mindset so that we're not product orientated but rather learning oriented. It's better  to think it's not about what I can fix, rather it's about what I can learn.

Learning new skills is one of the most wonderful things that we can do-but it does come at a cost. We must use some of those precious pieces of fabric, we must use our time and our energy -  but aren't they worth it. Isn't it the amount of time and money and effort  expended worth the new skill and the new knowledge that we have required?

There are times when I feel I'm looking at things the wrong way...

Think about it which would you rather have?
A pile of the dozen quilts Nice but not special - they that all went together very easily without much effort on your part… or, perhaps only a few samples, but the knowledge  of how to manipulate colours and shapes and pieces of fabric in the way that creates something new and wonderful and allows you to express how you feel about some special experience? And, of course, what not to do!

Waiting...for it all to come together.....
Ask yourself which Really feels better: making something without thinking about it and not really learning anything new but having a finished product.. or  developing new skills and knowledge,  feeling yourself growing, becoming more "talented" (ha! yes! talent is perspiration expended not luck!!) and more knowledgeable.

It's important to look at things a little differently, and consider what is really important.  Material goods, or personal growth.   It really is all about the learning.

If you have been, thanks for reading!  and do please write in the Comments and tell me your learning stories.....

Wednesday, April 5, 2017

At the beach, looking for compositions!

I am at the beach with a few friends for  a few days...and thinking about my upcoming

In the class, I show many different ways to create modern quilt designs from an abstract point of view...but as I look around the landscape here, I'm seeing loads of modern quilt design possibilities....

Modern quilts are lovely (well, the best ones!) because of all the negative space they include.   And with our very busy lives these days, I think negative space is a must for all of us!!!

There is so much information, "fake" of course!, coming at us, so much consternation, stimulation, hurry and flurry that we need to create quiet, calm and peace.  And, what better place than art work?

As I look through my photos, I can see that space and clarity, light and air with perhaps a small focal area or strip of color is exactly what I'm needing right now.

In this age of extreme busyness, let us create art that gives us time and space to breathe and contemplate....

WE really don't need to overcomplicate things!   I must admit that I cringe when I see quilts with everything, including the kitchen sink, added, embellished, stitched, pieced, appliqued, glued over the top... receiving awards and "Best of Show" ribbons!!!!  More is not more, we really do all need time to think!

Am I on the wrong track here, d'you think?
  Is my reaction to the chaos around us inappropriate?  Or is it part of a necessary balancing act?

let me know!!!  Meanwhile...I'm off for a walk on the beach...and then, I think,
  a nice simple cup of tea!!  
If you have been, thanks for reading!  Elizabeth

Friday, March 17, 2017

Why do people love or hate abstract art?

 I'm starting another Abstract Art class next Friday (description below) and I'm wondering if that is a good  idea!!
I've been surprised recently by people responding to abstract art in a  clearly quite visceral way in both online classes, and in  presentations to groups of retired intelligentsia!!
Now, I myself certainly don't respond to ALL abstract art, but I would say there's nothing that gets under my skin so much that I would say I hate it!!

It's always fascinating when  people's reactions to something are quite different...not just paintings of course, but textile art, music, plays, books and so on.  How can you hate something that is not attacking you? (as you can see I'm excluding politics here - actually the big three forbidden subjects for dinner parties: money, religion, politics! - no, I'm not talking about them - plenty there to feel visceral, or as they say in the UK, "gutted" about).

What is a painting doing that you can't bear to look at it?  How can somebody look at the work of well respected artists that have stood the test of time, and say "that's really awful, it makes me cold and angry" - it's almost as if they feel they have been conned by the artist.
And this is a common response - the old "my five year old could have done it" that even the most intelligent open minded people sometimes comment when I give them a presentation of abstract art!
No, your five year old couldn't!!   well perhaps a little genius like Picasso or Mozart or Fanny Mendelssohn could produce an abstract work of art that would stand forever .....but these folk are pretty rare.

So, as is my wont, I cogitated about this very negative reaction many have towards abstract art and wondered if it's really because they don't understand it.  We do like to understand our world - especially the intelligentsia!!!  so...if you don't understand what all the fuss is about, AND that bothers you (I'm leaving myself a get out clause here because I don't understand many sports !!!  4 hours of watching people chase the same ball around a pitch, EVERY day, somehow doesn't do much for me!) if you feel really strongly about something...then the answer is to find out more about it!! It seems so simple to me...I'm a great believer in understand WHY...hence all the cogitating!!

 I must admit that initially I wasn't that keen on abstract art either. (and there's a lot of poor abstract art out there in the same way that's there's poor representational art) (yes there are Thomas Kinkaid-type abstract artists too!!) , and I certainly couldn't figure out Scriabin's music when I first heard it....but I am intrigued.  I respect the fact that very knowledgeable people find these advances in art and music and literature to be absolutely wonderful, challenging yes...but in the best possible way. So I legged it out onto the internet and the local museum and the library....and the more I looked, the more I became quite enthralled by these artists.  AND, inspired to think about possible quilt designs!! oh yes! there's is so much we can snitch, folks!!  Not that I've made a Scriabin quilt yet...but you never know.....

So...what d'you think?  is abstract art, "modern" classic music etc  all an elaborate con?  or is there maybe something in it?  Comment!

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

an interesting quote from Robert Weirich - he's talking about music, but there are significant parallels with our discussion:

Introduction to my next (More) Abstract Art for Quiltmakers class with the academy.
"Over the next five lessons, we’re going to explore more aspects of abstract art. In my first Abstract art for Quiltmakers class we looked at the lives and work, ideas and processes, of female abstract artists, artists often overlooked. In this class,  More Abstract Art for Quiltmakers, I’d like to focus on the best known and most influential abstract artists, regardless of whether they are male or female, though (in the way of things!) most of them will be male.
I’m going to give some definitions of abstract art – there are many (just the main ones), because there are several different kinds of abstraction. The idea of abstracting means different things to different people and artists have exploited and explored many different avenues. You probably won’t like them all! I don’t either…but it’s useful to have a broad idea of the field as a whole.
In the first lesson, we’ll look at the history of abstract art beginning in Europe – as a particular kind of painting, it’s relatively young, only a little over a hundred years.
Each subsequent week I’ll focus on a different area: Abstract art in New York City, the benefits and meaning of abstract work, the abstract art form we know as music, and the abstract art of the 21st century.
Each of the lessons will also include several exercises which you can follow in order to create your own abstract art designs that you can use to make art quilts. You will be able to post your design sketches, and I can help you evaluate them, and make them stronger.
Towards the end of the course, we’ll discuss the steps necessary in working from the sketch to create the quilt.  I’ll be always available to help you make the designs and the quilts more interesting and more beautiful.
Research (optional!)
Each lesson I will suggest some homework! Research on a topic that is very relevant to the class and to you. In this way we’ll all learn a great deal from each other too.
Reading (optional)
At the end of each lesson, I’ll also give you the name of a book, or a url (website address) where you can go to find out more and really broaden your knowledge and experience of abstract art."

Sunday, March 12, 2017

Display at the Bulloch Hall Quilt Guild show

The show started yesterday March 11th and goes through next Sunday, March 19th.
I was lucky enough to be asked to show about a dozen of my quilts and quite a few paintings too!!
It's the first time I've had the opportunity to show the two together and I really appreciate it.

Here is a nice little row of paintings....

 They look so sweet all rowed up...and - by golly! - they're on a grand piano!! now how appropriate is that!!  two of my newest pleasures!!! And I must admit to a total love affair with my piano...I doubt they'll let me try this one out, though I can see they have reserved a seat for me with a white ribbon!!!

 It's always so interesting when someone else chooses out the pieces to display...and how they put them together...I have never put these  two Pond quilts together but they make so much sense like this!   I wish I had a place at home where I could hang them like that.
I love giving a curator total control and just weeing what they come up with.
Look at the little grouping below.....I love what Holly Anderson did here with the sequence going from all black and white to nearly all red.  And don't they look wonderful together?

I'm sure you all feel the same way...that it's so sad that the art you slaved over for weeks and months spends most of its time rolled up , covered up, disregarded.....and so lovely when it gets its 8 days of fame!  I'm really thrilled to see them hanging so beautifully!

I'm going to be at the show next Sunday March 19th - I'd love for you to come and say hi if you're anywhere in the area..Roswell, Atlanta.....

I'm looking forward to seeing the main quilt show too - it's in all the other rooms in the house...and there's a wonderful raffle quilt:  I've never won one, but my fingers are crossed that mine will be the winning ticket on this beauty:
I'hope to see you at the quilt show!!!

If you have been, thanks for reading!!!  And all comments will be read and replied to!! So please, have at it!!!   Elizabeth