Last year I began to poke my head over the parapet a bit and get out more. The landscape has changed as online teaching and get togethers become more permanent. I am so over Zoom meetings, though it can work for classes.
I used the extra home time to dive into non fabric art mediums such as collage and mixed media. Of course that meant new supplies were bought and a new learning curve was begun, which was a good thing. The basics of design and composition carried over from quilting, of course, but different mediums have different pros and cons.
It is so much easier, probably too easy, to make changes with paint and paper than with fabric. One new supply that gave me trouble was brushes – which type of brush to use and how to handle it. I found a world of difference between flat and round brushes, and was astounded at the difference a good brush makes for watercolor. This is where videos have an advantage over in person instruction as you can rewatch a teacher wielding a brush until the knack becomes clear.
While I made fewer quilts in 2022 I didn’t stop making them. I finished fourteen quilts, though some had been started before 2022. I consider “Homage to Escher,” “Rhody,” “The Left Coast,” and “Happy Accidents/Chaos Theory” to be serious art quilts. Two are experiments that didn’t quite gel – “The Eyes Have It” and “Along Portage Path.” The rest are scrappy quilts that allowed me to play with color.
Except for “Homage to Escher” I enhanced these with paint, Neocolor II water soluble crayons specifically; and I used a Spoonflower printed fabric in “Homage.” I am learning that subtle gradations and blurring of color are more effectively done with paint than with fabric or stitch. It’s also much faster to do – a big factor for me.
In 2022 I entered my work in fewer shows. “Dreams of Freedom” was in the 2022 Sacred Threads show and “Shattered” was in Fiber Art Network’s Excellence in Quilts. Hmm, it seems I didn’t tell you about the Sacred Threads exhibit. I realized that if my work is accepted I can count on an overall outlay of about $100 for entry fees and shipping. That cost would be worthwhile if I were publicizing my teaching or felt my work would sell. Since neither applies, I now think long and hard before entering a show. Alas, there are few opportunities to enter local art shows. Summit Artspace in Akron offers a few juried shows open to all art mediums, and my “Still Standing” was included in their 2022 Fresh show. I did show “Calliope” at the non-juried Lake Farmpark show in northeast Ohio and won a blue ribbon for my category. However, I am over judges’ review of my workmanship, so I don’t plan to enter any more shows with that feature.
Of course learning never ends. I did no in person classes, but took a six hour Zoom workshop with Valerie Goodwin. It seemed to be a sped up version of a longer workshop, so I took in less than I had hoped. I really should have taken better notes. I also tried a free stitching workshop by Gwen Hedley from textileartist.org, but found the approach didn’t work for me. However, the website is full of stitching inspiration.
On the paper side I took an online gel printing class from Drew Steinbrecher, and a few freebies such as Drew’s collaged board books and that for Fodder Challenge. To gain more exposure to mixed media I signed up for the year long Wanderlust class series. I found the lessons to be hit or miss. I think I did about 50% of the classes. I did learn about materials and techniques new to me – gesso, modeling paste, watercolor painting, and portraiture. The organizers had developed a structure centered on materials such as gesso, acrylic paint, inks, modeling paste, watercolor, etc.; however, the instructors sometimes made just passing use of the materials for that unit and at least one totally ignored them. I thought some of the instructors’ samples were awful, but other students rhapsodized about how wonderful the lessons were. Students were encouraged to post their work. I was surprised to see how closely some followed the instructor’s sample. I concluded there are way too many butterflies used in mixed media works. All that said, some of the student work posted was wonderful.
I just reread my goals for 2022 (where I should have started the post,) and I’ve achieved about 75% of them. I completed one more panel of my unknown family series,with one more to come. All four scrap strip quilts are done and dusted. I have found new homes for many of my quilts, especially small ones, though I still have far too many. Hand stitching my wool squares to a background is my Florida vacation project.
My biggest art life disappointment in 2022 was the demise of an art quilt group I belonged to for many years. Granted it wasn’t in the best shape before 2020, but Covid put paid to it. The members didn’t want to try online meetings, and managed to meet only once after things opened up at a lunch hosted by a generous member. Radio silence ever since. Individual art friends have moved away so contact with them is now online rather than in person.
Overall, my 2022 was a year of pivoting to other art materials and trying for more deliberate creation of fiber art. I guess my improv urges moved over to paper, where for 2022 I had the excuse I was a beginner. I’ll lose that fig leaf in 2023. Time for the big girl pants.
Looking Forward to 2023
“We don’t have to live with our mistakes simply because we spent a long time making them, or we fear it will take a long time to correct them.” – Bonnie Hunter
I came across the above sentence by accident as I don’t read Bonnie’s blog every day. But I’m glad I read her January 4 post as I think I need to apply her attitude toward my work. Oddly, I don’t worry about mistakes in my quilting and have no problem cutting up or revising work I consider a failure. Yet, I am surprised to find I have fear of failure in painting and mixed media. It makes no sense as paint and paper are much easier to modify than fabric. Maybe it’s because with paint and paper you can never retrieve the work you’ve covered over, yet with fabric you can by removing the offending fabrics.
These thoughts bring me to one of my non quilting goals for 2023 – to review my work on paper with an eye to improving it or turning it into collage materials. If all else fails I will recycle it.
As you may know, I spent time in 2022 working on paper – collaging, gel printing, painting. My work is still clumsy and lacks polish, and glue and I are never going to be BFFs.
One overarching goal I have is to emphasize composition and design in both my fiber and paper work. Improv is fun, but I think it’s time I developed at least a modicum of a plan before I begin a work. It can be a sketch, a color scheme, materials to use, or even just a mood. My serious works in 2022 began with some sort of sketch, however rudimentary. Of course, I face the familiar problem that it’s more fun to work in the moment without planning. However, that often leads to less successful results, and certainly can take longer to reach a pleasing result.
Speaking of composition, I am working through a composition class from Laura Horn, and have looked at a short video by Judy Wood about the use of drawing to analyze a composition once you’ve started a piece. My in-box is inundated with offers for classes that focus on techniques, but I had to search for classes on composition. I get it. Composition is where the going gets tough. There are lots of basic “rules” of composition out there (here’s one from Skillshare) but I think it takes lots of practice and making bad art to get the knack.
I began 2023 with collage compositions in my board books. Chunks of paper make the work go fast and I’m recycling both the books and old papers. Since I didn’t want to bring many supplies with me to Florida, where I am now, I packed just text-heavy papers, Posca markers, board books, scissors, and a glue stick. So far I’ve made a collage a day, and have spent roughly an hour on each. Some let the colored gessoed background show while others cover up everything. Here are examples of what I’ve been making.
Obviously some are more successful than others. I see I favor vertical compositions and either under or over work my layouts.
To counter all that composition I am hand sewing down my felted wool squares with a buttonhole stitch. Very mindless, but NOT meditative. I despair of achieving consistent stitches, and keep going only because I already have so much time invested in this project. Once the last five squares are sewn I will square up the background and fuse felt to the back for stability. After that a bit of quilting, a binding, and then it will be DONE.
I realize there are eleven months after January to fill with goals for activities, but maybe I’ll take it a month at a time. I have only a few projects that carry over from 2022, mostly my fantasy town and unknown family. While I have printed inspiration photos for some new work, I haven’t yet come to grips with composition and fabric choices. I have no classes in mind, but I believe I would get the most benefit from intensive classes rather than short ones. Of course those are more expensive in terms of time and money, so I need to make sure they’re the right fit for me. Please let me know of any courses you’ve found helpful.
Sunday we return to the north. Luckily, there has been no snow in northeast Ohio so our driveway shouldn’t be blocked with a foot or so of snow. I look forward to reviewing my work done here in Florida and fixing it up with bits from my collection of paper.
I’m linking to Off The Wall Friday.
Filed under collage, Commentary, mixed media
Tagged as board books, buttonhole stitch, collage, composition, felted wool, goals, Judy Wood, Larua Horn