It’s been a long time since I properly shared my quiltmaking process, and I receive regular emails and messages asking about this so I thought I’d write a blog series again.
Every new artwork begins with lots of drawing. Even before the drawing begins, though, I like to think about my subject matter. I like working with a theme, to creative a cohesive body of work. I see ideas for quilts in everything so selecting a theme also helps me to focus on something. I consider several things in choosing a theme. My worldview is important. I am inspired by God’s creation, and how everything works and fits together in it. The laws of nature, botanical and zoological interrelationships, and the God-given role of man in the natural world all stimulate me to further explore new ideas and designs in my textile art.
I also want to work with subject matter that speaks to me personally and is available to me in my immediate environment.
I currently have two themes happening in my artwork. My botanically themed artworks highlight the beauty of the plants and trees that are ‘everyday fare’ for us here in Australia. There is so much beauty in the details of each tree, for example, in the veins that produce pattern and texture on a eucalyptus leaf, and the huge variety of colour to be found on a single plant.
My childhood-themed artworks, although not quite as popular as the botanical pieces, are my current favourites, perhaps largely because they are more challenging for me. Observing children at play, these artworks aim to capture a sense of childlike wonder. As a mother I am privileged to observe that awe of little children discovering for the first time things which we as adults have long since taken for granted. Observing small children notice budding flowers, snail trails, ripening fruit, textured leaves, floating bubbles, dripping rain and pencil marks on paper for the first time is a wonderful reminder of just how special these ordinary things are. I hope I can retain some of that wide-eyed wonder myself, and continue to express it in my work.
Having decided (perhaps broadly) on a theme, I do a lot of sketching. This time is fun, but can be frustrating. I never know how long it will take to develop several quilt designs I am happy with. I am thankful to be living in the age of digital cameras, as I like to take hundreds of photos of my subject matter, from all different angles, as a reference throughout the whole design process.
At first I draw without too much intent, familiarising myself with the subject matter. Then I will start developing my ideas, trying various alternative designs, and stylising my drawings so that they lend themselves to the style of quilts I like to make (specifically, to machine piecing). This process takes place in my visual diary, which is an important record to me. I constantly refer back to original ideas and inspirations as recorded there. By the end of this stage, I have a collection of all kinds of sketches – photorealistic (for familiarisation of subject), line drawings (with piecing in mind), quick thumbnail sketches, bold marker drawings (for developing overall layout without getting bogged down in detail), simple design layouts, as well as detailed line drawings with the quilting in mind.
I find quick thumbnail sketches very useful for working through a bunch of potential designs for a given artwork. When I’ve settled on a design concept that I like, I draw it up more completely.
The final step in the drawing process is to convert my sketched design to a pattern for piecing. This pattern shows all the cutting/seam lines for the final artwork. In other words, each white space in the sketch represents a separate piece of fabric.
Stay tuned for the next step in my artmaking process soon!
In recent weeks I worked on a drawing assignment for an international competition. We had to design teacups and napkins for a cafe. I didn't make the final for the competition, but working on the illustration was an enjoyable challenge for me. I'm pleased with the final result and with what I learnt along the way.
This drawing is a digital composite of many scanned and edited drawings. A project like this still has me a bit confused with regards to a clear plan of attack/ process. I would love learn more about how experienced illustrators approach a task like this. I'm sure that it will come more easily with more experience. I also feel like my digital drawing skills are still holding me back. I would have loved to create a richer-looking backdrop with some texture, but wasn't quite sure how to do that. That's definitely something I plan to learn more about!
You might like to check out the 50 beautiful illustrations that made the final over here.
Meanwhile, here are some of the drawings and designs that went in to this illustration:
By the way, I suspect that quite a large number of you will be receiving this post via email for the first time (those who signed up for this via the pop-up box on my website). Having a look at it this week, I don't think that this automatic 'mail out' has been working up till now. I think I've fixed it now, and just wanted to explain why you are suddenly receiving these emails! Thanks for signing up!
A friend recently asked about inspiring and encouraging children who love to draw. I don't know of any local drawing classes to recommend, but have given some thought to my tips in the subject. Here they are:
1. Real life.
Encourage your child to draw from real life. Yes, sometimes this feels like hard work, but it is SO valuable for developing in drawing. Seeing is half of drawing, and drawing from real life helps us to learn to see. Drawing from memory also has its place, but when we only draw from memory, our drawing can easily stagnate. So bring things into the home to encourage drawing, and also take the kids out on drawing 'excursions' – the zoo, a museum, the botanical gardens, a market, the grandparents backyard – anywhere, really!
2. Have fun.
Having stressed the importance of drawing from real life, it's also good to stimulate your child's imagination, after all, that's what kids do best, isn't it – letting imagination inspire their play and their artwork. Check out books by Shaun Tan for inspiration! I love Carla Sonheim for how she encourages us (adults too) to loosen up and play in our art making. Check out her website for online workshops, and also look up her books, including Drawing and Painting Imaginary Animals, and The Art of Silliness.
3. Good supplies.
Have some good art supplies in the house. They don't have to be expensive. Make sure you have some 2B and 4B pencils handy. These are nice and soft to draw with. Also, ONLY buy good quality colouring pencils. I buy either Crayola or Faber Castell. It is so worth spending a little bit more on these. Poor quality colouring pencils stress me out! If your child is old enough to take care of a set of watercolour paints, consider one of these, and a few water colour brushes from an art shop. (That age will vary from child to child). Teach them to never leave the brushes in a cup of water and to be very gentle with the bristles.
Give your child a sketchbook. Make a bit of a deal of it, to show that you look forward to seeing the collection of drawings that they will make in it, and that this will become a book to be treasured. Encourage your child to take it with them when you go out, and to document things that they see and experience, and also the things that they think and dream about, so that the sketchbook becomes a bit of a journal.
5.Join in the fun.
Best tip of all: get a sketchbook for yourself too, and join your child in her creative endeavours. I think you'll surprise yourself with how much you enjoy it – and your child will love sharing that activity with you!
Here's a series of blog posts I wrote a few years ago, about our stay-at-home artists retreat. Maybe you will find some inspiration there too!
Didn't they all do a great job!?
And I also have to say, hats off to school teachers! This one lesson a week left me exhausted! I don't think I could do this full time!