In the week since I wrote about the Map Play class I took with Valerie Goodwin, I read two posts about art classes. The first by Jane Davies responds to a student’s comments that she wanted to play and have fun at a workshop and then had a meltdown when she was asked to dig deeper.
From Jane Davies’ blog.
Making art IS about play and it IS fun, but that is not all it is, usually. If you are always playing and having fun, with no angst or frustration, and you are also generating images that really speak to you, that you find compelling, then that is just GREAT! Congratulations. Most of us also have moments of frustration and occasional meltdowns or at least self-doubt. Learning how to navigate these skillfully is part of the process.
The second, Chris’ Quilting Universe post, Am I Addicted to Taking Classes?, reviews all the quilt related classes Chris has taken and the work that resulted from them. She has taken a wide variety of classes, ranging from year long master classes to online multi-lessons to one shot workshops.
Do you take classes to learn a process or leave with a product? Do you want to learn to make art like that made by the instructor? Do you want a two hour class at a quilt show or a five day immersive course? Do you want a deep dive into one teacher’s methods or a potpourri of many teachers’ approaches?
A further permutation is in-person versus online classes, and a distinction between live online and prerecorded. An additional nuance with any online class is the amount of interaction possible with the teacher and other students. I have taken classes where I had access to videos with no interaction, to videos with a class blog, and to videos with some sort of proprietary discussion forum. Some classes use Facebook.
These are very different animals, and I believe one’s expectations should reflect the differences. For example, I took a three hour Zoom class on sewing paper collage with David Owen Hastings. I learned a well explained technique that required a minimal amount of supplies. All interactions occurred during the class, with no subsequent followup.
I also took Elizabeth Barton’s year long master class that required a deep commitment to developing designs and executing them each month. While the students could and did comment on each others work, the main focus of the class was improving our designs through Elizabeth’s critiques, which were copious. Each month we developed sketches in response to a theme, chose one to turn into a quilt, and then made the quilt.
Right now I’m taking a year long set of mixed media classes called Wanderlust. The classes are loosely organized around basic art supplies like gesso, acrylic paint, modeling paste, etc., but each instructor pretty much presents her own thing. (I have yet to see a male instructor.) While I have learned a lot about materials and techniques, I find some of the instruction to be overly focused on “playing and having fun” and what I call greeting card art. To me the missing element is learning to evaluate your work. With so many instructors and students, comments on anyone’s work is pretty much limited to “great,” “nice,” “how sweet,” etc. It’s hit or miss whether the instructor comments on student work.
Such an approach is great if your goal is to play. I have to say I had hoped for less overlap of techniques and more building on previous techniques. Again, that’s probably not doable with so many instructors. I have learned there are as many ways to glue paper as there are teachers.
This week I’ve reflected on all the quilt/art related classes I’ve taken thanks to Jane and Chris, and decided that the ones I benefited most from were process related, with a critique/feedback component. The absolute worst class I ever took was on paper and cloth marbling. All the students shared one container for marbling and we were to take turns. Let’s just say there were some interpersonal issues. I figured the two fat quarters I marbled cost $25 each, and they were ugly. I won’t try to name the best class I ever took as there are too many candidates.
I’d love to hear about your experiences with art classes, both in person and online. Do you have any recommendations for outstanding classes/teachers?
Recalibrating in 2022
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.
Filed under Art quilts, collage, Commentary, mixed media
Tagged as 2022, art quilts, mixed media, workshops, year end wrapup, yearly goals