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Ellen Anne Eddy
Author of Thread Magic: The Enchanted World of Ellen Anne Eddy Fiber artist, author and teacher
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Friday, July 2, 2010

Musings:Art Outside the Box: Fantasy Land vs The Real Thing

 "Wouldn't it be rather a pull sometimes to have--a--to haven?" He hung fire; he wanted me to help him by phrasing what he meant. But I couldn't--I didn't know. So he brought it out awkwardly: "The REAL thing;"....
She was always a lady certainly, and into the bargain was always the same lady. She was the real thing, but always the same thing.

Henry James, The Real Thing

I often find myself caught on the accuracy issue. If your work is based in some kind of reality, you really do need to figure out how much reality you want in it. Some of this is constitutional. Some of it is artist's license. Most of it is a statement louder than words.

Realism is always impressive. It bespeaks of excellent drawing skills and a keen eye. It's more impressive when we see it outside the standard art forms. It's great to draw a frog in pencil, or charcoal or paint. It's a whole other thing to do it in thread.It's also worth saying there really are blue frogs.

But realism always falls a bit flat for me. I know it's a brown frog. Couldn't it be red instead? But couldn't it have purple shadows? Green highlights? A bit of orange around the eyes?All of a sudden that frog has a rainbow quality that is definitely not realism.
I could say it was strictly a color issue but that's not true either. What makes this frog definately not the real thing is those lovely red lips. Frogs don't have lips. So the lips themselves become a statement on how human our frog is.
And there are those moments when reality simply isn't as much fun.
Patti Culea is my favorite doll artist. She's also  a kindred spirit. When she asked me if I could do a quilt for her book Creative Cloth Explorations: Adventures in Fairy-Inspired Fiber Art, I wanted to. I just was a bit unsure about creating fairies. So I asked her, " Do your fairies have a quality ride?" All fairies are royalty. It's part of their job. So they can't be going shank's mare or rickshaw. They needed the best fairy frog I could do.

Well, by the time you've put wings on it, reality has pretty much flown out the window. But the fun hasn't.

Don't be caught by the trap of reality. Like fire, it's a good servant and a poor master. Use it while it serves you and leave it whenever it just doesn't have enough luster to lighten things up. 

You'll find A Noble Steed in Patti's book on Amazon.com. Her web page is at  PMC Designs.


norma said...

I love that red frog and, yes, it's much more appealing than the brown one. If you want it to be strictly realistic, take a picture. Artistic license, especially in the quilt world, can make a much more interesting work. Look at Ruth McDowell's plaid trees!

Rosaland Hannibal said...

Thank you Ellen. Sometimes I need a reminder that it is ok to just make it up as you go. I have been struggling lately to create some fairy and mermaid quilts and it occured to me the other day that I didn't have to make plants, or other things, that look like the ones I see every day - I could make them up. This might seem silly to some. Then I saw your post. So thank you.

Now I need to pull out Patti's book, which I forgot I had and your Thread Painting book that I have had for ummm a long time, for inspiration. I actually took a class from you when I first started quilting at Diana Leone's store in Mountain View California. At that time my imagination was ahead of my skills, but not anymore.

Virginia Greaves said...

Hallelujah! The gospel of inspiration.

Arlijohn said...

I like your realism. The world is a magical place and you help give it life!

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