I Don’t Have Rhythm

July’s master class topic has been rhythm and I’ve been out of sync so far. I tried out several ideas that went nowhere, and settled on three sketches that demonstrate my inability to go beyond the most literal interpretations. Elizabeth’s reaction was tepid, at best.

Here’s what I submitted and the critique:

My mind took off in strange directions for this assignment.

I began with syncopation and laid out paper squares and rectangles on a chevron pattern fabric – sketch 1. I would use two different colors than my paper for the shapes and the chevron fabric as background. Since I’m still having issues with my dominant arm I would fuse everything rather than piece. My aim is to suggest patterns but leave gaps to represent pauses, and pattern changes to show musical variations. It reminds me a bit of the rolls you put in player pianos – the Scot Joplin piece made me think of that.
JMMJulySketch1 resized
Then, I found a diagram of feet positions for a waltz, drew it and traced it – sketch 2. I overlapped the drawings to create paths. I love the rhythm of waltzing – 1, 2, 3 – which is why I did three drawings. I’d paint/print/stamp the diagrams on cloth. I’ll have to review my stash for fabric that might actually be worn for a waltzing dress.
JMM July sketch 3 resized
Finally, I thought of the rhythm of Morse code as shown in old movies where the train is speeding down the track and the voice over is conveying important news over the clacks of the transmitter. Since the code is dots and dashes I decided to translate the Paul Klee line, “A line is a dot that went for a walk” into Morse code. I curved the code along a line, traced it three times, and arranged the lines to cross each other – sketch 3. I thought of painting/printing/drawing the curved line on pieces of colored organza and overlapping them. Again, not much sewing would be involved.

JMM July sketch 2 resized
Elizabeth

I love all your different interpretations of rhythms….
I think at the end though that you must consider the visual impact of each of these…for example the ones with dots and dashes actually look like a landscape….instead of curving them up and down, how about making them bolder and simply in straight rows but very bold and bright – nice to hide the quote by the way!! I too have used Morse code in a piece…hidden in the stitching and that is fun.
ACtually I would combine your technique from the first sketch and the message and idea of Morse code in the third sketch….the zigzag background does give a sense of radio waves!!!…..
the current arrangement is very symmetrical – and perfect symmetry tends to be rather static.
the Waltz steps were a good idea, but really don’t convey the ONE, two three, ONE two three ..of the waltz…I’m wondering if there’s a way you could bring that Beat out?

we want to get a sense of the actual Beat, and the forward movement suggested by rhythm.
So I”d use what you’ve got but take it a little further…

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15 Comments

Filed under Art quilts, In Process, Project Ideas

15 responses to “I Don’t Have Rhythm

  1. I think these are wonderful interpretations of rhythm in fabric, though I particularly like the 2nd and 3rd. There is a sidewalk in La Crosse, Wisconsin, that has dance steps diagrammed in it. I always get a kick out of it when I see it. I would think you could use color to create the emphasis of the ONE-two-three. I can imagine quilted swirls or layered organza conveying the movement of the dance in the background…could be quite fun.

    I love that you have incorporated the quote in the Morse code draft and what a great quote. Have you seen images of the alphabet and numbers listed out in guides? It presents a very strong and dramatic graphic (https://upload.wikimedia.org/wikipedia/commons/thumb/b/b5/International_Morse_Code.svg/2000px-International_Morse_Code.svg.png). It reminds me of tribal designs. I can imagine using that as a border or edge and then having the lines of the quote moving in the center. It will be fun to see what you end up doing, if you decide on this one.

    • I had to laugh when I looked at the link, as I almost used the Morse code for the numbers. I loved the pattern formed. Between the ideas you and another commenter have given me on the waltz diagram, I have a renewed interest in doing something with that idea, someday.

  2. It is always so interesting to see & read your responses to your class prompts. Has the critique process (both to receive and give input) always been easy for you?

    • I’m better at receiving critiques than I am at giving them. While I am sure many would disagree with me, I think Elizabeth does a pretty good job at taking everyone’s stuff at face value. She doesn’t (or almost never) say, that sucks, but she tries to help us make whatever we’re working on as good as it can be. It’s hard when critiquing someone’s art not to get caught up in whether you like or dislike a piece. I have to remind myself to go back to design basics – form, focal point, color/value, etc. I belong to a small art quilt group set up to critique each other’s work in process, but as more people join who are at the beginning of their art quilt journeys it’s harder to get good feedback on my work.

  3. I think this is a really challenging design task, especially for a textile! I am thinking of traditional quilts and woven coverlets, which were often of the nature of equal-sized squares all across the piece. It will be interesting to see where you take this.
    Also, I looked and looked at the waltz diagram and I cannot figure out how to follow it — it looks to me like each foot does a lot of hopping to the next position and I know that’s not right. So I guess I am rhythm-challenged too.

    • The waltz diagram is from the male perspective, where he moves backwards and twirls at the corners – ONE, two, three… As for design, I think that, like many of my class mates, I took rhythm too literally.

  4. Edith

    I liked the waltz steps. It made me think of ghosts of the past dancing across the ballroom. I would play with that I think. The morse code was interesting too. My Dad was a ham radio operator so I heard it alot in the wires at our house. Perhaps more ghosts in my head?

  5. I’m quite taken with the squares on chevron, but agree that the rhythmic representation is harder to get with that. Using squares and bars like Morse code, in a repeated pattern, might be along the lines Elizabeth was talking about of a combined sketch 1 and 3. Like Kerry said, this is a tough one. Worth puzzling out, though!

  6. It’s interesting to see how your thoughts developed in response to this challenge–it’s a tough one!

    • It’s been interesting to see how my class mates have interpreted rhythm. Some have tried to capture a piece of music; others have done ripples in sand; yet others have gone abstract.

      • Barbara

        I so envy you, having a group of creative buddies that are articulate in their critique is my idea of heaven.

      • The rhythm piece is for a online master class run by Elizabeth Barton. Through a private blog she critiques our work from sketch to finished product. I learn as much, if not more, from what she says about the work of others as I do from her comments on my stuff. I also belong to a few small art quilt groups, one of which is specifically devoted to helping each other in our creation processes.

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