…great art does not happen without a plan, just like a memorable road trip can’t come to fruition without a reasonably up-to-date map. 😉 In other words, don’t always rely on your GPS… ask me how I know!
If you know the route you will take it will never be an accident to create a strong piece of art or cohesive body of work for that matter. Those with experience will agree here, that to start with a “big picture”, a vision of what the final work will encompass, is the first step on the journey. Once you have the “big picture” you can move into defining several details. Conjure up techniques, colour schemes, thoughts on embellishments for the final presentation and if they are really necessary… start imagining and dreaming! A journal or small notebook is incredibly helpful as it will provide jumping off points along the way, and yet it will also help to refocus if the artist has gotten lost for a bit and needs to find her way back to the main route established at the beginning.
From personal experience I often have the big picture down in my sketchbook but once I start in on the details I have a tendency to get sidetracked. I often get too focused on the supplies I need and I know that by the time I obsess about my tools I am way off course. It is not about the gear or tools when we create art, it is all about embracing creativity with tools and supplies we already have in our possession. It’s so easy to put off starting new work because we think we need something different. Granted, sometimes a specific thread, a new sharp set of needles are necessary but we never need a new machine or attachment for that machine to proceed. Google is your friend and YouTube is full of great videos on how to master the tools you have on hand. There is never just one way to overcome an obstacle or roadblock.
It is at this point that I would like to share an important message: It is vital to recognize when a piece of work does not measure up. Yes, granted: we are often our own worst critic. If you are unsure set the piece aside, wait for a time where you have fresh eyes for the work (this can take from a few hours to a couple of weeks or even longer!). Alternatively you may wish to solicit advice from a friend or mentor/teacher, people you trust who will be honest with their input and feedback that will ultimately help you stretch and excel. Friends are often emotionally involved and don’t want to come across as negative. Try to establish a strong network of support early in your career. We cannot get better alone! Make regular feedback a part of the creative process and don’t be afraid to reach out.
Art Quilt Campus was such a great place to connect with peers and like-minded people. This is where the importance to join a learning community moves into the spotlight. Perhaps you are unable to physically join such a community. There are options online these days. Many instructors have successfully moved into the ZOOM platform for teaching and seminars. There is such an option available here. While individual consultations have been popular I have had a number of former students approach me with the idea of setting up a small critique group, one that meets monthly or every other month for an hour to 90 minutes to share. If you have any interest in such a virtual community please contact me and I will add you to the growing list. To facilitate I would charge a small fee ($10 – $20 per person depending on how many people are interested in participating. If a group is keen on such a format I could offer a subscription fee which makes it more affordable in the long run. All great ideas and suggestions… click on the highlighted word send me an email if this appeals to you!
Another fantastic practice to establish after the work is finished is to step back! We often suggest to take a photo of the work as you can then see it with fresh eyes by literally being removed a step or two. We become more astute in evaluating our own work that way. Often, if the work has great impact overall the details are also strong. If the details call for more impact the photo may reveal to you what is needed. If you are still uncertain, reach into your toolbox and call on input from your support network. When reaching out for input ensure you have specific questions prepared to keep the creative exchange focused and productive. Keep the socializing to a minimum or set up a separate time for chatting.
How can we stretch our observation skills further? Try to study other artists working in your genre. Yes, textile artists’ work is featured all over the internet. Pick up a book from the library. Read up about a specific artist’s path, their starting point, the journey along the way, influences over the years. Take notes (yes, again note taking) and then design and create a small piece of work based on that particular artist’s work. Carefully analyze what it was that captured your attention about the work. Was it the colour, the line quality, perhaps they are adding dimension to their work and you would like to explore this yourself…
All these questions will help you move forward on your path, adding experiences, not to mention those countless samples in technique and design. You are the captain of your own destiny. Nobody can do the work for you!
A couple of my go-to and favourite resources are:
Art & Fear – Observations on the Perils and Rewards of Artmaking by David Bayles and Ted Orland. This book has been invaluable to me over the years. It is available in hard copy and as a Kindle edition. Here is a link to Amazon.ca
The View From the Studio Door – How Artists Find Their Way in an Uncertain World by Ted Orland. Here is a link to the Amazon.ca. This book is available in hard copy only at the time I checked for it online.
Taking the Leap – Freeing Ourselves from Old Habits and Fears by Pema Chödrön. This book speaks to a more meditative approach but overall I found it spoke to us as artists, not just human beings. Here is a link to Amazon.ca. The book is available in hard copy and Kindle edition.
Thanks for your interest. May you find a few starting points in today’s post. Comments and insights are always encouraged and appreciated. And don’t forget to tune in again tomorrow morning for Installment 4 of this motivational series for artists. If you have not subscribed to this blog perhaps now is a good time to do so. Many thanks for your ongoing support!
Oh boy when I read that if you have a piece that you’re not happy with …. set it aside. I had to share my experience Anna! One of my now favourite pieces that I have in my show was once not set aside, but actually thrown into the closet! But after a year I pulled it out tweeted it, framed it and tadaaahhhh! I love it😊❤️
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Great story, Paula! We all have experiences similar to yours. One of my least liked hand-dyed piece ended up as a fractured quilt featured in a magazine and several group exhibitions… we just never know!
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