Monday, December 05, 2016

Seven Weeks of Whitman

I'm doing a round of "The 42s" from my Head, Heart and Hands: Developing Your Creative Voice workbook. I'll blog bits and pieces and this and that and random thoughts here now and then. (I wrote more about the workbook here.)

A bit of background about "The 42s" and my current inspiration.


"The 42" is a framework for a daily practice to focus, refine or develop a skill or an idea. The framework is seven weeks — long enough to discover potential and possibility, but not so long that it feels monotonous. I suggest taking one day off each week. Seven weeks minus one day each week will result in 42 completed tasks — and new insight into your creative voice!

In the workbook, there are separate suggestions for head, heart and hands. 


I'm embarking on the "head" version which is basically a research project. I'm studying Walt Whitman's Song of Myself... and other related stuff as it arises.

Last year a line from the poem kept creeping into my consciousness.

Do I contradict myself? Very well, then I contradict myself, I am large, I contain multitudes.

I made a quilt with the quote. 


And another quilt inspired by the first quilt. 

I keep hearing it. It's even the title of a hot new non-fiction book.


Just today Lin Manuel Miranda mentioned the quote in the context of a new rap album.

So, I'll spend the next seven weeks reading Song of Myself, making a few notes, learning more about Whitman and discovering other bits of art and pop culture that are inspired by "multitudes."

I started with a trip to the library where I picked up this stack.


That fat anthology has the unabridged version of Song of Myself. It's 47 pages long. I decided I wanted to be able to make notes, so I ordered this version from Amazon. Only $2.50! It will arrive on Wednesday, so I'll read from the book until then.


I read the first two sections this morning and wrote this line down to remember.

For every atom belonging to me as good belongs to you.

I also read a biography written for children. I got to this page and wondered who the illustrator was.


It's the brilliant Brian Selznick who I've written about before. See!?!? These are the kind of weird, wonderful and unexpected connections that I just love.

I'm not sure how this research will find its way into my work. Maybe it won't. That's fine. But I was really eager to wrap my head around something new. I needed to escape a bit from social media and words read only on a screen, and everything about 2016. Song of Myself was written in 1855. I am sure I will find it relevant to my life today. 

Saturday, November 26, 2016

Developing Your Creative Voice

A few years ago I brought this art quilt to a small critique group I belonged to.




One of my friends commented that it was different from my other work, but “It still looks like you!” I took this as a very high compliment. It meant I was using techniques, ideas, elements, materials, and themes that were truly my own. I had a unique creative voice.    

Artists often struggle to find their own artist voice. Sometimes people say if you make tons of art eventually you'll develop your own style. That’s part of it, but it’s more than that.  

I came across this quote from St. Francis.

He who works with his hands is a laborer.
He who works with his hands and his head is a craftsman.
He who works with his hands and his head and his heart is an artist.
—St. Francis

To develop your creative voice, I think you have to fully incorporate your head, heart and hands.

Thinking about these ideas and my experience easing into my own unique personal style, I developed several exercises and ideas around the concept of creative voice.



I put them together in a 29 page workbook includes exercises to fully explore how to use all three -- your head, heart and hands -- in your creative pursuits. It includes prompts, lists, check lists, word-webs and other ideas for artistic exploration. There are follow-up tips for every exercise. Plus specific ideas about how to use what you learn by completing the exercises in the workbook. 

Here's the Table of Contents.




It's available as a pdf download or a hard copy in my Etsy shop. Several of the exercises can be completed over and over as you continue to build your creative muscle and explore possibilities. (The pdf download will let you print individual pages as desired.)

One of my favorite exercises is the "Like List." When I've used this exercise with students, they instantly realize they have more of a creative voice than they thought -- and they have some words to describe it.



Are you ready to put your head, heart and hands to work? 

Download the pdf here.


Or order the spiral bound workbook here.

Did you notice I didn't use the phrase "finding your voice?" It's not hidden! You don't have to find it, you just have to develop it.
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Wednesday, November 23, 2016

Creating with Layers of Fabric, Paint and Stitch -- five day workshop!

Join me for a five day workshop at Quilting Adventures in New Braunfels, TX! It's called Art Quilt Collage: Designing with Layers of Fabric, Paint and Stitching.

Here's a short sneak peak video of the kinds of techniques and projects we'll be working on.



March 26 to 31, 2017 -- Beautiful springtime in Texas!
New Braunfels, TX -- Just 30 minutes from the San Antonio airport 
$1425 -- Includes five nights lodging, all meals plus class fees.
Open Studio in the evenings -- I'll be using this time myself!
What to bring? -- Check out the supply list here.

Questions? Email me at 
Deborah (at) DeborahsStudio (dot) com

or Debby at
Debby (at) quilting-adventures (dot) com

Here's that quilt pictured behind me, Waiting for the Light to Change, 20x20.




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Tuesday, November 22, 2016

Step by Step Creative Process

A week or so before International Quilt Festival, I decided I really wanted one more art quilt collage to bring to share with students as an example of my process layering fabric, paint and stitch. I posted all these in-progress pictures on Instagram and Facebook and it was super fun to get day-to-day feed back and encouragement from my followers.

Here's a review of the whole process.

I started with a simple idea of a line of trees. I sketched the trees on parchment paper.


Then transferred the line to pre-fused fabric and cut it out.


I was left with two strips of red trees.


I was initially thinking I'd create two quilts and I auditioned some fabric palettes and color stories.



I liked the light green, but wanted to make it a little more interesting. I printed a weird blobby shape with a toilet paper tube on one piece of the green.



I added handwriting to the other strip of green.


Additional fabrics were gathered.


After much back-and-forth, arranging, rearranging, slicing, adjusting and fretting, I finally settled on this very simple composition for the background layer of design.


I decided to return to the ladder motif that I've used in other quilts lately. I created a sample ladder to think through color, size and placement.



I was a tiny bit concerned about the contrast of the bottom of the legs of the brown ladder sitting on the red strip.

I solved this by adding a wavy very light tan strip at the top of the red.


Waiting for ladders to be constructed. By this point, I'd abandoned the idea of creating two quilts before my trip to Houston. Not enough time. (But I'll get back to that second strip of red trees soon.)


Slow and steady fusing of ladders.
video

I've got four ladders fused in place. Now what?


Seriously, I didn't really have a plan at this point. Eventually, I decided to create a large tree that would go from the top to the bottom of the quilt, probably painted using a freezer paper stencil. First, I'd need to draw the tree. I spent more time on this than probably any other step in the process thus far. "Drawing" is not easy for me.


Eventually I mostly settled on this. I've sketched on parchment paper so that I could place the drawing over the quilt to think carefully about how the tree will interact with the other elements already designed.


Then I transfer to drawing to freezer paper and mark the pieces so I can put it back together after it's cut out.


Here I've fused the tree shape to the quilt just to see how it looks. This is the "positive" part of the freezer paper stencil. When I add the paint, I'll be using the "negative" part.


I decided the tree was a bit too full, so I pruned some of the branches. See the difference?


Oops. Before I painted the stencil, I remembered I wanted to add stones in the blue section at the bottom, so those got cut and fused in place.



Then I fused the freezer paper stencil over the whole quilt. This part feels a little scary. Once the paint is added, there's no going back. (See what I mean about positive and negative parts?)


I love how the stencil nestles right over this one tree in the red strip.


Begin adding paint, very light at first.


I've peeled back the stencil to check the contrast between the blue paint and the dark green top section. Surprisingly, it shows up really well. I was concerned I'd need to make it lighter, but the blue worked just fine.


I did need to make the roots section lighter using tan paint.


Here's the entire painted tree!


Notice how the tan roots blend up into the trunk section. I designed the roots to overlap some of the stones. I love this layered effect.


I wanted the quilt to measure 20x20, so I'm checking as I go to make sure none of the element will fall off the edge when cropped, or be too far from the edge making the quilt look off center.


Here I've taken a picture of the quilt and printed it out to mark up possible stitching designs for both free motion quilting and hand embroidery.


It seems like I didn't take too many pictures as I was stitching. Here I'm auditioning thread colors.


And all the stitching is finished! For hand stitching, I did yellow stars at the top, several red French knots nestled in the stones, and a simple line of green stitching connecting that wavy line to the background. For machine stitching, I added my beloved arch at the top. I outlined the red trees in yellow to make them stand out a bit. I stitched a leaf motif in the light green area with a matching thread to add very subtle texture. The trees and stones were also outlined with free motion stitching and additional stones were stitched into the blue section.


Squaring up.


I finished the edge with a simple zig zag with a beautiful top stitching thread.


And it's finished! Limbs, Ladders, Roots and Rocks 20x20"


A few details. Here you can see the free motion stitched leafy motif in the background.


An angled shot shows the French knots.


Want to see the back?


I really enjoyed the whole process of creating this quilt and I'm delighted with the results. Many of the techniques are straight out of my book Art Quilt Collage: A Creative Journey in Fabric, Paint and Stitch.

If you're interested in exploring this sort of creative process with me, I'll be teaching a five day workshop at Quilting Adventures in New Braunfels, TX from March 26 to 31, 2017.
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