After years of avoiding color theory practice (the practice means you have to make a color wheel) I finally broke down and signed up for Jane Davies’ downloadable class, “Unlocking The Secrets of Color.”
I have to say that color theory seems much more relevant for mixing paint colors than for quilting. When I want to make a quilt I go through my fabrics and decide which of the already dyed/printed colors I want to work with. When it comes to painting there’s usually no such already determined color starting point. You could work only with colors directly out of the tubes but that would get old fast. The tricky part is to figure out what colors you want for your painting before you actually see the color. Needless to say, there’s lots of trial and error.
The class begins with paint mixing to create a 12 part color wheel from blue/red/yellow. Then you move on painting grids using only colors on your color wheel. I won’t subject you to photos of my efforts, but will note that getting an evenly graduated color wheel is harder than you’d think.
Other lessons involve one color collages; and painting value scales with black, then white, to create graduated analogous colors. The class moves on to paintings/collages of one color and analogous colors, and finally a series of abstract landscapes (cool/warm) and color moods.
The landscapes assignment was designed to help you learn how much warm tone you can/should put in a predominantly cool toned piece, and vice versa. It’s a personal decision, but even a touch of a contrast adds interest, I think.
My take away from this class is that I need to whisper more and shout less in my color choices. I like the ring-a-ding-ding of bold colors and color contrasts, but for my artistic development I need to cultivate the quieter side. It goes along with trying colors you don’t much like. You might be pleasantly surprised at the results.
It’s always a leap of faith when I try to follow directions in a magazine. Will I forget a step? Will my minor supply substitutions cause an epic fail? Will the directions be specific enough for me to feel confident of the steps?
Recently I’ve been on a sewing room purge. Now that I’m acquiring painting and collage supplies space is at a premium. My back issues of Quilting Arts and other related magazines were a good place to begin de-accessioning. As I scanned them for any articles I wanted to save I found a method to make paper cloth. It called for cheesecloth, freezer paper, matte medium, and lightweight paper such as tissue paper and decorative paper napkins. I possessed all these items, so I went to work.
While I read the instructions through first, and heeded the author’s warning to have all supplies at hand before using the matte medium, I kept halting the process to figure out specifics. For example, I was to have foot square pieces of cheesecloth, but did the author mean a single layer or the multiple layers as cheesecloth comes packed. I first tried a single layer and decided it seemed way too wimpy so I went with a double layer. Then, I was to use “several” tablespoons of matte medium on the freezer paper and add more medium once the cheesecloth was placed on the initial layer. Yet more was to be added after the paper was put down. I had a hard time defining “several.” I ended up using almost half a container of liquid matte medium. The back of the cheesecloth is solid acrylic. Don’t you just love it when the final instruction is “Experiment and have fun!”
I realize I may have overthought the process, but the results were underwhelming.
I stamped over both of them to see if I liked them better. Meh. It may be that my choices of light weight papers weren’t best suited to the technique, but I can get similar effects more easily with paper or fabric collage. I realize that the end product is meant as raw material for a finished piece, but I can’t see sewing over the thick, rubbery material I created.
If I do anything more to these two square feet of paper cloth it will be to paint over most of it and add it to collages.
Fear not, I still use my sewing machine for quilting. In between splashing paint and gluing magazine pages on paper I finished three fabric pieces.
First, “Suspended,” which I showed you before. It’s now all faced and even has a hanging sleeve (pats self on back.)
Next, I made “Win-Win” on a whim. Actually, I wanted to avoid some FMQ, so I pulled out my donated felted wool scraps (thanks, Felice) and combined them with thickened dye painted cloth and needle felted wool squares that don’t play well with my other ones.
Finally, I tackled the FMQ and bulled my way through an untitled piece, informally called gray circles.
I’d like your help with the untitled one. Obviously, it needs a name but I can’t come up with anything better than gray circles. An Instagram follower suggested “The Pink Line” but that doesn’t do it for me. Please send me any ideas you have. As I was making it I thought of industrial pollution (how cheery) and the oil tank fields I used to see on my way to the Philadelphia airport. Another inspiration was the color of oil on rain covered streets. I wanted to change my palette with this one and I certainly succeeded.
You’ll think I don’t have much left to show you from Sketchbook Practice when I say all only lessons 5 and 6 work remains. Ha!
In lesson 5 we returned to work we began earlier, starting with small pieces of paper we crisscrossed with lines in black and a black wash. Our assignment was to add one thing to each to connect the black and wash lines.
Then, we were to return to one of the line and shape thumbnail drawings we made earlier and make a collage/drawing based on it.
In lesson 6 we got to go technicolor and work with grids. First, we made open and closed grids from collage/paint/etc. Then, we were to make scribble paintings with paint and cut those paintings into pieces and make open (spaces between elements) and closed (all elements touch each other) grids from them.
As a grand finale we were to make drawings or paintings with an underlying grid structure, but made up of elements other than squares and rectangles. We could use canvas or good paper rather than the cheap drawing paper we used for our practice. P went on to do so. Since so much of quilting involves grids I decided to pass on this assignment.
By now I’m sure you can see how differently two people approach the same activity. My work is denser, uses a more saturated palette, and heavier lines than P’s. P’s work uses a brighter, lighter palette; is airier; and often uses broken lines.
I think both of us found the class worthwhile, even though there was no instructor feedback (we knew that going in.) If you’re willing to use a lot of paper you can’t help but learn something by doing the lessons. I’ve shown only a small sample of the work we created. For me, the class brought home that you really need to explore possibilities with an open mind and set aside concern about finished compositions.