Christine asked me how I make my faces, whether I just let thread and images flow out of my needle. I just loved that image! I begin by making thumbnail sketches in my sketchbook. I have been looking at books, magazines, paintings, sculpture, and pottery for inspiration. When I see a face that appeals to me, I make a line drawing of the essentials.
On most days, I begin my day with my daily art practice, first choosing a thumbnail sketch or an inspiration piece, then sketching or re-sketching the face of the day in pencil. I then stitch it. Occasionally, I have repeated a face but I find that to be more difficult. The less I think about it, the better. When I've dated the piece, I put it aside and upload an earlier stitching. I do this because I find that my inner critic isn't in full form at this point.
I had been very attracted to strategies such as the morning pages described in the Artist's Way by Julia Cameron but it seemed counter-productive to spend time writing each morning when my creative interests were visual. Several times I tried using her guidelines but the process just didn't fit. In fact, I'm thrilled to see a stack of 4-1/2 inch squares and not a stack of paper or another half-filled journal. I love the idea of the artist date and I really need to make time to just look around and record what I see. That was something I had hoped to do more of.
I really hope that this might be a practice for life but I am pleased and amazed that I have stuck to it for 28 days. There are only 337 days left in the year 2010!
Whitney talks about the nature of watercolor as a medium and the need to avoid overworking. Freshness is the goal. Good advice for stitched portraits. A watercolor labored over loses freshness. But the other issue is likeness. How to get a likeness but maintain freshness. Whitney says it takes 5-6 attempts to get down the shapes/elements. After 4 or 5 studies he has the architecture down. To achieve freshness, he works quickly.
I finished number 16 this morning. I've managed to make a face every day in 2010. I stitch first thing in the morning, before my coffee, before I have a chance to talk myself out of it. I try not to be too critical of the newest work. I try to remember to find the line that I love in each sketch. There have been some bumps along the way but my rule is to leave each face alone after stitching it.
Last weekend my critique/support group met and offered a lot of encouragement. Terry Grant wrote a wonderful post about her interest in faces. I've checked out some books of favorite artists from the library for inspiration.
Kathy Loomis has started a blog, Art With A Needle. She has written about her art-every-day journey. It was really her post to the quiltart listserv that challenged me to start this project. What struck a chord with me was that she feels this practice enhances her creativity. I'm believing it.
For documentation, I am using my scanner and it is giving me fits. Each piece is 4-1/2 inches square but the scanner doesn't care. The images it produces are all different sizes. Sometimes Photoshop (PE) will tell me that it can't use my scans. I hope to figure out how to make mosaics of the images. I know it will be very encouraging to see the volume produced by making something every day.
Did I mention that my sewing machine is working like a dream? For my "canvases," I am using a tightly woven, batik-like top fabric; Quilters' Dream Cotton batting; and Pellon fusible interfacing as stabilizer/backing. I'm using a 75/10 embroidery needle and DMC embroidery thread (50/2) on top with Sew Fine in the bobbin.
Several things happening today. I must remind myself that not every day will be a great day. Or maybe, there is greatness in every day but I will just have to look for it. Today's block is done and that's about all that I can say about it. My routine did not happen today. I didn't pop-up-like-toast and stitch. Today I'm not sure if I'm making excuses or if it's just general negativity. I am also wondering about process. I tried stitching directly, with no pencil warm-up and with no prior sketches to work off, except a notion that I wanted to "fix" yesterday's work. Right now, I can see no value in what I did: no freshness. This might be something to explore over the next 360 days.
No. 4 is done! I keep telling myself that it's just like baking bread: one loaf after another. Yesterday I went to the fabric store and bought some "substrate." I didn't need any fabric but I told myself that this was necessary to make things easier. I had initially thought that I would use my hand-dyes -- neutrals. But that required decisions and I need to have everything ready to go. My practice is to get up and stitch before I do anything else. There seems to be less resistance. For the first four days I used a "sandwich" from another project. It has a fusible stabilizer on the back, batting, and the top is a light batik that I bought for some class. I cut it into roughly 4" squares. Last night I had to make more canvases so I am good to go for 4 more days.
The recent discussion on the quiltart listserv about doing the work one is meant to do, came at an interesting time. I am very much trying to figure out what that is. I know I am easily captivated by the art I love to look at. This Faces project that I am undertaking is about to exploring line, in particular stitched line. I love to stitch by hand and by machine but usually the "quilting" is an afterthought. It is functional but needn't be perfunctory. I am hoping to elevate my stitching. I completed only day 3 and doubt is beginning to creep in.
Christine's comment on my Jan. 1 blog post has been something I've been thinking about since I decided to start this project: will I blog about it every day? I chose words in 2008 (Focus) and 2009 (Gentleness) and I didn't really accomplish all that I had hoped. I knew I would need courage to tackle a daily art commitment. Somehow, blogging about it seems too dangerous right now. I will begin by doing the work, every day, first thing in the morning. (Day 2 is done! 363 to go!). I will begin to show the work when it seems right. What I need to do is to grow my confidence and my practice. I read somewhere, perhaps in Malcolm Gladwell's Outliers (review orhere is also an excerpt from the New Yorker, but now I'm not so sure) that it takes 30 days to form a habit. The practice and the habit are what I'm after.
I will say, as a further way of documenting my project, that I am currently calling it Faces. I have been an avid follower of Danny Gregory's EDM list (Every Day Matters). I have sporadically worked on my drawing skills but it has always felt like a distraction to what I thought of as my real work. Tomorrow I will write about that.
PS: Gladwell does talk about the 10,000 hours required for mastery in Outliers. That's a good bit of work.
I've chosen courage as my word for 2010. Christine Kane talks about setting one's intent for the whole year by selecting one word. I intend to post the word in my bathroom and acknowledge my word every day.
Last night I read a post by Kathy from KY on the quiltart listserv that was galvanizing. She described her yearly art resolutions and the satisfaction she has gained from them.
I felt as if she challenged me personally to begin a practice of daily art. I felt very uncomfortable. I could begin an art performance project or I could resort to my usual art cogitation projects. That would take courage. The rules are to: 1) Make your own rule, but write it down on January 1 and follow it; 2) Do it every day; and 3) Document it.
I know that the discipline of doing something every day, no matter what it is, would be good for me, and as Kathy said, would foster creativity. I began this morning but beginning is always easy for me. 364 days to go.