As I mentioned in my last post, my daughter Sonja has had a huge influence on my development as an artist. Sometimes that influence comes in unexpected ways. A few of my latest projects have come about because of gifts she has given me of her son Tyler's artworks.
For my birthday this past June, she gave me four 8" x 10" rectangles of fabric that Tyler had painted on.
I set them aside in order to work on more pressing things. Though I was working on other projects, the fabrics were not forgotten. I was mentally trying out various ideas for how to use them for something special. As you can see, Tyler is very exuberant in his art and Sonja continues to encourage him. From time to time she sends us some of his drawings. Lately he has been working hard on circles.
Perhaps about a month ago I finally had one of those "Aha" moments when I realized what I wanted to do with my Tyler fabric. The first thing I decided was that I could combine his fabric paintings and his drawings. I printed copies of his art on 8-1/2" x 11" paper so the designs would fit on my fabric. Then I used my marking transfer paper from my sewing projects and traced the designs onto my fabric pieces.
I love to have hand-stitching projects to work on evenings when I am watching TV. So my next step was to chain stitch over the lines of the designs. I chose colors to match what Tyler had used. I used some of my Stef Francis hand-dyed perle cotton which has such lovely gradations in the colors.
It was so much fun. Sometime into this process I finally decided that I would make these embroideries into pillow covers so that they could be enjoyed day-in and day-out. I am working on my third right now. Here are the first two I have finished.
It makes me so happy to feel that Sonja, Tyler and I have collaborated on these even though we are miles apart.
This is the first in my series of posts about people and things that have influenced my artwork. I am starting with credit to my daughter Sonja. She deserves a large share of the credit (or blame) for my transformation from hobby quilter/sewer to an artist - who is now pretty comfortable referring to myself that way.
As many, probably most of you know, Sonja and I have worked together for many years. We started Friends Fabric Art back in 2002 and have managed to keep it together in one form or another ever since then. When I moved to Virginia, we thought we'd have to give up on this formal partnership, until we conceived of this blog as a way to keep it alive. (And more recently we added our Etsy shop which carries work from both of us.) Through the blog we have a way to communicate with each other and with you about our art. (As those of you with children know, uninterrupted phone conversations about adult issues are almost impossible with a toddler in the house.)
After being so far apart for a while we found we needed still more connection and a way to share the process of making art not just talking about it. I came up with the idea of doing a traveling journal. Sonja and I had been a group that did these many years ago and we thoroughly enjoyed it. Sonja liked the idea and she expanded it, suggesting that we involve Tyler as well. They like making art together and we certainly want to encourage his enjoyment of it. So we began. They did the first two pages and sent it to me for additions.
We have three pages so far. We are working in a board book with black pages. This is the first page. Sonja painted the swirl design over a page that had been "textured" with squares of glued on paper. I added the flower motif--from a hand-painted card that Sonja had given me. It was too beautiful to throw away. I thought the colors and motif coordinated well with this page - and Sonja had said she thought the page needed something.
Here's page 2 - Tyler's page. He loves to create collages with a glue stick and bits of colored paper that Sonja cuts up for him. I filled in some of the empty space on the page with pieces cut from a (used) card that I had made. The colors and textures in the card seemed to pick up on the bits of paper that Tyler had used. We'll see if Sonja adds any touches in the next round.
Here's page 3 - that I started with bits from each of us. I cut motifs from Tyler's artwork - painting and coloring - for the background. I then added the stylized leaves, again cut from hand-made cards that Sonja had given me. Lastly, keeping with the leaf theme, I added the skeleton leaves. We have each contributed to the page.
The journal will go in the mail to Sonja later tonight and I'll wait anxiously to see what will come back.
In my next post I share details of another joint artwork that Tyler and I have created together. Remember that you can sign up on our home page if you'd like to receive emailed notices of new posts.
I have been thinking a lot lately about my connections to other artists and how various people have influenced my art. One of the things that came to mind was an art history talk about Picasso that I attended some years ago. It was hosted by my friends, Joan and Arnie--my neighbors at that time. The talk was given by one of the professors at UMass Lowell. Sadly I've forgotten her name.
For me one of the most memorable things from the talk was a question from one of the others in the audience. The professor had been talking about various other artists who had influenced Picasso's work. This person asked the professor "How do you know that these artists influenced his work?" There seemed to be an implicit challenge in the question. It seemed to suggest that you couldn't really know whether these other artists had had an influence unless Picasso himself had credited them or you could point to some clear similarities in their work.
At the time, I thought to myself that the person raising the question clearly had no experience creating art within an artistic community. I knew from personal experience that if an artist works in such a milieu, he or she cannot help but be influenced by the other artists. (At the time I was working at Western Avenue Studios--within a community of literally hundreds of other artists.) You'd have to be comatose not to react to your surroundings.
I also know that sometimes it is easy to trace how you've been influenced by other artists or artistic works, but sometimes it can be very difficult. Some influences are very subtle. Sometimes an influence goes through so many changes or iterations that the original spark is hard to identify. That doesn't mean that that first spark wasn't important. Part of the artistic process is always working to make something of your own, not a copy of another's work.
For my next few blog posts I am setting myself the challenge identifying for myself some of the other artists who have influenced my work, giving them credit and trying to tease out some of the ways that they have helped me. I hope you'll stay tuned. Maybe you're on my list.
Mother & daughter, Ann Lee & Sonja Lee-Austin share their joys and struggles in their art and lives.