Friday, 23 September 2011

Hot day, cold tea

Dear Helen,
I am writing this from a Starbucks in Sacramento, where I am spending some air-conditioned contemplation time between a meeting and dinner with a friend. It is hardly Bocboc or Cedar Farm but it is pleasant nonetheless. I have been sipping iced tea and doodling in my journal and looking at a Sandra Meech book (Creative Quilts: Inspiration, Texture and Stitch) for visual stimulation. It is a lovely break on this weirdly hot day.

First, here is the end result of the dyed fabric experiment in texture I was working on last time I posted.

You can see that I did a lot of machine quilting and some coloring with pencil to more strongly define shapes. I'm content to stop here with it. I've called it "Azalea Encore" as it reminds me of a big drift of blooming azaleas. I had a fair amount of discomfort working without a visual destination in mind -- part of this experiment involved just beginning to play with the fabric to see where it took me. And maybe the vaguely dissatisfied feeling I had throughout was because I didn't know where I was going. I think I kept waiting for something exciting to result without actually aiming for it, if you know what I mean. We both know people who work this way -- playing with placing fabric and designing as they go, making decisions about what to add or subtract as they proceed -- and while it was fun, with this at least I felt sort of directionless. I am not sure whether that is because I am used to having some result in mind.

But it brings me to your thoughts about wanting the work to tell, or at least suggest, a story to you. I do not look at work that way, at least not consciously, and I don't think of my own work in that way. But upon thinking about this issue, I realize that I look for a piece to raise a question for me, or invoke a curiosity that makes me want to keep looking at it.
You and I have discussed several times whether an art quilt's title is a necessary component to the piece. I know that you want to know the name of a piece, and you give titles to your art quilts that define or round out the story you are telling. This makes perfect sense to me in light of your interest in finding the story in a piece of art. I think I'm different about this though and the story issue highlights why for me. I want the art piece, on its own, to be the communication -- if the title or description explains or clarifies, that's a bonus. But to me, if you need to know the title for the piece to succeed, then to me the piece needs work. Maybe we are saying the same thing, really --we both think a piece needs to succeed visually first and foremost, but the added meaning (or story, if you will) from the title or other information adds something deeper. What do you think?

I have followed a few creative detours this week. You know that I homeschool my teenaged daughter, and this term she wanted some formal drawing instruction. After looking at various books and online materials, and keeping in mind that my daughter learns well from being shown things visually, I have signed up with a website called Drawing Tutorials Online. For a monthly fee, you get access to video drawing lessons from a NYC art school instructor, and they work on basic art school drawing technique. I have been doing the lessons along with her, which has been fun. These lessons focus on pencil drawing, and so far we have been working on achieving light, medium, and dark values in line and tone drawings. Some of the lessons involve figure drawing, which is especially interesting as I have had a bit of a block about drawing people. When I am home I will have to post one of my figure drawings.  Okay, here's one from this past week...

Also, I have detoured into learning a bit about digitizing my own images for machine embroidery. I was so taken with seeing how Laura Kemshall incorporated machine embroidery into her art quilts to add texture, or stitch repeated elements, and I was encouraged by how accessible she made it sound. I have downloaded digitizing software and I've been working through tutorials to learn how it works, and this week I took a stab at digitizing a line drawing I'd done. I have thoughts of stitching a sketch repeatedly to use it in a quilt or series of quilts so I've been taking baby steps in that direction. When I get home I will make my first attempt at stitching out a design onto fabric to see how it goes.

My tea is gone and it's time to head outside now, so that's all for now. I look forward to hearing what you have been up to!


Kit said...

I know you're not writing to us - and that we're just silent witnesses - but this silent witness would like it if your pictures were larger. We can't see the quilting of which you're speaking, for instance. :)

Diane Perin Hock said...

Sorry, Kit, I'm away from home and working from my iPad which won't let me change the picture size. I'll try when i get home.

Kit said...

I can see the wonderful quilting now, thank you. :)