Thursday, September 27, 2007

Exercises with Sue Benner

Well, I'm home from an intense three days with Sue Benner. I'm exhausted and exhilerated. What a lovely woman she is, and what an excellent teacher ! Now I know why people follow her all over and repeat classes with her. She had so much information to share. I don't think I've ever heard anyone do such informative and educational critiques of our work.

The class we had was one Sue calls "Driven to Abstraction," and we learned a lot about developing abstract work from image sources.

Our first assignment was to make a quick, small piece using a photograph Sue randomly gave us using only 5 fabrics, two of which we were randomly given. Here's the one I got:

Not surprisingly, I honed in on some details and made this:

From there, we were asked to choose an image we'd like to work with for a while. I pulled out this magazine photo:

Our first exercise on abstracting our "personal image" was to tear magazine pages to create a collage of the image, working fast. I made this:

And from there, we were to make 5 small square pieces, each abstracting some aspect of the image, in whatever way we wanted.

Focusing the bright flower shapes against that great blue door, I did this...

I moved on to work the bunch of buds and came up with this:

And that led to this,

then this,

...and then this.

I learned a lot from these exercises, not the least of which was just to stop thinking about the subject of the image as particular THINGS. I mean, I kept seeing "door" and "flower" instead of shapes and lines and colors. So it was really useful for me to get beyond that. I know...duh. But still, it felt like a big mental shift.

I started a larger piece based on another image, and that's under way but needs a lot of work. So you'll see that soon. Now, I'm tired and sore (I tend to work standing up without even realizing it) so I'm headed into a hot bath.


  1. it was fascinating to watch that one piece evolve and have the initial photo completly disappear. I wanna play this game too!

  2. I agree. Fascinating. Those abstractions are fantastic. What a great excersize. I'm looking forward to seeing the other new work.

  3. Thanks for sharing this-- so often artistic exercises look intimidating to me, but this one looks fun in addition to being a sophisticated learning experience. I'm inspired.

  4. Anonymous9:08 AM

    Sue is the best. I would really love to take this particular class with her. I loved watching how your work evolved.

  5. Wow, Diane, it looks like you really got the concept! I would love to take a class like that. I am what Jane Sassaman calls "tragically literal." :-) I love your house piece.

  6. Anonymous12:40 PM

    What fun! I really like your collage and the version with teh yellow triangles -- they both have a nice energy to them

  7. Wow This sounds like a great class ... I'll hope to be able to take one from her sometime ! Thanks for such a great post !

  8. Thanks for the explanation of Sue Benner's class. She is someone I've always wanted to take a class from, but it has never worked out for me.

    I always compose standing up. It does make me tired, esp. if I work all day, but I think it makes me more alert and aggressive. Also, I can easily back up to evaluate my progess. My painting teacher taught me to do this -- he said artists tend to get lazy when they paint sitting down, because then they don't back up often enough to get a far view of their own work.