Friday, September 23, 2011

Being True to Your Art

Monet in Pasadena
Growth as an artist has never come with gentle ease. It has always come with an in-your-face wave of frustration that make me change direction. I am facing that right now. It’s time. I have felt it coming on, but was so busy with traveling and teaching that it was easy to overlook the obvious.

I just got back from a week in the Hill Country of Texas or, for you non-Texans, San Antonio. It's a beautiful part of the state looks like El Dorado Hills in places, except for the humidity and cowboys.  I received an email when I got there from a friend asking me if I got a call from Houston IQA? Surely, she wrote, those 2 quilts got an award.  No I haven’t, I wrote back, is this the week? Then one of the girls in the guild I was lecturing at said she had seen my quilts on my blog and that I must have gotten a call.  No, I didn’t. I went to the next guild and was asked the same thing again. Your quilts are amazing and you didn’t get a call? No, I didn’t get a call! The call. The call?

...and Our Flag was Still There
I didn’t get a call. Yes, it was a little disappointing. It has made me stop and think about my art. But then I realized, with a big exclamation point, that I am doing art, not quilting. There is a big difference. And I am teaching art, not quilting and I am showing my art in my lecture, not my quilting. That my art has even been in these shows is a fluke. The quilting world is one of the first venues that recognized my art work. When I had my first gallery show it was me and a watercolorist together as equals, 2 artists creating flowers. 

Maybe I have outgrown my viewing field. It has been a wonderful and safe place, but maybe it doesn’t fit any more. The quilting world is changing and so am I. That is the way it’s supposed to be as a growing artist. Change hurts and is uncomfortable. Do you remember, as a child, having growing pains in your legs? I had those really bad as a tall girl. I am having them again and I am feeling the pain and that pain is making me reassess my path.

Folsom City Gallery
As an artist you are competing with yourself all the time. I am always trying to create something better with each piece I make. I have never let competition with other quilters interfere with my art. I found that doing that robs me of my creativety. Are you just running for the prize, or the next best work of art?  In the quilting world you are competing not only with other wonderful quilters, but also with the next best sewing machine, the greatest wonder thread, the next fabulous technique that comes with 6 new products we all have to have and so on. It really isn’t conducive to pure creativity.  I have tried to protect myself from that. I might have slipped a little.
First gallery show at  Shelburne Museum in Vermont
So let's grow and go for it. I discover wonderful things about myself with every quilt I make. I am stretched, tested and pushed by these works. I am attached to them because of what I discovered about myself while creating them. I don’t need an award to know they are good and meaningful.

My art on the same grounds as Mary Cassatt. Wow!
I fell into the trap we all need to avoid.  Did I want to value my art and self by what awards I received (or didn't) or by what a judge said?  Absolutely not.  Remember that the critics did not like Van Gogh's brush strokes.  He turned out OK.

These 2 quilts where made because they had to come out as they where monumental points in my life, not for others to judge my stitching. That's the difference between art and quilting. It is disappointing to not have won anything but I will get over it.  And I have.  I teach this all the time and now I have to remember my own advice: You lose part of your creativity when you make a piece of art for a show or competition. Be true to the art and make it because you have to, for you!  I am proud to say I did that with these 2 art quilts.

I read an artist blog called The Painter Keys by Robert Glenn;  Today he had quotes from artist Harley Brown that reminded me of what is important in my art.

3 of my favorite qoutes from Harley Brown:
Look for and make your opportunities happen; they are not going to come rushing up to your doorstep. But sometimes they'll be looking you right in the face.

If art takes up much of the artist's time, then it makes sense that she/he be 'lost' in the euphoria of creating. Isn't that one of our ultimate purposes in life?

Without underestimating the value of talent, it's not the most important attribute you need to become a successful artist. It's not even second. More important than talent is desire. 

I couldn't have said it better.


  1. Amen, Sista! It's about the art and what HAS to come out of you, not the ribbons. Should have gotten a ribbon though...I'm just sayin'

  2. Well said! I cringe whenever anyone asks how to make a show quilt. Make the best quilt you can, that you love, and whatever else happens is icing on the cake.

    Your work is wonderful!