Monthly Archives: June 2020

Inspired by Current Events

Artists draw inspiration from timeless material and cutting edge events. Today I’ll focus on some of the initial responses to the current global pandemic. Not surprisingly, street art was the first public artistic response to Covid 19.

Hong Kong street art

Artists’ incomes have been hit hard by the virus as so many sales venues, like art fairs, have shut down. The Viral art project features posters designed in response to Covid 19. Many are available for purchase.

Rajiv Fernandez poster

More artistic responses are shown in this article in “The Star” (out of Kuala Lumpur).

A glass sculpture entitled “coronavirus – COVID-19” created by British artist Luke Jerram is seen at his studio in Bristol, southwest of England on March 17, 2020. – Jerram has created a coronavirus – COVID-19 – glass sculpture in tribute to the huge global scientific and medical effort to combat the pandemic. Made in glass, at 23cm in diameter, it is 1 million times larger than the actual virus. (Photo by ADRIAN DENNIS / AFP)

You knew it was coming, the world’s first Covid 19 art museum has opened online. Work submitted so far is an interesting mix of humor and earnestness. (Note: beyond a certain point you’ll be asked to log into Instagram.)

Covid 19 has shut down in-person art exhibits worldwide. Many venues have responded with online exhibits, which is better than nothing, but especially hard on fiber exhibits where texture can be a big part of a piece. Colour With A U is a virtual SAQA art quilt exhibition at Homer Watson House and Gallery, Kitchener, Ontario, Canada. The good news is the gallery is scheduled to reopen on July 7 with some restrictions on visits. Now if I could just cross the border to Canada.

Judy Robertson, “Psychedelic Skies” detail

Even I have been inspired to create a collage response to Covid 19.

And yes, quilters have put together an Instagram page called Covid-19 global quilt.

Linking to this week’s Off The Wall Fridays.


Filed under Commentary

The Purpose of Aimless Puttering

This post was inspired by one written by Jane Davies, a collage and mixed media artist I admire. She wrote about an exchange with a reader concerning some simple collages made as practice.

“Q:  My main question was if you had a purpose in mind when you created these simplified works, if you save them, and how you view the  time spent creating them.  Are you working towards a goal or just doing them for relaxation?

A:  When I need a break from whatever larger work I’m doing, OR when I’ve been out of the studio for a while and am rusty, the best way to get ideas moving is to keep my hands and eyes DOING something in the studio. Not thinking, but doing. And that takes on many forms. This little exercise I just made up and did a LOT of them. The main point is to do SOMETHING with hands and eyes to generate ideas, see where it goes, keep in practice, jog something loose, get back to some basic ideas, etc. It is not for relaxation, though it might be relaxing.”

Susan Lenz addresses similar points in her article for a regional SAQA newsletter. She makes several helpful specific points about productivity. In response to comments about her seemingly prodigious work output she says, “Productivity is often the result of a habit that took years to adopt. Get yourself a time card. Track your hours. This isn’t about the quality of the work or the amount of money you have in it or might get out of it. It is about the time you spend trying. It is about the hours you actually work.”

[Sidebar: I should note that Lenz is fully supported by her husband who deals with many of the day to day practicalities so she doesn’t have to. Same deal with Susan Carlson. I’m alluding to the kind of support from spouses that women have traditionally supplied male artists. Yet women artists may feel guilty that their art is taking time away from their families and all the duties associated with day to day living. Now that I’m retired and am no longer responsible for a child I’ve given up any pretense of feeling guilty about dereliction of such duties. My husband does these things better than I do and I value his willingness to shop and cook. I still do the dusting as he has asthma.]

But to return to my original points, I think it’s just fine to create without a goal. In fact, it’s fun. Often what I make while messing around ends up in finished work. “All Decked Out” and “Sur La Table” were made with surface design experiments done for the heck of it.

“All Decked Out”
“Sur La Table”

If I depended on sales of art to support myself I might have a less cavalier attitude toward purposeful work, but the two artists I quote above support themselves through their work yet still feel the need to mess around.

Another way I mess around is to revise old, finished work. If I’m not happy with a piece and would never display it, why shouldn’t I try to make it better. Even if I make it worse, I’ll have learned something in the process. “All Fly Away” is an improv piece that I have been fussing with for a few years. I just couldn’t get it to work. Finally I looked at it as a black and white image and saw why – not enough value contrast and too light in the wrong places. So I darkened the flying triangles with a marker and toned down bright/light areas with paint. It still needs more value contrast, but I’m happy I could diagnose the problem.

“All Fly Away” original
“All Fly Away” revised
“All Fly Away” revised, in black and white

Here’s some recent puttering I’ve done for no reason except I came across scraps while de-cluttering, and took a play break.

“Canyon Out West” was an experiment with fusing raw edge scraps to a background, then FMQing the result. I wouldn’t use the ribbon like this again.
Purple block made from surface design experiments (monoprinting, stenciling, embroidery). I may do more design on it or use it in a pillow.

The overall point of my puttering is to keep doing; to practice, practice, practice. Often I have no end goal in mind. You can talk theory all you want, but trying and failing teach you a lot more. Maybe we should have a show of our interesting failures.

I’m linking to Off The Wall Friday.


Filed under Art quilts, Commentary, Fabric Printing

The Unkindest Cut

Sometimes you have mishaps despite being careful. Recently I was cutting silk fabrics into circles and ovals.

Then, this happened while I was putting the guard over the rotary circle cutter’s blade.

My left index finger and thumb are out of commission for a bit and I’m left handed. That means I need to keep the fingers dry, and not put any pressure on the cuts. So, no sewing, no painting, no gluing, no cutting.

Of course I panicked. Then I remembered a collection of photos I had set aside for digital manipulation in PhotoShop Elements. When I walk outside or sit around my house I take pictures of odd things that catch my eye. While I’m clumsy with my right hand I can still use a computer mouse.

Of course the upside to my self-inflicted wounds is I can’t cook or wash the dishes. Fortunately my husband is shouldering that work. Many thanks, dear.

I’m linking to Off The Wall Fridays.


Filed under Commentary, Inspiration

Montana Bound

In 2015 my husband and I took a road trip that ended up at Glacier National Park in Montana. Our trip took us through several states, and so we visited many roadside rest stops. Some stops offered free paper maps, so I helped myself.

Five years later I pulled them out to use in collages, and created “Going to Montana” with them. Illinois (especially Chicago), Wisconsin, and Nebraska are incorporated in my collage. I have fondest memories of Nebraska, home of the International Quilt Museum and my introduction to western cloud formations. Chicago was our trip nightmare as we negotiated the Dan Ryan Expressway during morning rush hour. My favorite place name is Oblong, Illinois, which is shown in the lower left map rectangle. It’s original name was Henpeck.

My collage was composed on a 14 inch square pre-stretched canvas with painted green edges. I combined map bits with security envelopes and mulberry papers, then stamped and drew over parts with markers and colored pencils. I used matte medium for glue.

Top of collage
Bottom of collage

My goal was to contrast the rectilinear roads and townships with natural features such as lakes and rivers.

I feel bad that South Dakota and Minnesota aren’t represented, but I don’t seem to have picked up any free maps in our time there. I did create a small quilt inspired by the Badlands.

I named this collage as a tribute to Frank Zappa’s song, “Montana.” If you’ve never been there, I heartily recommend Glacier National Park, though you’d better go in a year or so if you want to see an actual glacier.

Here’s a link to Off The Wall Fridays.


Filed under Completed Projects, Techniques