Quilt Festival 2015 Report

Houston had a Quilt Festival, and it was awesome!

So many wonderful works of art. The special exhibits were amazing. I took a lot of photos, some of which were more impressive than others. (Turns out it’s hard to tell the photo is blurry on the tiny screen of my camera.)

Big Love, modern quilt design based on sound wave pattern of the word LoveThis one is a modern quilt based on the wavelength of the spoken word “love”. I really did not expect to enjoy the modern quilt section as much as I did. The whole idea of traditional piecing is not terribly appealing to me, but I can see how the modern quilt movement uses geometric piecing to create new, innovative designs that feature different patterns of quilting. Exciting! photo of an art quilt featuring lotus flowers and koi fish
This one uses an intriguing layering technique to create the illusion of depth in the water where the koi fish are swimming. It’s a great visual trick.

photo of quilt designed to resemble Hokusai's Wave made with tiny square pieces
Tiny squares seemed to be the order of the day, although the traditional hexagons were still in heavy rotation. The pixelated look is very ‘in’. This was one of the most appealing of the pixel-y ones.

There are several hundred photos in the Flickr set. Go get lost in them. I’ll wait.

It’s All in the Dress: Star Wars Costumes at the EMP

During our family trip to Seattle in September, we visited the Experience Music Project while they were hosting the Smithsonian’s Star Wars: The Power of Costume exhibition. I am a huge Star Wars nerd, of course, although my obsession pales in comparison to a few folks I know. Having so many Star Wars friends, though, means that I regularly get to discuss things like the philosophy of the Jedi, the world building of the six films, comparisons of characterizations in novels and novelizations, and many other very exciting tidbits. Feel free to ask Star Wars questions to get us started on a discussion.

Sleeve Detail, Yellow Handmaiden gownSleeve detail, Packing dressThe exhibit features a LOT of costumes for Padme Amidala, of course. The prequels were full of her costumes, and those of her handmaidens. Interestingly, there were also a lot of photographs and notes about the influences for those costumes. Mongolia and Japan are two very obvious influences that are discussed in the exhibit, but tons of other images and concept art are included, too. I became very interested in the Royal and handmaid costumes, especially the sleeves. They are very elaborate, with multiple layers, and often extravagant embroidery.


Jedi Knight in combatAt a certain point in the exhibition, you’ve seen a dozen or so standard humanoid male Jedi outfits, and you wonder how in the heck anybody fights in those draperies. Such sleeves, such robes! Seriously, learning how to fight with a lightsaber must involve a lot of Force-manipulation of fabric, or every Jedi would end up slicing his outer robes to ribbons in a duel. The outer robes often come off, in the films, to reveal the Jedi battle clothes, which are many soft layers of tight-fitting linen-type fabrics. They’re very nubby textured in person, and the layers fit over and under each other in a very elaborate manner. Even Darth Maul’s Sith robes are rich with tiny pleats to make the “skirts” of his robe flare when he does his spinning stuff.   Battling Jedi and Sith  

The Evolution of PalpatineOne of the interesting set-ups at this exhibit was the progression of Palpatine from Senator to Chancellor to Emperor. The mannequins change their posture, even, to reflect his increasing Evil. His clothes become more tent-like and stiff as he progresses through the prequels, layers and layers of brocades, but by the time of A New Hope, many things have been streamlined and simplified, including his plain black robes. They are very reminiscent of Jedi robes, in a way that his Prequel costumes were not, perhaps a reflection of his conviction that the Sith ways of the Force were now reigning supreme? It’s hard to consider the films’ influence on each other going backwards, but there is definitely a feeling expressed in the exhibition text that the starkness and uniformity of fashion and uniform in the Empire is a deliberate contrast to the almost ridiculous variety and richness and intricacy of Late Republican fashions. The details in some of the other costumes are great, too – from bounty hunters to sand people, every inch of costume had somebody thinking about it. I highly recommend this exhibit if anybody is going anywhere near it. And I’d love to go see it again, maybe in a larger venue where they will show more of the available costumes.   Untitled


There are two cool books out (that I covet, of course, but the Library is a beautiful tool) about Star Wars costumes:
(Yes, those are affiliate links.)

Face Off: Alla Prima Portraits Live

It’s the first night of the 2015 Art of the Portrait Conference from the Portrait Society of America.
Tonight was the Face Off: 15 artists, 5 models, 2.5 hours.

The opportunity to watch so many master portrait artists at work was fantastic. And intimidating! Looking into the future here, I guess.  There’s a long way to go.

Not only were there a huge variety of styles in play, but the methods of application and building up palettes were fascinating as well, especially for me as an artist.  Until I started this deep dive into the world of acrylics, I honestly hadn’t given much thought to the chemistry and the subtlety of color mixing. It’s crazy! The first time I went paint shopping I felt like I was channeling one of Terry Pratchett’s Assassins’ Guild fashionistas: there were so many colors of black!

Now I know better, and realize just how much art theory I missed out on in college-level studio art classes.

I am getting more practical color theory and composition practice in these painting classes than I remember from any of my previous art courses. And that’s a really good thing. My creative composition really needs work.

Our current project is “the portrait in another time, place, or world.” So I am working on my most ambitious portrait yet.

My narrative self-portrait is almost done, too.  I have a little bit of color re-balancing to do first, but it really did come out well.

It’s time to step up and get some pieces done that I’m willing to put in front of a juror.  (I really need to get it together re: frames, too.)

But back to the topic of the Portrait Conference. It was terribly interesting to follow the brushwork of some of these artists.  There was a giant screen in the main room where the staff projected some of the canvases as they were in progress, and crowds gathered their chair under them to watch there, because you could see such detail in the paintings as they added color.  At one point I watched a brush I would have thought was entirely too large to make such delicate marks dance across the canvas and leave beautiful highlights in its wake.  The eyes of the painting came to life under that brush. I cannot wait to see more of the conference, and to see the paintings up close tomorrow.

Desaturation and Decay

That’s the name of my latest finished work, a colored pencil illustration of wilting sunflowers. As time wilts the flowers, so too the work itself decays, as color and form fade into the stark grid on paper.

I added this piece to my Illustration portfolio, striking an older work. Although most of the older works are still available in the archives, in blog posts similar to this one.

This one took me a long time, largely because I lost my way shortly into the color treatment and had to reconsider what I wanted the final piece to say. I had already shifted my interpretation of the flowers in a few key ways, to differentiate them from the photograph I took for reference, for one thing. Finishing this one definitely got me back into a colored pencil groove, though, so I expect that my studio will see an equal amount of Prismacolor action as acrylic paint for a while.

Next up in Prismacolor: portraits of family on vacation.