Today I want to share some of a recent correspondence from a reader (with the writer’s permission.) I was honored and touched by her questions.
For readers who are artmakers: I hope you see yourself somewhere in these descriptions, and maybe find a helpful word or two.
For readers who are not artmakers, but who enjoy original artwork, here’s a little insight into this whole art-creating process.
I sincerely appreciated your thoughtful note and questions. Your writing tells me that you truly have the heart of a maker; the questioning and yearning are absolutely the beginning. (I suspect you have way more than 1-2 creative bones in you.) You are well on your way.
Your question deserves a thoughtful reply.
I spent last evening looking through portfolios of other SAQA artists’ portfolios, and admiring the things they create that are so different from mine, and experiencing my own “What in the world do I think I’m doing? Who do I think I am kidding?” moments.
At every stage of creation and ability, we are all plagued by a mix of doubt and longing to do more.
So, in answer to your question -- “How did you learn to do all of this? Okay, maybe a sub-question… Did you have any formal training along the way?” -- here are my thoughts.
What happens before the work begins: the inner part: Every person has an inner life with something worth expressing. Some are intellectual musings. Some are emotional digs into past experiences. Some are completely unexplainable flashes of fancy, whimsy and imagination that come from — who knows where? Whatever your inner life experience is, learn to tap into it. Encourage it. Nurture it. Write journals or fill sketchbooks with images to explore it. All of that is the rich soil, the “stuff” of your art. You may find teachers or mentors along the way to help, or you may be in a place where all this is solo work. Start where you are and do what you can.
What happens before the work begins, the design part: Training is not essential, but it is helpful. I was an art major as an undergraduate, and I worked for thirty years in the commercial printing business involved in graphic design. All of that, unquestionably, has informed my way of thinking about images in a space. I can draw, and I find that important. But, I would not get hung up on any of this. If you have a specific weakness, there are plenty or books and videos available to teach design principles and drawing techniques. You can learn a lot by studying works of other artists you like and writing or drawing what you like about them. Lots of quilt work, however, is very spontaneous and doesn’t require formal skills.
What happens once the work has begun: I began exploring collage, fabric and quilting as a medium around 2011. I had a sewing machine and knew the rudiments of sewing. I read a number of books and magazine articles that taught methods of surface design. I joined an artmaking group and learned from the skills of others. Mostly, I have spent, and continue to spend, many hours in my studio making and making and making and making. For me, those hours are my teacher. I have made a lot of work I now consider ugly and unworthy. I believe I learn from every work I create, whether I am proud of it or not.
My best advice to anyone who has a desire to create, as you do, is just to begin. Make something. Make another. Just start. Workshops, teachers, techniques can be inspiring and can answer technical questions you run into. All good. But nothing is a substitute for time spent in your studio working on your art.
One final thought: a plug for SAQA. I joined SAQA pretty early in my journey into textile art. It’s the best organization I have found. Lots of inspiration and lots of learning, as well as camaraderie. SAQA.com.
My very best wishes to you. Begin creating and find joy in it.
PS to readers: The works shown in the photo at the top of this blog post are abstract landscapes: textle collages/art quilts. They are new this summer. If you’d like to look closer, visit my web site HERE
Thank you for reading. I always enjoy questions and comments.
BLOG POSTS: If you would enjoy receiving blog posts by e-mail,
please subscribe here: BLOGS-BY-EMAIL
NEWSLETTER: If you enjoy more detailed behind-the-scenes stories,
as well as FIRST LOOKS at new works and members-only discounts,
I hope you’ll become a Studio Insider.
You’ll hear from me by e-mail about once a month.