Creating Art Like A Song

I have struggled with my artistic individuality for years. It’s not that I’m not unique, it’s that my work IS unique….unlike what I see elsewhere. When I create my clothing lines, they are fun and funky and different, but I always keep an eye to trends and what other artists are selling. That seems to be where my inner conflict or discomfort originates.

Being influenced is different than trying to influence yourself. The first is about an unconscious absorption of what one sees and experiences that becomes evident as one expresses oneself creatively. The latter is not so natural, it can be artificial, superficial, and feel uncomfortable. Creating something “to sell” is being a crafter. Of course, there is nothing wrong with crafting, but owning that I’m an artist implies creating one-of-a-kind, original, unique pieces. Trying to be authentic, true to myself and trying to somehow fit in with trends is a conflict for me.

 

I was walking recently and listening to a song in my I-pod. There are some things about this one pop song that I really love.  The whole sound is sort of scratchy-old time sounding. The intro chord progressions are not traditional “rock/pop” sounding.There are vocal runs that sound improvised. There are some growls and tone changes that just get me jazzed. At one point you can hear the vocalist giggle. And once she cusses under her breath. I was boogieing  along (it’s a rural area—no one was watching!), thinking about all the things I love about this song, why I keep listening to it, and then I had an epiphany.

The aspects of this song that I love are what make it really unique. The singer has obvious incredible vocal skills, but that’s not what keeps me coming back. It’s the stuff that is different, not traditional sounding for the genre that I love. It’s the parts of the song that sound like maybe they aren’t supposed to be there that I love. It’s the sound of free-wheeling improvisation (it may have been planned, but it doesn’t sound that way.)

And then I realized maybe these are the same aspects of art, of my quilt art, that other people may be drawn to. And these are the very aspects that make me comfortable with my art not looking like everyone else’s. I feel confident that I have the skills to do what I do. It’s the fear of being different that undermines my confidence. If my work doesn’t look like some others’ work that sells or gets acclaim, is that OK? Will someone want my work?

The answer, I believe, is yes. I guess sounding like popular music gives you a better chance of selling more records. Or just being forgotten for sounding like everyone else. Adopting techniques and materials that are currently popular could help me sell more work. And it increases the chances of my work not being noticed because it looks like everyone else’s. And, most importantly, it doesn’t really make me feel good.

So many artists are struggling to express themselves creatively but at the same time make something they can sell. Artists. Crafters. Trying to be “unique” and at the same time adopting popular trends to help them sell more.

Creating works of art from textiles that are genuine, not adopted from popular trends is not the easy way to go. It is risky, just like aspects of that song I like. That song sold a lot of copies. I’m not the only one who liked that funky, unplanned, raw sounding song. And if my art is funky, appears to have an aspect of being improvised, and a little “raw” rather than perfect, then that’s fine. It’s more than fine. It’s Amy. Other people like a little boogie with their art, too!

Ghosts In the Holler Landscape Quilted Wallhanging

I thought I’d share more of the story of this, my favorite wall hanging.

This cabin was built by my husband’s family in far southern Illinois and was occupied for many generations. It was a large, close family who shared holidays and large reunions every year. This is a photo of the family taken in 1953 when the home was still occupied by my husband’s great-grandfather.

When I first saw the home 12 years ago, it was falling to ruins, covered with vines and occupied by snakes. I took several photos (which I cannot find now) and started a wall-hanging based on one of them. The view is from the side of the cabin, with the lean-to kitchen at the back. I created the basics of the building and landscape, then set the project aside.

During the last year I had a new vision for the project. “Ghosts in the Holler” was born. The history of the family in that home, the hard, primitive lives, the joyous gatherings have survived in the stories told by later generations. I believe that people’s spirit or energy can stay in a place or thing and sometimes we can sense it. Looking at this old home I could imagine the spirits or ghosts that might still dwell there.

I used a number of techniques and mediums to portray the ghosts in this place.  I printed parts of the family photo on a variety of fabrics to use in my wall hanging.

Do you see the faces in the cabin?    

I took this close-up of his parents and inserted them in the doorway of the lean-to in the rear of the cabin. The faces have been painted with inks to blend in with the rest of the greenery that is overtaking the home.

I love how the whole piece turned out. It’s unusual, it’s a bit mystical, and stretched me creatively.

>A Couple of my Landscapes

>

Here are a couple of my landscape quilts/wall hangings.

The one of the left was a commission. A gal sent me 3 pictures she wanted combined into 1 picture.  The 3 are shown together above the wallhanging.  One is a picture (taken through a glass window) of a sunset.  Below it is a painting of 3 horses running through water.  The 3rd is a photo of her friend’s view from his house.

The job was to combine the 3 pictures into a single landscape, which I think I did successfully.  (She was quite thrilled with the result!)  The wall hanging is all fabric.  I used a combination of commercial prints and batiks and hand-dyed cottons.  I also painted (with water color pencils) the sunset, as I couldn’t find a fabric that looked like what I needed.  “When in need, make it yourself!”

The landscape on the right is also created completely in fabric and thread (as that is what I do!)  I made this for my cousin’s 50th birthday.  He lives in Phoenix and I found a photo on Google Earth of Camel Back Mountain there.  I used the photo as inspiration for my artwork.  I have to say, this was the hardest landscape I have ever done.  I will also admit that I like how it came out!

Batiks and hand-dyes were a great source for most of the fabrics. I also did a lot of thread painting for details like grasses. (See the detailed photo)  And, once again, I painted the sunset with my water color pencils.  I love the challenge of finding just the right textures and colors in various fabrics to create pieces of my pictures, but the skies, if I want them to look somewhat realistic, have been too much of a challenge to find!

I had scraps of fabric from my experiments with the sky and decided to use a piece for my label on the back, which is also pictured.

>Creating a Portrait in Fabric

>
Dad’s 85th birthday is coming up in a few days. I wanted to create something really special for him, something that he wouldn’t expect. I’ve had this photo of him at age 9 on my bookshelf for a long time. A couple of days ago I was finally inspired—-to create this photo as an art quilt!

I have begun the project and will chronicle it here. My first consideration was color. The photo is in black and white. I could copy this, but aside from not being very inspired, I don’t think it would reflect what I want it to. I want the piece to be interesting and reflect his long life. I
thought about doing it in life-like color, but I don’t know what color Dad’s hat and coat actually were. I have been looking at challenging myself by doing a monochromatic quilt, focusing on shade and tint, texture and line. I have decided to do the picture in sepia tones. This will give it an old-fashioned look, yet being a very contemporary style of art.
Next I had to enlarge this photo to a size I could manage. The original (something like 4X6″) is too small to replicate. I used my photocopier to enlarge it (in sections) 200%. The main figure itself is now about 24″ X 14″, so it will finish to
about 30″ tall. This will be manageable (I can finish it in 10 days) and large enough to be substantial (otherwise, why bother, right?)

The next step is to create a pattern. I have laid tracing paper on top of the enlargement and traced areas from
which to create fabric pieces. I kept in mind that I can’t have pieces too small to cut and place successfully. I also know that I will thread-paint details, so that will take care of some of the small issues.

Now……fabrics! I keep my fabric sorted by color, so it wasn’t too hard to pull out lots of shades of brown. I didn’t bother to research “sepia” to authenticate my color choices, instead I’m choosing shades and tints of yellow-orange. I’ve learned something about the importance of contrast to add interest to a piece, so I tried to find my very palest and very darkest pieces. I did discover that I have some browns that are more green-brown, and some are more gray-brown, so I tried to keep with the yellow and red-browns. I also got out a bit of solid black. There are a few prints with other colors in my piles….you never know, they might be interesting somewhere in the picture!

More to come……………..