Sunday, March 27, 2016

A New Class on Abstract Art

I have a brand new class starting this next Friday - April 1st - with the Academy of Quilting; 
it's called More Abstract Art for Quiltmakers

I enjoyed writing my first Academy of Quilting class on abstract art (Abstract Art for Quiltmakers) so much - and it's such a huge field, I thought I'd write another one.  The two classes are really parallel rather than sequential - you could take them in any order, or just one.  My first class focused on women abstract artists, so often overlooked and under valued.  I also made a long (and growing!) Power Point of their work - pity there isn't a way to give a PPP in a blog!  Or at least not an easy way for an IT amateur like myself.

So having dipped my toes with the water or rather paint! - for most of them did use paint !   with the first class, I wanted to go on and find out just how abstract art came about, who were the pionaeers...and...they weren't whom I thought!  Kandinsky always proudly presented himself as The First...but actually he wasn't!

Each lesson (there are five) looks at a different movement within abstract art, and from each movement I've extracted a number of different exercises so you can make lots and lots of designs!  From this one class you can probably come up with enough designs for about 5 years!!!

Not all designs are strong, of course, so it's very important to learn both how to generate designs, and how to critique them.  There's nothing so sad as going through the whole process of making a quilt and then finally putting it up on the wall and taking a good long hard look and realising there are significant design flaws, that somehow it just doesn't work, it doesn't match in any way the idea you had in your head.

You can design by drawing pencil on paper, or with a computer, or with paper collage, or with pieces of cloth...there are many ways.  I do a lot of designing with watercolors..but it really doesn't matter how you's having a systematic process that allows you to create what you want to create.

One of the many beauties of abstract art is that often a very simple composition can be extremely satisfying...and also give one great opportunities for the use of hand dyed or painted fabric and hand stitching.  The impact of these is often lost in more complex designs.

Anyway...if you're interested check out the class at Academy of Quilting!
I'm happy to answer any questions....or hear any suggestions for other classes...I usually try to write one new one a year...Each one is almost as long as the average quilting book, I've found, so it does take me a while.  I try to devise a class that is based on something I'm curious about myself, I don't want to do Quick! Fast! Easy!    Those are just not satisfying!!

And, if you have been, thanks for reading......and now for a nice cuppa tea and then to work on my new abstract quilt!!   Elizabeth

Wednesday, March 23, 2016

One a Day....

Some people appear to have both the fortitude and the time to spend hours in their studios. Alas, I'm not one of time is very broken up not only by calls on it from outside (as it were) but also by a restless internal clock that only seems to work for about 20 minutes!
So, often I worry that I will never get anything finished....however I've discovered a way to do it.

It struck me that if you're moving forward, even very slowly, eventually you WILL get of nature.  If you're not moving forward, you won't.  Simple physics!

So the rule is: One a Day.

When I'm in the first sketching phase of working out a new piece, I make sure I do one sketch a day - now it's great if I do more, but one a day is the rule.  In a month that means I would have around 30 sketches up on the wall from which to choose - and usually there's more..because, of course when you've done one and you're looking at it.. you think, hmm now I've done it that way round, but what if I tried it this way round.  Or, would it work better as a square than a rectangle?

Gradually over the month - or whatever the period of time is - I realise that some sketches are a lot more compelling than others, so then the duds get dropped into recycling...the rough diamonds (yes! I'm an optimist!) move onto the value stage.

In the value stage each of the sketches has to be worked in at least 3 different value studies, I don't let myself be satisfied with just one.   And the goal for the day....the value studies for one sketch.

Now I've a wall full of value sketches, I keep popping in and out of the sewing room - some have life, others, don't - off with their heads!!!  and gradually the keepers emerge.

The fabric is, I don't know about you, but pulling out all that fabric is the easiest part of the whole affair!!!  One could do that for ever!!!  Once I've got my fabric chosen, and arranged by VALUE (yes value not colour!), then I can see if I'm missing anything, or any stand out as being horribly wrong.

The cutting stage: again the rule is: one piece cut out per day, even if I'm dead on my feet and the house is filthy and the guests are coming down the driveway!!!  Get ONE piece cut out and pinned in place!

If the quilt has 50-60 pieces...then in 2 months all will be cut out - more or less...sometimes I just cut a chunk approx the right size and then refine it later.

The Sewing together stage is also One per Day, today's ONE is sitting behind me right now on the sewing machine awaiting its personal 15 minutes of fame!

And it won't take two months...because as they're sewn together they become a bigger chunk!  so at worst it will be done in one month...and sometimes you just get galloping along and everything is fitting together right...but if it's one of those sew a seam and take it out and resew it days...well at least one will be done and I'll be inching nearer the goal of the completed quilt top.

I like to make a few tops and let them mature in peace in the cupboard...when I take them out I'll see them with fresh eyes and decide which should be quilted and finished.

One a day!  it works....
now I must get today's seam done then I can have a nice cuppa tea......
If you have been, thanks for reading!
And do write with your work strategies...I'd love to know!!!   Elizabeth

PS My brand new class for starts at the end of next week; it's called More Abstract Art for my next post I'll write more about it.

Sunday, March 13, 2016

Book Sale, the importance of road signs and 5 reasons for not finishing everything.

If you ever thought of buying either of my books....they are for sale - one day only I'm afraid! - on the C&T website.

If I didn't already have a copy of each one, I'd be buying them - they've got them reduced so much.

update: alas...the sale is over now....but you can always go elsewhere!!  

  Both are distillations (plus lots of pictures) of my real and virtual workshops!

And if you run into me having a nice cup of tea anywhere, I'll be happy to sign them for you!

 So, what have I been up to? 
I went up South Carolina, a very pretty drive from here through early spring countryside...getting lost several times (no GPS and definitely no smart phone - I like being untraceable!) since Georgia prides itself on saving money on road signs: "if we just put one at every other crossroads then we'll save half the cost"!!!  An evening lecture and a short workshop for a very nice quilt guild.

Now, back home,  I'm working on some new abstract pieces.  I think it's important to work in series because, really, that's the only way you get better at something - keep on doing it over and over. Yes it can get tedious at times, but if you keep your first attempts and then compare them to those 20 or 30 or even 50 quilts later, you will see significant improvement.  But if you make 50 different types of quilts, one for each technique you try out, or each possible subject then, while your technical skills are probably better, your ability to be creative in a fresh and inspiring way is not likely to have developed much.  Also your sense of really knowing the subject and being able to communicate something different, as the result of long study, to the viewer won't be any stronger.

You do need to dig in deep!

A practical reason for working in series is that you don't have to keep on reinventing things.  If your series requires you, for example, to make lots of arashi shibori - like Jan Myers-Newbury, then you'll get better and better and eventually amazing (as she is) with it.

I started out making abstract quilts then deviated into the cityscapes - they were so much fun and I had so many images and memories of the "old home town" (2,000 years in my case, so really old).  But now I want to see if I can be fresh and creative (well, creative at least!)  with abstract design.

I've given myself a few parameters within which to work: size, shape, type of image, kinds of fabrics, and I do at least 3 value studies per sketch before I begin.  I like a few road signs to know where I'm going (as mentioned before!).  I plan on making 6 tops and putting them away to "mature" as I go.  Several reasons for this:

1. When I take them out of storage, I will be able to look at them and critique them with "fresh eyes"

2. If I have several I won't feel inclined to have to finish ALL of them

3.  Stopping to baste, quilt and finish does slow down the creativity - the energy of "but what if I try this (or that) variation

4. It actually cuts down on some of the agony over getting it just right, feeling that there is something slightly wrong but you don't know what. And I'm all for cutting down on agony!

5.  There's a great satisfaction in seeing the treasures pile up in the closet!!

6.  When I have 6 to choose from - which to finish? - it's easier to discard the one, two or even three that simply are very humdrum.

How about you?  Anyone else work like this??

And now, time for that cuppa...if you have been, thanks for reading!   Elizabeth

Thursday, March 3, 2016

Value studies - the easy way

I really like making several different value studies when I have decided upon a sketch, but I must admit it is a little tedious to shade them in by hand. So, I like to do them on the computer.....

1. First you have to have a nice clean copy where all the lines join up (no gaps!  the colors would bleed through)
2.  Then scan this sketch into your computer.

here's a little sketch I made some time ago, really simple.

3.  I open the sketch into Photoshop Elements (this is a fairly inexpensive photo imaging program that many people like).  There is also GIMP, a free download.  And I'm sure several others that I don't know - but if you do and can recommend!  please...write a comment!

4.  Then I click on the two little squares right down at the bottom on the left hand side that show the foreground and background colors, and I select a dark value.  I don't care what color is it,  I usually get as close as I can to a neutral grey. I find it easier to begin with the darkest value, and I never use more than 4 different values: 3 is fine too:  white, black and one or two greys.

5.  Then I click on the little paint bucket - it's about 6 little icons up from the bottom of that left hand side group of tools.

6.  Then over to the sketch with my bucket now full of black paint!  and I click where I want the image to be dark: 

7.  Hmmm or would it look more interesting if I inverted (Ctrl-I, command-I) those values:

8.  Actually that does look pretty sharp...but I'll save it and maybe even print it out to look at more later...but I think I'll go back to where I was and add some medium lights:

 9. and then some medium darks....

10, maybe more?

11.  No, I think I went too far...let's try again...hmm  quite like this one!

 See how addictive it is??? and how much fun....and a perfect way to design a quilt, not only in values...but easily translated into color too.

Actually in my Dyeing to Design class, about to start tomorrow with
the first assignment is about dyeing a nice gradation of blacks and then making a quilt solely from them.  The assignment teaches so much about the importance of value.

The class lasts five weeks and as well as exploring low water immersion dyeing and gradation dyeing, it also covers arashi shibori and several different kinds of screen printing.
The class is organized around the five elements of design that we use in art quilts:  value, color, texture, shape and line.

Love to have comments!!!  Do please step in with your favorite way of shading your value studies.
And, if you have been, thanks for reading......Elizabeth