Friday, January 22, 2021

Let's Talk Art History on Off the Wall Friday



 How did I manage to go through 8 years of public school, 4 years of college prep, 4 years of University and STILL not get one iota of art history?  (To be fair, I believe, I may have gotten a smidgen in middle school but honestly that was all a hormonal blur so I can't be sure. )  For that matter, in the

Kids Art Based on Georgia O'Keeffe Cityscapes

ensuing 30 years things have not gotten much better.  With all the emphasis on standardize testing, it seems that art history has taken a back seat....a way back seat.

That said, it doesn't mean that art history isn't important or useful.  Of course, the most obvious way is that to understand a historical era you need to look at what was going on creatively in the culture.  Art can help give a clearer understanding of the times.  

BUT that is not where I'm going with this.  Today, I want to show how you can use art history to inspire your own art work.  I first got this idea when I started teaching art classes in the summer for my church.  I would give a lesson on a famous artist and then let the kids try their hand at creating their own art in the style of the artist.  (You can see those long ago posts Here and Here. )  The work they produced was amazing.  It really sparked the idea that art is built on those that came before us.  

  Over the years, I've designed several exercises inspired by master artists from the past.  As always some were successful, others were not so successful, ALL taught me valuable lessons in design and composition.  

 First ..... Pick An Artist..... Honestly, I think the best way to a successful art piece lies in it's foundation.  Do your research!!  If you don't know anything about art (like me when I started) google famous paintings and pick a few that speak to you. Then look up the artist and other works they created.  THEN read their story.  It's so easy to find short histories and most are fascinating.  Make a list of what you like about their work .... what characteristics jump out at you!


Armed with your new found knowledge....pick a design exercise!

#1 Pick a painting, take an interesting crop out of the painting, recreate it in fabric.

#2 Pick a painting, simplify it to basic shapes, pick a new palette and recreate it

#3 Create your own piece in the style of your inspiration artist or painting

#4 Pick a painting - make copies of it  - cut them up and reconfigure into a new composition

#5 Pick a painting - analysis the composition - recreate that composition using your subject matter

#6  Incorporate the list of characteristics of your chosen artist that spoke to you into your own piece

Those are just a few place to start.    Remember these don't have to be great masterpieces.  The value is in what you learn.  Still don't be afraid to take a successful try one step further into a bigger piece.   Try your own ideas and don't be afraid to share them!

So What Have Been Up to Creatively?

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Friday, January 15, 2021

My Goal Planning on Off the Wall Friday

 So after writing last week's post on SMART goal setting, I had a good idea on how to go about it.  Now I just had to sit down and do it!!  hmmmmmmmm...okay....where to begin.  As most times in life lately, it began with a google search (of course it did!).  That brought way more information on goal setting and goal setting worksheets than one girl really needs!!  I settled on a worksheet layout that was created by Aimee, at the Crazy Craft Lady.  I liked how she broke up the time for the goals into a 90 day period and then from there into 3 - 30 day periods.    90 days all seems more manageable than a full year.  Plus after 30 days, I can always adjust the specifics of the goal! 


Once I settled on a worksheet, it was easy enough to fill out using PDFescape.  Of course you could just print out the form and use a !!GASP!!.. a pen, but honestly my handwriting is so under utilized these days that its become illegible.  Coming up with the goals wasn't hard since two of them were staring me in the face everyday saying "Why aren't you working on me?"  As per SMART...


Specific ...Hand piece pinwheel quilt regularly, Complete my masterclass, Finish Abbey Quilt

Measurable...Hand piece 4 hrs a week, complete each weekly assignment from my masterclass, work 8 hrs a weekend on Abbey till it's done.

Achievable...That's 12 hrs a week sewing/creating is doable although I still work full time.  I should finish Abbey before my masterclass starts, but if not I'll adjust the timeline.

Relevant...All three goals are appropriate for my Master Vision and Purpose...To Work Routinely & Productively in my Studio 

Time Bound...The goals are all set up hourly, daily, weekly, monthly and finally in one quarter.  90 days later I can adjust and recommit. 

Now, I'm writing this all so you can see how I did it.   With all the information out there I didn't see one person actually put their goal process out as an example.  It didn't take me long to come up with this so I wanted to show that it's not as hard as it seems!  In fact, I'm thinking that writing these two posts is the easy part!  Getting the 12 hrs of work done each week is the hard part!!

Now onto Things I Like.....

Creative Classes!!  It's no secret that my favorite vacation is when I learn something new and

am able to refuel myself creatively!  This week I managed to make a new plan for 2021 after 3 such vacations got cancelled in 2020.  (Seriously worst vacation year ever!)

Quilting By the Lake has not managed to announce a summer schedule this year due to Covid, but did set up online Online Classes  & Workshops.  So I signed up for Rosalie Dace's Masterclass.  5 weekend  days of exercises lead by Rosalie who is safely home in South Africa.  It's not QBL but I will have the luxury of having my whole studio and fabric stash at my finger tips so that will be nice.  This starts the last week of February therefore, making it into my creative goals for this quarter.

John C. Campbell Folk School is resuming classes for June 1.  I'm signed up for a Embellishing Textile class with Jennifer Ries in August (my husband is going to learn to make brooms - apparently a life long ambition of his) and then I'll go back down in October to take a class with Mary Lou Weidman to try my hand at applique story quilts.  Both sound fun - both should ad a skill or two to my toolbox but more importantly fill back up my creative jug!

There ya go!!  Now it seems I have a plan for 2021!!  I think things are looking up!

 What Have You Been Up to Creatively??


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Friday, January 8, 2021

Setting Goals on Off the Wall Friday

 Is it just me, or did it feel like all of 2020 was spent just "waiting it out".  It kinda reminded me of my childhood in the 1970's on the Tug Hill Plateau in upstate New York. (And when I say Upstate NY, I don't mean 45 minutes north of New York City, but the truly Northern end of the state)  We would get these ridiculously huge snow storms where you were lucky to make it the mailbox more less to the grocery store.  You just spent the next few days, just waiting for the weather to break long enough to get shoveled out....or the sun to come out...or both.  That's what 2020 felt like  to me....just marking time

But honestly!  Enough is enough. It's time to stop sleep walking through the weeks and set some goals.  Now, don't get me wrong.  Goals are different than resolutions  which tend to point to everyday life improvements.  Goals are specific deadlines or targets.  It's a tangible finish line to reach too.  

Apply this idea to your creative life and see how much you get done in 2021.

Okay, got it!  So how do I do it?!


1 What are the results you want to see?  Is it project driven like finishing two large quilts in 2021.  Or maybe its technique driven...learning how to hand dye fabric.  Or maybe its productivity driven...spending 20 hrs a week in your studio.  Really the possibilities are endless.  I suggest you sit down and think what is REALLY important to you!  Brainstorm and make a list.  Now prioritize it.  Set the top few and file the rest for another time.

  Now that you know what you want to do, you need a plan.  You might have seen the acronym SMART around.

  • SPECIFIC- Exactly what you want to accomplish
  • MEASURABLE - Set up a way to keep track of your progress towards your goal.  Set up milestones or "mini-goals" to meet
  • ACHIEVABLE - Make sure that your goal and in extension the way you plan to obtain it are actually attainable.  This process is meant to be empowering and productive not discouraging and depressing.    Don't be afraid to ask for help.  Is there someone knowledgeable that can help you with what you want to learn?  Or maybe a friend or mentor that can hold you accountable to reaching your milestones. Set up the tools that will make your goal achievable
  • RELEVANT -  This is more important that you might think.  Okay so say your goal is to make two full size quilts this year.  Well that's all fine and good but why?  Is it just to say "Hey look at me.  I covered two beds in 2021!?"  Or are those two more installments in your latest series of quilts?  It's the difference between just randomly doing stuff just to have a goal for 2021 and using the goal to further the decade and eventually your whole creative life.
  • TIME BOUND -  Set a deadline....a REALISTIC deadline. I myself do well with mini-deadlines and treats along the way.  With a deadline looming, it's easier to complete the goal.

3.  Using SMART, set up an action plan. I highly suggest you write out exactly your milestones,
how you intend to achieve them and exactly when they are to be done.  I would also  use visual ways of measuring...think GOLD STARS or Days to Christmas ... you know what I mean.

4.  Take Action.  Put your plan into practice.  Use a charting system or calendar to mark off mini-achievements.  Brag to your best friend how you're doing.  Have her help you when ambition lags.

5.  Reevaluate.  Once the process starts, don't be afraid to reevaluate the goals and achievements.  If the timeline needs to be changed, do it.  The idea is to accomplish the goal, not to give up because it proved too unrealistic.  

Writing this all out gives me hope that I will actually get something done in 2021.  I'm still playing with the idea of putting my action plan on the blog and publicly  being held accountable.   Now THAT'S scary.  But honestly after 2020, a little boot in the pants toward a bigger goal is a NOT a bad idea!


Anyways, I hope this helps you as much as it's helped me!  Here's to a more productive 2021!


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Friday, January 1, 2021

Happy New Year ...Off the Wall Friday

So happy to see 2021!!

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Thursday, December 24, 2020

Friday, December 18, 2020

Let's Talk Composition on Off the Wall Friday

Symmentry, Framing, Rules of Thirds, Balance, Negative Space!!

 Recently I decided to catch up on my episodes of Quilting Arts and started watching Episode 2 of season 26, Natural Elements.  In it, Denise Oyama Miller and Nancy Ryan, showed their methods on how to make a confetti quilt or snippet quilt.  They started with their example and I thought, "WoW, how did they do THAT?"  Then they took 15 min and proceeded to show how easy it is.  Well, it is and
Focal Point, Rule of Thirds, Balance,NegSpace

it isn't.  

I've been intrigued by this technique ever since I saw some of Noriko Endo's work in person.  The whole idea of taking snippets of fabric and combining them into a painterly like fashion is very freeing.  The basic concept is that  you take a photo inspiration, do a simple line drawing from that and fill in the drawing with snippets of fabric like painting.  Then, you put black tulle over it, pin it down and sew over the whole thing giving it texture.  Easy right?!

Still the quilt is only as good as the original simple line drawing.  Now obviously, you can not teach a whole technique in a10 min segment on TV, but I was struck at how fast the design process of the quilt was glossed over.  "You take your inspirational photo".....okay, but how do you find a good inspirational photo?

Framing, Balance, Negative Space

The easiest way is use a photo you like from a professional (or competent) photographer.  Then you can use all your creative juices on learning the technique.  BUT do you want to do that?  It will always be someone's else vision of something pretty and moving.  Why don't you use one of your own photos. I would start taking photos of things that really speak to you.  It's so much easier now that everyone has a digital camera in their pocket.  The next challenge comes in composing the photo. 

lead linesBalance, Rules of Thirds



I have done posts before  on composition and also here  but it's been while.  So when you take your photo think about ....

FOCAL POINT....What are you taking a photo of?  Make sure that is prominent in the photo and in a good spot.  How to find a good place for the focal point? Use the Rule of Thirds!  It's not that you need to use this rule on every composition but its a good place to start.  Also, with photos, its a good way to help you crop your photo.

USE LEAD LINES...For photos it could be roads, horizon lines, trees, paths, shore line....anything that will help lead the eye of the viewer to your focal point.  Here are some examples using fine art!

A GOOD CROP....Crop anything out of the photo that is distracting

A Great Crop!

and doesn't need to be there.  Now this can be when you take the initial photo, or it can be when you edit the photo, or it even can be when you do the simple drawing for your quilt.

SYMMETRY or not.... Symmetry in a photo will always lead to a calm balance photo.  It can also be a strong compositional element or it used too much boring.  I personally like a bit more tension in my compositions so I tend to Assymentrical ones ...shrug... but that's me!

FRAMING ...Setting up your photo with a frame will add some drama to the composition, plus it will easily lead your eye to where you want it to go.  

BALANCE...meaning foreground, middle ground, background should all balance each other.  That said they don't need to be equal.  But adding depth to your photos will help with the composition.  

ODD NUMBERS RULE...Don't ask me why but humans like things grouped in odd take photos of things grouped in odd numbers ( which might mean you need to crop out that 4th flower).  I just proved this to my husband last week when we were grouping our santas on our wall unit.  Once they were grouped in three's and singles they looked so much better than a couple here and there.

Odd Numbers, Rules of thirds

NEGATIVE SPACE...Negative space is not your enemy.  Its okay to have empty quiet bits in your composition.  It will give your focal point more strength.  So if you photo has too much clutter, don't be afraid to crop it out!

Those are a good start (along with all the links).  I know I've written on this before, but when I saw the segment and it looked like you  just put a bit of a fabric here and there - sprinkle some here and there....I thought ....whoooaaa...its not that easy.  Of course, the artists knew that (and what I'm sure they teach in their classes). Its because of their experience they made it look so easy but random it is not!

Yes....Off the Wall Friday will be posted for upcoming the  holiday weekends....I mean really....they weren't going to let us out anyways....might as well sew under the mistletoe!!

So What Have You've Been up to Creatively?

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Friday, December 11, 2020

Back to Work on Off the Wall Friday

 Overheard at the Sayre's House....

    Paul:  Nina can I use your studio to wrap presents??

    Nina: Ahhhh...No...why would I let you do that?

    Paul:  Because I do it every year

    Nina:  But this year, I have the quilt I'm working on all over my table

    Paul:  Define "Working"

Honestly how did I marry that man!?!  But he's right.  I haven't been in my studio in ages and I know why.  When you're getting pulled into the Holiday Hoop-La its hard  to settle


into your creative active place.  Finally though I'm ready.  Two trees are up, outside lights are done, presents are all ordered (did anybody actually get to go out shopping this year?!?!) and I have plenty of vacation time that I need to use or lose. (once again...did anybody actually get to go on vacation this year?!)

So this evening, back into the studio.  WoW!!   I'm close to getting this quilt done.  I believe I left it in a place where I was over thinking the final layout.  Looking at it now, I think it looks great.  Crazy Busy but great.  Tonight I finished up two columns and I'll get the rest done tomorrow. 


The next step is finally try the Quilt as you go method.  After watching Marti Michell's craftsy video, I think I can handle it.  

Here in Northwestern PA, we are starting to hunker down again and wait out this virus.  All I can say, it's a good year to be a quilter!! 

I hope everyone is safe and healthy!!!

So What Have You Been UP to creatively?

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