Tuesday, August 07, 2007

Backgrounds, Week Two

I've been creating "backgrounds" or "complex cloth" for a second week. I'm trying hard to enter my studio with an open mind, approach the task from new angles, and experiment with my threads, material, and machines in ways I've not explored. I am trying not to "make" anything or even "do" things the way I ordinarily do. I've also been trying to think of a new body of work...something to "say" with fibers.

Creating the "backgrounds" in "new" ways is going very well. "Thinking" isn't. Perhaps, I'm just too preoccupied by all the wonderful moments that come with Mathias being home. Perhaps, I'm preoccupied by my Dad's health. Yet, I have been thinking.

The color wheel is part of these thoughts...it all started with a visit from one of my "fiber goddesses", Lee Malerich. Lee has used embroidery as a form of self-expression, a way in which she could document her battles with cancer, and has been included in Fiberarts Magazine, Craft Magazine, and won our state's fellowship three times (after which, the Arts Commission limited the award to twice...with a ten year period between awards.) Lee Malerich is amazing and will be one of three juror's for the EGA (USA) 19th National Exhibition. She is also part of a group that will be exhibiting at Gallery 80808...where my studio is located. The group had a meeting; Lee saw my embellisher (had never heard of such a machine); and Lee arranged to return last Monday in order to have a better look at the embellisher. (I wouldn't be surprised if she owns one now too!) Of course, I was totally honored.

I was also surprised. Okay, I've put Lee Malerich up on a pedestal...so, I likely linger on her every word more than I ought and was looking for "approval" more than I ought and was quietly too nervous just having her in the studio. So, I found some of her comments confusing.

She picked up one of my "backgrounds" several times. She really liked it. I hadn't included an image of it last week; it wasn't particularly interesting to me. She was impressed with the color choices...yellow and purple...compliments. She said she'd like to see "more of that" and less of the monochromatic pieces that were less interesting...and she held up one of the pieces with which I'd been absolutely elated. She likened bold, complimentary color schemes as better design choices. She said that using colors next to one another on the color wheel was "safe". She said I could learn a lot by finding out how I best work with color.

Instantly, I was both confused and confident....conflicting emotions. I've always thought I had a natural sense of color. I still think this. I've been told so by many people and after twenty years of selecting mat boards for custom picture-framing, I'm pretty sure I AM NATURALLY GOOD WITH COLOR! I also know that I gravitate to secondary colors: purple, orange, and green...especially blue-purple, rust, and olive...but that I can use just about any color...and often do. I also rather like a limited palette...and colors that are closer together on the color wheel. I never considered this "easier" or "safer". In truth, I've never actually THOUGHT ABOUT the color wheel when stitching. Having never studied art formally, I've never initially looked at my work or anyone else's from this point of view.

So, although I didn't say anything, I was confident about my use of color. Yet, I was also confused by the conversation. Would my artwork improve if I did pay closer attention to how I used color? Why I selected my colors? Was this really how more "professional" or "academically trained" artists evaluated art? If so, how does my work "rank"?

Well, this did present a challenge. Consciously working with bold, complimentary colors would certainly be a "new" way in which to "experiment". I printed the color wheel above and took it to my studio. (I also learned that I don't have any "true" yellow at all there!) So....here's red-violet and yellow-green

Here's blue-green and red-orange

Here's red and green

Here's blue and orange

Here's yellow-orange and blue-violet (I'll have to do yellow and violet later!)

The final two images are of printed material. I embellished felt through from the reverse and added stitching.

This picture shows three pieces of material. The one in the center has nothing done to it. On the left, ocher colored felt was embellished through from the back. On the left, light blue felt was used. I'm thrilled with how the embellisher can subtly change an ordinary printed material into something unique. All these images can be "clicked" on for closer inspection.


Annica said...

Hi Susan,
Colour and colour theory is such an interesting subject. Do you know Vicki of Field Trips in Fiber? She posted about this just the other day.

I think colour is like music. Some people are more gifted then others but we all get better if we work hard. Mixing colours is very much like practising scales.

The use of complimentary colour schemes is a trick very often used in advertising. It makes the image pop out and draws the attention. It's very effective but a bit tiresome in the long run I think. I often prefer colour schemes that are more subtle, but that is a matter of personal taste.

katelnorth said...

Interesting you should talk about this - my dyeing group has just been doing a several-month long study about colour harmonies, creating blocks with various colour schemes - compliments, analagous colours, tertiaries, and so on and so on. I think we are all learning to look at colour differently and if not to make different choices, at least understand why we naturally gravitate to some things and away from others...

Alis said...

I did a course on colour theory and really enjoyed it. I learnt a lot about what works and why.
I use it sometimes when I definitely want to get a mood or idea over to the audience.

Mostly I still go with my "feelings" when I use colour and work on the assumption if I like it I will do my best work.
You have to be happy with what you are doing after all.

Vivian said...

Your artwork is wonderful! I recently took a class on color and found it very intriguing. I still find myself using the colors that I like best.

arlee said...

I think for the most part, colour use is intuitive. Yes, training and an "eye" is good, but it seems all of us gravitate towards certain colourways, changing and adding though as we go along, "mature", find our voice and use it to express the intent of each piece.
"Take the good and leave the bad"---the commentary made you think, but don't stress about it! I don't find your work predictable in any sense, so go with it!
Having taken courses in colour theory *doesn't* mean follow the rules always :}, at least not in *my* books :} *Your* use of colour is what flavours *your* art!