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Saturday, June 26, 2010

Thoughts on Crafting our Art

The other night I got together with a couple of my art quilty friends. We discussed how it seemed that a workshop group we had had sort of gotten away from the original concept of studying design in order to better our work and went into the area of being a technique class.

We also started talking about how if you are studying design concepts and elements that you might just not create a finished quilt. In working with Jane D'avila and Elin Waterston's Art Quilt Workbook some of our members seemed to think that a finished piece should be the outcome of following the exercises.

Interestingly enough, Kathy Walker who is hosting this months' Fast Friday Fabric Challenge gave us a link to an overview of the elements of design with an accompanying worksheet drawn from Exploring Visual Design: The Elements and Principles, Joseph Gatto, Albert Porter, Jack Selleck. Davis Publications. 2000. You can take a look at it here .

This got me thinking a little bit. OK, a lot. It has been a while since I have been creating art on a regular basis. I know that I, and probably a lot of people, tend to create intuitively, not really thinking about each element of design. This is fine, but it can mean that sometimes we create things and don't know why they work, or why they don't work.

Kathy, and for that matter, Jane and Elin, always remind you when you're working on something to "keep in mind the elements of design." Hmm....I felt like a "bear of very little brain." Telling myself that I have to keep in mind all the elements at the same time that I was trying to do composition/art was just a little more than my brain could bear...I could just hear the gray matter exploding. It occurred to me that sometimes when people do this, it can be contrived....
How does one avoid this?

I suddenly remembered taking piano classes as a child (from age 4 to age 12). I remembered balking at doing the Czerny and Schirmer exercises....running scales, triads and making sure that the fingering was correct. At the time, I hated it as I didn't really see the point. In high school, long after I had stopped the lessons, I continued to play for fun. I went through a period of playing ragtime and Clementi's sonatinas.....then the light bulb came on. All those scales and fingering exercizes were to train our brains that if you were playing in a particular key that your fingers should be in these particular positions...these positions, which seemed so arbitrary and useless when done alone, were actually a great boon--only if you were in the positions could you make the leap to the next chord or run ....having your fingers in an incorrect position would slow you down and you wouldn't be able to be where you needed to be and make the music flow seamlessly. All those exercises had taken and been stored in my little brain and I didn't have to think...my fingers were just where they needed to be.

By doing exercises, and practicing art everyday, even if it is just a doodle or an series of lines or sketches without making a full blown piece is how we ingrain these elements into our work so that it too comes seamlessly. We don't have to think about it. If we have a problem and something doesn't seem to work, then we can look at it, keeping the elements of design in our heads and create good, solid pieces.

Then too, I also believe that key to being a good cook is knowing the concepts and the rules, THEN you can break them or leap from them. Making art quilts, or making art in general fits this idea.

I actually thought of this while deadheading my flowers. Deadheading (taking the spent blooms off) can be very boring...particularly when I am dead heading gaillardia which has to be cut individually. If I don't deadhead, then I won't have as many flowers for as long as a period of time. So, while it isn't my favorite task, it is an important one. Just as doing exercises without making salable pieces of art is, and that's OK.

I had to laugh...as I looked at my blog dashboard, I found Elizabeth Barton's post to be somewhat along the same lines.....how not to look contrived...how to make things look effortless. If you haven't read this post, or if you are unfamiliar with Elizabeth's blog, please take a look....I always learn something and just appreciate how well she says things. Take a peek here


So, what's up with the photograph you might ask...well, that's what happens when you ask your husband to take a shot for you because your hands are full....since he doesn't know my camera, he ended up taking this gem of a shot of himself. Obviously, he needs more practice!

3 comments:

j.dávila said...

Exactly! You've got it exactly!! Your analogies are perfect. It's a matter of learning the basics (the elements and principles in this case), practicing them while being aware and conscious of them to the point where they become internalized and you no longer actively think about them and everything flows naturally.

I sometimes use a piano analogy but also use one about driving. When you first learn to drive you're hyper aware of everything you're doing - where your hands are, how far you are from the car in front of you, obsessively checking your mirrors, you're tense and a little anxious about doing everything "right" but eventually the skill becomes completely natural, and while you're still aware and paying attention, it starts to feel more effortless.

I'm so excited for you that you've gotten to this point and can't wait to see where you go next! :)

Lisa in Penna said...

Goodness; I thought the picture was the subject of a discussion of the elements of design! It's got neat texture, areas of lights and darks, negative space. . . Not being a smart alec here, either. And I really am impressed with your whole post! Thank you!

Michigoose said...

Jane, thanks for your kind words...now if I get the weeds out of the garden and the beds mulched, I will be able to get back to creating fiber art!

Lisa, I did notice that when I looked at it in minature, instead of as the whole shot influenced by the "what a dope" response, it was sort of neat...So we won't berate dh too hard!