The book “Steal Like an Artist” is a great and inspiring volume. You can read it in an hour and a half, and should, many times.
Here are a few of artist/author Austin Kleon’s liberating and clarifying concepts:
- “Nobody is born with a style or a voice… We learn by copying.”
- Copy your heroes.
- Copy from more than one source.
- “You don’t want to look like your heroes, you want to see like your heroes.”
In that vein, today I celebrate a cloth face put together in preparation for an upcoming children’s quilting workshop that I’ll be teaching at the Boston Center for the Arts.* This exercise served two purposes. One, it acquainted me with the project on the tactile level – obviously important when teaching. Two, it gave me a chance to express something, so there is less chance I will insert myself into my students’ work – always a peril for teachers, particularly of young people.
So, from whom do I steal here? At least three artists.
One, Jude Hill. Jude is a master quilter whose techniques and philosophy I have been studying (and copying) for quite some time now. Her teaching style is completely geared to Number 4, above — in other words, she isn’t trying to show her students how to make work like hers. Rather, she is openly and consciously trying to get her students to SEE like she does. Philosophy and process instead of recipes. (her blog: Spirit Cloth on sidebar)
How is her influence present? This time, primarily in technique and a quality of attention:
- The attention to the materials themselves (selecting fabrics with a nice hand, easily penetrable by a needle).
- The use of invisible basting to adhere the layers.
- Managing the layers by carefully inserting batting under face only.
- Hand sewing some components together prior to basting the entire piece – eliminating need for numerous pins or glue.
Who else? Susan Carlson – the wonderfully talented pictorial quilter from Maine, whose collage-style technique I learned in 2001. Her influence:
- An illustration approach to rendering the subject.
- Building layers from the bottom up.
- A liberal combination of patterns.
The third and perhaps most important artist: the sculptor of the mask. Unknown. Gbi artist, Liberia, early twentieth century.
I would like to try this again, because I missed on the proportions – that lovely length to the face and the broad, regal forehead got a little squashed in my version. I needle-sculpted the cheeks a little, but next time I would want to use color to add light around the nose and on one-half of the forehead.
Apropos of ‘missing’ (I don’t really like the final product all that much, in fact) – I’d like to add how critical being able to screw up and try again is for creative endeavor. My most favorite spokesman on this is Ken Robinson, the English education specialist. Clearly other people find him worth listening to as well — the last time I posted this link, it had been viewed 7MM times. It is up to 16MM views now!
* I will be teaching “Patchwork Faces” – a workshop for children, on May 18, 2013 from 10:30 to 12:00. You can register here:
Then, on June 1, from 10:30 until 1:00, I will teach a class for adults called, “Sew What? Improv Quilting”
Both class are offered through the Boston Center for the Arts
539 Tremont Street, Boston, MA