Category Archives: musings

Go epic or go home

This was one of those mornings. I woke up with a migraine thanks to the wonderful ice storm. Then I faced the realization that there wouldn’t have been time to paint in the studio this morning anyway; the girls’ schools are closed because of the storm. In the midst of this, I received an email notifying me that two pieces I’d submitted were not selected for a show.

Of course, my first thought (not finished) was “Why do I bother…”

Later, once I’d had a very brief nap on the couch (thank you, My Little Pony!), and had a moment to think, I set to finishing that sentence. It wasn’t “why do I bother making art?”. I have a long list of reasons why I make art, and I’m pretty sure ‘to succeed in entering themed quilt shows’ isn’t on there. (Maybe the question should be “why do I bother entering themed quilt shows” – but I will save that for another day).

The real question is, “Why do I bother making art which doesn’t take my breath away, doesn’t completely wow me?”. When I have a piece rejected, I would like to think “well, at least I love it!”. But with these pieces, I don’t. I am very proud of them in some ways, and there are aspects of them I truly love, but overall, I don’t have a lot of attachment to them.

Up until now, I could make a case for being cautious, not overextending myself on any given piece – I was learning, feeling things out, developing in so many ways. Of course there is always more learning and development. But it is time to take more risks. To aim as high as I can, with each piece.

This is the new addition to my studio:

go epic or go home

Getting a jump on the new year

This past year I chose a word for the year, to help me focus.

This time, a word has chosen me.


It has been a time of transitions here, and likely will be for some time (or, perhaps, always – we don’t ever seem to embrace “staying the same”).  There have been many obstacles, bumps, and bruises, yet they have not become stumbling blocks.

Every day is a new opportunity to be fabulous.  To make the best choices, to choose the right priorities for available time and energy, and keep moving forward.

I keep a gratitude journal, daily, to practice viewing things in the best possible light.  Fabulous.

I am moving more of my drawing books and activities into the living room, and including the girls in what I do.  Fabulous.

I am using my energy wisely on a daily basis to further our family and household goals.  Fabulous.

I am making drawing, quilting, and furthering a project regular daily activities.  Fabulous.

I am more gentle with myself when I am under the weather, and remember to take good care of my girls’ mama.  Fabulous.

Best laid plans and all that

I laugh when I think back to my hopes for September.  I figured with daily preschool starting I could get so much accomplished in the studio.

When you factor in one trip (mine), one conference to host (the hubby’s), one sick cat who sadly didn’t make it, two devastated kids, one new kitten, then another sick cat (sibling to the first one) who didn’t die, but required several days of force feeding and many vet trips to pull through…and then there is work.
I am, in fact, thrilled to be back at work after a long hiatus.  I love the challenge and the responsibility.  But 15 hours of preschool and 30 hours of work to do during just doesn’t compute.  
I am learning to be patient.  I am drawing, here and there.  I am chipping away at doing dye tests to build a solid understanding of mixing dyes (you can take the girl out of chemistry class, but you can’t take the chemistry class out of the girl; I am very proud of my dye lab notebook).  I will hopefully start chipping away at quilting Meditation #2 soon.
I also have had a good insight.  I am currently working on two very different series:
Meditations is a series of very simple abstract designs, where I can explore the principles of balance, unity, etc.  I am initially setting myself the constraint of only working with three lines, to focus even further.
Arrangements are music-inspired pieces, where I capture the emotions and situations of a song.  As I listen to music, I am always thinking “how could I represent this visually”.
The other day I had the breakthrough that where I am headed is the junction of the two.  My goal is to take complex emotions, relationships, situations, and represent them as succinctly and abstractly as possible.  Both series are working to lead me to that point.  In one, I can really simplify to focus and flex my design muscles.  In the other, I can explore the nuances that effectively tell a story.  One day I will be ready to combine the two.
I am glad to finally have that clarity.  I’ve been searching for it ever since I said (6 years ago) “I want to make art.  I really like these artists…”. 

Juggling diverse tasks

Generally, when I am most productive in the studio, I am focused on one (type of) task. And all the other tasks fall to the wayside.

I think I need a different approach. I need to apply routine here too.

I am going to schedule my weekday hours for current quilts in progress. Evening hours for drawing (I have a goal of drawing 7 hours per week), all computer work, and reading/research. Then use the few weekend hours for experimentation.

Preparing for an adventure

When preparing to travel, there is a lot of work to be done. Where do I go? What do I want to experience there? What do I need to pack? Do I have what I need, to accomplish what I want? What loose ends do I need to tie up, before I go?

With the benefit of hindsight, I can see that this is exactly what the past few months have entailed. I am not planning for a physical trip however, but for my adventure in the studio.

I have assembled and improved the arsenal of techniques I need. I have fine tuned the process to get to where I want to be, and perhaps most importantly, I have realized I am ready to do what I’ve always wanted to do.

Make MY art.

These are a few sketches and works in progress, developed during the Abstraction course with Lisa Call.

Composition #1, sketch (2012) 20″ x 24″

Composition #2, in progress (2012) 20″ x 24″

Composition #3, sketch (2012) 24″ x 36″

Coming Full Circle

It has been quiet here because I have been doing a lot of back burner thinking, trying to nail down just what path I want to take.

The Abstraction course with Lisa Call has helped, but really what it has done has brought me back round to where I started: inspired by the works of Desmond Morris, and wanting to develop art quilts of my own biomorphic doodles.

Since that starting point I have explored and learned so much. What is stopping me from doing what I envisioned? As far as I can tell, now it’s primarily a case of practicing shading. And of course the endless quest to improve and innovate.

I am torn in a few directions, though. I also want to work on personal pieces like this one inspired by our trip to Africa.

Africa #1, in progress (2012) 16″ x 20″

Then there is an as-yet-unmentioned project that I see great potential in, both personally and for marketing. It remains to be seen whether I can juggle three paths at once, but I think it’s doubtful at this stage in my life. One of the three might just have to go back on the shelf.



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 🙂


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.