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Lessons from Eggplant

Every once in a while, I completely forget that not everyone has had the same life experience and knowledge that I have.  We’ve all done it.  Recently, at a local produce auction, I was inspecting some lovely white eggplant that, unlike the eggplant that most are familiar with, was two inches in diameter and 5-6 inches long.  An older gentleman came up to me and asked, “What are those?”  I was stunned that someone buying vegetables at a produce auction wasn’t aware of different varieties.  Take a look at photo transfer image on this little art quilt that I made a few years ago.  Among an amazing assortment of peppers, there is a basket of tiny green eggplant, and another basket of white eggplant looking very much like… eggs.

Eggplant isn’t just eggplant, there are the standard pear shaped black, and then there are other shapes, colors and tastes.  The same goes for most other cultivated fruits and vegetables.  Of course, I politely explained the world of eggplant varieties to the man, and perhaps he went away a bit wiser.  I have a series going of heirloom vegetable quilts.  Here is a fabric portrait of carrots that I grow, in colors true to the real roots.

A week later, I was contemplating a half peck of okra that I wanted, and another bidder asked me a familiar question, “What are those?”  Another teaching moment, and this time, I piqued this gentleman’s curiously.  He asked if he could have a few to try if I ended up buying them.  I readily agreed, wanting to encourage him to try something new.  I was the high bidder on the okra, and I kept my promise, giving him a generous handful with cooking instructions.

Those of us who are creative in the visual arts need to look for similar encouraging teaching moments in our encounters who might be curious about making something but think that they cannot.  Take a travel kit of art supplies wherever you go, sit out where others can see you make something.  Have some finished artist trading cards to give away, or even give out some extra supplies like a blank card and a few colored pencils.  Encourage anyone who asks about what you are doing.  Be positive, talk to them about being persistent and patient about learning something new.  Ask them if they make a craft, or if anyone in their family has a special skill.  Share your knowledge, and look to learn new things from others.

In case you are curious about the world of heirloom vegetables, check out Seed Savers Exchange and Baker Creek Seeds.  And for the record, I am not a vegetarian, I love a good hamburger and many other delicious foods.

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Drawing to Sound

I’m back!  Well, I never left, but I have been making things.  I am pleased to report that today is the last day of the 2020 Index-Card-a-Day Challenge, and I have finished all of them!  I will post more about the end of this year’s ICAD next week, because now I want to show my attempts at creating to music.

My tastes in music are quite eclectic, so it is difficult to find something that am not familiar with.  The Hoopla app (should be available through your local library) has a meager offering of some world music, and there I found a recording of Australian digeridoo music.  That is what I chose for my creative experiment.  I decided to make my musical sketch on an 8.5 x 11” piece of dark gray textured paper, using gel sticks, crayons, colored pencils and oil pastels to make my marks.

After getting everything in place, I started the music and listened for a few minutes, choosing colors, making an effort to select colors that I don’t normally use.  Then, I started drawing lines, trying to imagine my hand connecting to the sound and taking over my movements.

I kept going, filling in shapes and adding marks.  I think that you can see how the red waves and orange scribbles were in response to the undulating drone of the digeridoo, while the blue bars, white dots and yellow slashes came from the sounds of sticks tapping together.

Finally, I added more shading and bulked up the composition with some brighter colors.

This could be a great creative block smasher, I will be making a point to doodle or sketch to music more often in my art journals.  As luck would have it, one of the last prompts for the 2020 ICAD challenge was “Bossa Nova.”  Hoopla again saved the day with several Bossa Nova titles, and here is what came out of my mind:

Next week, (yes, I will post next week, I promise) the ICAD wrap up and moving on to something else.

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Music on my Mind

First, my index cards from week five, prompts were citrus, arcade, font, earrings, periwinkle, board game and lantern:

Music is a powerful force on our minds.  How many times have you sung along at the top of your lungs to a favorite tune on the radio as you drive around, or jumped up and danced around uninhibited while no one was looking.  How many more times have you wanted to sing out and dance like crazy?  A song can bring back very specific memories.  What do you define as music?  To me, music is not just the recordings or performances of human voice and sounds resonating out of instruments being played.  This time I hear the songs of birds and insects when I step outside.  Every once in a while, my brain dredges up the clatter of the vintage candy factory line that I used to run.  The fondant cutter had an especially interesting series of repeated clicks and cranks.  Somehow, these sounds come out in some of my collages.

Composers have many variables to utilize in the creation of a piece of music, just like visual artists have their own “language” of design elements.  With these close similarities in the creative process, it is not surprising that one often influences the other.   Jiri Anderle often textured his prints with mark making techniques carries over from his stints as a drummer in a band.  The Russian composer Mussorgsky was inspired to write “Pictures at an Exhibition” from viewing paintings by Viktor Hartmann.  In turn, the music came back out in the visual art through a stage setting by Kandinsky.

I don’t believe that you have to know much about music to enjoy it or be inspired by it.  Listen closely, pay attention to the instruments, the patterns and repetitions, the variances in notes and chords, the time that notes are held, the spaces of pauses in between notes.  How can you transform what you hear into visual shapes, lines, marks, color and texture?  Try listening to a piece of music that you are not familiar with, and make some marks with pencil and paper while you listen.  I plan on trying this myself over the weekend, check back next week to see my efforts.

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Springtime in Stitches

Short and sweet today.  I just finished a small, dual-purpose project:

This is a future class sample, and a teaser for some embroidery patterns that I hope to have available soon.  The base of the above piece is an example of fabric weaving from Fabric Embellishing: The Basics and Beyond by Ruth Chandler, Liz Kettle, Heather Thomas and Lauren Vleck (Landauer, 2009).  I’d love to teach a monthly workshop on fabric embellishing, there are so many surprising techniques to have in our art quilt skill sets.  I really enjoy learning and sharing new things with others.

From my “finding inspiration anywhere” files, here is a random snapshot I took last week of spring beauties and a few violets that I found on a walk around the countryside:

There is a little composition lesson here, this is an example of crystallographic balance, where there is no main focal point.  Look at it from a short distance, and there are still areas of negative space, where there are gaps in the flowers.  Visual interest comes from those gaps and in the contrast between the short star-like petals of the spring beauties against the long blades of grass sprawling in every direction.  Of course, the pop of color from the violets adds an element of surprise.  Yes, I am imagining how to turn this into a little stitched piece… someday.

 

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Stitching to Music

I will get to the trial piece that I talked about last post – later this week, I promise.  Today, I want to share a couple of  4″ squares that I made while listening to opera.  The Metropolitan Opera is streaming a different opera performance daily during this coronavirus shut down.

The square on the left was made while listening on the radio to the Saturday afternoon broadcast of Puccini’s  Tosca.  The square on the right was created while I watched Dvorak’s Rusalka last night.  My process was to first listen and/or watch for about 15-20 minutes.  Then, I started picking out my fabrics from my scrap stash.  I kept on listening while arranging and rearranging the fabric bits that I selected.  After I had the pieces placed, I listened for another bit of time while deciding how to stitch the square, then commenced the stitching.  Of course, last night I stopped work frequently to watch the action on my computer screen, and made mental notes from some of the stunning costumes.  I finished the squares by the final curtain, but I was certainly not trimming or stitching during the entire opera performance.  Even when I am not trying to multi-task, I spend a fair amount of time on my art quilts in a thinking mode before I take action on them.

Now, I would never expect anyone to correctly guess the piece of music that was playing while I made one of my collages, but I enjoy linking the music that inspired me to the visual art as a part of its story.  It would be fun to get a few other artists together to create their own individual responses to the same piece of music.  Check back on Thursday for my progress on last week’s experiment.