Taking a Second Look

Taking a second look at a failed project can spark new inspiration.

After a project is complete and I send it out for to a several calls for entry. If the work is rejected I evaluate. Something about that completed project did not work. When I look critically at my own work I look at three areas.

  1. It could have been that my skills were not up to the challenge.
  2. Maybe the composition missed the mark.
  3. The quality of the digital image may have missed the mark.

Frustration-Quote

I must admit, I am used to rejection. Not being included in shows is part of the process of getting better at what I do. Taking the time to evaluate the reasons a particular submission was not included in an exhibition is a source of inspiration.

 “How can I reimagine this project?”

 

When I select an image to work with, I am telling a story through my work. I can talk about my work at length by the time I am done. I have a number of completed projects that failed technically or compositionally, but the story is still engaging. One of these failed stories was “Tom and Jim”.

The quilt began with a picture taken of my father, James King Lowers and his brother, Thomas Houston Lowers; posing at the side of their home in Victor Colorado. I have a couple of these photographs taken with the brothers in a costume. This picture is of them dressed up as soldiers. At the time they were mesmerized by Teddy Roosevelt’s “Rough Riders”. Despite guns at the ready, they look nothing but cute.

Since the photo is over a hundred years old it is not a "high quality" image. There are scratches. It is a little fuzzy and the sepia print makes for a low contrast image. In my first attempt working with the image, I scanned it as a high resolution. I didn’t improve the image before adding  a series of overlays*.

*In photo manipulation software, a filter is a particular effect that can be applied to an image or part of an image. Filters can be traditional photographic filters or they can be complex programs used to create a wide variety of effects.

 

Boys
v4-728px-Rotate-Objects-in-Photoshop-Step-5-Version-3

I made an obvious misstep when ordering the fabric. When an image has a vertical orientation rotate the image 90 degrees so the usable print is larger. When the fabric came from Spoonflower I realized that error and another big one.

 

In an attempt to add a "playful" quality I used a filter with warm colors that would blend well with the sepia print. What I failed to understand was the image was not enhanced by adding layers of photo filters, fabric or paint that further obscured the figures or made the composition visually busy.


The final “nail in the coffin” was the quilting. In attempt to bring the figures into focus, I used fine thread (Superior Threads “So Fine”) in lighter flesh tones. By the time I was done, the faces were thick with thread and looked horrible.

Lessons were learned.

In my next post you will see how this picture was reimagined.

Until the next time........
Margaret

You can see my work…….
H2Oh!
New England Quilt Museum
Lowell, Massachusetts  •  July 11, 2018 -  September 23, 2018
Sacred Threads
HeART Gallery, St. Paul’s Lutheran Church, Toledo, OH – October 18-30, 2017

 

Interpretations: Conversations
Visions Art Museum
San Diego, CA
October 21 2017 – January 7 2018
Under The Western Sun
Handi Quilter
October 4 to December 1
"Art Quilts"
California Heritage Museum
Santa Monica CA
December 9 - March 18 2018
Art Quilt Quarterly 
Issue #8
Page 38
Subscribe or look  at Barnes & Noble, Books-A-Million, Joann Fabrics, or Chapters stores after November 29th.  

 

How to avoid the deadzone in your composition.

I spent my career as an art teacher in the public school system. For years I had piles of student work that I sorted, graded and selected for display. I taught children from kindergarten through high school.

During that time I saw and corrected the same mistakes in compositions.  One of  frequent mistakes was starting to draw in the center of the page and filling in the space from the midpoint out.  I called this little trap "the deadzone”.

A typical children's drawing. Perfectly symmetrical.
A typical children's drawing. Perfectly symmetrical.

A deadzone is placing the center of interest or a point of emphasis in the center of the composition when you are using asymmetrical balance.

To avoid or resolve this problem you need start with an understanding of emphasis and balance.  

Emphasis is defined as an area or object within the artwork that draws attention and becomes a focal point. Subordination is defined as minimizing or toning down other compositional elements in order to bring attention to the focal point.

https://www.sophia.org/tutorials/design-in-art-emphasis-variety-and-unity

Symmetrical balance can be described as having equal visual  "weight"  along a central axis. It may also be referred to as formal balance.  In asymmetrical balance used by fine artists, the two sides are not identical,  but the elements are arranged so that there is a visual of balance.

A work of  art by Jenny Beyers. Perfectly balanced from a center point.
A work of art by Jenny Beyers. Perfectly balanced from a center point.
http://www.sallywrightquilts.com/
http://www.sallywrightquilts.com/

Artists who work with functional forms like houses, jewelry, or  functional quilts use “formal balance” because they have to consider function.

Does it make sense to have an entry to a dwelling in the center of a building? Does a quilt have to fit on a rectangular mattress of a certain size? Of it does and that's why these artists and craftsman consider how how object will be used before they consider how an object looks.

Fine artists like painters or art quilters; do not have to consider functional restrictions. What matters when making a purely creative  nonfunctional; item is the composition. Fine artists often use asymmetrical balance because it keeps the viewers interest longer, allows the artist to lead the viewer to point of emphasis.

Van Gogh
Van Gogh

How to Avoid the Deadzone

Use your camera phone, or a ruler and roughly divide your composition in thirds in both horizontal and vertical directions. The division will look like a tic-tac-toe board.

Find the focal point. It's the place or object you want the viewer to see first.  Ask yourself: Is that focal point in the middle? Hopefully not because that middle is the dreaded dead zone.

Below is one of my quilts called "Namaste".   The focal point is clear.  The hands touch the forehead with a burst of light radiating from that space.  Initially the point where the figures hands met in front of her face was lower. You could see the full circle of light.

After taking a picture, I cropped the top of the quilt several inches to raise the focal point.  In the completed work the focal point is located in the upper third of the composition and off the center line avoiding the "dead zone".

deadzone

I hope this hint has helped you make more informed design decisions.

until next time........
Margaret

You can see my work…….
H2Oh!
New England Quilt Museum
Lowell, Massachusetts  •  July 11, 2018 -  September 23, 2018
Sacred Threads

Flint Festival of Quilts, Flint MI – September 2017
HeART Gallery, St. Paul’s Lutheran Church, Toledo, OH – October 18-30, 2017
Grace Episcopal Church, Gainesville GA – November 1 – December 15, 2017

 

Interpretations: Conversations
Visions Art Museum
San Diego, CA
October 21 2017 – January 7 2018
Under The Western Sun
Handi Quilter
October 4 to December 1
"Art Quilts"
California Heritage Museum
Santa Monica CA

December 8 2017 - March 18 2018
Carnegie Arts Center
Turlock CA
April 4 2018 - May 7 2018

My New “Newsletter”

I Launched a Newsletter!


Gregory Peck pictured reading a newspaper in a scene from the Oscar winning1960 film “To Kill a Mockingbird”

 

I miss reading the newspaper.

In Denver I subscribed to the “Rocky Mountain News”. It was in a tabloid format. I loved the shorter square that was like a magazine making it seem easier to read. In the summer (when I was not teaching) I could take my paper and my coffee to the back porch and spend an hour reading. Of course I had my favorite columns and editorial page writers, but I tended to wander around reading a variety of information.

That paper like many other papers ceased to exist in 2009. We are now in the era where a 800 word news story is captured in a 140 character tweet. The links to the full article are attached to that  short burst of information but according to an article in Buzzkeep you would need 10,000 followers to get 10 people to follow that link. So people are reading short bursts of information like I used to read a headline or title of an article and then deciding if they want more. 

Today I get my news from the PBS newshour, reading those twitter links from newspapers like the Washington Post or New York Times. My news consumption is like most people scattered and far from the days of opening a paper to see what happened yesterday. (#SAD)


My blog posts are about the length of a newspaper article: 500 – 800 words. Some of you seem to be interested in reading these few paragraphs from me a couple of times a month. I enjoy taking the time to reflect and sharing my thoughts with you.

An art quilt I created in 2015

My newsletter is designed for those people who want to select from what they want more information about or just glance to see what I am up too. I’ll have photo’s of recent work and information about where you can see one of my quilts in person. There will be a blurb about something I use or a video that’s interesting. The newsletter is something that I hope you will share with friends who might want to learn more about art quilting. 


Today  I am grateful there are so many ways to keep in touch, share my passion for art quilting and learn from others. Here are ways to you can connect with me. 

Instagram

FACEBOOK

Pinterest

Blogs

Online Gallery


If you have a blog, website, newsletter or other social media; let me know! The power to connect is vast in the 21st century; so why not take advantage. 

Until Next Time……
Margaret

You can see my work…….

Under The Western Sun
The Macey Center 
Socorro, NM 
July 24 to September 11.

H2Oh!
National Quilt Museum, Paducah Kentucky
June – September 2017
New England Quilt Museum
Lowell, Massachusetts  •  July 11, 2018 –  September 23, 2018

Sacred Threads

Flint Festival of Quilts, Flint MI – September 2017
HeART Gallery, St. Paul’s Lutheran Church, Toledo, OH – October 18-30, 2017
Grace Episcopal Church, Gainesville GA – November 1 – December 15, 2017
Voice of the Spirit Gallery, West Raleigh Presbyterian Church, Raleigh, NC January – February, 2018
Southeastern Quilt & Textile Museum, Carrollton GA – March-June, 2018
Good Shepard Episcopal Church, Hayesville NC – July, 2018
The Rectory Cultural Arts Center, Norcross, GA – August, 2018
Virginia Quilt Museum, Harrisonburg VA – September-December, 2018
Best of the Valley Quilt Show, Lindsay, CA – April, 2019
A World of Quilts , Danbury, CT – May 2019

Pathfinders
Southern Utah Museum of Art
Cedar City Utah
June 30 – August 26 2017

35th Annual New Legacies
Lincoln Center
Ft. Collins, CO
July 5 – August 26

Interpretations: Conversations
Visions Art Museum
San Diego, CA
October 21 2017 – January 7 2018

 

 

 

 

Embrace the term: Art Quilt

 Many people in the art quilt world  question the value of using the term “quilt”.


Several years ago I was a member of Front Range Contemporary Quilters.During one of several meetings in early 2012 there was a rich discussion of whether FRCQ should drop the reference to “quilt” in the guild’s name.

Members were passionate about the subject. Some viewed the term “quilt” as limiting the organization’s ability to attract interest of museums and galleries. They argued we should not be associated with making pretty bedspreads.The logic was that quilts were craft and not art. A  proposal to replace the craft term (quilt)  with a broad term (textiles/fibers) as a path to be taken as an “arts” organization was presented to members.

A catalogue from a show which I was selected to participate in which embraced the the quilt in all it’s forms.

Other members were comfortable acknowledging quilting as an important gateway term into our medium. Quilts like the Gee’s Bend quilts had been displayed in major museums; including an exhibition at the Denver Art Museum. Quilts had already been understood as more than a utilitarian object. Viewers connected with quiltings rich  heritage. They understood the difference between an art quilt and a traditional quilt. Dropping the term was not the answer. 


I am happy to report FRCQ kept the Q!


The premiere organization represented art quilters is SAQA   (Studio Art Quilt Associates). SAQA has a plethora of opportunities to for the quilt artist and the public to see art quilts in a gallery or museum setting. The organization’s mission is to promote specifically the art quilt. Their member’s work is defined  as a stitched and layered structure.

In SAQA’s recent publication Sandra Sider argues that using the term art quilt presents a clear advantage for the acquisition of art quilts in  museums permanent collections.  Sandra surveyed curators across the country and asked whether they had “art quilts” in their collection.  She asked 140 institutions not associated with a University. Her results were interesting. 

Just a simple search of the term “art quilt” produces thousands of images; none of which are patchwork.

Many curators did not use the term art quilt. Computerized databases reflected what the artist or collector called the work. Maybe it was a fabric collage or stitched textile or mixed media. The result is that art quilts are not easily identified in museum collections. Using the precise term will help museums acquire and identify the work of art quilter


The fear that art quilts will be seen as craft may in fact be keeping art quilts from being identified as art.  


The fear of being a crafter is often just below the surface when a group of art quilters get together. I too was a victim of this malady for a period of time. I found a cure. After joined SAQA I embraced the term without regret and I spread the word about art quilts whenever the opportunity presents itself.

Below are ways I help encourage and educate when I am speaking with someone who is not aware of art quilts.  

When describing what I do to the novice, I reference SAQA’s definition. “My work is layered and stitched. It is a creative not functional product.”

Using a word bridge between a fine art tool and  the art quilt tool is helpful. “I use my extensive palette of thread like artist would use colored pencils to draw on the surface with my sewing machine.” 

I reference the history of art quilts.”The Studio Art Quilt Associates has been around for almost 30 years (founded in 1989).  The art world has recognized quilts as serious art for many years. In 1971 the Whitney Museum had an exhibit called “Abstract Design in American Quilts”

I avoid just talking about technique. Using the elements and principles of design to describe my compositions. “I started with a cool color scheme and created a visual pathway throughout the composition.”  


Until next time…..
Margaret

You can see my work…….

Under The Western Sun
Rocky Mountain Quilt Museum, Golden CO
April 27 – July 25 2017
The Macey Center 
Socorro, NM 
July 24 to September 11.

H2Oh!
National Quilt Museum, Paducah Kentucky
June – September 2017

Sacred Threads
Herndon VA
July 7 – 23 2017 
Flint Festival of Quilts, Flint MI – September 2017
HeART Gallery, St. Paul’s Lutheran Church, Toledo, OH – October 18-30, 2017
Grace Episcopal Church, Gainesville GA – November 1 – December 15, 2017
Voice of the Spirit Gallery, West Raleigh Presbyterian Church, Raleigh, NC -January – February, 2018
Southeastern Quilt & Textile Museum, Carrollton GA – March-June, 2018
Good Shepard Episcopal Church, Hayesville NC – July, 2018
The Rectory Cultural Arts Center, Norcross, GA – August, 2018
Virginia Quilt Museum, Harrisonburg VA – September-December, 2018
Best of the Valley Quilt Show, Lindsay, CA – April, 2019
A World of Quilts , Danbury, CT – May 2019

Turmoil
Festival of Quilts
Birmingham, United Kingdom
August 10, 2017 – August 13, 2017

Pathfinders
Southern Utah Museum of Art
Cedar City Utah
June 30 – August 26 2017

The View
St. George Museum of Art
St. George Utah
April 28 – August 16 2017

35th Annual New Legacies
Lincoln Center
Ft. Collins, CO
July 5 – August 26

Interpretations: Conversations
Visions Art Museum
San Diego, CA
October 21 2017 – January 7 2018

 

Artists like Authors, Need a “Reader”: The Value of Trusted Feedback

Have a best friend…..

who you trust to tell you the truth?


I have a best friend who will tell me the unvarnished truth. It’s cheaper than therapy. I am a better person because she is the person helping me keep moving in the right direction in my personal life.

 The idea that an artist works in isolation and without feedback is a myth. Artists need friends working in the art world.  Critique groups, guilds and professional organizations have been keys to my success.  These groups are where I can connect with people who are important to my art life .  In my new community I was lucky to find a few people who, like a best friend;  give me unvarnished feedback. 


Most successful authors have a person who they call a “reader”: Someone who reads the first draft of novel and provides feedback. Often this person is a spouse or best friend who is not writer. They have important qualities.

Stephen King’s wife is his reader.

  • First, this reader doesn’t have “skin in the game” like an editor or agent looking down the road at sales.
  • Second they are familiar with a body of work not just a single manuscript. Overtime the reader has seen many books in the early stages.
  •  Finally  they are trusted. Trust is the most important quality.  It is developed overtime and is not easily abandoned or replaced. A reader has complete trust  in the author’s commitment to the artistic process. The author trusts the reader to provide thoughtful and productive feedback. 

Like an author, an artist needs someone to look at work in progress. I often ask my husband to step into my studio and give me his thoughts. Lucky for me, John is able to point out an issue with a composition quickly. (The downside is he is not inclined to spend anytime explaining explaining his thought process.)  That’s why I have a critique group. Within that group there are individuals who give me valued unvarnished feedback. 


One of my struggles when I moved away from Colorado was finding my art “tribe”.   In the small town of Mesquite, I joined the local gallery and connected with a couple of people, but the community did not have the wealth of fiber artists I had been accustomed to in Colorado.

When I joined a quilt guild in nearby St. George I was introduced to many members who were art quilters.  By the time we moved to St. George I knew a small group of art quilters that wanted to participate in a critique group. 

After meeting over several months our little group has begun to jell. Seeing each other’s work over time and various stages of development has opened the door to becoming each other’s readers. We trust each other.  I am taking full advantage of this gift. Now I would not consider working on a project without sharing my progress with my critique group.  

Before I finished this recent quilt called “The Narrows” one of my critique group members pointed out an obvious problem. This is much more successful thanks to her.

Since our group meets once a month, I take advantage of using facebook and other social media. I post images and occasionally I ask for feedback. This is such a time saver. When I look at a project over many hours I get blind to some very obvious issues. Like many artists I use my camera to help me identify problems with composition, but this is not foolproof.  When I was more isolated in Mesquite, I would close my studio door and do other things for a couple of days until I could look with a fresh set of eyes. 


Now I can put a quilt up on facebook and ask for feedback.  Within hours I have that trusted “suggestion” that only certain people can give. Lucky me!


Until next time…..
Margaret

You can see my work…….

 

Under The Western Sun
Rocky Mountain Quilt Museum, Golden CO
April 27 – July 25 2017
The Macey Center 
Socorro, NM 
July 24 to September 11.

H2Oh!
National Quilt Museum, Paducah Kentucky
June – September 2017

Sacred Threads
Herndon VA
July 7 – 23 2017 
Flint Festival of Quilts, Flint MI – September 2017
HeART Gallery, St. Paul’s Lutheran Church, Toledo, OH – October 18-30, 2017
Grace Episcopal Church, Gainesville GA – November 1 – December 15, 2017
Voice of the Spirit Gallery, West Raleigh Presbyterian Church, Raleigh, NC -January – February, 2018
Southeastern Quilt & Textile Museum, Carrollton GA – March-June, 2018
Good Shepard Episcopal Church, Hayesville NC – July, 2018
The Rectory Cultural Arts Center, Norcross, GA – August, 2018
Virginia Quilt Museum, Harrisonburg VA – September-December, 2018
Best of the Valley Quilt Show, Lindsay, CA – April, 2019
A World of Quilts , Danbury, CT – May 2019

Turmoil
Festival of Quilts
Birmingham, United Kingdom
August 10, 2017 – August 13, 2017

Pathfinders
Southern Utah Museum of Art
Cedar City Utah
June 30 – August 26 2017

The View
St. George Museum of Art
St. George Utah
April 28 – August 16 2017

 

35th Annual New Legacies
Lincoln Center
Ft. Collins, CO
July 5 – August 26

Interpretations: Conversations
Visions Art Museum
San Diego, CA
October 21 2017 – January 7 2018