Time for another quilt date – this time, with a famous artist. The guy is Ellsworth Kelly, a great American painter born in 1923, known for his hard-edge Color Field work. I have loved his work in many different museums and spent many hours with three or four books of his work.
here's a picture of an Ellsworth Kelly painting that I took at the Norton Simon Museum in Los Angeles
Kathleen Loomis -- Landscape 4
For some reason I abandoned this series before it matured, but when I revisit these quilts I sometimes wonder whether I quit too soon. I particularly like the subtlety of the low-contrast areas in the left-hand columns.
If you’re intrigued by this approach and would like to go out with Ellsworth Kelly, you could either use hand-dyed fabrics and take advantage of the low contrast of piecing a fabric against itself, or be more true to his Color Field nature with commercial solids.
Then you have to decide the following specifications for your quilt:
How many columns? (I suggest either three or five.)
Which (if any) column will be “empty” – with no stripes or low-contrast stripes?
How wide will each column be? (You could work in miniature with four-inch columns, or much wider. My three quilts had 10-inch columns.)
What proportion will you use for the two color stripes? (The contrast color could be equal in width to the background stripes, or very narrow in comparison, or wider, or anything in between.)
Will you cut your stripes with a ruler, or as straight as you can get them freehand, or curvy? If you choose straight or straightish edges, will your stripes always be exactly horizontal, or will you have some on the diagonal or wedge-shaped? You might want to doodle some of these alternatives before you start cutting, or make sketches by cutting construction paper, as Kelly himself did.
And finally, which two colors?
All three of my quilts were made by constructing the columns independently, then putting them up on the design wall and only then making minimal adjustments if I didn’t like the way the stripes in one column abutted those in the next column. The composition might have improved if I had laid out the entire quilt before sewing the columns together – but on the other hand, it’s very hard to know in advance exactly where a certain strip is going to fall before you have actually sewed it and used up all the seam allowances.
If you like your first date and want to explore this approach farther, just go back to the list of questions and choose another combination of answers. Before I abandoned my series I had actually planned out a half-dozen future possibilities. For instance, I was going to experiment with having the two colors be higher or lower contrast (Kelly’s original was hot pink and orange, so close in value that you could hardly tell them apart) and with having the “empty” column be somewhere besides at the far left. You could make similar changes with any of the other specifications; all the columns don’t have to be the same width, and there are a multitude of different ways to cut a “stripe.”
And you could emulate the first Kelly picture I posted above, by using square or rectangular striped blocks instead of long striped columns.
As always, if you try this date, let me know how it works out. If you want to send me a picture of what you made, I’ll post it.