ELAINE QUEHL, Quilt Artist, Teacher, Dyer, Designer

Sunday, July 29, 2012

Haliburton School of the Arts, Week 1

Last week's class, Serendipity Strips and Curves, was all about learning to cut and piece free-hand without rulers and measurements.  For some students this was a completely new way of working.  For others it was the continuation of a journey they had already started on.  They worked so hard that some days it felt like I was running a sweat shop! Here are some results from the week.

Beverley's free-hand curves:

Frances' "blue tornado", her free-form curves exercise:

Ruth and her first time trying liberated strip piecing.

Kerry's work was always bold because she uses red (one of my favorite colours)! 

That's Maureen working away with several student designs behind her.  At left is her liberated strip piecing exercise, middle is Sheila's, and to the right is Sheila's free-form curves exercise.  At the bottom is Jackie's liberated strip piecing exercise.

Debbie's curved blocks are very dramatic with surprise design elements.

Barb's wall of works:

All week long we were distracted by the stunning indigo shibori being turned out in the class next door with Pamela Woodward.

Kathleen is calling this piece "One Windy November".

Barb finished two radial designs:

All week long I met up with deer on the road to my cottage.  This doe wasn't too worried when I stopped my car and got out to photograph her.

One day I spotted a doe with two fawns.  I managed to capture a photo of one of the fawns before all three slipped into the forest.  What a precious moment!

A Perfect Day in Haliburton

Friday I finished my first week of teaching at the Haliburton School of the Arts.  I will be blogging about the fantastic week I had with 12 eager and hard-working students very shortly.  Next week I'm teaching Surface Design.  In the mean time, I'm enjoying what the great Canadian wilderness has to offer.
Yesterday I woke up to a perfect day.  A sky that was bluer than blue, warm temperatures but no humidity.  This is the view from the deck of my cottage (I had two cottage mates last week who are also teaching here) but I have the cottage to myself for the weekend.
I've been meeting up with white-tailed deer all week, but these two ladies appeared right behind my cottage

I have more great deer pictures I'll be sharing in my report about last week.

I decided it was time to head to the Haliburton Forest and visit the Wolf Centre.  Haliburton Forest consists of 80,000 acres of privately owned forest that is protected.  It borders up with the southwest side of Algonquin Park.  At the wolf centre I learned it was my lucky day because for the first time in a month all wolves were out and visible from the observation windows.  The Wolf Centre is both a protected zone and an educational site where wolf behaviour is studied.  I captured many pictures while the wolves were lazing about in the sun and snapping at the flies that were bothering them.

I call this one "laughing wolf"!

These two wolves below are omega wolves, meaning they are at the bottom of the pecking order in the pack.  Only the alpha male and female get to breed in their lifetimes, and if anyone else tries they could very well die!  The omega wolves are outcasts, always maneuvering around the periphery of the group. On a bad day they may even be attacked and injured by more dominant males.  Nature is cruel.  However, the entire pack looks out for the kids and even helps with babysitting and feeding.

Here are some of the pups that were born this past spring.  It was hard to get good photos because they were sleeping just below the window and the angle of photography through the glass didn't work very well.

There was a huge traffic jam in Haliburton yesterday, with folks visiting the Haliburton Arts and Crafts Festival.  By the time I returned from the Wolf Centre the traffic had subsided and I attended the Festival.  Right next to it a bunch of kids were engaging in some good clean summer fun at the swimming hole off of Head Lake.  Fun but perhaps dangerous, they were jumping off the bridge, sometimes swinging from a rope.  Can you think of a more perfect activity on a beautiful summer day?

There must have been easily 100 booths at the Festival, and they were all high quality.  If you visit the link to Rails End Gallery you can see a list of exhibitors.

I love this fountain in the centre of the park.  In fact, I painted it a few summers ago when I was taking an acrylics class here.  If I were at home I'd show you the painting.

I was just thinking about what a perfect day it was, when a monarch butterfly landed and stayed for a pretty significant photo shoot.

After that I found a pool to visit for a couple of hours.  The resorts up here are very good about letting visitors use their pools for a fee.  All in all a perfect summer day!

Saturday, July 21, 2012

Last Week's Dyeing Class

Last week I taught an introductory dyeing class at Dragonfly Fabrics here in Ottawa.  Today I received an email and photos from Linda, one of the students in the class.  She sent both her results and her friend Trina's results from our 12-step colourwheel exercise and our multi-coloured fabric exercise.  Linda's fabric is on the right, Trina's is on the left.  Trina accidentally added her soda ash solution to her dye powder and urea instead of water, so the dyes started doing their thing right away while we were at lunch.  I warned her that her dyed fabric might be a bit paler if we didn't add the white fabric until after lunch, and suggested she might want to re-mix her dyes.  She was open-minded about the results and OK with the possibility of having softer colours.  So here you can see the difference a a little more than an hour made.  Trina's are much softer while Linda's are full intensity.

At the end of the class we had some dye solution left, so Linda and Trina took it home and had another dyeing session.  Here are some of the results.

Linda's favorite:

Trina tried a folding technique and came up with this piece, which is her favorite!

I hear they are both hooked on dyeing :-) 

There is another introductory fabric dyeing class at Dragonfly Fabrics on August 15.

I am pretty much packed and ready for my two weeks of teaching at the Haliburton School of the Arts and am heading out in the morning.

Wednesday, July 18, 2012

France is in the Future

I have one other very exciting piece of news to share today.  I have known about this for about two months, and think it is now OK for me to share since I completed the paperwork and signed the agreement today.  I've been invited to the South of France (St. Jean de Luz) to exhibit my work for four days, May 30 - June 2, 2013, at the Quilt en Sud Festival of Patchwork and Textile Art.  The Festival runs every other year, and invites international artists to exhibit.  What that means is that I will be on site for four days to speak to visitors about my work.  I expect to be taking a small show (about 10 pieces of work).  My main role is as an exhibitor but I was also invited to submit a proposal to teach.  I have done that and we shall see what the outcome is.  Stay tuned for more details.  I'm really excited about how my quilts are helping me see more of the world since I am really hooked on travel.  St. Jean de Luz is in the Basque region of France, about 20 km from Spain.

An Honourable Mention for "Red Stool"

I heard from friends by email on Saturday morning, but didn't get the official word until today so haven't been able to share the news until now.  "Red Stool" was awarded an Honorable Mention at the opening reception of New Legacies 30: Contemporary Art Quilts last Friday night.  Pretty exciting news!  The show takes place at the Lincoln Arts Center, Fort Collins, Colorado from July 3 through September 5, 2012.  Last year's winners are up on the webpage (link above) so I expect this year's will be posted soon.
 Red Stool, 2011

Saturday, July 14, 2012

Fantastic Class

I arrived home last night after my week-long class at the Haliburton School of the Arts.  Before I left I was facing a long "to do" list to prepare for classes I am teaching in the very near future, and wondering if I should spend the time taking a class myself?  The conclusion?  YES, because the class was FANTASTIC!!!  A week without a to "do list" was a treat, and then add that I was in cottage country, with lots of forests and lakes, where I occasionally spotted deer, and once saw two wild turkeys cross the highway with a brood of young ones.  To top the week, I learned so much that was new and felt myself stretched the entire week.

I was expecting to learn the usual stuff you learn in a basic design class:  stuff about line, shape, colour, repetition, scale, etc.  In fact, it went way beyond that and I don't know where else I might have found such a course.  Our instructor, Matthew Mancini, is a classical realist painter, who studied at the Ontario College of Art and Design (OCAD) for two years and then spent five years honing his skills at the Academy of Realist Art.  The academy has schools in Toronto, Boston and Edinburgh.  He will be representing Canada this summer at a special gallery celebration of the Queen's Jubilee in London, England.

During our first day we learned a great deal about the basic underlying structure (or geometry) of the works of the masters.  We analyzed art for its underlying structure, and then each of us chose one of the works of the masters to work with ourselves.  I chose a painting called Wheatfield and Cypress Trees by Vincent van Gogh (which reminds me I haven't yet had time to see the Van Gogh exhibit that is here in Ottawa this summer, but I will!!)The underlying structure is basically a harmonic armature.  I've left a link where you can read more.


Van Gogh, Whatfield and Cypress Trees

Our first task was to do a grey-scale (value) study, and then a colour study of the painting.  Here are mine.  We had to restrict ourselves to five values, and were not to include any detail, only colour.

Then we got to design our own piece.  We could either go outdoors for inspiration for our composition or work with photographs.  I worked with photos from my trip to Italy.  My design is based on a combination of aspects of several photos.  Again, we had to choose an underlying structure (armature), do a value study in greyscale, and then a colour study before designing our own painting.  You can see on the greyscale study below, I have added in the lines of the harmonic armature.  The points of interest should happen at the interesections of the lines.

Below is the painting, at the point when I left class yesterday.  There is still a lot of work to do to shade the pots on the lower left and lower right, and I can either leave the stonework flat as it is or try to texture it the way the walls and arches really were.  The basic composition is there though.  I am basically a beginner level painter, and it was a real treat this week to watch Matthew in action drawing, mixing paint, painting. 

It is becoming very clear to me that using one photograph is seldom ever going to provide the best composition, and placing the elements exactly where they are in the photograph isn't going to give you the best composition either.  What actually exists in real life needs to be shifted to make the art dynamic.

Below is a photo of Matthew with his art.  His portraits are absolutely amazing.

And here's a picture of our class.  It was great to spend a week with kindred spirits, who all value art that is realistic.  In the art quilt world, there is much more value placed on improvisation, innovation, stream of consciousness work, flying by the seat of your pants, accidental art, and moving in the now.  The kind of art we made this past week was well planned and designed.  According to Matthew, realism is back in vogue.  Maybe the art quilt world will catch up!
Even though I was wearing my student hat this past week, I did attend the Tuesday night "meet and mingle" at the faculty show, where my piece Days That Remain is on exhibit.

Now it is back to reality!  Back to the "to do" list.  I have a dyeing class to teach on Monday here in Ottawa, and the rest of the week will be spent catching up and prepping for my two weeks of classes in Haliburton.  They are coming up fast!