Waiting to become

IMG_9898This morning, I revisited the little gem of a book, “Steal Like An Artist,” by Austin Kleon because it’s good and worth revisiting and because, well, seeing my blue indigo woven square on Instagram turned my stomach, just a little, because of how much it said, “Jude” to me. Not arrogance here. Rather:Β  dissatisfaction. The thing is far from done and woven strips are kinda woven strips, but still, I thought I’d share some of the excellent things Kleon has to say about this, “this” being developing a style or a voice, even though the “Hearts for Charleston” quilt is not about this. At all. (and, as you take a breath, can you tell I’m reading Faulkner again this summer?!)
indigo-woven-deemallon“A wonderful flaw about human beings is that we’re incapable of making perfect copies. Our failure to copy our heroes is where we discover where our own thing lives. That is how we evolve. So: Copy your heroes. Examine where you fall short. What’s in there that makes you different? That’s what you should amplify… ”

And: “Don’t just steal the style, steal the thinking behind the style. You don’t want to look like your heroes, you want to see like your heroes.”
IMG_9854Also this: “… you don’t just steal from one of your heroes, you steal from all of them.”

[Who are all of them?!! The blog roll on the right is a starting place. This morning, Robert Rauschenberg, John Singer Sargent, the Gee’s Bend quilters, Susan Carlson, and Ruth McDonald all come to mind. Jude Hill (obviously). Maybe I don’t think about this enough].

“Nobody is born with a style or a voice. We don’t come out of the womb knowing who we are. In the beginning we learn by pretending to be our heroes. We learn by copying.”

“We’re talking about practice here, not plagiarism…. Copying is about reverse-engineering. It’s like a mechanic taking apart a car to see how it works.”

This is not hand-wringing, per se. Just follow-up to a little turn of the stomach. It’s important to follow up on little turns of the stomach. That might be a piece of advice I’d give an artist. Or just plain a person. It’s a little like Julia Cameron suggesting that we use a list of people we are jealous of as a laundry list of things we need. It works. Try it.

Meanwhile, I am in love with some new double exposures. I wish I could figure out what to DO with them!
IMG_9884These feel wholly mine. And yet? Thumb tapping? Digital code? What ARE they?!
And, not free of influence, obviously.


15 thoughts on “Waiting to become

    1. deemallon Post author

      You should. It inspires every time I look at it. (And it would make me feel less bad about quoting so liberally here!)

  1. Mo Crow

    weaving & stitching the hearts felt like channeling both you and Jude into a prayer
    BTW I would never read that book, the quotes I have seen are inane (IMHO), you are an artist Dee, you question your work and your place in the world from every angle, just do the work!

      1. deemallon Post author

        I was laughing reading your comment. You can be relied upon Mo to deliver what u really think and as it happens helpful words. I kinda want to defend the book tho. It might seem less inane if you read it all. He talks a lot about lightening up, using both sides of the brain and one’s hands. Basic stuff but I like to be reminded. Oh and here’s something I heard from him the first time: don’t blog because you have something to say. Blog to discover what it is you want to say.

        And I AM working. I have quite a few ideas for my Heart Square. It will be exciting to get others tactile input and responsively put them together.

        1. Mo Crow

          Good to hear! oh and please feel free to cut up the 9 of hearts cloth that is winging it’s way over to you as necessary, it’s just a component in the overall quilt and it is your baby!

  2. Liz

    Ha! Austin Kleon does touch nerves! I think I like his book “Show Your Work” even more. For sure that’s part of the reason that I enjoy process posts as much as “Ta da … it’s finished” posts.

    I’m still trying to find my way to myself in stitch and in life. It has been a process of accepting and rejecting simultaneously … which is to say, it’s complicated.

    So thank you for this very thoughtful post … and for showing Bird by Bird by another one of my process role models!

    1. deemallon Post author

      I go to him now and then. It seemed a good source after my Instagram reaction. I chug along with my work and mostly dispatch attempts to evaluate it as sore wastes of time. For me the post is as much about blogging as anything else.

    1. deemallon Post author

      Very thoughtful post Jude. I appreciate the link. Perhaps I’ll continue tomorrow. But for now just this: if you get past the word “steal” in this book it pretty much describes the kind of honoring and receiving that you describe. Early on he wrote: “if we’re free from the burden of trying to be completely original, we can stop trying to make something out of nothing, and we can embrace influence instead of running away from it.” He is not suggesting short cuts or deception.

  3. Anita

    Thank you so much for this post, very thought-provoking. I’ve often wondered how to make my stitching my own, as distinct from Jude’s – she’s such a strong wonderful teacher. Will look at her post, too.

    1. deemallon Post author

      Hi Anita. On the one hand, we can’t help but make these techniques our own because as Kleon points out, it’s impossible to REALLY copy another. On the other hand, we all know what we mean when we say we are waiting/hoping to see how our own Special Something will manifest. Ira Glass has a wonderful two minute audio about this. Maybe I’ll share that link later. But if you google art/iraglass on YouTube and look for a two minute clip, you’ll find it. Have a great day!

      1. Anita

        Yes, absolutely. But I’m so worried about copying sometimes that I get frozen into inactivity, trying to avoid ‘stealing’. Kleon’s take is reassuring – I’ve ordered the book – looking forward to reading it. And will look up the link. Thanks again.


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