Sunday, August 30, 2015

Artistic Inspiration & Appreciation

I was very flattered when I was contacted recently by the folks at Patience Brewster  to ask if I would be interested in participating in a series of artist appreciation posts on their blog. I'm sure you know Patience Brewster's artwork, even if you don't recognize her name. She creates the most whimsical creatures, both on paper and in sculptural form.  You've undoubtedly seen her card, figures, and ornaments -- they are very charming.  Oh, how I love that moose figure!  And the pearl girl mermaid ornament!  And the Christmas black lab!  I've given the ornaments as gifts occasionally and I have several myself, and one is more adorable than the next.

In any event, the fact that Patience Brewster has asked me as an artist about my artistic inspirations brought me up short.  I forget to think about myself as an artist -- I tend to see myself as someone who plays and creates and makes for the love of making and exploring.  I guess that's an artist!  

I have been inspired by a lot of different artists.  But as I was thinking about this post, and thinking about the art I make, I realized that I tend to work in three main areas these days (quilting, sketching, book making).  So I want to highlight several people who have taught me and given me tremendous inspiration in those three areas.  

First, quilting.  I have been deeply influenced by the work of Freddy Moran and Kaffe Fassett.  And yes, they have their similarities, even though their bodies of 
work are quite different. 

When I returned to quilting in the early 1990's, Freddy introduced me to making traditional quilt blocks in very nontraditional ways.  She gave me the freedom to use as much color as I wanted, and then to add even more.  

She gave me (and a lot of others) the freedom to loosen up on precision, and to appreciate the personality of wonky shapes. 

She showed me, in quilt after quilt, how beautifully joy and fun can be expressed in fabric.

Kaffe Fassett, also, taught me a lot about how mixing color and pattern and scale can work to create a riot of color and texture as beautiful as any garden.  As Freddy does, Kaffe uses color and pattern with exuberance.  

I love how his quilts create such complexity even with simple shapes and simple structure. 

The world of sketching and painting is newer to me, but I am soaking up inspiration from all directions and learning a lot as I follow my favorite urban sketchers.  Several stand out.  First is Danny Gregory.  

His books, especially The Creative License, Everyday Matters, and An Illustrated Life, introduced me to sketching as a way of experiencing the world. 

 He's shown me and so many others that sketching and painting aren't about painstaking precision or perfection; they are about seeing and the process of translating what you see through your own artistic process.  It's drawing, and drawing, and drawing more -- even the most ordinary things -- that build skill, that cause you to see the world differently, and that create an artistic habit.

I've been a regular student in his online course, "Sketchbook Skool," which has helped me see that different artists do things differently, and that's okay!

Another sketch artist who inspires me greatly is Liz Steel, from Australia.  I took to Liz's story right away -- she trained and worked as an architect but eventually her passion for sketching and watercolor took her in directions she never imagined.  

I've learned a lot from following Liz's stream of sketches on Flickr, and I am inspired to try to get looser and paint the essence of something, rather than getting bogged down in the details.

Liz's sketches of food, her teacups, and her art supplies have taught me a lot, and I end up sketching food and dishes and art supplies often as well! 

 The other sketch artist whom I admire tremendously and study with intensity is Gay Kraeger.  She was a graphic designer before she began keeping watercolor sketchbooks, and her graphic design training shows in her work. 

She incorporates all of my favorite things in her sketchbook spreads -- beautiful images, a well-composed layout, and attractive typography and text.  I have learned so much from seeing the different ways she sets up a page. 

And in the world of book making, two artists immediately come to mind.  First is the woman who was my teacher and mentor for a number of years, Shereen LaPlantz.  

I'd been enthralled with her book "Cover to Cover," which had inspired me through showing innovative book structures, easy techniques, and so many beautiful photos.

When I moved back to Northern California and discovered that Shereen lived just a few hours a way, I was thrilled. That discovery led me into a 3-year master class on bookmaking with Shereen.  Along the way, I learned so much from Shereen about things beyond book-making -- how to embrace one's creativity, how to move past mistakes, how to be proud of one's own uniqueness, and eventually, even, how to accept a terminal illness with grace and dignity and a zest for living up until the very end.  I treasured my time with her and miss her.

The other artist who has inspired me in the book arena is Mary Ann Moss, of Los Angeles.  I first met Mary Ann through her blog Dispatch from LA, and I was drawn to her humor, her willingness to explore and just be silly with art, her happy and colorful artwork, and her love of reading and learning.  She's a woman after my own heart, she is.  But I was totally excited when I discovered her series of online classes that involve bookmaking -- Remains of the Day, Ticket to Venice (travel journaling), Full Tilt Boogie (visual journaling), and Sketchbookery (sketchbook making and painting).

Mary Ann reminded me that it's okay to sew on paper, and it set me off on a renewed book-making obsession that holds me enthralled even today.  She's inspired me to mix papers and junk mail and old stuff and photos and all sorts of ephemera  -- it's that permission to be free and creative and just bask in color and pattern and texture, with and on paper.  (Are you seeing a theme?  If Freddy Moran made books, I bet she'd make them like this.)

Mary Ann has changed the way I think of book making -- she's brought me back to it, actually, after many years away -- and she's freed me up to have fun making whatever sort of book I want, with whatever bits I have around, and to use them for whatever purpose -- most importantly, just for fun.

So there you have it -- the artists whose inspiration is affecting me most immediately these days.  

Thank you, Freddy, Kaffe, Danny, Liz, Gay, Shereen, and Mary Ann.  The work you've shared has become a part of me, and has affected everything I do. 

I'd love it if you'd share in a comment who inspires you! 


  1. Thanks for this post about your inspiration heroes: I love to know exactly this kind of thing, the people that have lit a fire under an artist whose work I admire (that would be you). Your first three are also three of my top inspiration picks: I hadn't seen the Freddy Moran quilt with the yellow border before, and I just love it. Did you know Danny Gregory has a new book out? I'm looking forward to investigating the others on your list. Loved your account of your trip to Washington State too: we're so focussed here in southern BC on the fires just across the border in eastern WA that I forget about the green and saltwater world of the coast. I enjoyed catching up on your summer.

  2. Oh yes! I love them all but I guess my love of Gay Kraeger's work started me on this journey. After seeing her work I bought the DVD she and Christina Lopp created and which then led me to reviews praising Danny Gregory. His book, An Illustrated Life, was a game-changer. All of a sudden I had inspiring images from incredible artists in the palm of my hand and I found myself taking two online classes... Jane LaFazio's class where I met you and Strathmore's online class with Roz Stendahl. Roz Stendahl has probably had the biggest influence on me, helping me to create a dynamic daily art practice.

    And I can't forget Gwen Diehn. I owned both her Decorated Page and Decorated Journal long before I ever thought I could... and would... create art and journals of my own. Even now, as she works toward the 10,000 drawings she's creating (her take on Malcolm Gladwell's 10,000 hours) she's as inspiring as ever.