Thursday, September 15, 2011

Practice Makes Perfect

There is so much to tell about my recent travels out West, but first I must catch you up on my summer of art.

I have been doing some sort of visual creative expression all my life. If you have read my blog in the past, you know something of my history of the pursuit of art vs craft. Every day there is a project (or three, or ten) that I wake up to and look forward to working on. And just as surely as I continue to "work" every day, I constantly hear from whose who do not, how talented I am, and how easy it is for me to achieve success. I use to just thank them for the complement and move on, but lately I feel the need to clarify the reality. No, it's not all innate talent, it's about passion to try and try again. And it is also about work and practice. Something over fifty years of daily practice surely will improve and refine many skills, and passion for the process as well as the results will show in the final product.

I have been a quilter for twenty years and with every quilted project I did, I included new techniques and skills. In quilting as in every other visual art, I make the project my own. This means that every time I start something, I must use my own ingenuity to figure out technical aspects, and how to best alter them to fit the needs of my vision. Above all, I strive to improve my own artistry and express something important to myself.

This first image is from a photo of my husband that appeared in one of my first blog entries last year. I am learning to interpret a photo in fabric without being entirely literal about color and detail. I show here phase one, where the basic color values in the self-imposed rule of only four gradations is maintained. Should I decide to add more details, they will be added in free-motion machine stitching. Right now I am contemplating the needs.

I am in a collaboration with the "subject" who would like to see this made into a panel of three different colorways, each building in intensity, and finished without a binding, but with something "more modern". My husband is an engineer, not an artist in practice, but he is every bit as creative, because he sees, and feels passionately about his vision.

This next photo shows how I was kidnapped by a yarn shop in Ashland, OR, a couple weeks ago. I had vowed that I wasn't going to knit this fall, but after being dragged in the door kicking and screaming and made to sit on the floor sorting out the endless choices of color in this Koigu yarn, I had to buy the pattern too, and of course, a new size needle missing from my vast collection. Even though I have been knitting since childhood, I have never done the Linen Stitch. I think the approximately 28,000 stitches in the completed scarf will give me enough practice to master it.

Here is the completed, but yet to be mounted, bordered and framed first piece from my Sumptuous Surface Embroidery class last month. I was sad not to have the time to participate as fully during the class as I would have liked, but learned so many new stitches and have acquired so many new resources to go forward, that I am glad I signed up when I did. The best part of the class was getting to design the piece from the ground up, and use a visual journal as a design tool for the first time. It now makes sense to me how to use one.

When I last left you at "Art Camp," with Carla Sonheim, I had completed week one of "Imaginary Creatures." Week two was even more exciting as we had a super intense practice at drawing faces. "Faces 101, " was literally drawing at least 101 faces in five days. Practice Makes Perfect! (Or at least it begins to free you and take away the fear of what you can't do.) I loved drawing faces so much I can't wait to get back to it. Each day we would warm up with expressive lines and then move on to two complete and different techniques and mediums.

One liners are "ten second" sketches you do by not lifting your pen from the page. They capture the essence of your subject.

Cheater blinds are blind contour drawings done with just a little bit of looking. We used two sizes of felt tipped pens, and no erasing. These are from pictures of high school teachers in my yearbook.

These "eraser faces" are drawn with the finger and a kneaded eraser using pastel powder: lay down the colors with your fingertip, then erase in the highlighted potions of the face. Repeat as necessary. Just a couple minutes for each.

Ink drawing done with the dropper from the bottle, and blotted with toilet paper. Wonderfully fun.

Extra Credit: Tea box drawing. We used gessoed tea box or other packaging as a base, and drew in markers. My first experience with Copic markers (the grey shades). I'm collecting them now.

The final week of art camp with Carla was the "Junk Mail Artist Book". This was an opportunity to create the paper media for a storybook from gessoed and watercolor painted junk mail, and then draw a storybook of about five two-page spreads with a front and back cover. All in one five day period!!

While creating the physical book we practiced the technique of creating interactive drawings: drawings that connect from one page to another.

My tied together book with offset pages  waiting for the story.

A look at all the page spreads before they had the story added. Some of the papers were bubble wrap liners of envelopes. Some had plastic windows. Some printed ads. All sorts of colors and textures showing through the layers of water colored gesso.

The completed front cover.

The completed back cover. I hope you will take a look at the rest of the book and the rest of the faces by checking out my photostream on flikr.

And so it was an intense and productive month. Practice may not make perfect, but it will lead to self-discovery and wonder.
The things we can do when we just: Do It!


  1. Wow! great post on a marvelous summer! Your writing and pictures EXUDE fun and creativity! You have explored so many areas and yet it all seems to be entwined and consequently shows the growth you have achieved.
    best, nadia

  2. That is a wondrous book. Cheryl! I love the concept, the offset pages, and all your background colors. And that luscious yarn...makes a knitter's fingers get all twitchy! Looks as though you have had a great summer trip.

    Welcome back to Chicagoland, and I'll hope to see you on Saturday. Very early, midday, or after 4 are the best bet to catch me since I'm judging in the morning and teaching Annex 1) from 1-4. You will enjoy the show in any case, I'm sure.

  3. Well my dear girl .... you've been B U S Y !!!!!
    Love all the projects! The stitching is really wonderful, the knitting (hi, hi, hi, it sounds familiar), drawing is always fun and I love that "tied up moon"
    Go on creating and have fun !!!

  4. i LOVE the eraser faces...very appealing to me,
    both the result and the process.
    and Cheryl, THANK YOU for your info about
    the silk cloth!!!and tell me any more if you can.

  5. Wow, Cheryl!!!! You have done amazing work this Summer (and before that too.) I love that you try on all different styles of drawing from different instructors and do well with each and every one of them. Your quilt of your hubby is the coolest! And the knitting is gorgeous. I checked out your Flicker, too, and your work is beautiful! You are a huge inspiration to all of us!

  6. Isn't it wonderful to get otside one's own box! Looks like you had great fun. And the portrait quilt is going to be some kinda wonderful.