Sunday, October 31, 2010

The Education of the Artist Part 2

Happy Halloween:) Above are my daughters' pumpkins from this year representing their college teams: ECU Pirates and NC State Wolfpack. They did a great job! I am so very proud of them working hard at school to learn all they can for when they go out into the world....but what are they learning and does it matter to them?

In part 1, we discussed 'everything matters' 'What Matters' to you??
"We hardly need to 'decide' to scan for knowledge- it's already hard-wired into us. Our species seems to harbor a singular need to understand why things are the way they are- a need to grasp their underlying nature." There are many areas from which to choose to enrich your understanding of the world around you. Each of us has already headed down a path and we can make decisions every day to lead us to the goals we set for ourselves; but we don't really know where we are heading.
"Where did you learn the things that really matter to you?"
"Where was that critical fork in the road that directed you to this point?"
"Who have been your real teachers?"
These are great and fascinating questions and the answers will number the stars for every one of us. I think a good portion of us can say our parents taught us the most basic values that we then tweaked to our individuality once grown. As to "...that critical fork...", I can't count just one. There have been multiple pivotal moments and hindsight is 20/20:) As to my entry into the quilt world, a fellow Coast Guard spouse named, Michelle, taught me while I was stationed in Puerto Rico 10+ years ago. She was passionate about quilting and wanted to make some new a small group of us would gather at her house once a week and she taught us the basics while enjoying chocolate cake and rum punch:) It is amazing my seams are still together on that first quilt!

"For better or worse we've created an educational system that only works on any large scale when the knowledge being offered is first pre-packaged into teachable gradable transferable and preferably marketable semester-length courses- and in recent years, structured as well to satisfy the current political demand for quantifiable proof that learning has occurred." I cherish those memories and learning moments that would not have been attainable through a formal art education process. The education system is set up to teach lessons with definative right and wrong answers. In an art mind there are no right and wrong answers. Don't misunderstand me: We do need the education system to give the basics of design element, history, etc. because without any exposure, how do you move forward? If you don't have a basic understanding and a platform from which to start, how can you possibly go in a different direction or reject the status quo?

When learning something new, there is a lot to be said of learning on your own. Yes you may be doing the process the hard way (at first) but it is Your way and the way your brain works things out can't be taught in a classroom. Once you have sorted out a process and then you learn other methods of doing the same thing, you have a basis from which to accept or reject those other methods. Sometimes in a classroom setting you are only taught one way as the 'right' way.

"Wisdom does not reside in facts alone-experiential, intuitive and moral judgements on how knowledge should be used lie near the core of our definition of humanity. As history suggests, getting a rocket off the ground is only half the equation."
How many of you had a formal art education?
How many of you have learned as you go?
It is our responsibility to educate ourselves in whatever path we are taking whether it be through reading, workshops, experimentation, or a formal degree. I personally feel that all methods available to us should be seized upon in order to allow us the freedom to buck the status quo:)

There is more discussion on Katharine's blog.

Thursday, October 21, 2010

The Education of the Artist Part 1

Education is key in anything we want to pursue and art is no different. This is the topic of the 4th chapter in The View From the Studio Door which I will break down into a few parts so that we can thoroughly discuss it. The discussion also continues on Katharine's blog.

Above is my second cross stitch made when I was 10-12 years old...I didn't want to finish but my mom wouldn't let me start something new until I finished my current project. Too bad that lesson didn't stick with me:) I leave many projects unfinished now. I did learn that I won't like everything I will work on. I also learned workmanship and neatness and carry those lessons into what I do today.

Ted ended chapter 3 by stating that we artists are making the world a better place and to move us closer to becoming a society that values every artist we must first acknowledge our own contributions.
We begin chapter 4 wondering how to get to where we need to be, "Indeed you may wonder what magical qualities you'd need to even begin such a journey." Ted discusses doing the work (a lot of it), caring about the work, and mastering the work.
*****While reading this chapter on learning I remembered a blog post I had read about blogging with a learner's mind. It was very interesting and could be applied here as well since there is a lot of positive reinforcement in each section of this post. I digress....

"Consciously or otherwise, we each self-select the path we need to take."
Take 10 minutes to really think back on your lives and what paths you took that brought you to the place you are now. I truly believe that ALL experiences-good and bad- have a lesson in them that you can apply to what and who you are today. "After all, if there's no predicting which particular piece of knowledge or experience will later prove essential, we're faced with the disconcerting possibility that everything matters."
Everything does matter! I didn't enjoy cross stitch when I was young but I eventually came back to it for it's familiarity and then learned that I really enjoyed it. This led to learning other mediums of art which eventually led me back to fiber. I have held many jobs in my life that I stumbled upon and they all had something to do with advertising. All those bits of information help me immensely today with my own business of self publishing my patterns, writing copy, marketing, etc.
We have all been learning our art and how we approach our art and how we put that art out into the world our whole lives. As we continue on this path, we can correct and/or change directions as we see fit for where we are going or want to go. YOU are in charge and you have a lot of the information and education you need...AND you will keep adding to that information. Try to learn one new thing each day---you never know when you will need it:)

Tuesday, October 19, 2010

Quiltmaker's 100 Quilt Blocks is coming....

Quiltmaker's 100 Quilt Blocks will have a new block by NESTLINGS by Robin in the second edition that comes out in November.

I went in a new direction with this block so those of you used to seeing applique will be in for a surprise. I have a lot more of these designs on their way in 2011 and I hope you will let me know how you like them.

The blog tour will be November 8-12. Stay posted for giveaways and lots of new ideas from all the designers.

Monday, October 18, 2010

Art and Society

Art, Society, and our place in it: Where do you fit in?
I won't be answering any questions today but rather sending more out into the world for us to ponder and in turn ask each of ourselves so that maybe one by one we can bring art back into society's broader appreciation.

"ART plays no clear role in our culture.
ARTISTS have little direct contact with their audience.
ARTMAKING is indulged, but rarely rewarded."

These are the larger issues that Ted Orland feels artists today face. So the question becomes, How do we change that?

"....there was a time (and not all that long ago) when artists were employed to make new art every week-art that addressed the deepest issues of life and death and spirituality. We have nothing like that today-and it makes you wonder: how would art and artists be received today if we made work that spoke for the community rather than to the community?"
As much as I don't necessarily feel that every piece of art has to "stand" for something, I will say that artists that speak for a community do tend to stand out more and get more praise and critical acclaim. Think of rappers that bring certain atrocities to light or artists who paint murals about the environment, etc.
So what to do if I really just want to bring beauty to your world and not hash out every outrage of our society? I have lived in darkness and don't want to go back there!

Ted goes on to discuss being productive and making art vs. believing the myth of creative genius and natural talent. He discusses the "creative process" and how getting better means making a lot of art; ".....having a working command of the creative process-that is, all those elements that lead to the making of art-is truly essential"

"...................take comfort in all those small steps"

"If you develop productive working patterns and learn from the work itself along the way, you will always be on the path toward making the best work you can."

"The common ground shared by artists who make continuing progress in their work is that they have committed themselves to working on the things that really matter to them."
"So what (if anything) does all this mean for you?....................................stay at work on the things that are really important to you, and you will reach your potential as an artist"

Two weeks ago I received the second rejection of a book proposal. I Love the designs within the book and so does everyone else who has seen them. Still the job isn't getting done somewhere along the way. The knee-jerk reaction is to have a pity party about how it isn't any good---STOP! They are good-great, in fact- and I need to "stay at work" on this path. The universe around me is pushing me in this direction as well through no nonsense friends and a supportive husband and multiple paths that I can traverse down until I get the desired outcome.

Society does not need to dictate to us about our art, but does this bring us back to 'speaking to the community' with our art?
We are in charge of our own destinies though and can be successful with our art with lots of hard work. Weren't we all raised to believe that if you worked hard enough, you could attain your goals? First we must know what the goals are though and so I challenge each of you to choose one very large and one very small goal to work toward. Place a completion date of December 31st, 2010 for the small goal and December 31st, 2011 for the large goal and make it work!

Friday, October 15, 2010


I realize it may not be proper to tell everyone how much I love my birthday but I don't care. Women diminish so many things in our lives because it isn't ladylike to sing our isn't humble to want the spotlight.

Sorry....I do want the spotlight and I enjoy having one day a year where attention is paid to me and gifts given to me. While we are at it, I love winning ribbons and making money from my art. There I said it out loud and I firmly believe there are many others just like me. I may not be very good at taking compliments (they make me very uncomfortable) but when I know they are sincere, I glow on the inside.
The first gifts to arrive were a wonderful new Flip video camera from my dear husband (look for video tutorials in my future:) and my copy of the QNN dvd for new members.
I was given this complimentary copy because when you join, I am one of the sponsors of free patterns this year and there are many other wonderful gift ideas as well.
My next fun gift was from my daughter...An Evening with John Barrowman. He is the heart throb from the BBC Torchwood series. He has an amazing voice and sings cheesy love songs and disco tunes on this much fun and very easy on the eyes:)
Because life is not all sunshine, my rejected book proposal came back to me next. It was bittersweet- unhappy it was rejected but happy to have my project (babies) back.
My mother always sends me something fun and unexpected and this year was no different. Mom is a master knitter and I love scarves so this year....
a box of Potato chip scarves. How fun are they? Just swirls of fuzziness:)
Then to top that.........

A vegan 100% silk scarf that is so light and lace-like I am a bit hesitant to wear it. It is fragile and wonderful and I can't wait to wear it:) This is my first bit of silk and now it is time to go shopping to find the perfect blouse to wear it with!

Thank you to my friends who sent cards and facebook well wishes. I am very happy to be here another year and feel loved.

Thursday, October 14, 2010

Making Sense of Art


Today's chapter begs the age old question, What is Art? I love the photo above and feel it has artistic qualities but don't know if I would call it art. It is my photo and I love the hazy look of it along with the glow of the buildings coming to light as darkness starts to fall. I didn't think about all that as I took the photo, I just loved the feel of it all.

Again Ted compares the animals to us, ".....constructing a robin's nest also requires an active effort. If I dismiss the bird's efforts as "nest-building", then why should Frank Lloyd Wright's efforts to that same end be accorded some privileged status as "architecture"? OK, robin's efforts are instinctive, while Wright's are the product of conscious reasoning, but should that make any difference?" So, should it? Wen commented yesterday, "I think spider webs are artistic but I think the spider uses them to catch his dinner." I too think animals are artistic...they are just oblivious to it. Are we artists because we make the art intuitively or because we have the reasoning and the words to describe what we do?

My comment on Katharine's blog yesterday:

I am finding the comparisons between the animal world and the human world very interesting. I think that many animals are artistic just oblivious to the art they create since they do it out of necessity (instinct).When we as artists create because we have to, it is called intuition and Ted states this is closely related. We also have the words to describe what is art to us and the emotions to feel the art we view. I don't necessarily think that the emotions have to be deep societal statements...sometimes the beauty of a moment frozen in time is enough to render someone speechless and everyone's moments/memories are different.

There are many books written on the subject of 'what is art?' and it has been discussed to death on many forums. I think every artist needs to define this for their own work vs. letting the world define their work for them. You can't let everyone be your critic. This isn't to say you shouldn't be aware of what the art world is doing so you know how you do or don't fit in-just don't let that define you.

This is all great positive self-talk for myself as I sit here today awaiting the return of my rejected book proposal. Dear friends took me out last Friday morning to 'set me straight' so to speak. They didn't conjole and say it would all be ok. Instead they gave sound constructive advice on moving forward and I was gently chided for my negative thinking. Not ones to give empty compliments, they stated my talents and told me to continue doing the work I love and everything would come in time. Impatient me still wants to yell, WHEN????.

The theme of that morning continued throughout the weekend with conversations with my husband, discussions on radio programs, and horoscopes (though normally taken with a grain of salt suddenly sounded prophetic).

I deem what I do art. Even the most traditional quilt that I have painstakingly assembled by hand over weeks/months is art due to my view of design and the imprint of my soul in every stitch.

In describing gardens, Ted says, "the most prevalent role of the garden today is simply to provide its maker with a small oasis of peace and privacy- a refuge from an increasingly harsh world." Shouldn't that be what art does for each of us whether you make it or admire it?

Tuesday, October 12, 2010

Making Sense of the World

I follow an artist named Katharine A. Cartwright and she has started a new book that I actually own titled, "THE VIEW From the Studio Door" by Ted Orland. This time I thought I would read along and take part in the comment discussions that happen on her blog.

This is the view out of my studio at present due to a combination of storms that hit North Carolina a week and a half ago. It is slowly getting better and I don't mind the view....I have waterfront property:)

Back to the book... In the first chapter, Making Sense of the World, Ted asks lots of questions. "What are we actually doing when we make art?" There is a lot of talk about why we make art and animals don't, what the deep need to make art is doing for us, etc. That isn't what I was intrigued by:

There is a story about a man that goes on a walk with a mushroom hunter. That example really drove home the sense of how what I see differs from what you see. The mushroom hunter saw the paths and hiding places of mushrooms where the man saw a tangled mess of moss and pine needles.
We all have a common sense of the sky being blue, grass being green, etc. but not all people are fascinated by the clouds in the sky or the weeds amongst the grass the way I am or maybe you are.

Ted talks of the mental map we are all making second by second as our brains choose which pieces to keep and which pieces to put to the background.
"The process of being unfolds as an endlessly overlapping succession of most-plausible-pictures. We become who we are by virtue of the choices we make-consciously or otherwise-about which parts belong to the story, and which parts can be left out."
Today when you go to your art, which pieces will you choose to include into your vision of the world around you???