Friday, January 31, 2014

Art reader's digest

From "The Philosophy of Andy Warhol (From A to B and Back Again)", Andy Warhol, 1975

Business art is the step that comes after Art.  I started as a commercial artist, and I want to finish as a business artist.  After I did the thing called "art" or whatever it's called, I went into business art... Being good in business is the most fascinating kind of art.  During the hippie era people put down the idea of business -- they'd say, "Money is bad," and "working is bad," but making money is art and working is art and good business is the best art.

Thursday, January 30, 2014

Tuesday, January 28, 2014

Collage post mortem 6 -- mix and match heads

Early in the year I discovered a collage technique that I used many times.  I found two heads of the same size, cut them apart, and swapped halves.  Either horizontal or vertical cuts worked well.  Surprisingly, mixing male and female heads made unisex characters who looked quite natural.

Kentucky is a hotbed of basketball, and last year was hotter than most, with our local team winning the NCAA championship and the team down the road as a perpetual contender.  By the time the season was over I was so sick of photos of coaches yelling (I think there's a rule of journalism against depicting coaches with their mouths shut) that I made this collage:

Monday, January 27, 2014

Collage post mortem 5 -- new heads

Just as I had fun in my 2013 collages pasting new eyes, ears and lips onto preexisting faces, I also pasted a lot of entirely new heads onto preexisting bodies.  Sometimes I tried to find a new head the same size as the original; other times the composition looked better if the new head was wildly out of sync with the body.

Saturday, January 25, 2014

Friday, January 24, 2014

Collage post mortem 4 -- zombie eyes

One day I was making a collage and needed some tiny eyes to paste onto a head that had no features.  I found them in an encyclopedia illustration, cut them out and used them in the collage below.

Afterwards, the eyeless head was sitting on my work table on top of some plain yellow paper.  (I find it helps my creativity if I don't clean up too quickly; yesterday's leftovers may become today's feature image) Here's what I did with it:

Subsequently I re-used the zombie eyes several times, usually with the solid color gaze.

Thursday, January 23, 2014

Weak results -- well-deserved

A couple of weeks ago I wrote about a show at the American Folk Art Museum in New York featuring three quiltmakers.  I didn't see the show but based on the reviews and photos, didn't think much of it.  The work seemed to be really old hat compared to the good quilts that I have seen on display in many places.  I gigged the curator for her apparent ignorance of the universe of quilt art.

I was pleased to read in the New York Times this week that the show was regarded "with weak results."  That's heartening news; too frequently shows with weak material are met with huzzahs.  This time apparently the public realized the emperor had no clothes.

But how long do you think it will be before the museum does another show of contemporary quilt art?

Tuesday, January 21, 2014

Collage post mortem 3 -- the eyes have it

I wrote last year about how the eye became a recurring motif in my daily hand stitching in 2012.  Not surprisingly, that carried over into my collages in 2013.  At the start of the year it was pretty heavy-handed, just collections of eyes looking at you.

But I got a little more subtle and complex as the year went by.   (And yes, a bit disturbing, I'll admit.)

Often I would paste new eyes onto a face.


Sometimes I would make "eyes" out of other objects.

Monday, January 20, 2014

Prints and solids -- a reader responds

Earlier this month I talked about my personal rules for quilting, which hold that you shouldn't mix solids and prints.  I realize that this rule is both arbitrary and open to argument, so I invited readers to argue.

Angela Welch sent in a photo of her quilt and wrote:  "The popularity of solids in 'modern' quilts got me interested in trying them.  I've seen many quilts I admire that are exclusively solids, made in the modern aesthetic.  Usually, I prefer quilts that have a variety of types of fabrics.  All batiks, or all hand-dyes, or all of just about anything is usually dull, so I though, why not mix prints and solids and see what happens?

Angela Welch, Tree #2, 34" x 28"

"My first (and only, so far) experiment with this is my quilt Tree #2.  It is mostly solids, mixed with hand-dyes and prints that read as solids.  What I learned from this is that solids seem very flat and make it harder to create depth.  While there are some aspects of this quilt that I like (the shapes, the overall movement) mostly I think it looks too flat.

"After finishing this quilt recently, I think I'm moving back toward the wide variety of prints I usually use.  Solids aren't really for me (I think)."


Kathy responds:  I don't think this looks particularly flat; in fact, I have a hard time seeing from this image which pieces are solids and which just read as solids.  Probably not visible in this photo is the beautiful quilting; the whole surface is filled with elaborate feathers and leaf motifs.

But if you don't think solids are for you, then don't use them!  That's how this whole discussion started, with a "rule" that made sense to its maker, if not to anybody else.  How nice that we have the freedom to make and follow our own rules.

Thanks, Angela, for the photo!

Saturday, January 18, 2014

Brush time

I took a workshop last week with Laurie Doctor, the wonderful calligrapher and painter with whom I have studied several times in the past.  She helped me get unblocked from my lifelong fear of making marks with pens, pencils and brushes.  At that time I made huge progress with using a pen, but this time I made friends with a brush.

Laurie's mantra is that you must develop "the credibility of the line," which I take to mean that your mark must have character and be true to itself.  Wobbling is OK as long as it's authentic wobbling; whatever you do, do it with confidence and let your own voice come through.  As Martin Luther famously said, If you must sin, sin boldly.

One assignment that made a big impact was to write a word with a big brush, going across the entire height of the paper. We were supposed to do this with our eyes closed but I have a hard time following directions exactly, so I made a few modifications to fit my own needs.

Mainly, I wanted to use a small brush, not a big one.  That meant I had to re-dip it in the paint frequently so I couldn't close my eyes.  But I hadn't made more than three or four inches worth of my first downstroke before I realized that I was making an exceptionally credible line.  Even better, I was able to keep it up through the entire word, maintaining the same feel and strength throughout.

This may seem like a pretty feeble accomplishment: to write six letters that resemble one another.  But for me it was something to be proud of.  I want to return to this brush and this paint and see if I can make these letters consistently.

So what did I do with my great accomplishment?  I tore down the paper and bound it into a little book.  It really hurt to tear that word apart but I kept remembering the quote from some famous writer, I forget who, that you should "kill your darlings."  Not sure exactly what he meant by that, or whether it's even good advice, but I made the book.

After all, I can always do the word over again.  See how my confidence has grown?  Thanks, Laurie!

Friday, January 17, 2014

Collage post mortem 2

Earlier this week I showed you some scenarios in my daily collages last year -- works in which something was going on, but you couldn't always tell what or why.  I discovered as the year went on that many times text was sneaking into the scene, perhaps explaining or commenting on the action.

Here are some examples:

I realized at the end of the year that I liked the text so much that I have made it part of the rules for my daily collage this year.


linking to Nina-Marie's blog; check it out to see what other fiber artists are doing this week

Wednesday, January 15, 2014

Collage post mortem 1

One of the pleasures of doing a daily art project is that at the end of the year you can go through what you have made and reflect on what you have done and what you have learned.  I hope you will indulge me on this trip down memory lane as I look back at the collages I made in 2013 and try to find some themes and successes.

I have already written about how in midyear I shifted my modus operandi from arranging shapes in a graphic design on a plain background to composing scenarios on a found background.  My concept was to make a little narrative each day, with people doing something.  Often you wondered exactly what they were doing; other times it was clear, but funny (perhaps because the scale was distorted or because the people were in incongruous settings).

Here are some of my favorites: