Tag Archives: Kleon

Widen the lens – how?

umbrella-dappled

side porch

Always, the unconscious is present, making this or that comment in our days, usually quite a bit ahead of our awareness. That’s part of the mystery, the fun, and the intrigue of making art.

But this picture made me wonder if there weren’t ways to build in a practice of less-conscious captures?

I mean something more than accepting that scrap of fabric that fell from somewhere and landed on a quilt, begging for inclusion. And I mean more than embracing a wicked mistake and owning it as part of a now-changed design.

I mean consciously building in a more random catalog. Anybody have any ideas about how to do this? Does anyone do this already (that they know of)? I’d love to hear.

The umbrella picture struck me because I shot it after composing a series of careful studies of the unfurling, magnificent hosta that line our sidewalk. I composed the way I usually do and had some thread of text forming in my head (something about the glory of spring and the changing tides of opinion — in this case regarding hosta — a pedestrian plant that I used to dislike, but now appreciate for its reliability and willingness to endure all kinds of stress — from rabbit-dining to cold shocks, mashing, and even clips by the lawn mower). As an afterthought, I snapped this dappled light and wet umbrella on my way in the door.

I liked this picture so much more than any of the careful shots, that I had to wonder what else I am missing by pointing my lens in predictable directions.  The rake with its signs of recent bed-clearing, the umbrella still wet with a spring rain, and most of all, the dappled  light… these elements collectively said “SPRING” better than my careful compositions. What ELSE am I missing by pointing my lens in ‘pretty’ directions? By deciding in advance what constitutes an image of something, in this case — spring?

And speaking of spring, here are some more shots of my neighborhood and front yard.

flamingoes

a snobby conflict about flamingos years ago led many in Newton to adorn their yards with them

recent-plantings

our front yard – these pansies have suffered in the recent cold

rock-in-shade-garden

one of my favorite nearby gardens

stone-pagoda

another beautiful garden on Oxford Road

On the route where these pictures were taken I found a lovely hole-ridden grey piece of something – I don’t want to gross anyone out, but it is probably a piece of Kleenex.

grey-fiber-on-grass

found object has become a ‘house’ quilt

More on that tomorrow! But here is a sneak peek:

found-house-up-close

light coming through

“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