Tuesday, November 22, 2011

Thoughts on the Rules

Not those rules. The rules I mentioned in yesterday's post. They were the rules of real houses.

Obviously fabric houses are different, but as Julie observed, it's really a conscious effort to do something deliberately askew.  ("Can you ever," she asked me recently, "make your letters really wonky? Uneven, irregular, symmetrical?")  The answer was... not without conscious, deliberate, effort.

One of the lessons in learning to draw is the ability to measure visually; to relate.  It's always asking, is this thing I am trying to reproduce higher, lower, lighter, darker, bigger, smaller, thinner, thicker.. whatever... and then putting it down that way.

It isn't simply the ability to draw the "thing" that makes it appear real on the page. It's the ability to draw accurately the spaces and objects around the thing. That requires the ability to measure and compare visually. (You know how you've seen artists hold a pencil out at arm's length?  They're measuring something.)

It's the ability to look at an object and tell whether I want to make it exactly the way it looks or if I want to make it more significant, or less so. If I want you to really see it, I'll pump up the contrast.  If I want it to disappear, I'll make it blend in with whatever else is nearby. 

It's the ability to look at a series of (for example) blue fabrics and tell at a glance which are lighter, bluer, cooler, warmer, more yellow (greener) warmer, brighter, less intense, more intense, more "true blue", etc. In short, I can tell instantly whether they will "work" together or not. More importantly, though, I know why they would or wouldn't work.

I have to restrain myself at the quilt shop from commenting on the fabric selections of other customers.  Frequently I have to walk away from a selection of colors I think is monotonous, dull, lacking in contrast or verve, or just plain predictable. (On the other hand, it makes watching their reactions to my color choices all the more amusing.)

I do it all without thinking, and because I've done it for so many years, I do it very, very quickly.  I'm rarely aware I'm doing it. It's so intuitive, and so much of a habit, I'll be sewing merrily along, and then look at what I'm working on and think, "oh hell, it's too damn perfect" when I wanted it wonky.  To make it wonky, I have to concentrate on NOT sewing on auto-pilot.

So what does this all have to do with making wonky houses and trees?  A lot, actually.  If you want to make a house look like it's in the middle of a cold landscape, you have to follow some rules. Where I live, in New England, it gets cold in winter (for my pals in Oz, that means 0 degrees C, or the temperature at which water freezes.)  In that weather, the trees lose their leaves and we get snow on the ground.  Your breath freezes the air, the cold wind hurts your face, and your car doesn't always start on command!

Putting colorful flowers near a winter house wouldn't make it look cold, even though that would be a good example of wonkiness, or rule-breaking.

I made my little winter cabin the way I did because I wanted it to look cold.  I wanted you to feel the cold. So the house is shorter, the body of the house is timber, like a log cabin. The fabric I used for the roof looks like the asphalt roofing material used around here (and it's black to hold in the heat and help the snow melt).  I made the doors and windows blue - cool blues. I wanted the house to look like it was huddled against the cold. I made the ground black and white, to look like the snow.  The only warm element in the house is the red chimney.

It's all a juggling act.  More tomorrow.


Judy in Michigan said...

Thanks again for the "tut". I learn so much from you and now that I think of it, your house did look cold when I first saw it. You succeeded in getting the correct impression. Can't wait for more Ms. Professor!!

Anonymous said...

Such wise words. No wonder I feel such a kinship with you. I also have trouble with "deliberately wonky". I can't tell you how many times I've wanted to reach over and add a "better" fabric to somebody's pile at the quilt shop. I find I can help other people easier than myself sometimes. I tend to "over think" my own choices.

I really appreciate rading your wisdom sharing posts--thank you.

Joyce said...

Well put. I usually make the windows bright yellow to indicate that inside the house it is warm even though it's freezing outside. One of my fondest memories is of coming home after dark, in the cold, and seeing the yellow light from the windows making the house look so warm and inviting.

Millie said...

Joyce, I know what you mean, but for this house, I wanted it to be COLD, and I didn't want the viewer's eye to be drawn to two warm spots on the house.