|This is NOT lazy quilting
As I quilted Leaf Cluster II, following the lines in the batik as I had in the first version, the thought came to me that I was making lazy art. Is that a thing or did I just coin a phrase? It's not the first time I've worried that I was not being inventive enough or complicated enough when designing and then quilting an art quilt. I love the texture that builds when a lot of stitch is used but I also worry that on some pieces, too much stitch will take over and overwhelm the main design element. Strike that happy medium, I tell myself, plus feel confident enough about one's stitching skills to execute a more demanding laying in of thread in the background. When in doubt, when feeling timid, the amount of quilting often diminishes, and even when minimal amounts following texture or line in the fabric is called for, I wonder if I am just being lazy. When I launched into the next one, quilting circle after circle in a small pebble stitch (see above photo), I felt excited and sure. Nothing lazy about THIS quilting, was my thought.
But now I was faced with additional squares to quilt, and the timidity and doubt returned. After shuffling the squares (I'll do this one next, no this one...) I chose the dark blue one. I knew I wanted to give the feel of water so hoped some ever widening echoing around the cluster would imply ripples that form when something hits the water. But was I remembering that right? Apparently not, once I looked at some photos on-line. There they were, leaves floating on water, and not a single ripple next to them, but larger circles starting quite far from them. Ok, I can do that, but I think I need to put a couple of echo rounds around the leaf anyway. That red looks so dull (don't believe the photo). And while I think of those circles in the water as being white and shiny, in the pictures they were dark and not shiny. So I opted for a dark green and black Ultra Twist rayon thread and stitched away. I thought the sheen of the thread would catch the light but it didn't. I stitched next to it with a blue YLI Sliver thread and instead of being too overbearing as I feared, it sparkled just right.
So I had done what I so often do, adhere to reality instead of going with my imagination. And sparkly thread or not, I was still underwhelmed by the results - it simply needed more, and I wasn't sure quite what that more was. Perhaps a few sparkly beads in the wide space between the cluster and the first circle. Yup, that definitely helps. And then as I rifled through my bead box, I came across the brilliant red seed beads and laid the strands over the leaves. Ohhhh, that got my heart racing! I won't be beading them on that solidly, but doing more of a scattering of them across each leaf, the paint from the stamped image peaking through. When finished, I will not be thinking that this one is lazy art.
Before adding those beads though, I decided to quilt up what would be the 4th square for my ArtWalk submission, thinking I'd be less stressed about the extra time needed for the beading knowing three were definitely done. I did a bit of back and forth again about what kind of quilting to do - am I still thinking floating on water or just getting some texture in there? An article in a quilting magazine reminded of a bubble pattern I used on this quilt, and as I dug out my reference material, I also unearthing an interesting grid pattern I've meant to try that may be the answer for how to quilt another of the leaf cluster squares. Kicked myself a bit for not having paged through my many resources first but instead only looking through the dark and cobwebby recesses of my mind. I'm not a hundred percent on board with how it turned out, especially that the thread may as well have been invisible thread for all it shows. But the "bubbles" do show up when the light hits it just so and the leaves pop enough that they can stand on their own pretty well. Not quite lazy art - I DID put some effort into it. :-)
|Bubble quilting from the back
While all this was going on, all this mulling and uncertainty about the series and how to keep myself as well as my audience engaged in it, this Painter's Keys showed up in my mailbox under the unlikely heading of "Artistic License" since this is what it started with:
“If you want to be an artist — try being artistic.” This deceptively minor slip of info was given to me by a fellow painter, Maurice Golleau, somewhere in Provence many years ago. I’ve come to realize that it’s the life breath of our business. In other words, don’t just paint the boat, paint the most expressive boaty-boat you can drag out of your reference or your imagination.
It goes on to list some ideas of how to do that, a list that perhaps all of us should post in our studios. Pattern integrity, or composition, is one of them and that is the main thing I have been playing with. But I could consider more on that list . . . (In a similar vein, this Painter's Keys arrived a few weeks later, sharing the author's checklist of things one needs to do and think about as one creates and concluding "This stuff is all about a personal search for truth within one’s own vision. Getting there is half the fun. If it were a recipe, everyone’s truth might be the same. Only you can make your checklist and join the search for your own truth. Start your checklist now.)
The stumbling onto the idea of adding beading felt like a breakthrough in the midst of concerns that in spite of my minor variations, my efforts were a bit repetitive and verging on lazy. (If I were hand appliqueing those clusters, would I feel less lazy about the end result? I hate to admit that I would.) As the opening to the letter says, I need to not just reproduce this leaf cluster over and over, but I need to make the most expressive, artistic versions I can drag out of my own references or imagination. "Unless things modify or become other things, or in some way interact through colour, shape or line, they’re merely the straight goods, which tend to be boring to both artist and observer. Don’t be boring." See? That's exactly what I've worried, that I could easily get boring with this series. The beaded version feels a definite step in the right direction, not the straight goods, not lazy art, and not boring. Now to keep that up.