Word Processing

Words, words, words. I'm sorry, but today I'm going to write a lot of words. It won't be for the faint of heart. It's going to be stream of consciousness, so have your fire extinguishers handy. You might want to turn off the smoke detectors too. There will be no actual fires set in today's post, just the figurative ones that get started whenever actual thinking occurs at this end.

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.

16 comments from clever and witty friends:

Pamela said...

I totally agree with this post! We spend too much time telling ourselves that "I can't" do this or that, when we should just do it and know that it will be just fine! You are going to make a wonderful quilt out of that photograph, and I can't wait to see it!

gpc said...

1. You are already creative and quite amazing, and I'm glad you've decided to claim some of it. 2. I read Magic after your last Eliz Gilbert post -- creativity is not the big lack in my life (which is to say, I could use work in that area, but it isn't my main focus at the moment), so I am still trying to work through how to apply that same kind of courage to the things that matter most to me. Read Eat Pray Love, too, and see what you think -- that one resonated with me big time. 3. The photos are beautiful, ALL of them. I can't wait to see what final vision works its way through you. 4. Although the original cactus seems very sepf respecting to me, I am glad to see that you added a little yin to its very obvious yang. :)

Debbie said...

Great post.....I think you found some super mojo. You are the maker, creator of art, even if you don't feel like a great artist. I doodle, or trace and never tell anyone I can't draw well. Make the quilt/blocks from your vision of your memory.....sounds like a perfectly fine plan to me. And your photos are always great I think. :)

Quilting Babcia said...

Well, my tablet won't load the last photo under the covers, which I think is perfectly appropriate. Time to get out in the sunshine and just make that masterpiece, we all know you can do it, after all we've been reading your blog all this time! We've seen what you're capable of, and we keep coming back for more.

gayle said...

Psst - you don't have to be able to draw to be an artist. You're an artist because of the way you look at things and think about things and feel things. You've got all that covered. 8)

Lyndsey said...

You are VERY creative, fabulously so. I love your work and I can't wait until you start on that landscape. I love a good adventure and this creative quilting adventure is going to be fascinating.

quiltzyx said...

Well said Gayle! I was lucky enough to have an art teacher here & there who were great cheerleaders. I took a water color class at Pasadena City College & I wish I could remember the teacher's name, but he was wonderful. Many of the folks in the class (a night class) had never taken any kind of art class before. But when we put out paintings up for critique, he found something in EVERY one that was terrific - "this spot here, look how the color has swirled around". I'm not sure he ever said anything negative, just always encouraged everyone to do their best. I think as long as you try to do the best you can do, you're doing great!

Ann said...

Love your Doors of Ireland quilt. Classic setting. Your work inspires me to be more creative. You rock.

Dixie said...

I said to myself, "Look how great Barbara's quilting is! You can do that." And then I looked at the quilt I have designated as my first effort and none of those great quilting designs come to my mind. It's a blank up there. I think you are very creative, not only with fabric but with words too. Not an artist? Bah! I don't believe that. So what if every quilt isn't an original design, you have "created" them with your choices and methods. I am looking forward to seeing your ideas for quilting the Doors of Ireland! Maybe you will inspire me to do just one little tiny squiggle on my quilt. I do have to start with one, right?

Vroomans' Quilts said...

I have trouble drawing a straight line with a ruler - but it doesn't stop me. We are our own worst critic. Sweetie, breath and go with it. You have spread your wings and soared - and I love that - that is creativity all in it's own.

LethargicLass said...

I love your Doors of Ireland quilt because it amazes me how well you were able to transfer your ideas from photo to fabric... I look up to you as someone who can create beautiful pieces without fear, so remember that next time your brain starts to rebel against you :)

Lynn - JnL4God said...

I so relate to all you've said. My insecurities kept me from quilting my own quilts - but I'm eating the elephant one quilt at a time. :) I'm not as smooth as I want to be but each quilt gets better.
I'm glad you're going forward - I'm pushing myself to keep going too. Excited to see where you go from here. :)

Auntiepatch said...

We all have self-doubt but you have to push through. My mother told us, "You can lead or be caught up in the stampede. Where would you rather be?" So, if you have an idea for something, GO FOR IT!

Claire said...

Artistic license is a wonderful thing. I love the to-be-inserted saguaro! You go girl!

Dana Gaffney said...

It's typical of our insecurities that simple innocent comments can trigger so much self doubt, if I was the original poster I'd be feeling awful to have made you question yourself, obviously one of my insecurities. I like to believe we all have different levels of artistry and we use them in different ways, your quilts are wonderful, but so is your cooking, writing and gardening. Look around you and embrace who you are.

Kate said...

It is sad how we sometimes let one comment make us feel bad. You are one of the most creative and brave quilters I know. I adore the Teachers quilt you are making for your friend. It's been so fun to see how you approach each new block and use all those classes and techniques you've acquired. Watching you take those images from paper to fabric is amazing. You share your triumphs and aren't afraid to share the missteps you have along the way. So I'll be looking forward to you sharing the creative process you use to translate that photo into fabric.