Tag Archives: copying

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:  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.
IMG_9517

 

“Steal Like An Artist”

beginning

select subject and materials

The book “Steal Like an Artist” is a great and inspiring volume. You can read it in an hour and a half, and should, many times.

Here are a few of artist/author Austin Kleon’s liberating and clarifying concepts:

  1. “Nobody is born with a style or a voice… We learn by copying.”
  2. Copy your heroes.
  3. Copy from more than one source.
  4. “You don’t want to look like your heroes, you want to see like your heroes.”

In that vein, today I celebrate a cloth face put together in preparation for an upcoming children’s quilting workshop that I’ll be teaching at the Boston Center for the Arts.*  This exercise served two purposes. One, it acquainted me with the project on the tactile level – obviously important when teaching. Two, it gave me a chance to express something, so there is less chance I will insert myself into my students’ work – always a peril for teachers, particularly of young people.

tacking-ear

tacking ear down

So, from whom do I steal here? At least three artists.

One, Jude Hill. Jude is a master quilter whose techniques and philosophy I have been studying (and copying) for quite some time now. Her teaching style is completely geared to Number 4, above — in other words, she isn’t trying to show her students how to make work like hers. Rather, she is openly and consciously trying to get her students to SEE like she does. Philosophy and process instead of recipes. (her blog: Spirit Cloth on sidebar)

How is her influence present? This time, primarily in technique and a quality of attention:

  1. The attention to the materials themselves (selecting fabrics with a nice hand, easily penetrable by a needle).
  2. The use of invisible basting to adhere the layers.
  3. Managing the layers by carefully inserting batting under face only.
  4. Hand sewing some components together prior to basting the entire piece – eliminating need for numerous pins or glue.
assembling eye BEFORE all-over basting

assembling eye BEFORE all-over basting

Who else?  Susan Carlson – the wonderfully talented pictorial quilter from Maine, whose collage-style technique I learned in 2001.  Her influence:

  1. An illustration approach to rendering the subject.
  2. Building layers from the bottom up.
  3. A liberal combination of patterns.
couching a single strand of satin cord

couching a single strand of satin cord

The third and perhaps most important artist:  the sculptor of the mask. Unknown. Gbi artist, Liberia, early twentieth century.

side by side - eyes not finished

side by side – eyes not finished

I would like to try this again, because I missed on the proportions – that lovely length to the face and the broad, regal forehead got a little squashed in my version. I needle-sculpted the cheeks a little, but next time I would want to use color to add light around the nose and on one-half of the forehead.

Apropos of ‘missing’ (I don’t really like the final product all that much, in fact) – I’d like to add how critical being able to screw up and try again is for creative endeavor. My most favorite spokesman on this is Ken Robinson, the English education specialist. Clearly other people find him worth listening to as well — the last time I posted this link, it had been viewed 7MM times. It is up to 16MM views now!

round-one

All layers together, with some embellishment

*  I will be teaching “Patchwork Faces” – a workshop for children, on May 18, 2013 from 10:30 to 12:00. You can register here:

http://bcaonline.org/public-programs/families-connect.html

Then, on June 1, from 10:30 until 1:00, I will teach a class for adults called, “Sew What? Improv Quilting”

http://www.bcaonline.org/visualarts/mills-gallery/now-showing.html

Both class are offered through the Boston Center for the Arts
539 Tremont Street, Boston, MA
617-426-5000