Monday, May 30, 2005

The Development of Style, and a GREAT BIG THANK YOU!

As you likely know if you're a regular visitor to my blog, I have been doing some heavy reading on elements of style and art quilting, studying via on-line courses, doing lots of navel gazing, and playing with small test pieces. All of this has been aiding in the development and recognition of my own personal art quilting style.

There are artists out there that are immediately recognizable. Offhand, I can pick a Hollis Chatelaine, a Caryl Bryer Fallert, a Melody Johnson, a Sonji Hunt, a Pam RuBert, or a Pamela Allen at 100 paces. There are others too, but a girl can only spend so much time name dropping.

The interesting thing about the artists I have mentioned is that all of them have distinct personal styles. They may occasionally do something different and less recognizable, but overall, what gives their work away is specific details of how they work, more than just what they do. Yes, there are the obvious things like favored colors, themes, subjects, or textures, but there is also a not so definable quality that screams to me "So-and-so made me!" Often, the work of students made in a workshop lead by a great art quilter will come out in an obviously influenced style, but that intangible "ness", as in "the Melody Johnson-ness" of her pieces, is missing in the work of the students. I'm not sure if I'm making sense here, but if you do get it, that's probably because you recognize the same thing in the work of these people.

I've been navel gazing because although I am just beginning to dip my toes in the world of art quilting, I want to do it in a way that feels right to me. I'm experimenting with techniques, with styles, and with colors. I'm experimenting with my subject matter. I'm looking at other artistic means of expression, such as collage, altered books, painting, etc. All of this, however, is being done in order to find what drives me, and maybe what defines me, as an artist.

I'm not looking to become a creator of instantly recognizable pieces - I'm just trying to find my voice, rather than the influence of so many other great and talented people out there. It is so easy to get distracted and spend my time trying this, that, and the next thing - but I need to also make sure that somewhere amongst all of the incredible and inspiring work that can be seen on-line, I find and focus in on what I need to be expressing, too.

Blah blah blah. Yadda yadda. Anyway, last night I went downstairs to my studio to make some bright yellow daisys on a black background, maybe in a 12" square. What came out instead was "the rust rules", postcard sized. Somehow, in all my navel gazing and exploration of techniques, my own style must have snuck in there when I wasn't expecting it and bit me on the behind. On scrolling through my blog archives, I actually exclaimed (aloud and to myself, confirming my suspicion that I'm a bit touched with the oddness) "Holy crap! Who knew? I have a style!" The best part? If feels right. It feels like coming home. It feels natural.

So, the entire point of this really long and rather boring blog post? Here's a great big THANK YOU to all of those who, along the way, have encouraged me. Your comments have been encouraging, inciteful, and appreciated. You have been a tremendous help in improving my output of completed pieces, even if they are small. You've made me realize that small is just another element of my style. Again, thank you! You are wonderful, and you have guided me quickly and gently through what could have been a slow and painful process. You all know who you are - so give yourself a pat on the back from me - oh hell, give yourself a hug!

Finally, the other thing I now accept about my personal style is my favorite part - I have permission to be multi-faceted in how I express myself, and in what techniques I use. I have permission to continue growing and developing my style. I am very happy with the last bunch of small art postcards I have done. I am also happy making big quilts for wrapping people in warmth, comfort, and love. Both of these things are good. So off I go - either to work on something big and comforting, or to work on something small and embellished. It doesn't matter which - both are within the range of my personal quilting style.

Becoming a part of this webring was the best thing I ever did toward the development of my own personal style. Thank you all! And good night! Elvis has left the building. Applause, applause.


Nikki said...

Wow, look how busy you've been! And what delicious results! Now you are the one doing the inspiring...

Diane said...

I think about this style thing, too. And, like you, I feel like I'm all over the place. But you know what? Various people have told me that they can spot one of my quilts and recognize MY style! This astonishes me, because I myself don't see it. So, maybe you have an emerging style that you just don't recognize but others do.

Mrs. Mel said...

But wait!! I am still trying to find myself (my own personal style) in all this quilting business.
I have promised not to whine, but after 25 years of quilting, i just can't tell when it's really me or Memorex.

Logan said...

But isn't that the point? The development of personal style is all about development ... ongoing, ever changing, absorbing new ideas and techniques, testing the limits, etc - add your own cliche here.

That's what I was trying to get at in my post. At this point, anything I do is an expression of my personal style, simply because I made it and it is unconciously influenced by all that influences me.

I'm no longer looking for a distinctive "every piece I make must have a specific identifying element" style, instead just accepting that my style is whatever I do at the time.

Oh, wait . . . you're joking! I get it now. And here I was, blathering on even more. Shut up already Logan!

Susan said...

Oh boy, I do believe we are at the same point in style discovery! i am just realizing what I like to see and how I like to put it together -- experimenting with copying other styles has shown me clearly where my own style is.

Sonji Hunt said...

Thank you for including me in your list, Logan, along with people I consider REAL artists.

Style is subjective and personal, creative growth alters what we perceive our style to be. I like the art quilt world much better than the fine art world because in quilting, change is more acceptable. I remember getting in a fight with a gallery owner because he wanted me to stick with my "old" style of painting. Those sold and he knew WHO to sell them to. It totally defeated the purpose of creating for me. Growth and change is scary to some, especially if it impacts on their income!

You must explore and utilize the stuff you know and experiment with the stuff you are interested in and trash the stuff you hate. Serendipity is great stuff. The point is always that you must try and you must make things in order to grow and to be an artist. I know way to many degreed artists who sit on haven't made a thing in included up until last year.

Sew on sister! Fuse it, abuse it, rework it, let the cat sleep on it and seal in the hairs, especially if it yells out...THIS IS RIGHT.

Deborah said...

Some one told me to just keep making what makes you happy. when you start making the same kind of stuff over and over you know you've found your style. (I'm not so sure...)

Mrs. Mel said...

I like what you said...
"At this point, anything I do is an expression of my personal style, simply because I made it and it is unconciously influenced by all that influences me."

This gives me hope and confidence.
Honestly, really and not joking.
Thanks for being so thoughtful and thought provoking.