Line is an artistic element that can be used to describe the edges and contours of an object. Line can also define a direction for the eye to travel. Line of various thickness and weight can also generate a mood; calm for lyrical curved lines, tense for jagged irregular ones. In art quilts, lines can be created by adding narrow strips of fabric or cutting a thin channel through which the underlying fabric reveals itself (as in reverse appliqué) or by stitching. Let’s make a sample to explore some of these techniques. We will start with a small piece of fabric with a large linear pattern. Your one rule is that you cannot cover or cut this original piece. It’ll be a challenge to make a unified composition from this almost arbitrary start, but it can be done!
This fragment is from a rayon sarong measuring about 7 inches. You can see the lines are in a yellow color, so I am placing it on a yellow background in anticipation I might be cutting some other fabrics to reveal the underlying colour. The object of this exercise is to create a fully realized linear composition by extending the already existing lines in the starter fabric.
The first thing we must do is to fill the rest of the space with fabrics that relate to those already there. These do NOT have to match in color, but rather need to be sympathetic to the tone and color family you are starting with. Notice the entire surface is now covered.
I have added more blue and black shapes to begin to connect the composition to the edges of the rectangle. Notice that some connecting lines are also appearing by cutting through the top layer and aligning the underlying line with the original fabric pattern. In the lower right, where the black fabric completes a shape, I have cut a space that reveals a red line instead of the yellow. I LIKE it for its variety!
The top part of the composition seemed neglected so I begin to introduce lines to connect the bottom to the top of the rectangle. Remember that ALL of the composition is important, so be mindful of the rectangle as you develop the image.
I felt I needed another black shape on the left edge to draw the eye across from the others. Again I was able to cut out a red line around it. The composition is becoming more unified and balanced.
This shows the final addition of line by means of long running stitch with embroidery floss. The finished piece below it offers the viewer a unified integration of the original fragment that concentrates on line as an element of art.
A WORD ABOUT UNITY
You may have noticed my advice in these first two exercises, to quickly establish a background for the whole work. One of the joys of creating comes from the “dialogue” that begins to occur between you and your art. Without some initial shapes, colors and arrangement, however temporary such a dialogue cannot take place. We need something visual and complete upon which to bounce our next idea. Strive to maintain integrity in your work at all stages. By that I mean you should be able to appreciate a unified image at all stages of development. The process of creating a successful composition involves a kind of stream of consciousness thinking that is stimulated by what is already present in the work in progress. You can analyze the fragment for instance, and notice the direction of the lines. This will give you a clue to where they will go and how they will engage the rectangle. “ What if I make this diagonal into a more lyrical wavy line? What if I change the colour of the line where it meets the first one?”. And so on. Then of course, you must actually try your idea and see if it will work! So LISTEN to your work and act on what it is telling you.