Tuesday, October 13, 2015

A Voice

As I mentioned in my last post, I'm casting around looking for my voice.  I know, I know if I just keep working it will come, but I feel frustrated.  I'm a visual learner and a learn-by-example person, so I find it really helpful and inspiring to look at my art quilter friends and classmates.  One of the things Lisa Call stresses in her Working in a Series class is "closing doors."  You can do anything, but you can't do everything.  Find what you want to do by closing some of the doors, and saying "I'm just not going there right now."  You can always change your direction - you're the boss, but you have to pick a direction.   I think the only door I can safely say I've closed is "representational."  I'm very comfortable and feel very focused on doing abstract work.  That's a big door, because so much work is representational,   In the "crowd"  I hang around with, though, we are mostly abstract.

Of course, Nancy Crow is my ultimate role model, and her "voice" was very clear for many years, doing the Constructions Series.
CONSTRUCTIONS #95: Reaching An Understanding!
2008-2009  © Nancy Crow 

She moved on, eventually, after exploring that series in great depth.  In 2011 she moved on to mono-printing.  She poured everything she had into this endeavor, creating over 125 pieces.

© Nancy Crow, 2011
Nancy is an amazing role model, but it's a little intimidating to consider emulating her. 

One of my other role models is Lisa Call.  I've taken several on-line classes with her, and greatly admire her work and her work ethic.  Lisa has developed a clear voice and style, and does not seem to tire of working in that way, exploring color, line and shape in her Structures Series.  Here is number 165.    
© Lisa Call,  Structures, #165
Lots of doors closed creates fixed variables to explore.  Still essentially unlimited variables, but at least graspable.

Some others that I've become aware of via internet classes or Facebook groups include Heather Pregger - she has been working on her series, "Tuning Forks" for a few years, I think.  Her website shows many of them, up to #28.    Here is one of my favorites.  I love the way that the cascading red shapes seem to ripple like water.

  ©  Heather Pregger, Tuning Fork #11,  54" x 72"

Carol Trice has done an amazing job - and a very successful one -  of closing doors, and focusing.  Her current series is called Connections, and it is entirely in black and white, with some slightly off-white hand stitching included.  All of the pieces are made up of black lines on white background.  I find it fascinating to watch her mine all of the endless possibilities of what might seem a very limiting series definition to some people.  Carol must be doing something right, she's been accepted to Quilt National this year!
© Carol Trice, Connections #3

I also have followed Maria Shell's work and career for awhile.  When you visit her site, you will see a more diverse body of work, and a very prolific one!!   A lot of her current work is in her Color Grids series.  Here's one I particularly love:
© Maria Shell, Dance Party at Tamara's House  37" x 37" 2012 

Maria just finished a batch of 15 (15!!) pieces for a new show called Hot Crossed Squares.  You can read about it in her blog entry here.  They are so filled with joy. Here's one example.  Go look at them all.  I don't know if she considers these officially part of the Color Grids series, but you can clearly see the similarities, and her voice is obvious in these, as well as in her other work.
I want to be her when I grow up!   :)
© Maria Shell, Hot Crossed Squares: Neon.  2015, 12" x 14"

So I could go on and on selecting artists with clear voices, but by now I've convinced myself that in order to start developing this "body of work" an artist needs to close all the doors except one, and to fearlessly and tenaciously walk through it.    I will pick one.  I will.  Soon.  I'll report back when I do.

Tuesday, September 22, 2015

I don't blog much anymore.   I enjoyed doing it, but I felt like I was spending way more time writing about art, posting art, pinning and studying art on Pinterest, takaing online art classes, following and commenting on artists on Facebook and Instagram....than I did making art.

All of those activities are valuable to a greater or lesser extent, and can help move my art career forward, but they are meaningless if I don't also MAKE ART!

So I'm trying to change that.  It's slow.  I made a habit of going to the studio in the morning - but then lost it because  I thought I should get to the office on time instead.  But now I don't get to the office any earlier, and I'm back to sitting on the computer every morning, mindlessly clicking, looking for that little seratonin (or is it dopamine?) rush that I get when I feed my addiction.  I was really addicted to Facebook for awhile, couldn't wait to get there and see what friends had posted, see who "liked" my post, and Ohhh - the best!  A friend request!  After awhile I didn't really get that rush from Facebook anymore.

So then there was Pinterest.  Completely obsessed.  Thousands of pins.  Art, recipies, kitchen remodels.  All so useful and motivating!  Right.  Motivating to pin more pins.  Look how many follwers I'm getting!  This is so cool! People notice me.  Wonder if I can get to 5,000 by Saturday...  if I pin more cool stuff that people like....

But then that got kinda boring too.  Major drop off in seratonin.  Or whatever.

Now I sort of sit here, mindlessly clicking things looking for that give me that little hit of  "Yes!"

Here's a succinct statement that I found this morning in one of the blogs I follow on Bloglovin:  "Noise" has four characteristics: it's unusable, untimely, hypothetical, and distracting from your goals. It's worth making an effort to consume less noise so you can spend more of your attention on what's actually meaningful and important.  This comes from the book, Before Happiness, by Shawn Achor.  It's now on my list.  (Did I mention Goodreads?)

So now I'm procrastinating by reading blogs and tagging books about productivity.
Where was I?

I've been lacking direction in the studio lately.  When I feel that way I fall back in two ways - the productive way is to work on quilting something, or facing, binding, sleeving, and labeling.  Sometimes I just can't get into that, so I go back to "non-art" projects.  Currently that's the big honkin' Almond County Beauty Block of the Month that I'm almost done with, or sthe second one that I stupidly started, and am only 4/16ths done with.
There are now 16 white blocks nearly sewn into a top, "only" borders quilting and binding needed.
The gray one with the solids only has 3.75 blocks done, however,  As long as it's there, I'm sure I will continue to screw with it, but I have to get it out of my head that it should come ahead of art.

I think I'm feeling unmotivated because I now realize I have about 50 quilt tops in various stages of  incompletion, and none of them is the "it" the "thing" that is my thing.  My Voice.  There have been a number of paths followed,  each time thinking I had found something I wanted to follow.  First the strip piecing... remember this guy?  There's a lot of fodder with which to practice free motion quilting in that series. 

Then I had the motif thing -my Rockers. They were fun.  I sketched dozens of them.  All the time, work, home, bed....  I built four of them.  I just lost interest in making them.  

Since then, I went down the path of maps as inspriation, something I'd been contemplating for a long time.  I studied aparticular area - near the Mississippi River in Wisconson - for a long time, looking for compositions and shapes that interested me.  I even bought a bunch of interesting green and blue fabrics. 

I thought about how to abstract shapes, how to use color and value how to create a pleasing composition rather than just copy a map.   I tried making one relatively small, single-color piece (with fabric dyed in an online class).  Then I kinda lost interest.

I really need to just find a path, and go down it, instead of standing in the middle of the road with a deer in the headlights feeling.  I was going to write more about other artists, and the decisions they've made, the paths they've followed.  But this is long, I'll save that for another post.

Sunday, July 5, 2015

Slogging Through Kandinsky: Point and Line to Plane

I really struggled to grind through this book.  Kandinsky is one of my favorite artists, and I'm fascinated by his pivotal role in the transition from representational to abstract art.  That said, the book is a real slog through an early attempt to create a language and system for creating abstract art.  At least to me it was mostly impenetrable.
There are some good parts - when he compares arbstract art to music.  Lots of music is abstract.  No one says, "I just don't get it," when they hear a work of music without words or allusion to meaning in the title.  They just enjoy it or they don't.  Why doesn't abstract art receive the same unbiased response?

Calm Bend, Watercolor on paper.  

13.6" x 8.9"
Walker Art Center

I highlighted three things in the book that were meaningful to me. If these get you going, you might want to read more. A lot of the book addresses the idea about tension between elements as being a key factor in an artwork. Tension is a term my mentor/teacher uses and which I have struggled to understand.  So it was helpful to read WK's take on the subject. I wouldn't say I had a light-bulb moment,  but I did start to understand more deeply why this is important.
Wassily Kandinsky: 
Black Accompaniment, 1924

Here are Kandinsky's quotes: 

ONE: "In fact no materializing of external forms expresses the content of a work of painting, but rather the forces = tensions which are alive within it. 
If by some magic command these tensions were to disappear or to expire, the work, which is alive at that very instant, would die. On the other hand, every accidental grouping of several forms could be called a work of art. The content of a work of art finds its expression in the composition: that is, in the sum of the tensions inwardly organized for the work."

TWO: "This is the straight line whose tension represents the most concise form of the potentiality for endless movement. For the concept "Movement" which is used almost everywhere, I have substituted the term 'Tension.' The customary term is inexact and thereby leads us down the wrong roads and is the cause of further terminological misconceptions. 'Tension" is the force living within the element and represents only one part of the creative 'movement.' The second part is the 'direction.' which is also determined by the 'movement.' The elements of painting are material results of movement in the form 1. of the tension, and 2. of the direction." 

Wassily Kandinsky
Swinging, 1925

THREE: in the chapter on Plane,: "It must only be mentioned here that abstract art must reckon with a more precise form that representative art, and that the pure question of form is in the first case essential and in the second, very often immaterial."

Beyond those three quotes, I have to say the book was too dense for me. It is interesting to contemplate how WK thought he was at the very dawn of a new age of art (he was) and that the future would hold much more investigation of the elements he laid out. (either it didn't or I don't know about it). I'm sure someone somewhere has followed in his footsteps, but that direction never became the mainstream of abstract art.

Thursday, May 28, 2015

Overdue Update

I've stepped away from blogging for awhile, obviously.  While I love documenting and sharing what I'm doing, it began to feel like a burden, and I was feeling guilty for not keeping up.  My priorities for spending time have shifted, with work demanding more and more time and energy there was just not enough "spare" time to go around.  I decided I needed to let go of all the "shoulds" like studio time, and focus on the "musts" such as work, exercise, remodel the house.  In fact it felt really liberating to allow myself to let go of all the plans, and goals, and schedules, and targets and just make what I want to, when I want to, and solely because I want to.  If I want to make New York Beauties instead of art quilts, that's just fine and dandy it's my life.

But that's not to say that things are not happening in my art world.  2014/15 has so far  followed what has become a yearly cycle.  My focus in December is always getting ready for Christmas, making holiday gifts that should have been started in September, decorating, socializing and spending time with family.

Then as soon as January hits I realize, "Oh Crap!  Nancy Crow workshops are in March and I have nothing new to show!"  I work like a maniac during January and February to produce things that will get a 30-second exposure during show and tell.  Working on things I am convinced will be long, productive series, my true life's calling.

Then the workshops happen.  All sorts of amazing experiences both with my own work and watching others work. All sorts of new ideas percolate.  I get home with all sorts of intentions to start with a fresh new series....

Here's the major piece I made in the workshop

And then....

WHAM!  That wall.  Even though I know it's inevitable, I try to tell myself I will get home and start right in on all those great new ideas.  But I worked so hard before and during the workshops, why not just take a little break.... just 'til the end of March....  You get the picture.

But - good stuff continues... In keeping with my "what the hell" attitude I submitted three older pieces to the Jansen Art Center Early Summer Juried Show, and guess what? All three accepted!

Busy Signal, Tipping Point, and Green Field.

Busy Signal was also on display at the (non-juried) Allied Arts All Member Show.

So that's exciting!

Friday, January 9, 2015

2014 Retrospective

Blogging has fallen by the wayside recently.  I use my blog more as an organizational tool, a place to look back to and see what I was doing at a given time, than an marketing tool, an attempt to attract readers or to get "likes."  That's what Pinterest is for.  :)   It's also a way to share what I'm doing with anyone who might be interested.  I've started sharing some progress pictures on Facebook, and that a more straightforward way to share so it's replaced some aspects of my desire to share.

But it seems de rigueur among my Master Class classmates to blog for marketing reasons.  To keep your name in front of people, keep them interested in your art, etc.   At this point in my art career that's not a concern for me.  [But I would like to point out that I resisted the temptation to put "art career" in quotes.]  I'm not doing work that I will be famous for, instead I feel that I am plodding through all the bad work and skill development one needs to do to get to the point of being good.

No, plodding isn't the right word, I don't feel like I'm plodding, I love what I'm doing I feel my skills and work are improving, and I can literally feel my heart lift when I enter the studio.  At the same time, I know I'm just learning skills and developing a design sense that is necessary before creating my best art and making big strides in my career.  [There, I said it again.]

The Master Class has been invaluable in keeping me mostly motivated and thinking about what's next in the studio, as well as giving me clear understanding of what it takes to get to the next step.  Many of my classmates are at a point where they are "professional artists." [Sorry about the quotes again, but what that phrase means is fodder for a whole different blog post.] Seeing the work they do and the success they are achieving definitely motivates me, and shows that it is possible.... someday.

All that aside, I do like to look back at the last twelve months, this time of year and see where the time went.  I think my year would be better assessed from March 1 - March 1, as that's become the natural cycle of getting ready for workshop, going to workshop, coming home with all new ideas, but also brain dead and needing a break.  But if I don't do it now, I know I'll be too busy with other stuff to do it in March, so here goes:

In January I finished the fourth Color Prints piece:
Color Prints #4
And three pieces that were started in the 2013 Nancy Crow workshop:
Bright Idea


Busy Signal
Then in the first week of March I headed off to Indianola for two weeks with Nancy Crow.  The first week we had two exercises, one was "the minis" where we took a simple motif and repeated many, many small copies of it with different color combinations.  It was interesting to see how the motif morphed into texture in different ways.

The other exercise was a very intense one - there were 10 different panels which were to repeat the same motif in gradually more glowing/less flat colors.  I had a design I really liked in black and white....
In Black and White
And it started to look like something on the wall...
Flat and Glowing

But it was just too complicated for me to translate and sew.  Yuck!   This one is still a bag of fabric hoping to become something some day.  If I do finish it, I will make it one continuous row.  I really didn't like the format of this.

I liked the second week's exercises much better.   First we created a piece with a repeating motif:

Then we did an interpretation of that motif, repeated, hugely exaggerated, and with a long complicated program of other requirements, including 28 different colors.
This is what my black and white design looked like.   I really liked it, and Nancy made a few encouraging comments.

Rockers #2
It looked something like this when I left the workshop:
Nancy was intrigued, particularly with the textured background, and challenged me to "Finish that thing."  I took that seriously and it has taken me the rest of the year, on and off, to get it to a point where the top is fully pieced, sandwiched ready to quilt.

Between working on that herculean task, I enjoyed a lot of play and sketching 

with the motif that I began calling a "Rocker."    I tried to make a much simpler piece with them:

Rockers #3
And it STILL took a really long time to construct.

Then summer came and I felt the urge to dye fabric:

I wanted to keep on with the Rockers, so I sketched an even simpler piece, and got it pieced sometime toward the end of the summer. I worked really hard to get the forms and colors where I wanted them.

Rockers #4

So hard that I cut, and re-cut and cut some more.  I had a lot of scraps and unused pieces.  I felt the urge to sew them together and then cut them up into squares.  I'm still working on a way to combine these into one or more pieces.
Improv Squares

Before I knew it, September was here, and with it my first trip to the Crow Barn in Baltimore Ohio.  An artist and instructor that I have long admired, Terry Jarrard-Dimond was teaching "Design Boot Camp."  I had a fantastic time, and came hope with a start on this piece, and a new series.

While I was still struggling to complete Rockers #2 throughout the fall, our local quilt shop started a block of the month, and I'd always wanted to do a New York Beauty, so I succumbed to that desire.  I wasn't so crazy about their scrappy look that came with the kit, so I decided to also do one in charcoal gray with solid colors.   This is what I do when I'm just too tired or brain dead to focus on art.  (I won't sew them together mixed, it will be two different pieces).

I started a "City Sampler" too, because I was starting to attend the MQG meetings and that's what they were doing.  But I don't think I'm going to put more effort in that direction it's not contributing to where I want to go.  But it's a fun distraction now and then:

Toward the holiday season, I started making a big push to really finish all the "done" quilts laying around.  Over the course of football season I made and stitched down about twenty hanging sleeves and labels.  THAT feel like a really big accomplishment!  So now there is nothing laying around waiting for those elements  - and I feel great about starting the new year fresh!  

Here's to a Healthy, Happy, Productive New Year for everyone!

Tuesday, January 6, 2015

Resolution Review....

Here are the resolutions I publicized in January.   How did I do?

Study hard with/after Nancy Crow
I think I did this well, at least at first.  I spend a lot of time in the months after the workshop focusing on figure ground, and developing the Rockers series.  Lots of sketching was good at first, but tapered off later.

Study design and composition
Ditto.  I have been reading whatever I can get my hands on, getting critiques from Master Class, and of course took the week-long workshop with Terry Jarrard-Dimond which was an intensive design-oriented class.

Study color
Ditto, though not as formally.  I still need to do more of this.  Of course it’s a life-long quest.  I have to get past all the basic classes that seem to repeat the same things over and over – complementary color schemes, etc. etc.  More play with the Albers App is in order.

Continue "Color Prints" series.  See where it leads.
Nope.  That series was abandoned in favor of Rockers, which started in the Crow workshop.  The major piece that I informally called Magnum Opus was competed as well as two smaller ones.

Make labels for all completed quilts still in my possession.
  I did really well with this.  And it only took me one day - Dec. 27 - but hey, it’s done! The hang-up was inventorying them all and trying to find dates of completion on the blog.   I finally said, WHO CARES? And settled for the year.

Make hanging sleeves for all completed quilts still in my possession.
Yes,  I plodded through this during the fall and winter months.  All are done!

Resist temptation to do "functional" stuff
Well, almost.  My Dad requested that I make him some placements for Christmas, and of course I couldn't turn him down.   Made some potholders to match, as well as a few extra potholders for gifts.  Also made two sets of curtains, bedroom and bathroom.  The house still looked bare after almost 3 years of living there.

Finish or give up on the current UFO's
Making a little progress, but not letting it consume me.  I’m getting better at not caring about finishing something will not be good enough to sell or show.  Using the backlog to focus more on using them for quilting practice.

Learn to photograph my quilts
No, I never got a Round Tuit on this.  

Learn to use Photoshop Elements
Not much.  I have used it a little more, but not enough to keep from forgetting what I learned by next time I want to do it!  Also I didn't do this, because I didn't do the photographing.

Enter at least one SAQA show, besides the trunk show.
No.  Didn't see anything that inspired me. Didn’t enter the trunk show either –the piece I had created for that purpose was ugly so I used it for a mug rug on my desk instead.