This morning I was sitting and just getting started on my latest Hocuspocusville block, while, I might add, I was enjoying my frogleg espresso.
Usually, I write my blog posts in the morning because I spend my hand-stitching time digesting what happened since we last talked and thinking about what I want to tell you next. That's exactly what happened this morning, except it's something I've been thinking about for a while.
I mentioned a few weeks ago that I'd recently taken to listening to the wisdom of Elizabeth Gilbert. She was being interviewed on NPR while I was out driving around (probably stuck in traffic), and she was talking about her new book Big Magic, which is about creativity.
I've never read any of her other books, but her discussion of this particular book resonated with me. I decided then and there it was going to the top of my books-to-read list. I happen to like to listen to audio books when I'm sewing, and so I started listening to it while making my November block for the Block Lotto:
This block perhaps illustrate why you should never grocery shop and never quilt while hungry. (See how I'm working in pictures to go along with all these words? Sneaky, huh?)
A few of you have been encouraging me to make more animal portraits, and I've been saying my next fling (perhaps "hurl" is a better word) into the realm of original designs is going to be a landscape quilt of the Sonora Desert. It's going to be from a photograph I took many years ago while in Saguaro National Park West near Tucson, Arizona. All I need now is the courage. And this is where the Big Magic book comes in because it's going to be the second time I've suddenly thrown caution to the wind while listening to Elizabeth Gilbert. Hopefully, she won't tell me to jump off a bridge at some point.
But here's something else: I'm just getting ready to start quilting the Doors of Ireland quilt...tomorrow is Q-day...and this quilt is a perfect demonstration of the fear that haunts me whenever I embark on original design.
Way back in Wayback Land, when I was just getting started on this, I posted one of the doors I'd made, and someone who shall remain nameless left this comment:
Your door looks great! Love all the details you are trying to fit in. Have you thought about using Prismacolor pencils for shadows? Like under the bench and along the window to create depth. Just a thought.
If you recognize yourself as the one who left this comment, please know that you didn't say or do anything wrong. In fact, I generally am very appreciative of creative suggestions, so please don't ever stop leaving them. Nevertheless, you hit a big raw nerve when you used the words "Have you ever thought...?" Because anyone who is insecure about their creative skills will see those words in big red flashing lights with sirens blaring. Not only that, but they'll totally miss the words "Your door looks great!" Why do you suppose that is? Are they not just as important as the other words?
So here's what my irrational critical inner voice said in response: "You're a terrible artist. She hates your work. Why did you even start this? You'll never get it finished, and if you do, it's going to be absolutely terrible...yammer, yammer, yammer, on and on and on..." And the thing is, every single door I made after that had those words echoing in my ear. I ignored them, but just barely.
Here's the thing: I don't claim to be an artist, and I never have. In fact, I will readily admit I'm a terrible artist, and I base this on the fact that I can't draw worth beans. But there are lots of "artists" out there making a good living doing very primitive drawings of things. Take Lynette Anderson, as an example. Perhaps she's a marvelous artist, but one of the things I love about her work is her primitive drawing. Take these cats, for example, from the "A Kitten's Tale" quilt (one of my favorite quilts ever).
The drawing is very primitive. Heck...I could draw a cat like that. The only things separating Lynette Anderson and me are imagination and courage.
When I realized that, I kind of got over myself a little bit, but I still approach this original design dilemma with great trepidation...which is just plain silly. If nothing else, the Big Magic book is pointing out to me just how silly it is to let this stuff get in the way of my imaginings.
After I finished the Block Lotto block yesterday, I came upstairs and started looking at the photograph that I want to do, and right away, I started getting discouraged about it. Here's the original photograph, which looks nothing like the landscape I saw on the day I snapped the shutter on the camera.
Obviously, it was a cloudy day, and I think I had the exposure compensation turned down on my camera. Cloudy days like this tend to blow out the image because the sky is bright, even though the sun is not. And what the heck is wrong with that cactus? Why couldn't it have been cooperative and been more saguaro-like? Why couldn't it have had some arms to go along with its skinny body? Huh? Why didn't the landscape before me know that about six months from when this picture was taken, I was going to take my first quilting lesson, and that I'd be hooked, and that some day I was going to want to make a landscape quilt of this image? Huh? Why?
And then, I realized that it didn't really matter that the picture wasn't perfect because I am going to stretch out and be creative! (Gulp.) And I have these gorgeous hand-dyed fabrics from Vicki Welsh that I bought specifically for this project!
And I took that class in curved piecing, and the one from June Jaeger, who gave me the idea to buy the overhead projector just so I could make a pattern for this quilt! Yes, all of that! So what's the big deal?
So...all of that to say that I fixed the photo to more closely resemble what I saw that day, and I cropped out that stupid cactus.
It's still not quite right, but that's okay, because I can use my imagination and my memory to create the landscape I want for my quilt.
And then I posterized it so that I could see the demarcations of color more clearly...I did this with my kitty portraits too. If you're using Photoshop Elements (Version 8), open your image in the editor and click "Filter" then "Artistic" then "Poster Edges".
And then, I picked a cactus with more self-respect than the original cactus, because I can put in whatever stinkin' cactus I want to put in because I'm being CREATIVE!!!
So there you go. Never let it be said that quilting is terrifying. All I need to do now is create some transparencies...one for the landscape and one for the cactus...and lay them on my cool overhead projector to enlarge them and then make a pattern.
I'm not sure when I'm going to do this, but soon. First, I have to quilt the Doors of Ireland because that project is going to be my masterpiece. You just wait and see. We're performing magic here at the Three Cats Ranch.
First, we'll spend a little more time with the covers pulled over our heads.