Friday, January 11, 2013

What is Good Composition?

Never mind that I haven't written anything since last summer. I started this blog as a way to document my quilting and knitting and hopefully get some feedback along the way. But I have to write something first. So here goes....

I recently took a class from a true quilt artist, Nancy Crow, titled Lines, Curves, Circles & Figure-Ground Composition. The class was intense, and I have to admit that I did not preform to my greatest potential. This was the 4th class I have taken so it was not that I didn't know what to expect. It just didn't seem to work out. A class with Nancy is hard work!  5 days of 8-10 hours of designing and sewing is really hard!  She gives an assignment, and a time to complete it. There are usually detailed exercises which are to be assembled into a composition. And here is where I get stuck. It's hard, and probably takes practice, to walk into a room and turn on your creativity 100%. I just did not have the practice and experiences to do this effectively. But I did learn a lot and will redo my notes and probably try and redo the exercises.

But my greatest question is " What is good Composition?" I know about line, shape, curves, positive/negative space, warm/cool colors, color hue, tint and value. But what exactly is a good composition? What is a bad composition? and Why?  My biggest criticism of a Nancy Crow class is that composition is   never clearly demonstrated. Maybe this is the scientist in me,  but at this point it is not intuitive, so I really need the "evidence" to understand the concepts. The classes are taught in a "student exploration" style and if you go down the wrong tunnel, you can get frustrated really fast. When I got home I spent a long time on the Internet searching for examples and there are really none. Just more on space, color, shape, etc. Maybe I can find a class at our local community college that will get me going down the "right tunnel".

Here are the pieces I worked on, and some of the class evaluation comments.

 Exercise 1. Lines in black and white. . First my lines are too fat. They are supposed to be less than 3/4" . Composition eval - "Don't bother to finish". Not much excitement.
 Exercise 2.  Shapes - Bright colors on a pastel ground. The top left corner is not finished. Shapes just placed so they don't get lost. This got a good review and I was encouraged to finish it. Looks very rough in the picture, but I like it and I will definitely finish it.

Exercise 3. BIG and BOLD. Each of the circles are about 40" across. This composition challenge was to work BIG.  At this point I was pretty tired. I just could not find the energy to come up with a good composition for all 4 circles. I had about 5 sketches in my notebook but none of them excited me enough to work on the entire piece. So I just did 2 of the ideas. I like the first one, but not sure how to integrate into the 4 circles. The second one was a "confetti" look. I like it as a single circle, but again not sure how to integrate into a large composition. I like this idea and will continue to collect ideas for the large work.


So still exploring the original question - What is good Composition? 


Karen S Musgrave said...

I totally disagree about Exercise 1. I say play some more. There are interesting things going on. To me all your work has great potential. You just need to play some more! Hugs, Karen

Poly said...

Hola Irene:
Soy realmente una novata en esto del patchwork, pero mi humilde opinión es que una buena composición depende de quien la mira, el ejercicio 1 por ejemplo: puede que no hayas logrado el objetivo, pero a mí me parece hermoso.

un abrazo desde Chile!

Ruth said...

I agree with Karen. It may not be just about lines, but of all the pieces you show it is the one I find the most interesting. If you asked me I would say finish #1 and forget #2 - which for me lacks contrast and does not seem to have much idea as to where it is going. I suspect if you looked at it in grey scale it would have a lot of medium values in it.
Of the circles I like you first one with the curvy lines - could imagine that concept as having potential.
Thanks for sharing your feelings about your Nancy Crow workshop. Interesting to hear something other than glowing praise.