Saturday, March 28, 2009

What is going on in my head?

Leslie said...

I always wonder what goes on in your head when you compose. In some of your work, I tend to see small elements encased in frames that increase in size as I move away from the center of the piece. It's quite interesting. Whatever you think (or do unconsciously? as you do this, it totally works for me. :-)

While that isn’t exactly a question, I thought this might be a good opportunity to talk about what happens when I do a design like Roygbiv #1 or any of the non-pictorial stuff I make.

carioca-1 IMG_0861

Sometimes I am motivated by the shape of the piece first. The one on the left is Carioca, and I was doing a series of pieces 9x21” in a vertical format. I found fabric I liked and began collecting color scraps that looked good together. Carioca is a stack quilt which means that it begins with smaller pieces for the top layers and then more layers are slipped underneath until the format is completely filled in. As I add layers I am cutting away the overlapping fabrics to eliminate bulk. Finally I add details in lines or dots or tiny squares. It’s a look-and-feel thing, but the primary motivator is just playing with color. I look for contrast and texture, and value and balance. You know, all the stuff that makes a good design. But honestly, the brain is on autopilot during the process. And it doesn’t always work.

On the piece on the right, Bon Bon #1, I recall being inspired by this piece

It was not the fabric or the colors but the layout that interested me. Then I made a lot of fused patchwork to use in the piece, before I determined the arrangement and finished size and shape.

Of course the finished work didn’t turn out to be exactly like the inspiration piece, but layout was first in my mind. At the time I made Bon Bon #1 a new design concept had infiltrated my brain…organizing a composition by color. In other words, finding similar colors to group as the main theme and adding a contrast group of colors for accents. In Bon Bon #1 my colors were reds/pinks with green accents.

Organizing and design are similar occupations. One places things together in an orderly fashion so that they look right. When you rearrange the shoes in your closet you are doing the same thing.

So when I start playing with my fabrics, I get to arrange things inside a format, like a square for instance.

With Roygbiv #1IMG_7213-1 I started with a leftover piece of batting cut to size. I have scraps of fused fabrics at my disposal that are also leftovers from other projects, often fused to each other like patchwork. I cut, assemble, remove and discard until it starts looking like something. Then I look at the design and see what it needs and add it, usually dots or thin strips. Knowing the finished size first helps focus the design.

So much of this designing stuff happens because I allow myself to just play. It is fun most of the time and awfully hard work other times. The more I do the easier it becomes.


  1. The self-dyed material is so brilliant in your work! I have to say the print patterns look strange in your compositions, sorry... Have you ever tried abstract painting?

  2. Great questions Leslie! Great answer Melody! I always love to hear what's going on in your head while you work! And I can't wait to see the ROYGBIV series all together!

  3. Thanks to Leslie for asking the question, I'm always interested in any information on how you do what you do!

  4. Thanks for taking up where my wondering mind left off - that was interesting!

  5. So that's how your little mind works! Nice art work!

  6. I've been following your blog for some time now and I'm inspired by your colors! Thanks for the insight into how you work.

  7. janice in detroit11:49 AM

    Thank you for your explanation and in fact for all of the "how to" info you have on your blog. The one thing that stood out for me was the I allow myself to play. I don't do that enough. I also want to thank you for you advice on fabrics for dyeing. I was able to find James Thompson muslin where I buy fabric wholesale and am eager to try it -- although for painting and stamping. My doctor doesn't think I should try dyes because of my severe asthma. I am also enjoying your garden. Up here in MI we are still getting snow.

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