ELAINE QUEHL, Quilt Artist, Teacher, Dyer, Designer

Tuesday, August 20, 2013

What's Wrong with this Picture?

The theme of today's post is "what is wrong with this picture"? I will begin with photos of my studio, as it appeared after coming home from my two weeks of teaching at the Haliburton School of the arts. This is AFTER I put all my things away. Can you see why it felt impossible to work in this space?

Stuff was piled everywhere! Even the palettes of fabric I might need for my next projects kept getting stacked higher and higher on a chair. 

I couldn't even find the table tops!

Bits and pieces of projects were all over the place.

But now it is fixed!  See my closet on the far wall (this is with doors off)? Two new shelving units that fit properly and are heavy duty enough to hold all those bins of fabric were part of the solution. I was able to fit more into the closet than before the improved shelving units. One unfortunate fact is that I still have way too much commercial fabric taking up my precious space, meaning that most of my hand-dyed fabrics are stashed in a big white pantry (to the right) and a chest of drawers in the neighbouring room. Yes, I do use my commercial fabrics for backings and such, but at the rate I'm producing (or not producing!) work I have way too much fabric. Hmmm ... didn't I mention this problem about 2 years ago? The good news is that I now have an intimate knowledge of where my in-progress projects are and I have clear table tops to work on!

And on the theme of "what is wrong with this picture", I present the following. While I still love the tulip in "Queen of the Night", made in 2008, I am bothered by the stagnant composition. It sits centre stage with all that dead space around it, and it is far too symmetrical. While I knew better at the time, I was single-mindedly focusing on studying value to the detriment of other aspects of good design.

So I tried cropping the photo to make the borders less symmetrical.  

I tried colouring in two possible positions that I might add a stem, that would draw my eye up into the tulip.

I tried cropping all borders so they would be less overwhelming and "quilty". I want this to look like art, not a bed quilt.

Finally, I tried cropping all borders away, as well as cropping some of the dead space to bring the flower up closer. This looks more modern and arty, I think.

I could crop even closer if I wanted to and make the work even less symmetrical.This will mean that a quilt that was once 40" x 38" will be reduced to 28" x 24". But I'll feel better about it. By the way, these crops have been made digitally to the photo, not to the actual quilt. YET

Feel free to weigh in with feedback on the composition.

Right now I'm revisiting all the patterns I teach for improved composition. I am AOK with all the trees, but have a few florals to improve, which may be included in the patterns that get published and distributed. Up until now I have only sold patterns in conjunction with instruction. By the way, I should also announce that there will be a hosta pattern/s and a hosta class. The time has come!! I hope it/they will be available early in 2014.


  1. Elaine,

    I love organizing, how I wish I could have been there to help! Every time I get into my studio and organize (I try to do it once a year), it seems to open up room for ideas and possibilities.

    Regarding your tulip, the last one is by far my favourite! It makes for a more powerful piece.

    Lastly, congratulations on publishing and distributing your patterns, you must be very


    1. Josée,
      You can organize me anytime! I always run out of steam in the middle. Got brave and made the cut on the tulip ... yippee! Re the patterns, I'm more scared than excited because I need to be exacting with this. It would be a piece of cake for an organized person like you.

  2. Hurray! To be able to make hostas like yours would be a dream come true! When I saw your hostas at a trunk show I was wowed and inspired to take your workshops. Greta

    1. Thank you Greta. The challenge for me will be to make the pattern easy to understand!

  3. Well done , Elaine! Keeping order when you are working hard in a small space is a beast of a problem. I am the QUEEN of that scenario. You have done a great job here. Way to go, you!!
    I REALLY love what you have done digitally with the "black" tulip? In my very humble opinion, borderless IS the way to go. I know it reduces the size of the piece physically, but it expands it enormously emotionally as it appears without borders.

    1. Speaking of QUEEN Carolynn, the tulip is called "Queen of the Night".

  4. I like elements of the three last photos. I like the skinny dark border, wavy as it is, but the tulip is still too much in the centre in this one. You can't go wrong with the rule of thirds! And I like the close crop of the last one, with perhaps a tiny bit more crop on the left. One other thing I like is the added stem, to ground the tulip. Maybe a bit of leaf along the bottom would work as well. You usually see all three flower parts when you see a tulip. It's a beautiful piece, maybe all it needs is that cropping and binding!

    1. Cropping done and binding in progress. Thanks for weighing in Ilene. BTW, I checked out your blog, and love your kitty!!

  5. I definitely prefer the last one with no border and closely cropped. It makes for a very dynamic image.

    I was stewarding the Metaphors gallery at FOQ a couple of weeks ago and your 'End of Days' piece was frequently commented on and admired. Colour, movement and especially quality of workmanship. Well done, it is a beautiful piece.

    1. Thanks for the feedback Maggi. I got brave and made the cut and am finishing the edges as we speak. Oh sigh, everyone was at Festival of Quilts but me :-( One of these days! I appreciate you passing on the positive comments about my work. Just clicked on your name to find out more about you, and love your Telly Tabby photo! What a cutie!


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