Sunday, December 14, 2008

"DULL" colours

There has been some talk on the quiltart list about to learn about it, how to experiment with it. Colour has always been problematic to me too, as every now and then, I get antsy about the palette I use over and over again....sort of the queen of blue/violet/red syndrome. Recently, I have been trying to explore other less appealing colour palettes and I must say, I am beginning to like more grayed down hues , especially when spiced up with a small amount of more saturated colour.
Two years ago at my first FOCUS ON FIBER at the Atlantic Center for the Arts, I spent time making a number of odd shaped colour sets. I THOUGHT I was trying to use duller colours with a touch of higher saturation. I look at them now, and see it was more DARK but fairly intense colours combined with lighter and higher value hues.

Two years later, once again I became impatient with my colours. This time I really did order some greyed down fabrics and started seeing what I could do with them. At the very least the colours certainly changed the mood of the work. This one is rather anxious and even gloomy:

This one is getting closer to the kind of more subtle colour range I was hoping for. I am going to continue this duller palette for a while, I think.

Thursday, December 11, 2008

NON academic colour studies

There was talk on the quiltart list today about learning about colour. Some people do well with colour theory and the making of colour wheel, tonal charts and tint charts, and doing Itten inspired contrast studies. Others, like me, are less than inspired with these formal exercises and do better with a hands on approach to learning about colour; how it can sing when next to another colour, how tints and tonal variations can enrich the pallette, how unusual colour contrasts can express emotion. When I used to teach painting, I found that hands on exercises with a tangible finished product was very satisfying to the young student as well as an intuitive way of understanding colour.

One favourite exercise was to select a painting by a modern master and reproduce the image in complementary colours to the original. The tones and tints must remain the same however. This made the student really analyze the original and really SEE the colour...not as a simple red for instance. But a medium toned reddish green perhaps. The opposite would be a medium toned greenish red. The results were quite wonderful and taught the student more than colour theory in that they became aware that amazing colour contrasts can be achieved with more subtle forms of a given hue. As a corollary, they also discovered that the colour palette of the original was carefully selected to achieve the artists' intent. Here are some examples from a highschool class:

You may recognize some of these ...the top left a Matisse interior, left middle top Picasso portrait and the far right Van Goghs chair. The contemporary yellow blue face is an artist whose name escapes me.

I offer similar exercises in fabric where a limited palette of only two colours in all their permutations plus black and white, results in a rich exploration of ALL the possibilities within the parameters.

So for people like me whose eyes glaze over at the mention of theory, this kind of alternate method of hands on discovery may be just the ticket!

Tuesday, May 20, 2008

The ART of Gees Bend

Pettway/ Mark Rothco

Pettway/Frank Stella


Pettway/ Barnett Newman

There seems to be less than universal accolades for the phenomenon of the Gees Bend quilt/art. Well at least amongst art quilters I hear on various e-lists I am on. The most recent was to question whether the popularity and critical acclaim these artists have received may be just clever spin doctors and self serving curators trying to drum up business. I confess, I am puzzled that some fail to see the remarkable beauty and ART these works display. A lot of the nay sayers mention "poor workmanship and materials" as a reason to dismiss them. Others don't see how outsider ladies could be possibly be making art when all that they were doing was making warm bedding out of reclaimed garments. I was struck by the originality of the works when they first appeared at the Whitney in New York, and that was only from looking at the online pictures. When I actually saw the show in Orlando I felt MOVED by them...not just from the history of their makers but for the amazing instinctive beauty of the designs and use of the faded pentimento in the fabrics. I wish I had that seemingly ingrained intuitiveness as I design MY work. One of the artists when asked HOW she developed the design replied that she cut up the various colored shapes, moved them around on her bed until they "looked right".

Well isn't that what all artists do? At least those that pursue excellence and personal input in there work? I googled some well known modern artists such as Paul Klee, Mondrian and Rothco and was struck by the similarities of composition and expression to the Gees Bend work. I am convinced....these are ART!

Friday, March 14, 2008

IKEA design wall

Just a few pics to show the portable design set up I use. It's a wheeled coat rack from Ikea with an 4x8" insulation foam covered with felt. Very cheap, works a treat!