Saturday, January 22, 2011

Vacation inspiration

Clearly time for me to get back to real life after my magnificent vacation to the end of the earth.  Since I got home I've mainly been doing laundry, unpacking and reading old newspapers, but the gravitational pull of art is starting to be felt. 

I know from my art history readings that many artists have come home from vacations with new excitement and outlooks that have changed their entire work.  The young Paul Klee, for instance, famously went to Tunisia with two of his lesser-known artist pals, Louis Moilliet and August Macke.  In only a couple of weeks his brilliant watercolor sketches convinced him that color and paint were far more important than drawing, and he came home firmly pointed in the direction of greatness.

Paul Klee, Garden in St. Germain, European Quarter of Tunis, 1914

Unlike Klee, I didn't make sketches on my vacation, just took pictures (would art history have changed if Klee had brought a Brownie with him?).  But I did think occasionally about whether and how the wonderful, exotic scenery of Antarctica is going to affect my art. 

I don't do realism, so that means no adorable penguins, seals or killer whales.  But I have been pondering the icy palette of the polar waters --blue-black ocean, black rock, white snow and ice, gray lines of dirt and rock dust within the glaciers, a huge range of medium and light blues and blue-greens as you get close to floating ice and see the light reflecting back.  

I've never worked with this palette before, even though I've been awed to sail amid glaciers and icebergs on previous vacations.  Is it as simple as realizing the pitfalls of sewing on large expanses of white?  Not only can you see every non-white thread or seam allowance on the back side of your quilt shadowing through to the top, but the quilt gets dirty after you manhandle it for a month or two.

For both those reasons, I wrote last summer about my resolution to never make a pale yellow quilt again, even though I'm pleased to report that it got into Quilt National '11. So would I not only forget my promise but up the ante and go for white this year? Don't know if I'm that dumb. And yet would the polar blues be that evocative without the white to surround and set them off? Probably not.

So I'm going to contemplate ice and what aspect of it might be intriguing enough to work with. I'll let you know when I figure it out!

But meanwhile, I'm interested in your experiences. Have you come home from vacations with ideas that have made major, lasting change in your own art history? Or have you dabbled in souvenir art that faded almost as fast as your suntan? I suspect even world-class artists have had both kinds of responses.


  1. But is it actually 'really' white? So, you wouldn't need to fret about the hazards if you just didn't go there with the white but played with all the other colours you saw in the white....or something...:)
    Welcome home. I have no idea why someone would want to go to a cold place for holiday even if it was beautiful, but I am glad you did and can show us small glimpses!
    Sandy in Bracknell

  2. I've come home from Hawaii or Mexico in love with the light and colors of those places--but they just don't work here in the middle of the continent.

  3. Working with those colours even without the white would certainly be quite a challenge because many of them are so light and not that far from pale yellow in terms of value. Why don't you put the seam allowances outside, after all, the ice is cracked, too.
    I've been to Provence and was thrilled with the colors there - and well understood how Susan Seagram could dye such beautiful colors living there. But it really makes a difference where you are. Can't do provencal colors in mid-Europe.

  4. Hi from Spain Kathleen, I found myself many times looking the colors of things around me and then thinking on the colors of my quilts.
    When I used to choose fabric by impulse I collected many the same colors of the rocks, trees and plants around my house. You know what? Never used them. Instead I choose very diferent fabrics. So I'm not inspirated by nature at all even I enjoy looking the colors of things a lot.
    It was looking the work of P.Klee and M. Rothko that I discovered color and the possibilities of play with it. That's what I look for in quilts or paintings, in films and photographs. I never get tired of seeing lots of color compositions.
    In my own quilts I choose color before pattern and in this I follow my own mood and also what fabrics do I have. I like a lot to make improvisational quilts because is a challenge to find out what I can do with what I have at hand and integrate fabrics in a whole the best I can in a sort of relationship.
    So, no inspiration for me.

  5. Hi Lola!

    I can report back that four months later I am not thinking polar colors any more. Didn't even try to make anything with them. Maybe I will in the future but so far this inspiration didn't end up being productive.