31 August 2008

Early Morning Club, Week Seven

I started the Early Morning Club as a way to create lots of pieces and meet my crap quota. Each morning I get up and spend 30 minutes or less composing a 6" x 9" finished vertical piece. Here are the pieces from the past week.

Monday, August 25th

Today's piece uses an improvisational piecing method I call fragments. Basically, I cut pieces without a rotary cutter and sew them using an uneven seam allowance. I construct various fragments using these improvisational methods and lay them out until I get a pleasing composition. I then add additional pieces as needed to get the size I want. Here, I chose fabrics and colors reminiscent of weathered stone and wood.

Tuesday, August 26th

Here is another fragments piece. In this one, a photorealistic stone fabric serves as the focus. I like the monochromatic palette.

Wednesday, August 27th

My drive to work runs through Pennsylvania farmlands. Some days I revel in the scenic beauty as I drive, but most days my mind wanders. Tuesday morning, I caught a glimpse of silver silos glinting in the sunlight in the distance behind rich cropland. Perhaps it was the light, or perhaps my mind was clear and I was centered in the moment, but the image of the two silos on the hill stuck with me the rest of the day. Wednesday's piece is my attempt to capture my memory of the silo scene. I added the corner of the red barn for interest and balanced it with the rust highlights in the fields ahead.

Saturday night, I drove out to take a photo of the silos so you can see what inspired me. The light is different--I took the photo in the evening but saw the silos in the morning--but you can see how they rise up from the landscape like silver towers.

Thursday, August 28th

Another fragment piece, this one inspired by the changing landscape as autumn approaches. The light is turning golden and hints of the harvest are reflected in the rich colors.

Friday, August 29th

This fragment uses just a few fabrics. An African fabric I purchased at the Hershey Quilt Show is the focus. I bought a yard, which made me laugh at the time because nothing I've made in the past month and a half has been larger than 6" x 9". But I loved it so into the stash it went. I inserted strips in the African fabric so that the motifs seemed to weave in and out of the inset pieces.

Saturday, August 30th

I have to admit, this piece could've used a good pressing before I turned and quilted it! Ah, but beyond that, I wanted to make fragments that looked interwoven. I chose an expanded palette of colors--blue, rust, brown, and green--but just two colors for each fabric. I'm learning that in a small piece like this that too many fabrics and/or colors can be distracting and ineffective.

Sunday, August 31st

I couldn't get moving this morning. I woke early, but was feeling a bit under the weather, so I lounged around for a bit before crawling back into bed for a little more rest. As I lay there, I thought about the piece I would make and had images of fragments turning into tree silhouettes. But, more importantly, as I lay there, I realized what techniques I would need to use to create these tree fragments. The idea was so inspiring that it actually got me out of bed. This piece reminds me of my rune series from a couple weeks ago. It also is the first piece I have designed that has a border.

General Thoughts

I love making fragments. I think that every piece I made this week took longer than my allotted 30 minutes. That's because making fragments are so mesmerizing that I almost instantly enter flow. I enjoy improvisational piecing because each fabric selection, each cut, each seam sewn requires decision making so I become completely absorbed in it. And as I create fragments and place them next to each other it becomes a puzzle to solve. What pieces fit next to each other? What do I need to add to enhance and balance the design? How I will I piece this section?

29 August 2008

On Blood and On Flow

I cut my finger with my rotary cutter this morning. I was working on my morning piece, fully absorbed in my work, when I swiped the open blade on the index finger of my left hand. It immediately started to bleed. I was annoyed, not because I cut myself, but because dealing with the cut was a distraction. Not wanting to pause to find a bandage, I grabbed a tissue, wrapped it around my finger, and secured it with painter's tape. On I continued with my work.

As I was finishing up, I realized that my reaction to the cut was not typical. I can be a bit of a drama queen when it comes to injuries and pain. My family won't let me forget the time I sliced my finger while cutting a bagel. I was near hysterics thinking I needed stitches. My mother calmed me down and took a look, only to find that it was little more than a scratch. No stitches were required, just a bandage. So, to cut myself, feel annoyed, and then calmly grab the nearest bandage makeweight was not a normal reaction for me.

That's when I realized that I had spent the morning working in a state of flow.

Flow is a state of full concentration and deep enjoyment that people achieve when fully absorbed in an activity. You may recognize this state from your own experiences: when working on a task you feel alert, strong, aware, the work feels effortless, and your self-consciousness disappears. Decision making becomes effortless and creativity abounds. You stop questioning and criticizing and instead just do. Your sense of time distorts: it may seem to stand still or pass in a flash. You feel a sense of ease and transcendence where you achieve a sense of oneness with what you are doing. Flow is a state of optimal, human experience.

But the really cool thing about flow is you can create conditions that encourage flow.

You want to find work that you love, that you believe to be important. It's much easier to achieve flow when working on something that matters to you, that can grab your attention and awareness fully.

Your task should be challenging, rather than comfortable, but not so difficult that it becomes frustrating. This requires understanding your current ability level and skill set and choosing work that stretches them, without completely outpacing them.

Your environment should be free of distractions. Let your family know you're working and ask them to give you a couple hours of quiet. Turn off cell phones and email. Feed the cat or walk the dog before you begin, so your fuzzy friends don't make demands on you.

You should work within your own peak hours. We all have times of day when we feel bright and energetic and other times when we are sluggish and uninspired. Encourage flow by working during the hours when you feel your best.

Practice patience and focus on the work you are doing. Don't worry about whether or not you are in flow--that's not the point. Instead, pour yourself into your work and let yourself be with it.

For me, my Early Morning Club has had an unexpected side benefit. I find myself entering a state of flow more easily and more frequently. Just this morning, for example, I lost complete track of time. I began working at 7:20 a.m. and cut my finger at 8:35 a.m. I had no idea that much time had passed.

Looking at how my morning club is constructed, it's no surprise that I've been entering flow. I am working on things I love, fiber arts and quilting. I'm gradually increasing the complexity of my designs. I started with very simple composition, but my pieces have become more involved as I've started stretching myself. I work in the morning quiet, before my husband awakes. And I've kept at it every morning for six weeks, patiently practicing and practicing and practicing some more. Without even realizing it, I created the perfect conditions for flow.

The irony is it took a spot of blood to understand that flow is what I've found.

28 August 2008

Happy People Dancing

NASA's Astronomy Picture of the Day website is a great place to go to be inspired by the wonders of the universe. Each day they select a photo from our universe and include a brief explanation from an astronomer. But a posting from last month reminds us that the greatest inspiration may come from a simple smile and a dance.

Where the Hell is Matt? (2008) from Matthew Harding on Vimeo.


27 August 2008

45 Days

This morning, I completed my 45th mini-quilt. That's a month-and-a-half's work. I have to admit to a sense of satisfaction when I see the stack of mini-quilts growing next to my laptop.

The pile measures about 7" high. It's an interesting strata to analyze. The early pieces are on the bottom while the recent pieces are on top. There's a lot more background color in the lower layers. That's because the the early pieces were constrained--I saw the edges as a border and tried to stay away from them when designing.

I remember the moment I realized that 6" x 9" was only the finished size of the piece, but that the actual image could be larger and cropped to size. My work became more interesting as I viewed the world with a new perspective--one that was no longer constrained by an arbitrary size requirement.

As I look at the pile, I can remember how proud I was during the first few days and weeks. Each morning I'd finish the piece and run upstairs to place it on the small, but growing, pile. Once or twice a week, I'd spread them out and look at them together, noting similarities in theme, design, and color. And, I have to admit, just admire the fact that I had made them all. Each piece was precious to me, whether it worked or not.

Now that I have 45 pieces, I no longer do that. As the pile has gotten bigger, the addition of one more quilt hardly impacts its size. Spreading them out now would take a lot of time and my style has changed from the first few weeks. I can always scroll through my blog to see them.

But more importantly, I've become less attached to any one piece. As I wrote yesterday, it's no longer about the product for me, instead, it's the process. After yesterday's post, my husband emailed and commented, "And, with each new piece you create, that adds to your total of art work (good or bad) so that new pieces don't seem so imposing ... what's a new piece with the hundreds you've already made, and the dozens of techniques / patterns / etc. you have at your disposal?"

I replied, "Yeah, the more I do work, the less any one piece feels precious to me. There's always tomorrow, you know."

26 August 2008

Creative Work vs. Creative Play

work: exertion or effort directed to produce or accomplish something; labor; toil.

play: exercise or activity for amusement or recreation.

I used to be careful to define what I do as creative play, rather than creative work. My idea was that play was less stressful. If I was playing on something and didn't like it, it didn't matter because I was just doing it for fun. But if I was working on something and it didn't work out, then those hours of toil would have been wasted.

This morning I realized that my thoughts have changed. I gladly refer to what I am doing as work rather than play. My morning pieces are indeed an "effort directed to produce or accomplish something," an idea that would have scared me six months ago.

What I want to accomplish is not just a finished 6" x 9" mini-quilt every morning. (Although I do feel a sense of satisfaction and pride from watching the stack of quilts grow.) My overarching goal is larger than that. It's more about the process than the product. I want to become a better artist and the only way I can is to actually do the work.

And work it is. Six weeks of waking early and heading to my studio requires focused effort. Even though I've become a morning person over the past couple years, working in the morning requires me to ignore the beckoning of my laptop and cozy recliner in favor of my studio. I head downstairs, collect my thoughts, and begin selecting fabrics and sketching ideas for that morning's piece. That is work.

After six weeks, I am even more committed to this process, to my work. I learn something from each piece, whether I like it or not. There is no risk of wasting time or toil, because I often learn more from pieces that don't work than those that do. So work is what I do and I love it.

I can't wait to go back to work tomorrow.

24 August 2008

Early Morning Club, Week 6

I started the Early Morning Club as a way to create lots of pieces and meet my crap quota. Each morning I get up and spend 30 minutes or less composing a 6" x 9" finished vertical piece. Here are the pieces from the past week.

Monday, August 18th
I wanted to play with different type of backgrounds. This piece is a collage of rust and gold fabrics moving from light to dark. I covered the piece with 4 different colors of tulle and free-motion quilted flames in different colors of thread. To me, the tulle flattens the texture and dulls the fabric colors. My thread colors also lack contrast and vibrancy. My stitching and embellishment choices need to be more interesting.

Tuesday, August 19th

I wanted to continue working with collage-style backgrounds. Here, I chose three colors--blues, greens, and rusts--in values ranging from medium-light to almost dark. It feels vaguely like a landscape, but I didn't overlap the fabrics from front to back to reflect the depth perspective of a landscape. I used different quilting motifs for the three colors. I think that the parallel lines in the blues are the most effective and interesting.

Wednesday, August 20th

During my first week, I made a couple of pieces playing with the idea of river rocks. I love river rocks and have a small collection. I love their soft and worn appearance and how they feel cradled in my hands. So I wanted to play with a river rock collage and possibly use it as the background for a rune shrine. I had fun searching through my stash searching for river rock fabrics. It was not a big surprise that I had many fabrics that would work.

The scale of the rocks was too large to work as a rune piece, so I kept it simple. If I had more time, I would have added more quilting lines to each rock to give added texture. I also think that fabric paints, fabric inks, and threadwork could be used to add dimension through shadows and highlights.

Thursday, August 21st

Thursday's piece came out of my head, rather than my heart or gut or muse or whatever you call the place where art arises from within. Late nights watching the Olympics started catching up with me, so when I awoke on Thursday I had no creative energy. I remembered a movie scene fragment that I had sketched and decided to try to recreate it in fabric.

As I was thinking about the piece, I had thoughts (not images) of a forest city, with skyscrapers grown from trees. I came up with the the title "You Can't See the City for the Trees," which is a vaguely amusing pun. Without a clear vision for the piece, I was left to work with the words and thoughts in my head. And the lack of inspiration shows.

The one thing I do like about this piece is the way the stitching breaks outside the fused gold and green shapes--it treats them as a unit, rather than individual shapes.

Friday, August 22nd

Given how frustrated this piece made me, I am surprisingly pleased with it. I stayed up far too late on Thursday night watching Misty May and Kerry Walsh win a gold medal in women's beach volleyball, continuing my Olympic sleep deprivation. The lack of sleep and various other things threw off my morning routine, so I didn't get downstairs right away. And when I got in my studio, I again found myself in head space, rather than in creative space.

So, there I was, faced with a blank 6" x 9" space that needed to be filled. I wanted to expand on my idea from Wednesday and had a sketch. But I just wasn't in the right mood to create. It took almost 10 minutes just to settle on the three main shapes in the composition. And then I couldn't decide what color to use for the background. So I decided to try something different and grabbed my watercolor crayons. I grabbed a brownish-looking crayon and without reading the label, I began coloring the background. Imagine my surprise when I began brushing it with water and it turned plum.

I panicked and ran upstairs to wash the color out, setting the unfinished piece in the sink and rubbing it with soap. I could only get so much color out, but the background stayed pink. I showed it to Kevin and told him how frustrated I was. He told me to put it aside and that maybe it would look different later. I took his advice.

I worked on this piece again on Saturday because I wanted to see if I could salvage it. I added the plum color back to the background, fused on the gold and green shapes, and quilted the piece. Because I didn't care about it, I was able to take risks and try things I might not have if I been working on a piece I liked.

And it turned out that I do, in fact, like this piece. It seems very feminine to me, perhaps from the curvaceous shapes, the plum color, and the spiral stitching motifs. Again, I'm learning to go outside the lines with my quilting.

Saturday, August 23rd

I worked on Saturday's piece before I finished Friday's. So I started it feeling fairly dejected and completely uninspired. I was in a blue and gray mood, so I grabbed those fabrics and made this background set. It reminded me of the my rune shrines, so I grabbed my symbol book and thumbed through it. "The Rune of Ice," also known as "The Rune of Waiting" is for patience during periods of stagnation. That seemed appropriate given my mood, so it became the title.

Sunday, August 24th

Last week, I tried creating a river carving through a canyon. It didn't work. It was more a river plopped onto a background. My work earlier this week inspired me to try again using the collage method. I was also inspired by photos of a rafting trip through the Grand Canyon that a sales representative showed us.

The collage method worked--the river is carved into, rather than plopped onto, the canyon. I played a bit with lights and darks to create shadows and highlights in the canyon walls. I'm pretty happy with this, considering at the half-hour mark I stopped fiddling and started stitching.

General Thoughts

This week was interesting. Last week, several people mentioned to me that they liked my pieces for the week. My brother even told me, "I'm no art critic, but I think you're getting better." That was high praise indeed.

As I began this week, I intentionally wanted to try different things and remember that the purpose of this process is to grow as an artist, not necessarily to make lots of pieces that earn me praise and compliments. (Because I do so love to be praised and complimented.) So even though I would love to make lots more runes, I decided to put that idea aside for a bit.

Then, I hit the wall midweek. I learned how essential a good night's sleep is to being in the right state of mind to be creative. As frustrating as it was, I look back and am glad that I worked through it and didn't abandon the pieces, even though I wanted to. I also learned that I can't think my way into art--that it arises from someplace deeper within.

I also learned the value of taking risks and trying things. And honestly, there is no risk to trying something on these pieces--the worst that can happen is that I make an ugly piece, which is no risk at all. Because in the end, I learn something from each piece I make. And maybe I learn more from things that don't go well than from things that do.

17 August 2008

Early Morning Club, Week 5

I started the Early Morning Club as a way to create lots of pieces and meet my crap quota. Each morning I get up and spend 30 minutes or less composing a 6" x 9" finished vertical piece. Here are the pieces from the past week.

Monday, August 11th

I started this piece as I normally do, by just arranging and fiddling with different fabric shapes. At one point I realized that it was starting to look like a television. That reminded me of how disoriented I felt the night before while watching the Olympics on NBC.

I very, very rarely watch network television (just Liverpool and other soccer matches, as well as Doctor Who and Torchwood on BBC America). There were so many things happening--graphics moving, backgrounds moving, music playing, non-stop announcers talking--that it was confusing and overstimulating. This piece reflects the confusion and disorientation I felt while watching. I named this piece "300 Channels and Nothing is On."

Tuesday, August 12th

After the utter chaos of Monday's piece, I entered my studio on Tuesday wanting to make a piece that felt soothing and calming. I created the background layers of gradated purples and teals first, with no expectation of what would go on top. When I finished the background I realized it felt like the ocean.

I have been reading about early culture symbols, such as runes, as research for devising my own symbol set. The rune, Laguz, is known as "The Rune of the Sea," and seemed an apt focus for this piece. I do feel calm when looking at this piece. It's like a shrine.

Wednesday, August 13th

I wanted to keep working with the quiet color palette from yesterday. I like the gradated purple and green squares. I also like how I combined the strip set, the striped fabric, and the teal batik on the left. So I like elements of this piece, but the overall composition lacks focus and cohesion.

Thursday, August 14th

A vision of a lush green background was the inspiration for this piece, titled "The Rune of Right Nourishment." I like how I balanced the use of gold as a contrast to all the green: in the three little squares, as the background for the rune, and in the background.

Friday, August 15th

"The Rune of the Forging of Character" was inspired by a vision of overlapping flames the previous evening. So when I woke up and headed downstairs, I knew exactly what I wanted to do. I only allow myself 30 minutes each day for the composition, so I had a lot of work to do in choosing the fabrics and making combinations, cutting out and overlapping the flame shapes, and then creating the foreground elements. I didn't have much time to edit or consider, I could only cut and place. There's a lot of energy and life in this piece.

Saturday, August 16th
Again, this piece was inspired by a vision the night before. There I was, sitting and waiting for Michael Phelps to win another gold, when I saw a tree in the moonlight. I made a note and remembered it for the next morning's piece.

This is the first piece I've done in which stitching serves as a design element and not just as a way to keep the glued pieces in place. I used four different colors of thread to capture shadows and moonlight. I like how this piece looks like sketch. It's titled "Night Vision."

Sunday, August 17th

Again, this piece was inspired by a vision, but unfortunately, the reality of the piece doesn't match what I envisioned. I don't think that I made the right technical decisions in executing it. My vision was of a teal river carving through a lush green landscape. This river seems plonked down, not carved. I again used stitching as a design element. I have some ideas that I may try over the next week or so to try to get the look I want.

General Thoughts

This week rocked. The previous four weeks were mostly about playing with fabric until I found an arrangement that looked good to me. This week was different. For the most part this week, I had a vision in mind that I then tried to create. That is so exciting to me.

I've spent a lot of time thinking and writing about finding my voice. But this week I've learned that I can't think my way to it. I have to create and create and create some more until I find that I do indeed have something to say. I believe that the work of the previous four weeks primed the pump so to speak. I may just have a trickle of ideas now, but more may come. And if it dries up again, I've learned that creating something anyway works.

Five of my pieces this week have titles. I've decided not to try to title them, but if a title comes to me while I'm working on it, then I will use it. It seems that when I have something to say, then a title comes along.

I like the accidental rune series I've developed. I have a couple more ideas that I will play with in the future.

15 August 2008

On Time and Experience

I recently watched an interview with Bob Bowman, Michael Phelps' swim coach. While the training and preparation for the Olympics was the intended focus, there was one question and answer that stayed with me. (I'm paraphrasing the interview here.)

The interviewer asked Bowman "You discovered Michael when he was eleven and had never coached Olympic-level swimmers previously. How did you know that you could?"

Bowman replied, "Well, first you have to understand that that was twelve years ago."

The conversation moved on at that point, but to me, his meaning was clear. Twelve years of learning and growth and change and challenges were necessary to get to the point where Bowman is the coach of one of the most elite athletes in history. It's well-known that Bowman recognized Michael's rare talent and competitive spirit upon first meeting him, but did he imagine just how extraordinary Michael would become?

Regardless of what his earliest vision was, Bowman's response shows his understanding that time and experience are necessary to achieve great things.

I am beginning to learn that myself. Throughout my life I've set what appear to be unrealistic goals, at least from the position I was starting at. I would compare where I was to where I wanted to be and despair at the enormous gap. I believed my goals to be impossible and would cast them aside.

But I've changed. I am still setting goals (and they are no less ambitious), but now I believe that I can actually achieve them. Why? Because I've learned the value of time and experience. I don't expect to immediately climb to the summit of a mountain while I'm still learning to crawl. But I can see a progression: I need to learn to crawl, then walk, hike, and climb small hills before I can even attempt that mountain.

I may or may not ever reach that peak, but that doesn't really matter. Isn't the journey--rather than the destination--the point of life anyway? And if I achieve something great along the way, well, that's even better. But I'll enjoy the journey either way.

11 August 2008

Once a Month

Yesterday concluded my fourth week of the Early Morning Club. To me, four weeks equals a month, even if it is a few days short. They say it takes 30 days to form a habit and I believe I've done so. Each morning upon awaking I head downstairs to my studio--there is no question about whether I want to do it or not, I just do. These four weeks have taught me a lot about myself, about creative play and creative work, and about commitment.

But I'm feeling that I still need to go deeper. Making a small piece each day is rewarding and educational, but to some extent it feels like a one-shot. Although there are certain themes that repeat, I approach each piece as brand new. Each day gets 30 minutes, give or take, before I stitch it down and call it finished. I don't always have the time to resolve lingering questions about the design or issues with the composition. Each piece really functions as a sketch, rather than a full-blown work in it's own right.

So I've decided that every four weeks I'll choose one piece as the inspiration of a larger, more involved work. This will give me the opportunity to delve more deeply the subject and work more thoughtfully, rather than instinctively, which is all I have time for with my morning pieces.

I don't want to put a lot of restrictions on myself. The only rule is that I need to finish the piece before the next four weeks are up. I'll try to keep the size manageable for a four week period, probably no larger than 18" x 24". The layout can be vertical or horizontal. Any techniques may be used. The final piece doesn't even have to resemble the inspiration--it just needs to be inspired from it.

The piece I've chosen is one I'm excited about because it's an idea I've been considering for some time.

I love walking through cities and watching the changing skyline. I take lots of photographs for future reference. Here's a photo from last year's trip to Liverpool, England that has always been asking to be made into a quilt. Maybe now it will.

So, my challenge is to make a piece inspired by the fabric cityscape above and finish it by Sunday, September 7th.

10 August 2008

Early Morning Club, Week Four

Monday, August 4th

This piece bores me. It sends me to sleep. I have been struggling with creating more interesting backgrounds so I thought that I would try a collage-style piece, similar to a scrapbook page. But the background still lacks contrast, the foreground elements are uninspired, and the colors are very boring. And even when I think about changing things--making a higher-contrast background, creating more interesting elements, adding snappier color--I am still bored by the idea.

Tuesday, August 5th

After yesterday's sleep inducing snoozer, it's refreshing to have a piece full of color and fun and movement and whimsy. No, it's not groundbreaking work--lots of people have made wonky cityscapes--but it's new for me. I like that the scene is not confined by the background, there is the sense that the city continues on outside the edges. There is more texture in my fabric choices, which adds visual interest. I also had fun picking color combinations for the windows and buildings.

Wednesday, August 6th

This piece began as the background alternating layers of darks and lights. It reminded me of subterranean rivers twining in dark places. I added the river rocks in various sizes to further bring forth that idea. I limited the palette to browns, greens, and a touch of gold. I also used more values with a higher contrast--darkest darks and lighter lights.

Thursday, August 7th

Each day I make one of these pieces I learn a little something more. What excites me the most about this piece is the diagonal line of green squares. I have a tendency to want to stay in the grid, but here I broke it by moving the green squares across the yellow into the sage. I also echoed the designs in the batik with the magenta design in the upper right corner.

Friday, August 8th

Today was difficult. I had an early appointment that gave me little time to work this morning. I started something but didn't finish it before I had to leave the house. After my appointment, I headed to work early. I created this piece there, but found working in a different environment to be challenging--I didn't have my tools, my fabrics, or the comfort of my studio. This piece reflects a return to rigidity and symmetry due to circumstances.

Saturday, August 9th

When I finished this piece Saturday morning, I hated it. I didn't even like looking at it. I didn't place it on the pile of my previous pieces, instead I rolled it up and stuck it in the champagne bucket where I keep my incoming bills. I headed to work fully intending to make another piece when I got home. (And I even considered burning it in our fire pit.)

After a full day at the shop, I returned home and took another look at it. Kevin suggested taking some time to think about why I disliked it so. He also reminded me that the point of this process is to make lots of crap. I realizes that rust and gold are not colors that I normally use a lot. It also didn't match my vision for the piece: I wanted the gold shapes to appear more connected to the background, perhaps like they were carved into the surface, rather than applied on top. I decided to keep it and not bother making another.

But my visceral reaction was interesting. And it was truly visceral--looking at it made my stomach hurt. It's weird, but sometimes art I don't like makes me feel queasy.

Sunday, August 10th

It wasn't my intention at all, but this piece reminds me of really abstract fish. Either that or fin-tailed cars from the fifties. It's fun and I like it.

General Thoughts

This was my fourth complete week in the morning club. To my reckoning, that's one full month (well, a short month) of keeping my commitment to awake each morning and create. If I look over the pieces from this month, I can see improvement.

But the biggest improvement is in my own approach to creation. Each piece I complete teaches me something. And I tuck those little lessons away one by one, only to remember and use them in the future.

I feel like I'm becoming more fluid and less rigid in my thinking. I'm trying to break out of the grid and I am slowly seeing signs that I am. I also think that I am becoming bolder with my ideas. This week there is much less background space in my work. I'm using more of the space, including the space outside the 6" x 9" rectangle. And I'm working on developing relationships between the elements in my design, so they aren't separate shapes floating unconnected in space.

I am learning so much more than I even imagined. The secret to improvement is practice. And each day I make another I improve a little, tiny bit.

Onto another month of creative play and practice.

05 August 2008

Ways of Thinking

My husband is a very smart man. No, not just because of his multiple degrees in physics and engineering. And not just because he reads for fun books that consist of little but numbers and equations and symbols I've never seen before.

No, my husband is a very smart man because in just a short conversation he gives me a new perspective on things and better insight into myself.

Case in point, my most recent blog entry. After he read it, he came downstairs with a thought-provoking comment about the final section.
I am enjoying this process. It's satisfying to watch the pile of completed pieces rise each day. And even if I can't really say whether my work is improving, I can say that my mind is. I'm feeling more relaxed and willing to try different things, even if they don't work.

Could it be that I am becoming comfortable with the idea of failure? That would be a very welcome development.
He reminded me of the story of Thomas Edison's invention of the carbon filament for electric light bulbs. Edison tried hundreds of different ideas until he found the one that worked. Edison said,
"I have not failed 700 times. I have not failed once. I have succeeded in proving that those 700 ways will not work. When I have eliminated the ways that do not work, I will find the way that will work."
Kevin suggested that perhaps I should only think of each piece in terms of whether it works or does not, rather than label a piece a failure. He reminded me that I'm doing this to try new things and that I should focus more on the process and less on the final product.

I thought I was thinking about it that way, but that critical word failure had slipped in anyway. His pointing it out reminded me that I need to be aware of the words I use to talk about my work and make sure that they are constructive and supportive rather than critical and destructive.

Like I said, he's a very smart man.

03 August 2008

Early Morning Club, Week Three

Monday, July 28th

I am taking an online class on designing lines and this piece is based on one of my drawings.
The lines in my fabric piece aren't as heavy as I wanted them to be. I wanted the weight of the lines to balance the negative space, letting the composition be just lines and the spaces in between. But in the fabric piece, the lines are thin and as a result the balance is lost. The piece felt empty and incomplete, so I added little squares.

This also differs in that the lines are pieced, rather than fused or glued in place.

Tuesday, July 29th

My favorite from the week, which surprises me given the circumstances under which I made it. We woke up early to celebrate Robbie Keane day. With all that excitement, I just didn't want to head downstairs and work. I did it, although I have to admit that my attitude was poor. I began in a haphazard manner, just placing fabric without thought. But after placing a few pieces, I began to envision interconnected triangles and circles soaring into space. There is movement in this piece. Not many of my pieces have movement. That is something to work on.

I limited the palette again to mostly neutrals. I find a smaller, neutral palette to be pleasing to work with and look at.

Wednesday, July 30th

This is a fused variation of Monday's piece. I wanted to try skinnier lines that were less rigid so I cut them without using a ruler. I like this one better. The spaces created by the lines are more interesting. And I like the mostly primary circles. I think it looks fun, like a game board or a puzzle.

Thursday, July 31st

I used leftover bits of strip sets for this piece. There's a lot of texture in the fabrics I used.

Friday, August 1st
This piece didn't work out as I wanted. I was trying to create a syncopated rhythm, but don't think I really achieved it. It reminds me of the standing stones piece I created in my first week, which is interesting because that wasn't my intention at all. I might try this again, but make small to large versions of the same shape, rather than of different shapes. That might help achieve syncopation.

Saturday, August 2nd
I wanted to work with more layers in this piece: an interesting background, foreground shapes, and then accent strips. It's hard to tell, but there are three light rectangles in the background. They were meant to provide additional interest and help connect the foreground shapes. But there is not enough contrast so it's hard to see them. I also think that the accent strips would be more effective if they sometimes interacted with the brown shapes.

Sunday, August 3rd

I like this piece as well. The yellow shapes on the blue remind me of city lights and skyscrapers as night, which is an area I have wanted to explore for a while. But this piece also moves a little away from the grid structure that I have been using a lot.

General Thoughts

It is difficult to find things to say about each piece. I have no formal art training. I've read a few books here and there, so have picked up some words and ideas that I think I understand, but don't know for sure. I've never participated in a formal or even informal critique of my work or of someone else's.

So when it comes time to write about each piece, I can only go by my instincts: I like this or don't like that or wish I would've done something different. But a truly informed understanding of each piece and why it works or doesn't is beyond me at the moment.

That's OK. It's not meant to be a put down, just a fair assessment of where I am at the current moment.

I am enjoying this process. It's satisfying to watch the pile of completed pieces rise each day. And even if I can't really say whether my work is improving, I can say that my mind is. I'm feeling more relaxed and willing to try different things, even if they don't work.

Could it be that I am becoming comfortable with the idea of failure? That would be a very welcome development.