Sunday, May 28, 2017

Lazy Art

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. 

Friday, May 19, 2017

May Art Group Meeting

I'm late in sharing my art group meeting from earlier in the week. Here's what I took along, less progress than I had intended on my leaf cluster squares for ArtWalk. I discovered that I had not 4 but 6 10 x 10 canvases and the floater frames to put them in so got to thinking if things moved along, maybe I'd have more for the exhibit than I'd originally planned. But my acceptance letter came this week, instructing me to submit no more than 4 pieces as if it had read my mind about having that many for sure ready to go. As the clock ticks down and I've at least stitched around the leaves of four more squares (seen here center and left), I'm thinking which two of those will complete the set begun by the two on the right that are done and framed/ready to be framed. My question to the group was about background quilting to fill in around the leaves, and of course, which thread to use. My mind has gone a little blank on what I could use, but I've been researching what leaves look like floating on water and have some ideas about circles. The group agrees with that tact. I also broached the subject of how to keep a series interesting, so that when the viewing public sees new work they won't instinctively think it's work they've seen before. I'm not far into my exploration and I'm already feeling its loosing it's interest. I have more to say on that topic but will save it for a future post. We also spent a little time discussing the article "Here's When You Should (And Shouldn't) Ignore Other People's Feedback" - since giving feedback is the core purpose of our group. Definitely worth the read.

We met at Vickie's new place of business - Art Place Sandpoint - a very large space for art classes that also provides gallery space for the instructors who will be teaching there. Sandpoint has needed a place like this for quite a few years since the Arts Alliance shut down. This is a much nicer space and also has studio space for rent - 3 of the 5 spaces already have tenants! She has over a dozen teachers lined up and classes are up and running with the usual mixed interest. You just never know what class will fill and which won't. At any rate, Vickie has been sampling some of the workshops and has become enamored with encaustics. She shared small tile samples and some larger pieces that are in various stages of completion. We told her that because of the colors she's using and the marks she is making, these do not look that far off from some of her textile work, her style showing through in this very different medium.

Rebecca is still mending from breaking her wrist a few months ago. While she is no  longer in a cast, you may be able to see she still is wearing a brace and says she's still quite sensitive to any pressure being put on it from either direction. Thus she hasn't been able to rotary cut or do much sewing, so she decided to share her very first quilt from a class she took along with a friend. The colors belie its age but we agreed it is still a very pleasing and soft color. I particularly liked this set and the use of smaller nine patch units than you might normally see on a beginner's quilt.

She used it to practice her quilting on her longarm machine. Below is a little color catcher she had thrown in with her snow dyeing and that came out with flower-like images. So while she can't do much with that braced arm, she did try a little thread painting on this. Click on the photo for a larger version that shows the stitching better. We suggested she introduce some darker thread to add contrast around the "petals".

All this should have spurred me back into the studio to finish the quilting on my squares but it's been one of those weeks when all I could do was stare at them and maybe run a finger over the fabric in tentative stitching designs but couldn't take that next step of making decisions about any of them. But I always mull these things in the back of my mind and think I know what to do when I head to the machine this weekend. None of my ideas should take long to execute. In the meantime, the syringa has been blooming behind my house, visible from livingroom, dining room and a bit from the studio if I'm close enough to the window to look down on them. Each year more seem to bloom up and down this wooded area and I'm loving it.

Sunday, May 07, 2017

More Printing

Quilting from the back - Leaf Cluster III
I had sort of a punky week, but still got something done toward my ArtWalk goals. Over the weekend I had finished quilting the square I showed here. That garnet (some call it pebble) stitch leaves just the sort of texture I wanted but boy, does it take a long time. I think I spent about 3 hours over three days covering the 15" square, and used up almost 3 bobbins filled with the lighter weight Aurofil thread. After about 40 minutes I'd start getting rummy and have to take a break. I haven't mounted it yet as I am going to start a stack from which I will choose the "final four" to be framed. Two down, two to go.

Printed with slightly thinned Liquitex Acrylic paint - Naphthol Crimson

I did have one more square printed with the reddish black paint but it is a possible reject. Time to print some more leaves and try unadulterated red paint. While out walking, the wandering mind prepared for the session, considering which of my variations to use on each fabric, and surprising me with a couple more variations to consider. When I got home, I grabbed my paper prints and worked the placements out. I was quite pleased with all four squares I printed, including the two new variations, and a bit surprised that the red did not pop as much off the darker fabrics as I thought it would. Still, all very usable.

This one didn't photograph that well - much better in person

And of course, there was paint left to expend elsewhere. I pulled out some white muslin that I'd printed up during my first linocut class. The paint was poor, the instruction poorer, and I really didn't know what to do with this big piece that I'd covered with the wavy block a la Cynthia St. Charles. Let's print some big red leaves on it and suddenly that background printing looks like water! The red squares were an attempt to jazz up a secondary commercial stamp I'd superimposed with little effect. The paint pretty much covered it up but if I use this piece, I'll have to figure out something to make those squares look like they belong.

On the other end of the muslin I'd printed a smaller section with that wavy stamp and it got a single leaf cluster. I like this one too. But I'm thinking I'd like to give both of these a dip in a little dye to get rid of that stark white.

I'd intended to get the four new squares layered for quilting yesterday but as I said, I've felt a little punky all week and after standing at the ironing board heat setting everything with an iron, I decided to save that task for another day.

Monday, May 01, 2017

May Day!

It's the first of May, and my pocket calendar spread is full of roses. will be some time before roses bloom here. Heck, the first bulbs of spring are barely blooming. But no matter, it should be an easy page to color in, right? We'll go for red and yellow roses. But my red pencil showed very pink when lightly applied, and still fairly pink even as I applied more pressure.  That would be the big one on the right and left. Hmmm again. In the bottom right corner I tried blending it with blue with not much luck. Moved to the bottom center one and tried mixing violet. Oooo - a lovely color but not rich dark red. I gave up and gave in to the limitations of my red pencil and enjoyed the lovely pinks it was giving me. The yellow roses got tinged with a bit of orange.

So roses . . . we all know what a blooming rose looks like, right? But right away I realized I do NOT know what a bloom looks like for sure. Are the petals darker on the front than on the back like a leaf? I thought to ask this as I darkened the turned over edges of a petal. Well, if not, too bad. I liked what was happening here. I also thought perhaps I should go back over the large light areas for more solid coverage, but then remember some close-up photos I'd taken of a rose long ago, and how I had marveled at the network of tiny veins running through the petals. My light touch with the colored pencil left a surface that looked much like those veins, so it stayed just that way.

Happy first day of May. Wherever you are, I hope you find a few blooms somewhere to celebrate the shaking off of winter.