And a Happy New Year!

Dear Readers,

When we were small children we wrote a letter to Santa asking for all the presents we wanted to see under our Christmas tree. As we got a little older the letter was no longer written to this fictional character but the expectation of getting the perfect gift was still a big part of this magic holiday.

Like many of you, I no longer want to receive any gifts other than the much anticipated time with my family. I am blessed to have many gifts in my own life.

Friends old and new who make my life here in beautiful Saint George Utah so special.

My husband of over 30 years who takes good care of me and has made all the difference in my life.

My children and grandson who bring me joy.

Connections through  the Studio Art Quilt Associates, the Dixie Quilt Guild, the Southern Utah Fiber Artist and my much loved critique group.

Inspiration received from my travels, social media, books, magazines, museums, Art Quilt Tahoe and the generous world of art quilters. 

For these gifts and many more, I am grateful. 

Wishing you a very Merry Christmas, Happy Holidays and Wonderful New Year!

Reimagine an old project.

In my last post I described the process of looking at a “failed” quilt as an opportunity to create something new.

"Tom and Jim" The first attempt at this project.

“Tom and Jim”  was the quilt I wanted to take a second look at and try to resolve some of the visual mistakes.

 

The photograph of my dad (Jim) and his brother (Tom) was taken around 1912, when my dad looked to be about 6 years old. Both boys are dressed up as soldiers. They were living in a small mining town near Pikes Peak in Colorado when the culture was at the tail end  of  the wild west.

My dad described seeing men with sidearms walking through town to the bar or whore house from the window of his classroom. The family would be forced to move from that town when the mine shut down after the collapse of gold prices. Eventually they would settle in California.

 

SAQA put out a call for entry which focused on artists take on a highly charged topic: Gun Violence. Although politics and advocacy are not the focus of my work this photo was a bridge allowing me to authentically address this topic through the lense of a personal story. It also was a vehicle for me to reimagine this image.

The first change I made was a simple one. I turned the photograph 90 degrees so that the print would be larger. The second change was radically simplify the background. I chose to eliminate the background and place the figures on yellow lined paper. I cleaned up scratches on the figures and sharpened the image as much as I could.

Unlike my first attempt which was response of an open ended call for entry (Pathfinders) this project required me to address a specific topic: gun violence. Using  the lense of my family’s story; I wanted the viewer to think about how over a hundred years gun violence has changed for children. I used accurate statistical data published by the Brady Center to call attention to an everyday tragedy for families with children not very different from these two boys pictured.

The text of daily statistics on gun violence involving children was floated on top of the figures to create a greater sense of space and to allude to relationship of present and past.

When the fabric arrived in my studio; I realized that I had made this too plain. The yellow background had no horizon line leaving the figures floating. To remedy this problem I used the lined paper as “sky” filled with script repeating the title. The ground became a dense field  of flowers. The text boxes of statistics were made to pop out from the page using black on a white background.

You can take a look at the result and make your own judgement. I think it is an improved composition. Whether it will stand the test of getting out into the world to seen, has yet to seen.

 

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