I was recently asked to review Elizabeth Barton’s new book Inspired to Design. I’ve been reading Barton’s blog for a long time, and have enjoyed her focus on looking at quilt art the same way we look at other types of art, with a critical eye for composition, balance, value, and color. So much quilt art ignores the fundamentals of good art. Her discussions make you think about what you’re making, why you’re making it, and how you can make it better by improving the viewer’s experience. In her introduction, she emphasizes making quilts that come from your own inspiration and voice, but that are still well-designed and planned. This book is great for the quilt artist who hasn’t done a lot of designing on their own, or who feels like they need some support or direction to make their quilts more successful on a regular basis. As she says, “After you’ve had a lot of experience with looking and designing…many of the steps and things you have to watch out for become more automatic.” Whenever someone complains about how easy I or any other artist makes it look, I remind them I’ve been practicing drawing for 40+ years and quilt art for 20+ years. It takes time and practice. Barton emphasizes this in her book, but also provides lots of assistance in how to complete the practice.
Barton teaches workshops, and believe it or not, just based on how impressed I am by her blog, I considered taking one of the online classes. She suggests there are 7 steps to successful art quilts.
In Step 1, Inspirations and Design Sketches, Barton helps artists figure out how to collect inspiration, and from there, move into designing techniques of cropping, rearranging, working with shapes, and repeating elements. There are many pictures of Barton’s work as examples and exercises to help you find your inspiration. Step 2–Size, Shape, and Structure–helps you decide how big to make a piece and how the structure of the piece’s design will affect the finished artwork’s effect. In Step 3, Depth and Space, Barton discusses making your 2-dimensional piece have depth, using a variety of techniques. She touches on perspective, as well, which can be an issue for those who never made it through art school (here is where I admit that I am an art major who never had to learn perspective).
(Echoes in the Memory, one of Barton’s pieces that illustrates her use of color and value to move your eye from foreground to background)
Step 4, Value, discusses fabric dying, as well as making sure your piece has at least three levels of value. Value is also reviewed in Step 5, Color, making sure that the hues have lights, mediums, and darks. Barton uses color in amazing ways in her quilts, and this section covers all the types of color schemes, as well as providing some exercises for encouraging quilt artists to branch out and experiment with color. Step 6, Evaluating Designs, might be the most important section of the book. She suggests making many designs, so you can pick the best ones. She sets out steps for evaluating your work, making sure that your design is strong before you start messing with fabric, and reminding us to have a good reason for ignoring any of the principles of successful design. It’s OK to break the rules, as long as you are aware of them in the first place.
(Cement Works, used in the book to illustrate Step 7)
The last step, Step 7: Putting It All Together, helps the artist get from sketch to actual piece, with plenty of tips to keep your eye on design throughout the construction of the quilt. She suggests stepping back and looking at the piece with a critical eye throughout the entire process. It’s never too late to fix a design issue. This section is very thorough and is full of tips for best getting from sketch to finished piece, including how best to baste the layers of a quilt and how to remove needle holes if you have to rip out machine quilting.
Although this book may seem unnecessary for someone with an art degree, there were plenty of interesting tips and reminders for even the more seasoned of us, and the addition of many photos of Barton’s work makes it a worthy purchase. For those who might need direction or support, this book is an excellent source, especially with Barton’s numerous suggestions for evaluating your work’s success. The book is due to release May 1 and is well worth it for the art sensibilities and design specifics. You can find Barton’s work on her website, here.
I’d call this the second interim post, because I still haven’t finished the other one, but that would just be silly. Hopefully at some point while writing this, I will come up with a pithy title, encompassing all I’m feeling and thinking late this Friday eve.
First of all, crap I’m tired. It’s been a long week. Coming back after two weeks of Spring Break is rough. My voice is scratchy. My mood is cranky. My time is compromised. I’ve done a very good job (until tonight) of stopping the grading at 10 PM and starting the Wonder-Under-Cutting. I have a bunch (not even half, who am I joking) done, and will keep working until the end of the month, which isn’t that far away.
School does more than suck up time; it sucks up energy. Dealing with behaviors and attitudes wears me down. I had a bunch of homework cheating going on, and then this poor kid got bounced from one grade to another and then back again, and then there was some news about next year that almost made me cry in frustration, and finally there was news about this year that really did make me cry. It’s been a great year in terms of the kids and what I’ve been able to push them into doing and learning. I’m so impressed by their desire to learn and their ability to do what I ask (in general…trust me, there are always those who don’t), but the rest of it has been so ugly and lame and tortured…I just want that part to go away. That’s the part that makes teachers quit the job…walk away.
So I soldier on.
I try to make my life worth my attention in other ways. I make art.
Sometimes, though, I just hang out with friends and try to finish the Never-Ending Cross Stitch that is my SIL’s gift for the next available gifting cycle:
I’m actually close to done. There’s a church and a tree and a bunch of satin stitch, but that’s it. I finished the tree in the middle and started the church last night.
It’ll still probably take me another year . OK. Not really.
Julie went on a trip to Fresno to see Salley Mavor’s exhibit of Pocketful of Posies (well, part of it anyway) at Cal State Fresno. I’ve been reading Mavor’s blog for a long time, but have a book of hers and had seen her work elsewhere before that. She went with some friends, and after seeing the exhibit, they hung out in the hotel room and made fairies…
I had a kit for these that I gave to the girlchild a million years ago, and I still find parts scattered around the house…
Mostly the flower petals…
These are all Julie’s…rumor has it that Leslie and even Kris made some too, but I haven’t seen them in person. As always, Julie’s work is amazing and delicate…these are much prettier than the table on which they lie.
I realized tonight that I started my art journal, where I keep a weekly note of what I’ve entered and what I’ve been doing artistically (sometimes consists of NOTHING!) for 10 years back in March. The first year, I was fairly sporadic…OK, maybe more than the first year. There are about 4 posts for 2003, 2 for 2004, then sometime in 2005, I got smart and calendared the writing. My computer calendar reminds me (in three different places, maybe four) that I need to write every Friday night, and I’m pretty good about it. It’s useful for going back and researching what happened with this or that art piece, and we even used it to figure out how old Calli was the other day, because no one could remember.
My car insurance issue just went away. Sanity prevailed…either that, or my supreme bitchiness did. You pick.
The cat issue is still here, but calmer at the moment (knock on wood). Babygirl does not appreciate the other animals in the house and has been harassing other cats. She doesn’t seem to get that there is plenty of space and love for all, and she’s very territorial. We are actually trying to find her a new home. She is a sweet cat with people…and even tolerates dogs…but other cats are not going to be an option. She’s an older cat, so none of the local shelters will take her without a big chunk of money (list of things that Kathy doesn’t have), so we’re assessing other options (standing in the middle of an old-folks’ home and yelling FREE CAT! was the boychild’s suggestion). ANYWAY. I feel bad about the situation, but it is what it is. My kitten has been hiding in my room for the last 2 months and won’t go to the food/litter tray area without an escort. That can’t continue.
I did not drive to San Juan Capistrano for soccer this afternoon, which is probably a good thing, because the freeway caught on fire and aliens landed and the oceans overran the land…or it was just normal Friday-afternoon traffic to the OC. Apparently it was bad. I’m going tomorrow morning, but the girlchild’s back is still bugging her…doctor’s appointment Wednesday…so she might not even play.
I’m solidly buried in grading, but got a good chunk done today and tonight…I hope to continue that trend until I feel like I have everything under control (June 20, 2013, day after school gets out). Yeah. I know.
Busy weekend. Busy month.