Commenting today on the SAQA list on an issue we’ve been covering there, Laura Wasilowski’s comments reminded me I hadn’t dropped in on her blog in a while, and while I was diverted I found a thought provoking recent post on why an artist should have a sketchbook with her at all times. Laura’s work is characterized by lots of lovely simple repeated shapes with crisp clean lines, and always in her signature wide-ranging colour palette of modern clear bright colours. The few open pages of the sketchbook she photographed to illustrate her post show the firm decisive hand that graphically captures her favoured organic shapes and patterns. Laura is a busy teacher across the USA, and commented that when she travels from home these days she regrets having to leave so much of her materials for creativity at home – we can no longer pack the kitchen sink to take with us on a plane! However, creativity never really rests for an artist – despite what we might seem to be doing at any time, there’s always something going on up top, even if we are away from our own tools of trade. Laura finds travel provides valuable time for sketching ideas in her book which she always has with her.
It set me thinking about my own process. I thought I’d write a little about it, since I am always interested in what other artists do to get their ideas from brain to paper or fabric. Lots of my ideas get to some note form on paper, a list, a sketch, an important word perhaps, and the majority of these jottings wait in limbo there for days, weeks, months, years even, before taking on some form in fabric and thread. As examples, take this collage of several pages from a blank page notebook I’ve been using on and off since my son gave it to me c. 1992 I still use it sometimes – pencil diagrams are augmented with words, lists, quotations or a phrase of an idea, also in pencil – I keep my eraser handy but ideas no matter how inconsequential they seem at the time once jotted down tend to stay – its only diagrams that might be amended.
All from typical pages, each group sums up the ideas in my head at the time. In the UL image, for example are diagrams exploring my ideas, and words suggesting approaches or possibilities which shortly after I put them on paper became the working diagram for ‘Ora Banda’ (1992) my first quilt in Quilt National, 1993. These diagrams are really as far as I ever go in making a’pattern’. At that time I was using the ruler to cut shapes and precise 1/2″ strip inserts. Some time I will explore the development of the curved wandering strips that appearted in much of my work 1993- 2002, when my strips became freehand, too.
The LL photo was one called “Waterweave” which I think I only have on a slide back in Australia (note to self – get it scanned next time you’re there) See the K1P1 annotation? I don’t really need reminding of the image that set this one off, but in a very large ad across the bottom of the newspaper page there was a line drawing of one of our famous Antarctic explorers, Douglas Mawson I think, pictured wearing a really thick sweater with folded over ribbed collar/neck, fisherman style – Knit 1, Pearl 1 …. have I ever mentioned that to me a line means a potential seam? These days that process also happens in digital form on my computer screen. I don’t currently doodle with a Wacom tablet or anything – but I do manipulate photos I take, for even a ‘bad’ photo can be useful as an aide memoire – and I do a lot of deleting, too, once I have thought about what a pic actually says when I see it on screen. Many saved ideas wait at that point, page or screen, for some time, perhaps years, before taking some form in fabric and thread.
Last year I blogged about a group of quilts based on the patterns of sand ripples. It was for an exhibition for which entry was by proposal – my proposal included a couple of collages to show how the surface textures translated to image in previous works:
I was proposing designs based on sand ripples – so here I collaged some of my photos
and then that collage was manipulated with an editing program to give the appearance of being pencil sketches:
My point is that my visual diary, my sketch book in effect, is in two parts – or perhaps it’s in transition from paper to digital form. It really doesn’t matter – because as I wrote in a blog post last year “Writing about photos I’ve taken….. helps ideas crystallise in my mind as well as provide a record, and so blogging regularly is probably the closest I’ll ever come to journalling. Some artists put almost as much time into journalling as they do into their art and living itself.” You can read that post in full here .