In the next few days I will write pages about the gnarly little topics that caused so much angst earlier this week. I need to think about what I want to say, and may need to make some samples to say it. If there is any topic you would particularly like me to discuss, please let me know in the comments. I can't promise anything.
Anything, except one topic, apparently.
I talked to my Mom about it. Remember she's an artist too, and has made her living as an artist and art teacher for over forty years. "That," my Mom said, "you can't teach."
Which was pretty demoralizing for me, a teacher, to hear.
One of the comments yesterday, reminded me of this story. Lynne from County Durham in the UK wrote: "I'm constantly in awe of your use of colour - I have real problems with mixing colours and have several times looked at what you are doing with a quilt, thought "Ugh that's going to look awful" and then been stunned at the final fantastic result!!!! Not sure that's something that can be put in a tutorial - but if it is I reckon you could do it !!!"
Believe me, Lynne from County Durham. I'd love to be able to teach it. I have given it a great deal of thought.
Here's another example:
Way back in 2005 I made this black quilt. It's all squares, and how I did it can be found if you look in the pages tab for "My Scrap Process." I had been collecting fabrics with black backgrounds because I thought they were interesting. I'd buy half yard cuts. You can read more about the quilt here.
Many were novelties, but not all. Some were Japanese, some were florals, some were full of fun colors (colored beetles, chopsticks, circles and dots or stripes. I collected them without much thought that I would ever use them together, and then, when I decided to make a quilt out of them, I bought more.
What I wanted was to have a quilt that was a mass of color. I wanted the viewer to see color first, dancing across the surface of the quilt. THEN I wanted the viewer to realize there were dozens of different prints. THEN I wanted the viewer to realize the quilt was patchwork. (And then I wanted their mouths to fall open in astonishment. Yeah, I'm a bad woman. I know.)
As I looked over my selection, I knew I needed some blacks that didn't have as much color or pattern as the others. If you look across the quilt, you will see the black with small white circles, the black with small white boxes, the black with white squiggles and the black with white dragonflies. I needed to break up all that color with the less busy black with small white prints, but I don't know how I knew it.
About a year or so later, I showed the quilt to a professional art quilter, and said offhandedly, "There's nothing special about this, it's just made from fabrics with black backgrounds."
"OH NO," she said, "Don't say that. This is a very sophisticated concept, and not everybody could pull this off and get it to look as beautiful as this does."
The point is not that I made a pretty black quilt, my point is that I picked the fabrics and colors and prints WITHOUT GIVING IT ANY THOUGHT AT ALL. Or at least any conscious thought. I was at a fabric store once and the saleslady said, "Can you help me? I need to find something to go with this, and none of us can come up with anything good." She handed me a piece of salmon colored fabric.
"Oh sure," I said, "gimme a few minutes. How many fabrics do you want?" She told me to pick four or five. So I wandered down the aisles, pulling bolts of fabric. It was years ago, so I have no idea what I pulled, but I'm pretty sure I picked some blue green, some blue, some soft greens, and maybe a rich dark blue. I brought the stack back to the counter. She looked up, surprised. "Omigod, those are gorgeous. I would never have come up with those. How did you do that? It didn't even take you two minutes." I shrugged. I didn't know where it came from.
I still don't. To me, it's as natural as breathing.
THAT, I can't teach you. THAT, you have or you don't.
What I CAN teach you is to start with something, a color or a fabric you want to use as inspiration, and to go from there, to look at what you HAVE and to choose colors that RELATE to it (think of the selvage dots, those will always coordinate). I can teach you to think about making a range of lights and darks, a variety of scale of prints. But look at this bird! He breaks all the rules!
I can tell you to think about where the color sits on the color wheel and to venture to either side of your chosen color for colors that will work. I can tell you about warm and cool colors. Yes, there are warm blues and cold ones. Cold yellows and warm ones. You may or may not want to vary the temperature of your colors in your selection, but you should consider that option.
I can teach you how to look across the color wheel for the complement, the kicker, the diva, the one color that will shake the whole thing up and make it sing.
I can teach you to look and I can teach you to think, I can teach you how to notice and pay attention. I can encourage you to break all the rules from time to time, and see where it gets you. (Look back at the bird, above.)
The rest is up to you.
And I think I just found my way.
Again, folks, have I told you how much I love your questions?