I am having issues with realism. It’s not what you’re thinking. This isn’t about reality. I have a firm grip on my personal reality, and also on the wider reality of life in the dysfunctional 21st century. No, it’s about trying to portray realistic images in my artwork. My dissatisfaction began to grow as I learned to paint with watercolor. All the instruction I have received so far focuses on rendering what I see in the real world. Specifically, I’m taught, how to paint in a manner that emulates three dimensions of shapes in the real world. It’s not going well. And now my dissatisfaction with painting has spilled over into my work with fiber, leading to a muted feeling about all my work.
When I began to experiment with fiber, I was inspired by the work of Gustav Klimt. Klimt began his training in applied arts. This influence shows in his paintings,which are filled with decorative surfaces. It’s the opposite direction of realism. He takes the human form and renders it as a surface, with delicate textural coloration. The rest of his canvas is bursting with a riot of color and pattern.
It is time for me to return to my first impulse about fiber art and make an abstract work. I’ve chosen a sunset as my subject. This photograph is one I took about a year ago during one of our trips to Wisconsin. My intention is to boil the sunset down to its essential lines and colors, sew strips to a backing fabric and then apply decorative stitches. I’ll use hand-painted scraps of cloth leftover from other projects.
I started out by making a rendering in crayon, placing an emphasis on the angular lines.
After working out the number of strips I will need, I scaled up the image to size, which will be 18 by 12. Next I assembled the fabrics.
I realized that I will need to paint a few more pieces to have enough grayish purple for all the clouds in the scene. So I found a few white and gray scraps that will be painted.
I also made a pattern in full size on butcher paper. I don’t have a photo of it for you, and it has already been cut up. As I made the pattern, I winnowed down the detail even further to get to the essential lines of the sunset. I am using muslin as a backing fabric. Work will proceed from the most complex strip (the sun) outward, first down and then up. After a few hours, I had the lower half assembled.
After getting to this stage, I felt a palpable sense of relief.
Tomorrow I will finish painting the fabric and assemble the rest of the piece.