Gee, posting that teapot and my comments about how people use Photoshop seem to have engendered some interesting discussion! I got this email from Melody (which, she warned, resulted in part from general crankiness about not getting time to work in her studio) and I excerpt it here with her permission:
I agree that you could do this without Photoshop but that Photoshop offers other options that the artist can use or not.... Here’s my rant:
What is it with all the pictorial quilting! Geesh! Must we make everything into a quilt? Why can’t just stop at the drawing/painting/photograph?
If we must make a picture, can we please remove it a few more steps from the photographic level? Can we bring something original and new into the imagery. Something of ourselves? Something one step above representational? Or two steps?
It all seems to be an exercise in making fabric into pictures that end up just being recognizable. SO???
That to me is like adding 2+2 and getting 4. Formulaic, certain, predictable, finite.
Good questions, yes? How would you respond?
Here is my reaction. Why NOT pictorial quilting? Isn't that like asking "why still life painting?" Isn't there art in creating something in one medium that fools the eye into thinking it's something else? Isn't there artfulness -- beyond the skillful technique -- in using fabric or paint to create an image of an object that looks so faithful it could be mistaken for a photograph? I've seen "pictures" that I thought were photographs, until I stepped closer and realized that it was a painting. And that surprise, along with appreciation of the skill it took to create that illusion, always delights me.
Maybe the point of Melody's comment is that whatever medium you work in, you need to make it say something original, and not just have the result be a copy (however faithful) of the original thing. I agree with that. But to my mind, it's valid to have the statement be "here's an image that reflects stillness and peacefulness through ordinary objects" or "a peach sitting on a table is beautiful." I'm not a trained or educated artist, and I suspect that those of you who are have thought about this stuff far more than I have. But that's my reaction.
And as for translating this sort of thing into fabric, I also think that this sort of work plays an important role in moving public perception about quilt-making into recognition of art quilts. We've all encountered people who think of "quilt" as something their grandmother made to throw on the bed, and who can't grasp the concept of "art quilt" or imagine how fabric can be used to make art. Maybe a still life or pictorial quilt rendered in fabric presents those folks with a recognizable "artistic" image, while expanding their concept of how fabric can be used.
For me, personally, I love seeing realistic images rendered in fabric. It delights me and causes me to marvel over how versatile fabric is as a medium, and now there is such diverse talent out there doing such amazing things. Actually, my favorite images are the ones that do in fabric what Melody was suggesting: they depict something real, but they say something more, too. (Ruth McDowell's quilts come to mind.) But hey, I'm just learning. This teapot was an exercise in trying something new, and seeing how to make a real thing look fairly realistic with fabric. As an exercise, it's fun, and I'm happy. I'm not saying this is big art.
In the workshop, Daniele looked at my fabric choices (mostly stuff I've dyed myself, which I chose thinking it would add a glow of light to what might otherwise end up being sort of flat looking) and said "I'd like to see you go home and try this with printed commercial fabrics." I couldn't help but let out a snort, as I'd love to have the time to do that sort of thing too. Life these days isn't permitting much art time. But I think her suggestion was to encourage me to step away from fabric that created a more realistic look, and try using fabrics that would force the picture to become something else. And while it struck me as virtually comical in light of all the unfinished things I have in my studio, not to mention all the other things in my mind that I want to start, I did recognize the suggestion as an appropriate effort to move me beyond being satisfied with something that just looked real.
I have to add here (as long as I'm rambling away) that I don't have a style. Melody, Gabrielle, Pam, Liz, and all sorts of amazing quilt artists have an identifiable style that shines through their bodies of work. I feel like I'm just doing all sorts of things and trying all sorts of techniques on the way to figuring out what I like to do, what works for my working style, and what helps me express what I want to say. For the moment, "Hey, look! I made a shiny blue teapot!" is enough for me to say.
What do you think about this subject? Does using photo software seem like cheating? Are realistic images art?