Marching To My Own Drummer

I would love to find discussions that address my current artistic quandary: at what point do you want to/should you defer to the opinions of others when they have a very different take on your work than your own? I refer specifically to work you feel much more positively about than others do. And you respect the opinions of these others.

Case in point, my current piece that I’ve named “The Left Coast.” It is based on my memories of Big Sur in California, though it’s meant to be evocative rather than representative. I chose to focus on the cliffs rather than the ocean.

“The Left Coast”

I began with a drawing that I turned into templates after enlarging it with the old fashioned grid method. Then I went through my stock of hand dyed fabric.

You can see my high level math as I worked out the grid.

I had a subtle set of gray/purples from Vicki Welsh (she calls it thistle) that I thought would work well. Other gradients dyed by her and batiks completed my choices for the cliffs. The sky/water was more vexing. I tried three different blue and purple gradients, all of which overpowered the cliffs. I resorted to a pastel batik (no idea where I got it, maybe Lunn Fabrics?) that I spent a lot of time recoloring with Neocolor II pastel crayons. At one point I decided the piece was turning into a painting.

Original fabric.

The piece is now sandwiched for quilting. I am using a pieced top I could never get to work right for the backing. It’s part of my use it up campaign.

I have made at least three attempts to redeem it, but lack the energy to try again.

I suspect time will be the ultimate arbiter of whether “The Left Coast” is good art or variations on a bruise. It may be my opinion is like loving a man that all your friends say is bad news. When hindsight shows he was a jerk and it’s a good thing you didn’t marry him, your friends were right. Luckily, the quilt is just fabric and the consequences of misjudging its worth are minimal.

I’m linking to Off The Wall Friday.


Filed under Art quilts, In Process, Inspiration

38 responses to “Marching To My Own Drummer

  1. Jane Herbst

    I really like this one, Joanna, especially your interpretation of the cliffs! I have enjoyed the many times you have successfully created a bridge between realism and total abstract. If I were to do anything it might be to add a few touches of deeper color in the parts of the water that meet the lighter parts of the cliffs. That said, I could be a happy camper if this was on my wall as is.

    • Thanks. I understand your comment, but at this point I don’t want to undo the hand applique that holds the land to the sky/water. Adding paint at this point would be tricky as it could spread to the land where I don’t want it. I’ll see what works out with thread.

  2. Ahh, Lunn Fabrics! They are the people who got me to first recognize the uniqueness of hand dyed fabric. Of course, I love the quilt. It’s very impactful.

  3. You know that I think your images are much stronger than mine, and have many more layers of depth and interest, so I am comparing this quilt with the body of your work, not just any quilt. In my opinion, it needs a little more contrast in top right, maybe one of those lone rocks sticking up out of the sea. Where that pale purple cliff edge meets the yellow in the water is not a strong enough contrast to my eyes, BUT the quilting may utterly change my opinion on that. 🙂
    And maybe it needs to be part of a diptych?

    • Thanks for your ideas. I am trying some “islands” right now in the water, which may give the contrast you suggest. I get your comment about the lack of contrast, and may try more painting to resolve that.

  4. Paula Phillips

    I would remove the blue/sky (Mickey Lawler looking sky). It distracts from from the power of your land masses. I would try some darker/receding colors in stead of the blues. Even try the darker eggplant color that is already in the landmass. I would love to see your final choices. Of course quilting has great power to influence the final project, so your quilting process is something that I cannot envision.

    • Thanks for your ideas. I have tried several different fabrics I own for the sky/sea, but found all of them too strong for the land mass. Rather than conducting a possibly fruitless search for just the right color I opted for the lighter recolored fabric. If I do make other versions of this scene I will of course be trying other color schemes to reflect different times of day (or night.)

  5. Laceflower

    I love the piece, it’s bold and evocative. As the others have said, listen to others comments, consider, use or discard. I belong to a critique group and its purpose is to grow and improve our work with impute that we may or may not use but helps us see other possibilities that didn’t occur to oneself.

  6. Your art and vision…absorb the opinions/observations of others and use what enhances that vision. On your own art, it really is all about YOU!!

  7. Barbara

    I think it is wonderful. You are a mature artist with great instincts. This bold piece depicts the scene in a unique way (most people would emphasize the water — as your photo does), but instead you captured the 3d dimensionality of the cliff. When I teach, I show my students other possibilities to expand their thinking but urge them to do what feels right to them. When listening to critique I try to figure out what the person is bothered by and in what way, then consider what changes would address that. Once I’ve thought it out, I consider or reject the comment. Just a question, are these people whose work you admire? Maybe they aren’t as evolved or sophisticated as you. 🙂

    • Thank you. As I said before, I’m not seeking compliments, but trying to address the possibility that my opinion is wrong. The comments I reacted to concerned the colors used and the simplification of the scene. BTW, I included the photo to show what Big Sur actually looks like, but I didn’t work from it.

  8. Would it be fair to say that you defer to the advice if you feel it will enhance or improve the piece. What you feel, not them. It’s your piece, so you get to make that decision. At least that’s what feels right to me.

  9. OMG – this piece is gorgeous! I love the fabrics you chose. And your “use it up” plan is great – backs do not have to match the front of the quilt. To heck with those who are misjudging your project. Go for it!

  10. As always, I appreciate you sharing some of your process. I really like this piece. From your past posts I know you are much better at listening to and learning from critiques/opinions of your artwork than I would ever be. I wonder – Are people more apt to offer up an opinion/critique to a quilt makers because they think a quilt (art quilts in particular) can simply be changed? Does it seem easier than painting over a painting to them? If it is a teacher during a class/workshop, that’s different. But I guess my art and making it, feels really personal to me and so I don’t usually care what others have to say during the wip. If a piece is finished and a person is telling me what that see in it or their interpretation of it, that I usually find interesting. I should note that I live with an artist and when asked, because of some self doubt on my part, they don’t hesitate to tell me what they think!

    • Sounds like you have an in-house peanut gallery. I try to be open to critiques as I know I am a bullheaded person whose first response is to be defensive. I hope I’ve become humbler with age. And yes,it’s much easier to change a painting (unless it’s watercolor.)

  11. Gail

    Unfortunately when others give opinions they expect you to implement their ideas. My view of opinions, however, is that they are additional information. They may point out things I didn’t consider or even think about. I like to take opinions, mull over the suggestions, extract what I think will work and ignore the rest. Now if I were selling the piece, that is a different matter. If all the people expressing an opinion said the same thing I would go with that even if it differed significantly from my plans as the object is to make money from the piece.

  12. Li

    I think you nailed it. Especially choosing just the right contrast between cliffs and sea. I would be proud to own this piece.

  13. Linda

    I usually go with my gut but sometimes I decide to follow the advice and try something new that I never would have tried without the advice. Depends a lot on how attached I am to the quilt and my vision. Usually if I ask it’s because I don’t have a vision of my own that I’m happy with.

    • I understand. I, too, have benefited from advice that has led to stronger work. As I said in another comment, I have a few different visions of this scene in my head, but for now this is the one that I’ve realized. It may be that I’ll use the comments I’ve received to inform another version, but I don’t plan to change this version.

  14. That cliff face is stunning! Walk away and come back if you need to, but please don’t give up on this project.

  15. Sherrie Spangler

    My very humble opinion is that I like it better when I cover up the blue and only see the land mass. But then that changes the story.

    • At one point I considered making two or three different versions of the scene, but I didn’t have the fabrics for what I had in mind – different times of day, different perspectives, etc. Certainly one of those versions could have been land only. However, I wanted the jagged edges of the cliffs, which meant I needed something behind them, like sky or water.

  16. frances temchin

    I think the front is beautiful. It is a very complete idea. The back feels like stubbing your toe. I get the reusing idea but I think it detracts from the strength of the front.

    • Thanks for your kind words about the front. Stubbing your toe! That amused me. I get that the back is a total change from the front, which would concern me more if this were a quilt to be used as anything other than a wall quilt. I confess that many of my backing choices result from a desire to use up stuff rather than aesthetics. One part of me likes the reminder that for every strong piece I make there’s at least one mess. After reading your comment I did stamp over the back with a blending pattern and color to reduce the shrillness. Please continue to be forthright in your comments.

  17. Barbara Haugen

    No misjudgment! This IS a beautiful, evocative piece, and I really love and appreciate how you showed us your process in getting from photo to fabric. I am personally fond of art that is somewhat abstract, yet still recognizable and would like to be able to do that myself. You are inspiring me to make my next 30-day self-challenge about simplifying and abstracting photos for paintings or fabric pieces. Thanks!

    • Thanks. I appreciate your views though my aim was not to beg for compliments. I hope you go through with your proposed challenge as simplifying photos really helps train the eye to see the essentials.

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