APWQ Friday: Elements of Art for Quilters

Today's class was Elements of Art for Quilters, taught by Lyric Kinard. I'm also taking Lyric's class tomorrow, entitled "Abstract-a-Licious". She is also teaching a class this evening for which there was no charge entitled, "Creative Collaborative Collage". I'm not sure I'm going to attend that since I'm really quite tired. 

Today's topic was completely outside my comfort zone, and therefore stressful. These "elements" are not unlike the "elements" taught in basic photography books. And let me tell you, I've read just about everything about photography that I can lay my hands on. Nevertheless, there were a few things that were unique to quilting, and so I'll tell you what I learned today that gave me something to think about. 

What made the day stressful is this: In photography, a scene is laid out before my eyes. All I need to do is train my eye to see it, and then frame it properly in my viewfinder. Of course, there are a few technical matters to consider as well, but choosing something to photograph is fairly easy once you know what you're looking for.

In quilting, I am called upon to create something that is pleasing to the eye. That is where I fall short, no matter how forgiving of my skills I try to be. Nothing I did today made me proud of my work, or made me want to try again. A whole day of that is not only no fun...it is exhausting. Toward the end of the day, I found myself restless and bored. But Lyric started the day reminding us that when we learned to read, we didn't start off with Shakespeare. First we had to learn the "alphabet" and today's class should be considered an introduction to the "elements" in the form of a five-letter alphabet.

So that's quite an intro...really wants to make you read further, doesn't it? But take heart...perhaps I'll tell you something you'll find helpful. But here's the thing: no laughing! (Unless I say something funny...then it's okay to laugh.)

This is Lyric's book...we covered only the first two chapters in today's class. According to Lyric, we'll get into the third chapter tomorrow. Maybe I'll find that part more gratifying as we put this "elemental alphabet" to work in quilting.

While I'm generally too shy to ask for this, I did ask Lyric to autograph my book, which she did happily.

Nice try, Lyric. I'm working on it. Really. And then, class got under way.

The first element we talked about was "Texture". Texture is what makes you want to touch a quilt. It can be created by fabric, piecing lines, quilting lines, embellishments, etc. She explained that when your fabrics are solids, the piecing lines tend to be dominant. In tone on tones, the fabric lines tend to be dominant, and that the lines will blend in more than piecing lines. There is also "imitative texture" where cloth is used to portray something hard, as in a landscape quilt.

Notice in these examples that stitching, fabric, embellishment, and piecing all create texture...something you can touch.

Our exercise was to take a piece of neutral fabric and create texture from its flat surface in any way we could. For my piece, I folded the fabric, cut it, frayed it, and added loose fibers as "embellishment". 

Throughout the day, we did "walkabouts" to look at the work of our classmates, and then talk about what stood out, what we noticed, what we liked, what drew our eye. After this walkabout, we identified the many ways that texture can be created from a flat piece of cloth. A few examples include folding, fraying, weaving, knotting, rolling, folding into flowers, cutting, stitching, embellishing...you can probably think of others.

From there, we moved onto "Shape". Shape can create a feeling of stability, strength, calm, peace, tension, chaos, etc. It can also add movement, especially in the case of curves, diagonals and non-straight lines. Here are a few examples of what I'm talking about. 

The two creations below are essentially the same design, but in the lower one, shapes have been added to the background. Lyric pointed out that the background also has a shape, and that there are ways to use the background to create feeling and movement as well.

In the next example, the shape can easily be identified as a leaf. 

In the next example, you have the same shape, but now it is less identifiable. This is an example of open and closed forms. In the closed form, the entire shape is within the frame. In the open form, only a part of the shape is contained within the frame.

In the next example, both foreground and background carry equal weight. Who can say which is more important to the piece? It all depends on one's point of view.

It's similar to the optical illusion below:

Do you see a vase? Or do you see two faces?

For our exercise, we were to use two fabrics to create either stability or something else (I chose chaos, since that was easy).

From there we moved onto the third element, "Line". In quilting, line is fairly easy to create by using piecing or quilting stitches. It can be made from dark lines, light lines, skinny lines, heavy lines, arrow lines, narrow lines, wide lines, and also by the gaps or spaces between the lines. 

If there is an "eye" in the piece, lines can be implied since it is human nature to look in the direction that others are looking. Think about someone standing on a public street looking up at the sky. It is nearly impossible to resist the urge to follow their gaze. She used this quilt below to demonstrate. See how the deer is looking at the bird in the tree? Does your eye want to look where the deer is looking?

Line takes the eye on a journey. Consider the intent. What word comes to mind as you look at the following examples?

Line can also create movement. Consider the images below...all human forms. Which one conveys the most movement?

For our exercise, we did some drawing. Yes, my favorite thing. Drawing...the thing I do worst of all. I'm not even going to show you what I did, so bad is my drawing. Still, the exercise was valuable in that it forced us to really look and see. For example, I was drawing the lines of the library building I showed you in yesterday's post:

Notice the converging lines of the sidewalk...how they get closer together as they get farther away. Also notice the broken vertical lines in the sidewalk that interrupt the horizontal lines. Look at the tall column to the left of the door. One is tempted to dismiss all the openings as windows, but notice how different they are. The top window is actually two windows, while the one below it is just one window. The one below that isn't a window at all, but some sort of opening for ventilation. This morning, I was looking at the scene in the bright sunlight, and so the shadows weren't present. But just for grins, notice the lines in the shadows as well. What do they suggest to you that is unseen and outside the image?

When we went back inside, we discussed what I just talked about in the paragraph above. Then, she played different musical pieces for us, and asked us to draw as if free motion quilting. Depending on the song we were listening to, the lines might be jagged or they might be more curvy.

From there, we moved onto "Color". Color is about relationships. Think of the color wheel and consider these concepts. Colors beside one another on the color wheel are "analogous" relationships. Colors opposite one another are "complimentary" relationships. And then there are color schemes: monochromatic (all one color), triadic (three colors), polychromatic (using all colors on the color wheel). Depending on the relationship between the colors you are using, colors will pop brighter or less bright. 

Consider the examples below. Purple and yellow are complimentary colors. Look at how much brighter the yellow lemons look against this purple background

when compared to this gray background.

(As an aside, Lyric told us that the lemons were painted with actual lemons. She cut the fruit, let it dry, then carefully dipped it in paint to make them look like actual lemons. Cool, huh?)

But to get back to color, cool colors are the colors you might see at sunrise (thinking like a photographer now). Look at how different the next two examples look...this one in cool colors

this one in warm colors (the colors you might see at sunset).

And here's something interesting. In this next example, all the small green squares are exactly the same. Look at how different they look when placed on different backgrounds.

From there our exercise was to use the same shapes to create monochromatic color schemes

and some other color scheme. I chose an analogous triad.

And then we created yet another triad. In this case, I chose a complimentary triad using the secondary colors of purple, green, and orange. 

Yeah...and go Beavers!

So we finished the five elements by talking about "Value" or the lightness or darkness of a color. Value creates depth, with light values coming toward you, and darker values moving away from you. Here's a good example of that...and I actually really like this piece:

Value was pretty easy. For our exercise, we were asked to use different fabrics to demonstrate light (or high) value and dark fabrics to create dark values, and then to use both to demonstrate contrast. Here's mine.

For the final exercise of the day, we were randomly given one of the five "elements" and then a word to go along with it, and we were asked to create something to demonstrate the element and the word. I thought I drew a hard one with "line" and "multiply". Multiply? Really? I didn't know what to do, but the first thing that popped into my head was lines getting closer and closer together...multiplying as they got closer. I chose the black and white lined fabric scrap because it seemed to demonstrate "tension" to me, and so I thought about using the "lines" in the fabric and the design to multiply the tension. At first I just had the horizontal pieces. And I wasn't happy with that, and so I added the black piece on the left, thinking that as the pieces got wider, they also multiplied the tension. 

Yeah, like I said. Nothing here I'm particularly proud of. As I was walking back to my room, I wondered if it would have been more effective if I'd turned it upside down. What do you think?

No opinion at this end.

So that was my day. It's time for this evening's activity to start, and I'm still sitting here typing. Obviously, I'm not going. I think a break from people and learning will do me good. 

As I was walking back from dinner, someone who is attending the same event asked me if I had enjoyed my dinner. "No," was my reply. She whipped around as she walked past, smiling, and said, "So, situation, normal, eh?" (There are a lot of participants from Canada here.) Yes, the food continues to be astonishingly bad. It looks appetizing enough...and then you taste it. Tonight I had a sort of orange-looking chicken. There were also some noodles, and the chicken had a lot of sauce, so I put the chicken over the sauce. It looked good enough to eat! It wasn't. I ate a few bites, and then turned my attention to the fresh fruit I'd served myself. The fresh fruit tasted like I expected. Then, I tried the rather appetizing-looking piece of chocolate cake with a white frosting that looked rather suspicious. Nevertheless, chocolate, right? It had these hard lumps in it that were of great concern. After a few bites, I gave up on that too. Oh well.

Matthew lived on campus for his first two years at Oregon Institute of Technology. He complained constantly about the food. I always thought he was making too much of it, but now I'm feeling more sympathy for him, having tasted how truly bad campus cafeteria food can be. I guess it's my just desserts for doubting him. (Ha! Get it? Just "desserts"? Sometimes I'm just so funny I can't believe it.)

So that's it from me for the day. Don't forget the Pets on Quilts show starts tomorrow!

9 comments from clever and witty friends:

ipatchandquilt said...

I love to read about all of your adeventures! Sure sound you have plenty to think about. For me, sometimes the "click" comes weeks later... Things have to perculate, :-)
Hope the food gets better!

quiltzyx said...

That seems like a lot to take in all at one time. Like Esther said above, maybe some of it will percolate out later on. I liked all the "line" work. And I've doodled to music before too, that looks like fun to me. :D Color is always fun too. You're good at that! For your "line"/"multiply", I like the big black piece on the left, better than the reverse, but I couldn't tell you why.
Sorry the food is so nasty. I really don't remember much about the food when I lived in the dorm - what I do remember was having chocolate milk "on tap"!! And going into lunch after volleyball practice & getting 3 glasses of chocolate milk & 2 of ice water! Oh! I do remember once we got BBQ grilled steaks, and because I worked in the cafeteria, I got mine "custom" cooked - we ate before everyone else came in.

Brita said...

I'm really happy you posted this! I keep thinking I should learn this artsy (or is that artists'?) stuff. But I have the same reaction when I delve into it as you've had. I guess I just don't get it. So I'll roll with my own intuitions about color, line, blah blah, which seems to work for me pretty well. And you, too! But do let us posted on your classes, and if things begin to click :-)

liniecat said...

An interesting postb this, thank you, Id seen Lyrics dvd think it was and wondered whether to buy it.
All very informative but as said above, that's a lot to take in all at once, though with that grounding, hopefully youll go back to various stages at your own leisure.
Loved the chaos choice lol made me chuckle out loud there!
Im convinced that same library building and pathway up to it, is featured as a background in a find the, this, that and the other pc game my grandson was playing on my lap top!

Debbie said...

You are on overload right now I think. tons of info and not enough time to work thru it all! Soak up what you can and look for the parts that reflect what you like. As for the food....wish I could send a chef to get you thru it.

kc said...

Wow, that's a lotta stuff to take in. I think by the end of 6 hours of that, I'd be bonkers. Oh, who am I kidding..I doubt I'd last THREE hours, so, my hat's off to ya! It's all very interesting, and I have to admit, when I saw the lemons, my mouth started watering, and I was all puckered up, but geepers, that's a lotta stuff to remember.

I liked the value trees, too...and that's a good principle to remember, since it can be used in quilts, other art, and even garden planning. Thank you for sharing all this data - I can imagine you coming back to it at some point, just for reminders. I might too, maybe, if I remember you did it. :)

Dana Gaffney said...

I think you'll absorb some of it over time, it certainly seems like a lot to take in. You need to feed Matthew something wonderful when you get home.

Melinda said...

I took this class from Lyric in Houston last November. I loved the class.

Kate said...

Lots of stuff to take in. I like your last piece, turned either way.