Saturday, July 18, 2009

It's July?

I could tell you this fantastic story about my adventures since my last post, how I've been to the Antarctic and dog sledded to the South Pole, or maybe how I've made the ascent to Mt. Everest, but I'm pretty sure nobody would believe it. So what have I done lately? Been to QSDS, came home, unpacked, got back into the routine of ordinary life. What did I bring home from QSDS - my class wasn't a stroke of lightning where I discovered some amazing new artistic direction to pursue. But I did bring home a tool of sorts: we made little 4"x6" compositions, some in black and white, some with color. These served as exercises and some were put up on the board to illustrate principles of good and not so good composition. Elizabeth Busch, our mentor, selected some from the group and arranged them on the board with the good compositions at the top and moving down towards the not-so-good ones at the bottom. We discussed what made these work and why the less successful ones didn't work. It's difficult for me to verbalize what is a good composition, but I know it when I see it. I think. Anyhow, whenever my little cards showed up on the wall, they were in the top row, in the company of the "good" compositions. Doesn't mean all the cards I did were good, of course, but at least some made the grade.

This is a greyscale version of one of my cards. While at QSDS I attempted to make this piece on a larger scale and did put something together. It didn't quite have the same impact as the card, mostly because the proportions were not the same. I needed to find some method of enlarging the image to the size I wanted. Elizabeth suggested an opaque projector. Others suggested scaling up using a grid. Both of these had to wait until I got home. I was able to borrow an opaque projector from someone but I wouldn't get my hands on it for a few days, so I did the gridding technique. Oh my, how tedious can you get? Trying to keep track of which little box I was working on, and figuring out the fractional parts of lines nearly drove me to distraction, but I did finally make a full size cartoon of this piece at about 40"x60", and then made patterns for the various pieces. It's finished now and I'm please with the results. I haven't photographed it yet so I can't share it at this point.

Now I'm ready to begin working on the second card that I did. (We actually did about a dozen in class, but as I said, not all are worthy of prime time.) While still at QSDS I pulled out some fabrics trying to pull this one together, but what I couldn't quite get were the subtle shape and line variations that make this work so well visually. Using blocks of fabrics with straight edges made the design clunky and much less interesting. I need to have a "pattern" to follow.

This is the card in the actual colors I used, little swatches of fabric that were right at hand. By now I have the opaque projector and wanted to try it to scale this up. The projector came with no instructions but it's supposedly simple enough that directions aren't really needed. Which means I spent some time figuring out how to get it to work and get the image in focus. It was not a successful venture and I will be returning the projector to my friend. What I did instead was scan the postcard and bring it into Photoshop Elements where I could enlarge it to the desired size. Usually, enlarging images is not recommended because the image quality degrades severely, but in this case, image quality is not an issue. Then I printed it out onto about 35 sheets of paper, one 8"x10" section per sheet. After trimming the margins down to the edge of the image, I could tape the papers together, and voila! my full size cartoon. So much easier than trying to draw it or grid it up.

I have some of the fabrics selected and will be working on this for the next few weeks. I'm excited about this new (to me) tool of little card compositions and have been making a few here and there as practice. One is already selected to be the next piece.

I have a new book in my library - Ann Johnston has re-issued her book The Quilter's Book of Design. I have the first edition and really thought it was well done and this one adds a lot more information and examples. It doesn't seem that there are many design theory books that are geared towards quilters, many of whom do not have art backgrounds (like me). Ann's book relates the theory to a medium that is familiar and that makes it very much more understandable. If you're well acquainted with the principles of design, this book is a good review with lots of illustrative pictures. If it's all new to you, this is a great introduction.


The Idaho Beauty said...

Thanks for sharing your card compositions and your travails in sizing them up! Good to hear another review of Ann's book - it's on my list of must gets.

turtle said...

I remember learning neat ways to create simple and interesting compositions, but after a while I fell out of the habit. Thanks for the reminder. Im going to get started again. Your work is amazing.

Jenny Bowker said...

I definitely would not believe dog-sledding to the South Pole - they are not allowed to have dogs down there as they find penguins delicious.

I like the blog though.

Cathy Kleeman said...

The little cards are a great exercise, but I've learned that you have to do a bunch at a time to get into the groove. And no dogs at the South Pole? I never knew that!