Monthly Archives: January 2012


The other day while reading through Adventures In Design by Joen Wolfrom I was pondering strong vertical lines in a design.

Brainstorming obvious examples of strong vertical lines, I thought about giraffes. I remembered a giraffe photo from our trip to Africa, that I have always wanted to make a quilt of. Of course it doesn’t have a strong vertical line, but so be it. It’s a worthwhile tangent anyway.

I’ve been very much inspired by the paintings of Oliver Ray but wanted to make sure the doodles were my own voice.

Working on this design has involved more technology than usual. I used Adobe Ideas on the iPad to doodle the shapes on the photograph. I love Adobe Ideas for this, because it smooths out lines as you draw them. Then I used Photoshop on my laptop to colour in the shapes.

Africa #3, sketch (2012) 24″ x 36″

Next I need to design the background, I have several ideas there. Then I will explore some different colour schemes, before deciding whether I will go au naturale or not. Lastly I want to experiment with doodling inside the doodles, whether with thread or ink, and see how I like that.



I have fine tuned my approach to a to-do list. I am taking all the steps I need to make my art better (critiques, colour studies, using a sketchbook to play with ideas, fine tuning my fabric dyeing and painting).

There is a significant gap here, though. What art am I making? I do not know the answer to this question, nor have I yet decided how to find the answer. The doodle quilts (Life Studies series) are fun, but I don’t feel compelled to continue them at the moment. I could look to art that I like, but I am reminded that the art we like isn’t necessarily the art we ourselves are compelled to make.

Maybe that’s part of the problem. I don’t feel the bits and pieces of studio time here and there are really leading me to find that compulsion.

I do want to pursue the doodling on fabric, see where that leads me. On that I am held up waiting for a part to fix my printer, before I can print out copies to play with.

I am excited to try my newly painted fabrics in a design. If I could just decide on a design.

My gut feeling says I should make several pieces, from the heart, then evaluate which path is most compelling. View it as “workshop work”, and dive in without hangups and expectations. Just learn and explore.

Doodles, painting, and the year of me, me, me!

I am having a lot of fun exploring.

The angry goat prince painting is done:

Angry Goat Prince (2012) 14″ x 18″

Today I managed to develop a doodle while playing with the toddler:

Untitled doodle (2012)

I am going to see how it works on a thermofax screen, and finish filling the page.

I know that a lot of people choose a word for the year ahead, to summarize what they want to accomplish. The best I can come up with is that this is the year of Dahlia. The year that I find my unique path to make art, that I listen to my inner voice every step of the way. The year I capitalize on my strengths, both in the studio and out. The year I laugh at my weaknesses, adjust for them, and let them go. Be the most and best Dahlia I can possibly be.

Balance & Goals

I’ve long since learned, between health issues, work, and small kids in the house, that having firm studio goals becomes a stress, not an enjoyment.

Generally I just keep a running list of the possible next tasks, and choose what to tackle when I can do something.

I am trying something a little new, now. Jotting down a rough ratio that will hopefully keep my studio goals balanced:

4 doodling/drawing pages
1 doodling on fabric
2 exploring ideas in sketchbook
1 dyeing or fabric painting session
1 thermofax screen designed
4 blog, etc. updates
2 art critiques
1 colour study

Each time I complete one, I put an X beside it. When they all have the right number of X’s, I clear them out and start over again.

At the moment, there is nothing on here that involves making finished quilts. That will come soon, I hope. For now I am enjoying taking a step back, exploring the various steps to a finished quilt, and determining how I can best use my own voice throughout.

This is fun 🙂


Knowing it can often be hard to “work small” when you first learn something, and knowing that I didn’t want to invest in a larger sketchbook yet, the other day I treated myself to a 50% off canvas when I took the girls to the craft store. I figured I can paint, and repaint, and repaint it, until I get a handle on how I want to play with ideas. All for just $10.

I managed to do some more doodling after dinner, and in doing so made a great little Angry Goat Prince. So that is what I am first painting.

It only took an hour and a half to get the outlines and base layers of paint down, and start to add some patterning. It might have gone even faster, had it not been 11 pm after a long day.

I’m curious to see where this leads – whether I manage to finish it, or whether I experiment to the point of breaking it, then give up and start on something different.

I have also taken the first steps in painting in a sketchbook – I do have one larger sketchbook that was only half filled during a course, but the pages don’t handle wet media so well. So I either need to gesso them or accept much waviness. I suspect I will choose the former, but I will finish the first page before deciding.


I am often amazed by how quickly I can take big steps in the studio.

I wanted to change the fabrics I work with, use ones that look more painterly. I envisioned it would take several weeks of experimenting to find a good approach. I started with a good long list of techniques to try for the next month or two. Then I chose the first technique based on gut feeling & supplies, and was thrilled with the resultant fabrics for a first attempt. So I can throw away the rest of the technique list, and move onto the next big step.

There is a big gap in my process, I think, of playing with ideas and experimenting, before I make a work of art. My next big step is to figure out what techniques/approaches work for me, to flesh out and explore ideas in a sketchbook.

I would like to take the Creative Sketchbook course through Design Matters, but given that I’ve allocated/spent my 2012 workshop budget already (talented, I am!), I will need to rely on library books and other free resources. My other limitations are to mostly use supplies on hand (luckily I am pretty well stocked).

I suspect this big step won’t be the 24 hour kind, but regardless it should be fun, and hopefully relatively quick too. It would be good to have my process sorted before I start the Abstraction workshop with Lisa Call in February.

Jump Start on the New Year

I’d almost forgotten that today was Saturday, which generally means a few hours in the studio for me. It was a welcome reprieve after the week of festivities.

I decided to get a head start on my January work: messy play.

I used the same technique on all of these fabrics. I started with lightly dyed fabrics, and applied colour vie paint with a thermofax screen (this initial paint application, when wet, acts as a resist for more paint). Then I used other colours of the same paint to prepare a monoprint on glass, and applied the screenprinted fabric to it.

This is the first time I’d tried this approach, and I am thrilled. I can see room for improvement, as I work with it further, but I am impressed with how easy it is to create complex fabrics this way.

Happy New Year!