Wednesday, May 25, 2016

Crow Workshop - Belated Post

Since I only blog when I feel like it, there have not been many new posts this year.  Work has taken over my life, as I knew it would.  In March of 2015 I agreed to take on a project which will take until August of 2019 to fully complete.  It's a high school, essentially a 85,000 square-foot new school designed to surround parts of an existing old school.  
We've been designing it for over a year now, and next week when we open bids, we will find out if we managed to design something that was less than the $28 million budget.  The 2nd of June is going to be a very stressful day!

So there havebeen a lot of late nights and weekends at the office.  But it feels good to have our whole office busy and productive after how depressing it got during the "great recession."

I did tear myself away from all that two spend two weeks with Nancy Crow and my workshop buddies.  It was my 5th year there, and it went very well.  I felt good about what I was doing and Nancy was very complementary.

Here's a shot of my piece as it looked on the presentation wall at the end of class.  I've since taken it apart and reconfigured the pieces on my design wall.  I futzed around with various combinations for a month or two.  I've arrived at a stopping point, but it leaves gaps at the ends of the three rows, so I'm creating new parts for those areas.   That's all I've done quilt-wise since March.

Here is a snapshot of the motif/configuration I used to generate this piece.  It was imported to Notability on the iPad so I could sketch out seam lines.  That is always the downside of improvisational motifs.  Nancy tells us to try many motifs to find the ones that are both good compositions and sewable.  I usually screw up on the sewable part.  But I'm learning.  And it is pure joy when you finally start to "get it."

These are a couple shots from my sketchbook where I was drastically elongating the configuration.  This was really fun!

Friday, January 1, 2016

2015 Review

I have made a habit of looking back at my accomplishments, or lack thereof each year (Although I try not to dwell on the "lack" part).   My first intuitive thought is that I really didn't do much, art-wise.  I spent more time hanging out on the couch watching TV with my husband than I have in past years, thought at least some of that time I was stitching bindings and burying threads.  I consciously allowed myself to "do whatever I want."  I found that I was tired of that voice in  my head telling me I "should" be working in the studio, or I "should" be achieving 20 hours a week.

If I know anything about myself it is that I will always resist authority even if it is my own authority I am resisting.

So I was surprised when I looked through my Master Quilt Inventory spreadsheet, and saw all the boxes saying 2015.   I'm a little bit obsessive with this inventory, but I'm glad because it's shown my that while I didn't feel productive, I actually achieved a decent amount considering the portion of  time and energy my job demands these days.

Of course there were the two weeks of Crow workshops in March.  I felt that I made progress there, and actually finished four quilt tops in the workshop.  I was pretty pleased with the final piece although of course when it came to the review my proportions were not quite "dead on."  Sigh.

After Crow, I began participating in Lisa Call's Greenhouse. I have enjoyed getting to know several of my classmates better, but have not really put the effort into the artwork and artwork reviews that I should have, to get my money's worth. And the class facebook group is not very active.  While she can work from anywhere, I have the sense that Lisa's falling in love and moving to New Zealand has been a distraction for her.  I'm not planning to do any sort of ongoing Master Class for the next year, I will see how setting my own goals works, knowing that work is going to have to take priority for another year.

The most exciting thing for me was to start getting my work out into the world.  It was a good year for steps in that direction.

  • In February I submitted Busy Signal for the (non-juried) Allied Arts Membership show. 
  • In March I was asked to donate a piece for a fundraising auction, which I did. - It was an early improv piece.
  • In June, Busy Signal, Green Field and Tipping Point were accepted into the Jansen Art Center Early Summer Juried show.  I was pretty thrilled about that.  
  • I decided to keep trying, and in the Fall I submitted four of the Asemia pieces which were also accepted.  I attended a group critique for artists of that show and recieved very good, positive feedback.
  • And, then the two small Wired pieces and Islands were accepted for the Late Winter Show.
  • In October the group quilt Petunia Patch traveled to the IQF in Houston. 

Wired #2
Wired #3
I did a lot of finishing this year, too.  Leap of Faith, which I'd started in 2013 was finally finished quilting, binding and sleeve-ing.  Rockers #2 AKA Shattered, AKA Magnum was finally quilted, though I stopped binding it in order to consider cutting it down a few inches so it can be entered into a SAQA show.  That has to be decided and completed by Jan. 29.

I finished quilting binding, labeling and sleeving the two small Wired pieces, and the Asemia pieces all got labels and sleeves as did several other stray pieces that had been lingering for months or years.

Proun #1
The only actual new art I made in 2015 was the four pieces I'm calling Construtivist or Prouns.  It seems to be a pattern for me to make something rather large, grand and coplicated, and then to go back and make simpler studies of the same series.  How backward is that??  2.75 of them (the small ones) are quilted.  My goal is to have all four ready to take to the Crow workshop, since that's probably all I will have.  These are process shots, they were completed slightly differently, but no photos taken yet.

Proun #3
Proun #2

In September/October I took an on-line class from Elizabeth Barton called, "Dying to Design."  I liked the class and her teaching style a lot.  She gave very clear and specific instructions and assignments.  I didn't do too well, I only got the first two assignments done as far as dying and only one of the five assigned pieces made, but I know that would happen, too much work.  I was pleased with "Islands" which I made from the gradation of dyed fabric in the first assignment.

This was my first and so far only foray into the Map Quilt idea which I've ruminated on for years.  The islands were very curvy and would have been impossible to piece, so I used a raw edge applique technique.  After doing it, I was ready to go back to piecing.  I guess I just like the structure of making pieces that can be pieced and figuring out how to do it.  So I don't really see Map Quilts and piecing coming together.  Yet, anyway.

Besides the Prouns, I have been working a bit at a time on a giant 24-color color wheel piece.  I have 6 colors done.  It's very interesting and challenging to try to find the needed gradations of hue and value.  A couple were "cheaters" - gradations that I bought from a dyer.  But the rest I am going to try to do out of Kona and other solids.  Train my eye to see better.

In the "regular" quilting area, I spent a lot of time on the Almond Country Beauties.  I'm took on this block of the month thing and then felt like I had to see it through.  It was an easy no-brainer thing to do, but I regret having spent so much time on it.  The scrappy top still needs three more borders before being completed, the solid colored one was coming along until a plumbing leak ended up hitting the bin it was in, causing a lot of red fabric to bleed onto its neighbors.  Sigh.   I will NOT take on another big non-art project in 2016.

In the world outside of art, I was very successful this year in getting an exercise routine underway and actually sticking to it for the second half of the year.  I started using the rowing machines, and find I really enjoy that, and enjoy the challenge of beating my previous time.  We shall see if it survives the holiday time off I have given myself.

That's a wrap!  On to 2016.  I've started a new series today!

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.