Friday, 16 March 2012

Chagall with mangoes

I’ve been attending an art quilting class this term at Material Obsession. What fun! I’ve never been a big fan of traditional quilts, though I’ve made a few over the years – getting sucked in by the colours in my usual way. Plus they’re a great way to learn the sewing skills you need. I’m certainly not knocking traditional quilts with their regular block designs. I just wanted to try something a bit more “out there”.

You might remember my first attempt at an art quilt, which I blogged about here.

Oops. I can’t believe that was nearly two years ago! Aaaand it hasn’t got much further along in all that time. I know, you’re shocked. But it now has a red leaf and is ready to quilt, so hey - progress! Glacial, but progress.

So, given the fact that I work so much better with a deadline (ah, Grasshopper, self-knowledge is a wonderful thing), I decided to join the marvellous Kathy again for art quilting classes.

Our first month the assignment was a still life. Not the most exciting of things to me, having watched Mum paint half a bazillion of them over the years, but oh well. I dutifully flipped through some art books for inspiration – artists love still lifes – and gathered my fabrics to take to class.

When we arrived Kathy had some all-white objects to set up against a white backdrop, her point being that colour would distract us. If everything was white we could really concentrate on the shapes and the relationships between them. You can see Kathy’s account of the class here, with a picture of the set-up.

And then she handed out paper and pencils and told us to draw. EEK!! I haven’t drawn since high school, so I wasn’t very comfortable with this step. Predictably enough my drawing was fairly unimpressive.

Then the fun started. “Now draw it again, this time without looking down at the paper.” It was fascinating to see how much looser and freer everyone’s drawing was this time. I liked mine much better. “Now draw it with your eyes shut.” I admit I did peek once, but my drawing was only slightly more surreal this time than the previous attempt.

Then it was time to get started on the designing and sewing of our quilts. Some chose to use the sketches we’d just done as a starting point. I had a still life by Chagall.

I love Chagall’s blues! I was picturing this colour scheme, with the window and the bowl on the table in front of it, only with mangoes in the bowl. In my head the contrast of the orange mangoes against the blue room would be delicious. Only problem was I’d forgotten to bring any mangoes with me, so off I trotted in the middle of the class to buy some.

Once I’d done a quick sketch of my mangoes (without looking at the paper – yay for bold free drawing!) and worked out the proportions of my design I got busy with my blue fabrics creating a background. I tried a new-to-me technique for cutting and piecing curved lines, so there are no straight lines in the piece. I like the slight wonkiness of it all.

I completed the background by the end of the class. True to form, I then put off adding the bowl of mangoes till it was almost time for the next month’s class. It felt like it was going to be too hard. Without the motivating power of the deadline I still wouldn’t have done it, but I managed, and it wasn’t as hard as I’d feared.

At first I wasn’t happy. I’d tried to suggest shading by using different fabrics, but it seemed to me that it hadn’t worked until I was doing something on the other side of the room and happened to look back. Then I could see the blending effect and felt better.

I still have to quilt it, of course, but I’m pleased with it so far. For some reason I'm ridiculously happy with the shadow under the bowl, of all things. Mainly just because I thought to add one(!), but also because it's a scrap from a quilt I made for my Dad many years ago.

Turns out still life was fun after all!

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