Thursday, September 13, 2012

Black and White or Colour?

Hi everyone:

I was reading an article in the August/September 2012 issue of Quilting Arts magazine the other day about one quilter's design process. Lynn Krawczyk is an art quilter, which is not something I consider myself to be, being more of a traditionalist, however one of her statements struck a chord with me. She kept a design sketchbook (again, something I don't do), but limited herself to using only black ink on a white page. I found this interesting and opposite to what I usually do. When I create a quilt design, I already envision the colours that I'll use in the project. Lynn feels that this constrains her creative process as she would "fall into the trap of judging the real work against the image on the page. I was strangling the flow of creativity, defining it before it had a chance to evolve in its own direction." Huh, maybe she has a point. I find it difficult to imagine my design in any other colour scheme than the one in my head and I certainly find this limiting especially when I'm looking for fabric for the design. Sometimes I just can't seem to find the perfect colour in any fabric. Maybe working in black and white, or shades of them, might free me from focussing on the colours and help me to see other designs in my blocks and create other ideas for that particular project. Let's take an example and see.

Here's a pieced design that I've created in EQ7. It's fairly basic with a churn dash block centre and a fancy border. Looks rather traditional and country-ish to me. You'll either see pinwheels or churn dash blocks in this design, with the emphasis on neither block.

Churn Dash and Pinwheels
What does it look like if I take out the distraction of the colours so we can really see the design?
Churn Dash and Pinwheels without the colours
 Well, that looks quite different, doesn't it? Now we can play around with the placement of the darks and lights without worrying about how nicely colours play together. Let's try changing some of those blacks (darks) to whites (lights). 
Adding some more white (lights)
Well, that certainly looks different, doesn't it? The churn dash blocks are gone and you have triangles or a hint of pinwheels, depending on your viewpoint. I haven't touched the borders or cornerstones, just the centre of the quilt. While this certainly is different, I think it lacks depth and the pinwheels in the centre look a bit small for my liking. I'd like to do this quilt in more than two colours - possibly in three - so I'm going to add some grey to the mix.
Grey added to the borders
By adding grey to the two borders, the focus is now definitely on the quilt centre and those churn dash blocks pop out at you. Again, this is a bit more interesting, but I'm not really happy about it yet. Let's switch it up a bit more.
Grey added to the quilt centre, as well as the borders
In this version I've kept the grey in the border, to keep the focus on the quilt centre, and have added grey to the churn dash blocks. Now they are no longer churn dashes, but interlocked pinwheels. Again, more interesting, but I think there is still some tweaking to be done.
Grey distributed more evenly throughout quilt
I've distributed the grey more evenly in the centre and now it looks like pinwheels on a checkerboard background - at least to me. I'm really liking the look of this variation and think that this design is almost there. 
Final design
I've added a bit of black on a few pieces next to the first border and I think that this is it. When it comes to adding colour to it, I just need to ensure that I have a similar contrast between my fabrics and I should be able to achieve the same effect.

Shades of blue and green

Red, white and blue batiks
I think that this is a great way to approach designing and will be using this more in the future. It forces me to switch from fixating on colour and focus instead on the design, which is really the most important part.


Catskill Quilter said...

It was fascinating to follow this process with you! I too always think in terms of color - and now I am convinced that I should broaden my perspective!

Kay Mackenzie said...

Hi Kim! I'll share that when I design I always work in black and white. If I introduce color, then I tend to get "married" to the colors on the screen and then I drive myself crazy trying to find those exact colors in fabric.

Once I've finished the design, I might color it in to get a general idea, but then I ditch the colors as soon as possible before pulling fabrics! :)


Chatterbox Quilts said...

Thanks for the comments, ladies! Yes, Kay, that is my problem too. Isn't it funny that you can never quite find that fabric that you see so clearly in your mind? :) Hopefully designing in black and white will give me more design options as well.