Thursday, October 6, 2011



That's the word for today.   I Googled the word to find out what it really means. All kinds of meanings came up like:

Antares or Alpha Scorpii is a red supergiant star of spectral type M1.5 Iab. It is about 65,000 times more luminous than our sun.   This is not actually what I was looking for.
Then I found,

What is the opposite of luminosity?  

Dullness-the state of being dull.

OK, I am getting closer.  Then good old Webster’s pulled it out for me.

 Definition of LUMINOSITY:

1 a : the quality or state of being luminous   b : something luminous
2 a : the relative quantity of light   b : relative brightness of something  Getting closer.
3 : the relative quantity of radiation emitted by a celestial source (as a star) . Oh great, back to space again!

So I will show you what luminosity is in art /quilting.

This quilt is called Grass Widows by Mary Kay Price form Portland, OR.  Mary took a 5 day retreat with me last year at Empty Spools Seminars, where she began this beautiful quilt. I am pleased to announce that she just won first place(!) with this quilt at the AQS Knoxville Show.  I am so proud.  This is a very talented woman that has won other awards for her wonderful quilts. She probably could have done this without taking a class with me. But I am thrilled that she started it in my class and I could watch her develop this and add my two cents here and there.
Mary Kay working on her quilt.

The key to this wonderful piece is in the luminosity that she captured with just the right fabrics. In her inspiration photo the sun was shining thought the thin skin of the petals.  She captured it perfectly.

Quilts can look brilliant when they are created using luminous colors. They can even be made to look as though they possess an inner light. For centuries artists have developed particular techniques for creating luminosity in their art. We can do the same thing in a quilt. When these techniques are applied, colors appear to be pure. They will reflect sunlight or other light in such a way that it seems as though the light is emanating from the artwork.

How do you show luminosity in your quilts?   You need to find fabrics colors in their purest form possible. Also, you should avoid using fabrics that have a black in them and minimize your use of earth tones and focus on fabric colors that have a primary color base with white. 

By using the right colors and values in your fabric selection you can create that glow.  If you look at the middle flower below,  can see how she has broken down each section of that one petal into veins of changing values?  She got her color-values as close as she could to what she was seeing in her picture.  She also brought a lot of fabric to class to choose from.  Those fabrics were her paint pallet.   

She also had study her pictures for days, even months, before she came to class. That’s what artists do. They spend time studying their subject matter, which is a fancy way of saying they look at their pictures.   Mary had done that and the information was subconsciously in her brain before she even got to class.  It was so exciting to watch her work through the problem solving.  Art is problem solving.  It just doesn't always flow magically from the fingerer tips but is purposely stored in the right place, waiting to be accessed.  The project is analyzed, worked and reworked until you have it just right. Sometimes the analyzing takes just a split second and sometimes it takes days of thinking.  But if it is taking too many days you may have to decide if it's fear that is stopping you or a creative block.  In my experience, 9 times out of 10 fear is the culprit.  That is when it’s good to have someone else's creative feedback.   That is why retreats are great when working out our problems or pushing yourself in a new direction. The safe, creative environment is like a different world compared to being alone at home. Plus, more can be accomplished because no one is there asking What's for Dinner? or  Are you going to stay in there all night? or my new favorite, Hey, I'm out of underwear. You get the picture.  

That is why I love to be invited to teach at retreats all over the country and now, the world. I am going to Australia in 2012.
 Student's work that, unfortunately, I can't remember her name...I am looking for it.
This is another student’s work and she is also capturing that luminosity in her California Poppies. Photography is her hobby and she is quite good at it. She shot this on the ground under the flower so the sun reflects brightly through the petals.  So cool.

My early work of clematis with that glow.
My friend, Christine Barnes, has written two great books on using color and luminosity in your quilts.  They are Quilter’s Color Club and Color: the Quilter's Guide.  You may want to check them out.

If you would like to join me for a 4 or 5 day retreat I have added a calendar box on the side of this blog. There are many great venues coming up in the next year all over the country, even a 2013 Alaskan Cruise.

My next creative art retreat is in upstate New York at the Hudson River Valley Art Retreat  coming this December. I can’t wait.

Hope to see you there and work with you on your next great masterpiece.


  1. Beautiful luminious works by all. That is one huge quilt Mary was working on.

  2. Wonderful, instructive post-thank you!