Thursday, July 28, 2016

Finding the connections

I've been writing about my daily drawing adventures for a couple of weeks, and finished up that thread on Monday with the remark, "And now that I've brought you up to date, I promise to write about fiber art for a while, not drawing."

Then someone left a comment, "You say drawing and fiber art like they have no connection with each other."

So let me defend my remark.  First off, what are we talking about?  To me, "fiber art" means my serious work in quilting and other fiber formats; work that I would enter in shows or want to be in my career retrospective.  I think I'm pretty accomplished in these formats: I can often get into the good shows, maybe even win a prize, I can teach and write books about this line of work.

In addition to my serious fiber work, I always have some side projects going that don't rise to that level of importance or achievement.  Specifically, every year I do a daily art project, often chosen as a way to force myself to try something new and unfamiliar.  I did two years of daily photography and three years of daily collage.  In both cases my initial apprehension and inexperience gave way through practice to better technique, a better eye, a personal style, but I can't say that they had any influence on my fiber art, or vice versa.

For many people, of course, there's a big connection between drawing and fiber art.  Lots of fiber artists use drawing as an integral part of their serious work, such as these two examples from Quilt National '15, where the quilted line forms the image.

Paula Kovarik, Insomnia: His and Hers  (detail)

Brigitte Kopp, On Her Road To... (detail)

I don't think that's going to happen in my own work; I'm going down a very different road these days.  I admit that a few times in my daily drawing I've used curvy lines that greatly resemble a particular quilting style that I used to do a lot, but I didn't feel the patter of little feet migrating from one medium to the other.

That said, I know that it often takes a long time for the artist to recognize connections in her own work, perhaps not until an outside observer points them out.  I used to think that my "postage stamp" quilts and my standard-format quilts were two entirely different bodies of work, until somebody commented that they're both little bits held together by fragile bonds.  Head slap / of course!!!

Kathleen Loomis, Postage 2: Regatta (detail)

Kathleen Loomis, Crazed 8: Incarceration (detail)

I have also noticed commonalities among my different approaches, such as the way text keeps creeping in despite my alleged attempts to keep it out.  That certainly happened in my quilts, again during the three years of daily collage and it may be wanting to occur in my daily drawings.

And I also see a recurring theme between my "tangle" drawings and my 3-D knotted constructions, although the sketchbook knots are a whole lot looser than those in real life.  I guess they too are fragile bonds barely holding things together.

Kathleen Loomis, Infusions (detail)

So are there connections between drawing and fiber art?  At this point, for me, I would say not many.  But who knows what might develop -- or what I might come to recognize -- in the future.

Monday, July 25, 2016

Drawing progress report 8 -- the roads become tangles

Previously on Art With a Needle....

My daily art drawings started to organize themselves into series as I deliberately explored various styles of abstract, doodle-like approaches.  I realized that I love to work in ink, and fastened on the finest Micron pen as my tool of choice.  I realized that "roads" made of two closely spaced lines were a favorite and recurring motif.

I had been making maplike drawings with lots of details such as rivers, beaches, mountain ranges and variously textured fields.  But one night I drew just roads, and they started to tangle up in the middle of the page.

Clearly a direction that I had to pursue! On subsequent days, the tangles started to fill more of the page and become more complicated.  And when one road met another, it would go over or under it like a freeway, not make a grade-crossing intersection.

If you draw a road across the entire page, then fill in with more and more roads, the first one will always appear "on top" because later roads will have to stop and "go underneath" to cross the first one.  So to make a more tangled-together or woven effect, you need to leave spaces in your early roads for subsequent roads to "go over."  Here's what a drawing looks like in the earliest stages:

I wasn't thinking of these as roads any more; now they looked more like threads or yarns.  How many times in my long career as a sewist have I had to untangle piles of thread or yarn that look just like this!

You can check out all my daily drawings at my daily art blog HERE and see what has happened with this approach in the last month.  The only problem was that I discovered that it was taking me two or three hours to make these very detailed tangles, and that's a lot more time than I am willing to invest in daily art.  So I decided I had to ration myself: tangles on days when I could draw while visiting with other people or watching TV, less detailed drawings (or smaller tangles) on days when I was working alone.  I had a blissful week of tangles recently during a family vacation, and could sit overlooking the lake, draw and talk all day!

And now that I've brought you up to date, I promise to write about fiber art for a while, not drawing.

Thursday, July 21, 2016

Drawing progress report 7 -- maps

Continuing with the combination of thin wash with fine ink lines, I started drawing maps.  Sometimes the wide wash made roads, other times rivers and lakes.  I would outline the wash areas with lines, then enjoyed putting in more details with the pen.  Always experimenting with different kinds of shapes and different kinds of marks to fill in the shapes.

Working in series felt good, as I discarded approaches that didn't work so well and continued to practice approaches that did.

But no matter what else ended up on the page, I almost always had "roads" made of two closely spaced pen lines.  That seemed to be a style that I did naturally.  I like the way the road isn't always of uniform width, because the lines aren't perfectly straight and the bumps don't always correspond.

I found myself going into zen state when I would draw the roads.  Sometimes I would deliberately hold the pen way up at its top end to introduce some uncontrolled jitters into the line.  I almost always finished my daily map drawing with a tinge of regret because I didn't want to stop drawing those roads.

Fortunately I realized what was going on and decided to let the roads keep going on and on.  Tomorrow I'll show you what happened then.

Tuesday, July 19, 2016

Drawing progress report 6 -- start with a wash

In mid-May I was drawing at my desk and noticed a bottle of brown india ink lurking behind some other stuff.  I think I had been tidying up and the ink was newly visible to the naked eye, and it called to me.  I grabbed a brush and made a loose circular form, then doodled around it with my 005 Micron pen.

Even though the ink was not behaving very well -- it had globs of pigment instead of a smooth solution -- I liked what was happening, especially the contrast between the light wash and the black ink lines.  I experimented with this approach for a week or more.

In lieu of laying down the colored ink with a brush, I tried drawing curves with the tip of the eye dropper.  I liked that even more. (The curves reminded me of free-motion quilting.)

I was experimenting with different kinds of doodles around the edges and was particularly taken with the curves and shapes drawn with two parallel lines, as in the sketch below.  The second line gave more weight and made the mark more visible, but still had the delicacy of the very fine pen point.


I was happy with these drawings; again, I felt that I was developing my own ideas instead of just randomly drawing whatever showed up on the table.

Monday, July 18, 2016

Drawing progress report 5 -- doodle buildings

My second sketchbook for the daily art project had brown paper, and I quickly learned that pencil didn't show up very well.  So I started using either a Sharpie or a fat Micron pen.  During a boring meeting in early April I found myself doodling buildings or blocks with distorted perspective and slots or holes cut into the sides.  After a while I realized that I should be working in my sketchbook instead of on the edge of my agenda.

I drew buildings for a couple of weeks, realizing that I liked going back to the same concept over and over.  Each day's drawing seemed to come naturally from the previous day's; I tweaked the concept, experimented with different methods and densities of shading, came up with new ways to draw holes and slots in the buildings, tried different vantage points.  Some days the perspective was very distorted, other days it was more realistic.

I got the same familiar buzz out of working in series that I have always felt when my quilts are in a groove. And most important, I felt for the first time that I was working from my own imagination, finding my own voice and refining my style by drawing the same subjects over and over.

Then I ran out of pages in my brown-paper sketchbook and stopped doing doodle buildings.  With a new white sketchbook I thought it would be exhilarating to go back to pencil and try something different.  But I floundered.


Update: linking this post to Nina-Marie's blog -- check it out to see what other fiber artists have been up to this week.