I thought I hadn’t been much affected mentally by the pandemic. I had my health and my art, and my family was safe. I used the extra time in isolation to explore mixed media – collage, gelli printing, painting. Thank you internet. Much of my sewn work was either long overdue finishes or scrappy pieces. Then I came to grips with two serious pieces I created over the past year. It seems my unconscious was having quite a response to the year, whatever I thought.
“Shattered,” the first piece, was based on a photo of a broken mirror. I distorted and recolored it in Photoshop and had Spoonflower print the result.
I chopped up the fabric and inserted strips of dyed damask and novelty yarn, but I found the result lacked something.
Finally, after this attempt was banished to the closet for months, I realized it needed color contrast. Back on the design wall it went, and I added orange.
Of course, I still have to figure out how to quilt it, but I think it captures our lives during the past year with the orange representing slivers of hope. Funny how that solution emerged after the Covid vaccines were developed.
The second piece, “Letting Go,” was based on a photo taken by my friend Penny. It also used an edited photo printed on fabric, along with hand dyed fabric and a smidge of commercial fabric.
I drew an outline based on the photo, and made freezer paper templates. I had planned to piece the steps but decided I could get the effect I wanted with paint and quilting.
After I added a lot of shading with water soluble crayons (Neocolor II) and netting, I realized I wanted the piece to represent a lightening of my burdens as I climbed to a less dark place. I created rocks as stand-ins for burdens, and appliqued them to the lower steps.
If you’ve been reading my blog for a while, you know I don’t make “message” quilts. Chalk up another change to the past year.
For many years I have planned to make a 3D quilted object. I have sketchbook drawings to back up that claim. My scheme was to create multiple small connected units with see through spaces between them. The piece could cast shadows on a wall or floor, or give a screen-like view through to other items in a room.
Fast forward to 2020, when I got serious about this idea. Using many silk fabrics I had amassed, I created circles and ovals. After trying to create one big piece out of all the shapes I decided to group them by warm and cool shades. The warm shades were first up because I had fewer of them.
As I wrote earlier, I treated each shape as a mini quilt, sewing together front, back, and batting. Then I hand sewed the shapes together, and machine quilted them as a single unit. I thought that would be the end, but the results didn’t look finished. I had the idea to add metal rings, which I made from jewelry wire. Once those were sewn on I threaded satin cord between the wire circles.
In a change of plans I thought I would mount the construction to an ice dyed backing. To help the shapes stand out against the backing I edged each shape with silver glitter. After I carefully sewed black wool felt spacers behind each shape to help them stand away from the backing, the construction just didn’t look right. There was still not enough contrast.
At this point I made an executive decision to declare “Roundabout” done. Some finishing details are rough and I really can’t ship it anywhere easily with the wire, so I am chalking it up to process rather than product.
Because I was determined to use the backing I worked so hard to make, I resurrected an old resist piece, quilted it, and attached it to that backing. It’s called “Raspberry Lime Swirl.”
Now all I have to do is figure out how to finish all the cool tone shapes. They are sewn together, but languish on top of my old trunk awaiting inspiration.
My January line a day challenge did go for all 31 days, though I stretched some work out over a few days. While the original intent was to keep the time spent on each response short, sometimes that didn’t happen. I am sure Penny, my friend who did this challenge with me, spent way longer than 15 to 45 minutes on many of her pieces. In our defense, if you’re in the zone you want to finish your vision.
One of my prompts was to create collages from magazine images with linear elements. In some cases I didn’t glue down the pieces, but tried several arrangements.
Then, I returned to fabric to use bias tape and free motion stitching for lines. I tried a sepia edges effect with Inktense pencils.
Next, I decided to make hard line acrylic paintings on vinyl wallpaper samples to test how well acrylic paint would stick to that surface. First, I covered the wallpaper with an ombre effect wash. Then I put down masking tape and painted tones of blue, red, and yellow. I can see I need to work on getting the tape to stick down better. However, the paint does stay on.
Since January obliged me with snow I took photos of lines from my window and used Photoshop filters to add textures to them. You can see how often the deer tromp through my yard.
In the last few days of the month I combined the fabrics I had printed with other linear fabrics to make a small quilt.
My notes indicate I made something linear every day in January, but I’ve shown only some of my output.. Not all the results are worth showing, though they were worth doing. I learned that a set daily theme made it easy to get right to work. I tried to use different media to expand my artistic toolbox, though I can see how that could lead to a “master of none” situation.
As you can see, I often responded to different prompts than Penny, and produced different work. Aside from cheesecloth, she didn’t use fabric. My work is more hard edged and boldly colored than hers, in part due to the different media we used. However, Penny’s palette is softer than mine and she likes to create layers. But, the challenge wouldn’t have been fun if we had the same responses, so vive la difference.
Challenges are always more fun with company, and my friend Penny joined me in playing with line. She has been working with collage and gel printing recently, and her responses to the prompts reflect that. I asked her to be a guest blogger. She chose some of her work to feature here, and wrote a bit about what she did and why. Take it away Penny.
Thick and thin lines with contrast We started this challenge by coming up with some “prompts” for line making. Thick and thin seemed like a good place to start. I thought about weaving lines together and thought it would be fun to make it look like it was unraveling. Black India ink with a brush was used for lines; contrast and line variety were added with white and turquoise oil pastels on a brown paper bag. It could be a theme to further explore using various media.
Using line to depict fashion figures After viewing the work of textile artist Lucienne Day (shared by Joanna), and viewing Day’s small abstracted figures; I decided to use directional line to doodle these little fashionistas. I think they would be fun over a sheer watercolor background or a collaged tissue base in very light colors. They are very minimalist, but they have a certain “je ne sais quoi.”
Lines and mark making with unconventional tools I think this was a mutually agreed upon line prompt. I used deli paper, India ink, and items such as a pencil eraser end and silicon basting brush. I did another sheet which I was unable to locate in my burgeoning stash which used a haircolor brush applicator and the edge of a credit card. These techniques could be utilized on a gelli plate as well.
Cheesecloth line gel print with tracing paper collage overlay I decided to try this after exploring adding cheesecloth to some of my gelli prints. I wanted to see how clearly the threads of the cloth would show up when used with fluid acrylic paint. I also explored the value changes made by layering pieces and/or folding the cheesecloth randomly on the plate before pulling the prints. I used tracing paper for the overlay with china marker and Posca pens. It was a fun and delightfully unpredictable way to explore line and value.
Acrylic string printing on wallpaper sample I had done numerous string printed pieces on various “regular” papers, but never on wallpaper. I decided to print multiple layer string prints using the wallpaper pressed directly onto the plate. I enjoy the way the texture of the wallpaper subtly breaks up the printed lines, making me think of some kind of abstracted Renaissance textile from a royal’s wardrobe. If nothing else, interesting collage fodder!
Using torn paper edges as line, using a variety of found papers, photocopied image, wallpaper samples, and found object junk mail in a collage I was quite disturbed by the Capitol Insurrection, and thought that torn edges would help to show the attempted “tearing down” of the democratic process. Rioters were depicted as surreal reptilian-like creatures, letting the linear pattern of blacks, whites, and grays show up against the photocopied image of the Capitol. The strong colors of magazine collage bits emphasize their rage. The diagonal lines in the wallpaper background helped to lead my eye into the Capitol interior, as well as the directional lines on the other wallpapers. I really enjoyed creating this, despite the gravity of the subject matter.
Using pinked edge masks, edge of cardboard, and high flow acrylic to explore a particular line pattern I mistakenly received a big bottle of high flow acrylic in an art supply order, so I decided to try gel printing with it. I had already made the pinked mask shapes, so it started out just as white masked shapes on a pink ground. It definitely needed something, so I decided to echo the zigzag edges of the masks with black Posca pen. I used white Posca for the dots so it wouldn’t be totally zigzaggy, and then printed with corrugated cardboard edges in black acrylic to add another type of line quality. This was a late night experiment that made me think of Good N Plenty candy (which I don’t even like). Could be a fun starting point for surface design.
Using tinted cheesecloth and machine stitching as line in a grid format Joanna told me about a class she was taking with David Owen Hastings that uses pieces of cut collage elements in a grid which are then machine stitched. I chose pages from a calendar as well as some subtly textured wallpaper. After stitching it down, I decided to layer it with collaged white tissue and painted cheesecloth to suggest a partially frozen creek bed. I added undulating stitching to give it a watery look and continue the linear feel. I’m still pondering how to create slightly raised “stepping stones” using layered collage elements for the rocks. This piece really got me excited about using cheesecloth as a collage element.
Painted damask with added lines and color Found this piece of previously sponge painted damask in my stash and was looking for a quick way to add linear detail. Used some of the pink high flow acrylic with a fine steel-tipped resist bottle for thin lines, then some fine line Posca pen detailing. It makes me think of a sunny little Mediterranean village.
Lines making Asemic or Symbolic writing I did the orange and black piece after stumbling on a great Robyn McClendon video on symbolic writing. I knew it would fit in as a line making prompt. It combines a gel print with black ink, and uses a copier for a portion of it. I don’t have the link, but if you look up her videos, you will see it. The lower left piece is another cheesecloth print on Bristol with layered Posca asemic writing, which I find very therapeutic! I like the complexity of the woven lines with the looseness and contrast of the “written” lines over it. My son, who is a graphics guy, said he really likes this “grunge” approach. I have also tried this writing in gel pen over wallpaper textured painted color tissue in a greeting card.
Acrylic string gel print with cheesecloth and linear collage elements This subtle string print was made with some brand new Golden fluid acrylics which I mixed to get some subtle colors. I decided to use layers of painted cheesecloth to give my orbs some form and shadowing. Linear collage elements were cut from a trial print. I like the subtlety of the string print colors and the contrast afforded by the cheesecloth shapes. I think it has kind of a planetary or undersea feel to it, and I think I need to do more of these.
Thanks for your insights, Penny, and for walking us through your responses. Next time I’ll present the rest of my line work.