Sunday, April 18, 2010

Can This Quilt Be Saved?

I was hoping to enter the show at the Whistler Gallery in Lowell this year. It is a wonderful art gallery that exhibits art quilts once a year during the Lowell Quilt Festival. I was so pleased to get juried in two years ago and even more delighted to win a juror's award. Somehow I missed the deadline last year, but thought that I would use the quilts that were not accepted into Visions this year. I was so disappointed when the prospectus said that it had a theme this year (I should have remembered that they do a theme every other year) and that the theme was to make a quilt inspired my a famous painting, sculpture or mural. I was a little surprised that a prestigious gallery would have such a theme, especially after the recent thread on the Quiltart discussion on copyright.



I have this Van Gogh print in my home and have always loved the colors. It looks great in my family room and I though it would be fun to make an abstraction of it. I never intended to copy it. I fiddled around with hand dyed fabric that I had and made some false starts and used up a lot of fabric dong it. So I spent one weekend dyeing new fabric and two weeks of lots and lots of piecing and quilting and came up with this.


Detail
Detail.

I knew it wasn't right. I had doubts about it from the beginning, but kept thinking it would get better as I went along. I made a lot of corrections and then thought that it would be helped by mega quilting. The quilting did not make it look any better, even though I liked the quilting. It was like putting lipstick on a pig.

I held it up in front of my small quilt group on Friday to deafening silence. No one knew what to say. Ouch! Then came murmurs of: It needs a focal point, it has no depth, maybe some beads, maybe some couching, cut it up and sew it back together, etc., etc. etc. At that point I just felt like throwing it in the garbage or putting it through the shredder (wouldn't fit).
But I came home and put it on my design wall and have been looking at it for two days.

So I am putting on my suit of armor and asking for advice. Should I just cut my losses and run? Is there anyway it is fixable? Remember that it is heavily quilted. I am open to any and all suggestions, including giving it to the dog. (don't have a dog, but you know what I mean.)

26 comments:

Karen said...

This looks like a fabulous background, now add some flowers, leaves, maybe even go 3D with it. The individual parts need more definition, possibly embroidery or applique over what you have.

Karen Newman Fridy said...

Here's my 2 cents worth: I wouldn't cut it up! It's so close to being perfect. What I see, and maybe it's different in person (different monitors,etc), is that there needs to be a bit more contrast in some places. It reads as a whole to be mostly the same value. It's tricky in the original Van Gogh, but if you look closely there is dark edge to the leaves and some shadowing that distinguishes the vase from the table cloth, etc. FWIW, I would take some slightly diluted textile paint and darken the green leaves, pop a few places in the blue with a brighter tone, and give a little more of an edge between the vase and the table. This won't cover up your stitching, just requires a bit of bravery :)

Then look at it again and see if you think it needs and beading.

Very cool piece...I think you've done a great job interpreting the original without "copying" it. Can't wait to see how it ends up!

Janice Paine-Dawes said...

It is a wonderful background which IMO means it lacks depth, looks somewhat like a watery reflection of the original that is waiting for something wonderful to happen to it. If it was mine, I would think about either inking/painting or threadpainting more detail of the flowers. I might only do the flowers sans leaves and vase.

wlstarn said...

Or for a different take: cut into 6 or 8 pieces and rearrange. It still does need some darks and lightsw as most of the colors are close in value.

Holly Knott said...

Hi Norma! The only thing that jumped out at me was that the vase and table are too similar and look like one. Any way at this point to separate them out? What if you ... appliqued some flowers and leaves and a vase shape, really loose in style, over this and considered it the background?

lcroswell said...

IMHO, if you intend for this to be an abstraction, instead of adding detail and definition, you need to generalize and conceptualize more. That being said, you do not have enough contrast in your elements. You need to have the full range from very dark to very light to give the necessary depth. And I favor the suggestion of cutting up and rearranging the pieces, if in fact your goal is an abstraction. If you try the cut up method, print several large copies of a photo of it and cut those up first to see what you like best before cutting up the real thing.

lcroswell said...

IMHO, if you intend for this to be an abstraction, instead of adding detail and definition, you need to generalize and conceptualize more. That being said, you do not have enough contrast in your elements. You need to have the full range from very dark to very light to give the necessary depth. And I favor the suggestion of cutting up and rearranging the pieces, if in fact your goal is an abstraction. If you try the cut up method, print several large copies of a photo of it and cut those up first to see what you like best before cutting up the real thing.

Lorri Lee Chambers said...

Dear Norma

I think I know how you can save this piece and it would look fabulous. I do a art quilt technique I created called PAS Poor Artist Silkscreen and recently shared it at the VA/NC SAQA regional meeting. If you want to see what it looks like go to my blog FairyGodmother arts
It is a technique of doing a image on organza and laying it over the previously done background in this case do the van gogh piece inspired in black outlines and place it over top. I will explain more as to how this is done if you are interested. the draw back is it would hide your gorgeous quilting someone but I know it would save and enhance what you have. email me at fairygodmother58@gmail.com

norma said...

Hi Karen and Karen (First two comments) I don't have your email, so couldn't thank you that way. I really appreciate your thoughtful comments and will give them consideration. So much to think about.......

Pam said...

Hi Norma, My thoughts are that you have matched the colours that Van Gogh has used but his art worked because of more than just colour balance, his squiggly style was full of subtle tones and mixes of values that attracted the eye. Where you have abstracted it you have removed that which made it work. I don't think it is a lost cause though, in fact I think it is great but the binding is too pale and not providing a frame that compliments the centre. Also the blue vase is out of balance. I would add either another border surrounding the centre, or off centre panels, and I would applique abstract style thin strips to replicate the stalks, this would add the much needed focus. Don't need to be too literal, just skinny stalks ( not uniform in shape, have them pointy at one end or mix it up) that run roughly where the stalks would go and some on the fallen flowers to tie them to the rest of the piece. You could add some abstract stalks in a second border too. Once you have done that I would review whether some depth could be added to the existing piecing through some painting or abstracted flower petals etc.I would defintely change the binding colour if you do nothing else. Good luck.
Pam in Canberra Australia

Laura Krasinski said...

Hi Norma, it needs some definition. darker lines in some places.. can you paint over it? I think I would try and define the vase with paint and maybe a shadow to the right of it and maybe bring some green paint through it for the leaves using a lighter green and darker green.. I think though if you just define the vase you will be good..I do like the piece and I would go for it..

Laura Krasinski said...

Norma.. after reading some of the other girls suggestions I like what Karen said too.. you could put some flowers on it..

Art by Rhoda Forbes said...

Norma, I certainly wouldn't cut it up. It is a fabulous abstraction of Van Gogh's painting. You did a wonderful job. It does have depth and it certainly portrays the vase of flowers. I say keep it :)

Anne Copeland said...

I think it is great in colors, but as one person said, lacks adequate contrast. The other thing I see is that all the squares are approx. the same size and shape. What if you cut around the vase and flowers and the table and removed the background, replacing it with larger squares, perhaps even with different shapes, like more diagonal orientation, but not a lot? I think a difference in size of pieces would help this a lot. There is also something I learned from Pamela Allen for the flowers, vase and table, and that is to cut a slightly larger shape out that is a contrasting color and put it beneath these pieces so that it is like a little line all around the pieces - anywhere from 1/2" - 3/4" and it doesn't have to be even all around either. You could pick a color that is not already on the quilt, like a deep orange for example, and then cut that piece sort of free form. Then even if you keep the existing background, the piece would stand out from that. Good luck with it, and overall I think it is a very interesting piece and well done.

my croft said...

My reservation about the piece is that it's on the line between literal and abstraction, and therefore feels tentative. I'm in the 'cut it up and put it together in a new way' camp.

Because of the strong verticals, I wonder if Magritte's 'Carte Blanche' (the woman on horseback moving the trees -- or is it the trees that are moving through the horse and rider?) might provoke something helpful?

wv: dozoofy
I couldn't have put it better myself.

Loreen Leedy said...

I would look at the quilt in Photoshop (or similar program) and try adding some black line work. Maybe an outline of one enlarged blossom, or some other cropped view of the original image. If you find something that seems to work, I would suggest couching black yarn or ribbon to the existing quilt. Paint might work, but is not reversible...good luck!

katyquilts said...

Take a picture and make a color photocopy....My first thought was to try cutting it up and putting the fractured pieces on a darker background. You can do this with the color copy to try it out! It is lovely but almost too perfect for Van Gogh....if that makes sense...

Sherryl Buchler said...

I wouldn't ditch this just yet Norma. I like the idea of adding on top of it, either as applique or 3D or both. I think you could also paint in some contrast between the vase and the background and perhaps make some of the background squares larger looking. I think layering will give this more depth and more of a focal point.

hudsondebb said...

I'm with "Janice- threadpainting" and "Loreen- black line work". I personally wouldn't add more fabric as applique, or paint- I think I'd try to add the suggestion of line, to contain and define the shapes you've created by color and contrast- I'd think I'd want to try to "draw" or "sketch" over the pieced & quilted background with darker, not necessarily black, thread- embroidery, couched yarn, etc.
I'd view it in Photoshop to experiment with drawing over it. I wouldn't cut it up just yet.

liz berg said...

since everyone else has discussed the contrast in value and color, my suggestionis to add contrast in shape. One of the important design elements in the original painted are the spikey, vertical leaves. Cut out leaves with fusible on it and over lay them and then stitch with a darker thread. Be sure that your leaves show good contrast in shade...you could even creat the leaves using several pieces of darker green fabrics to create them.
The other idea is to introduce circles , also fused over your flower placements. Then do quilting over that with darker threads to emphasize the flower shapes.
I think the problem you are feeling the most in this is the original is very organic and you have recreated it in a very geometric way so it has lost the feel of the original. By adding back a little bit of the organic, and also stitching with darker thread to create shapes, may help bring that balance back in.

latpatt said...

Some 3d leaves and petals on top as Karen suggested. Or maybe some dark colors of yarn, thread, cloth strips couched on in the same of flowers.

ParisMaddy said...

The colours are spot on! The first thing I noticed was there isn't any separation between the table colour and the vase colour---it all blends together and gets lost. Textile painting in some shadows on the vase, the tall green fronds and a few leaves could help.

I've saved more than one painting by outlining the image in a darker colour.

Have you played with an organza printed overlay? That would give it some dimension. I think you are really close---please don't give up.

Marti said...

I have nothing to add to all of the above, Norma, except to say that the quilting is fabulous (I know that you know that...but I had to put it out there!)
And I hope you share the refinished results!

mistyfuse said...

Norma I really like it a whole lot! And I think it is a wonderful response to the theme--which I think is a tough, but very clever theme. Interestingly, you have picked a real hard painting to work with! The balance and success of this painting is very tricky and so unique. You certainly had your work cut out for you, but I think you really picked up on it. In my IMHO, on your quilt I would not try to move in a more literal direction at all! Squint at the painting and see the blue and yellow fields. Now look at yours. If you can take off a little of your blue from the middle right side and add a bit more of the blue on the left just below the middle and also bite into the bottom blue with a bit more of the orange-- I think you'll be happier. It's really a beauty!

Carole said...

Hi Norma.. somehow I missed the request for a look-see, so came over now. I have read the comments and not much to add, but for sure keep it. I like the idea of some black lines, but if it were mine I would applique on top with what you have already as a reflection behind it. The colors are great!

Maxine Oliver said...

Hi Norma, Well I took a look. I read most of the comments and I have to say I agree with a couple of them. There is no definition between the table and the vase. If it were mine, using a fabric pen, I would draw an outline of the vase with a shade of brown. I would also outline the Leaves.