Tuesday, September 06, 2011

Chewing on the idea of drawing

I gave a presentation at the Quilters Guild of Dallas last week. My program was titled "Twelve by Twelve: Inspirations and Adventures from the Art Quilt Challenge." I showed each of my 24 quilts for the themes in our 12x12 challenge. I also showed quilts from each of the other artists in the project. There were a few great questions after my program. I am still lingering over one question and my answer to it. A woman said something like, "I noticed that none of your quilts include realistic images. They are all rather abstract. Why?"

I took a second to think about my answer and then I said, "Because I can't draw."

Ug. I wish I hadn't said that. I did go on to explain that I am really enamored with the shape of things and the way lines play with each other. And I left it at that.

I wish I had extrapolated a little. So, I'm blogging my thoughts instead. I'll include this post in my continuing collection of "ideas to chew on."

I really do love playing with shapes. I love the shape of a house.

I also love rectangles and their many variations.
I like to play with the relationship of one shape with another. They look different depending on whether they are next to each other or overlapping each other. I'm interested in the edge of the shape -- is it cut, torn, sewn or frayed? If I cut it out, did I use a pattern? A wavy rotary cutter or a dull pair of scissors? Each detail in the process has an effect on the final design of an art quilt.

If I were trying to create an art quilt that looked like something realistic, I couldn't play with those details in the same way. Every decision would be serving the image rather than the fabric or the relationship between the elements in the composition. That's the stuff that's interesting to me.

I also like the idea that each shape can be an individual frame for other details. It can be even more interesting when details spill out of their frame.

Beyond shapes and their edges, I love playing with the colors and textures of fabrics. I'm interested in how a stitched line enhances a composition. Hand stitches say something different than machine stitches.

That said, there are occasions when I want to include something that is a bit more realistic. Then I do some research and lots of sketching. It's not so much that I can't draw, or that I couldn't become better at drawing if I worked at it. It's just that my interest lies in other areas. I think some artists, myself included, feel like we have to apologize for our lack of skills in a particular area. But, we shouldn't. I'm reminding myself of that today.

My personal style and the techniques, shapes and symbols I use regularly are things I've discovered over several years of cutting, stitching, fusing, layering, painting and just exploring! I think I'll keep at it.


Rachel Parris said...

With all my heart I hope you keep at it! You are one of my inspirations anyway and this this reminds me why. One of the reasons that I was attracted to art quilting in the first place was that I can't draw. I am inspired to correct that; but, that is not my focus right now.

Kristin L said...

I CAN draw, and I still don't include a lot of realistic imagery in my work. Mostly because I don't think it suits the medium as well as other things do -- like the edges and stitches you talk about.

I get frustrated when I say something but then realize something much more considered later. It's nice to have the blog to come to and chew on ideas a bit longer. Thanks for the extrapolation of why you do what you do.

No apologies.

Terry said...

I think drawing is very intimidating to many people because they believe that its purpose is to create realistic renderings and if they draw that is what they must do. If you were to enroll in an art school or university art program one of the classes you would be required to take immediately would be drawing, then you would take more drawing. It is so fundamental because it helps you focus on really seeing shapes and relationships and line and composition.

Your work is beautiful and you do not need to draw, but I'll bet if you began drawing you would find a benefit in it, even if you never included any realistic rendering in your work.

I am, as you have probably guessed, a big proponent of drawing as a fundamental for making art.

Natalya Aikens said...

I agree with Terri - if you took up drawing it would inform your work quite a bit, whether you used what you drew in your art or not. But indeed no apologies necessary!

Oh and I do know what you mean about wishing you could have a 'do over' on a spoken answer... I do that all the time.

Brenda said...

Don't you wish that life came with pause and rewind buttons sometimes?!

Your more considered musings make thought-provoking reading.

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Interesting... Thanks!

Diane Perin Hock said...

I totally understand your answering the way you did -- and like you I would have regretted saying that. Why is it that we so easily have the "I can't draw" message embedded in our heads? When really, drawing is extremely learnable.

I've been working slowly but surely on practicing drawing -- and not so I can do realistic things (although I head more in that direction that I intend to, often) but so I can see something differently, sort of implant it in my brain in a different way.

And you know, what are you doing with your fabric shapes and stitching if not "drawing" but with scissors and thread? You have just gotten really really good at reducing elements to their basic shapes and components.

I try to think about the kids we have around us when I am tempted to say "I can't draw." Because it's part of how that message gets passed from one person to another. I'm guessing that Claire and Benjamin see you as someone who CAN draw, and if YOU say you can't draw, what message will that give to them? So we need to learn to reframe that for THEIR sakes.

Helen Conway said...

I am betting you CAN draw. Can you hold a pencil and make a mark on paper? then you can draw. I suspect that what you mean is what I mean when I say I can't draw i.e I can't draw like someone who took all those classes at night school and has been drawing for the twenty years since. Hmm wonder why that is :). since neither you nor I are going to art school any time school lets make a pact to draw but in secret so no one knows what the results look like!

Vivien Zepf said...

What a thoughtful blog post! I can't gauge how taking a drawing class and gaining confidence in your skills would impact your work, but I imagine it would inform your work somehow; maybe it would make you appreciate the lines you do draw more. ? I don't think learning to draw more detailed images for your pieces has to be something in your artistic toolbox. It can just be a "oh, this class was fun" kind of thing. I like to think that exploring, just for the heck of it, makes us better artists because we know more about what we like and don't like as a form of personal expression.

And, I could definitely use a "pause" button to use before I speak; "rewind", "erase" and "re-record" would be good, too! Oh, the things I've said.....

Ruth said...

Thank you for sharing your thoughts with us. I too don't really like to make realistic quilts. I agree with Kristin that I feel other media are more appropriate. I haven't really spent a lot of time thinking about why I prefer to make more abstract quilts, but found myself agreeing with you about many of things you said.