Saturday, September 5, 2009

Go Ahead and Play!

Thank you Terri for agreeing to guest blog at Subversive Stitchers: Women Armed with Needles. I think you offer not only beautiful fabric art and visual art, but also a much needed message that we all need to take to heart.

Please welcome fabric artist Terri Stegmiller, in her own words. -- Dawn

I’ve been asked many times over the past couple of years if I have any formal art education or training.

My answer is “no”.

The only education/training I have is what I have learned by myself and from taking an online class here or there.

When I answer that question, many times the person who asked it has a response that they just can’t believe I have no art degree or some formal schooling. Sometimes they respond with “oh, you must be a natural then.”

Let me enlighten you. There is no such thing as being a natural. Everyone has abilities and some are able to master those more quickly than others. But they didn’t just pick up a pencil or a paintbrush, or even a needle on day one and by day two they were producing work that was gallery ready.

Artistic talent takes time.

It takes practice. It takes imagination and it takes dedication. I often see many people get discouraged when they aren’t able to create what they see in their mind or what they see others creating. When they tell me about their frustrations my response to them is “have you taken the time to play?”

What I mean by that is this: Oftentimes people are reluctant to use their craft supplies and materials to play and practice with. Many think they can only use the supplies to make something that is a finished work of art or they think that it is a waste of money to use the supplies for play and practice.

If you never play and practice with your supplies, you will never gain the skills needed to create a work of art and you will never feel confident that your end results are worthy. You don’t need to have anyone’s permission to use the supplies you have purchased. The only person you need permission from is you.

Tell yourself that it’s okay to play and use your art supplies.

Tell yourself that it just doesn’t matter if what you end up with is a pile of junk. Tell yourself that you are in training to become an artist and keep an encouraging dialog going on in your head. Do not let any discouraging or negative thoughts enter the dialog.

Keep up the play and practice for a period of time and you will make discoveries about yourself. You will soon begin to think about the possibilities. You will become much more comfortable working with the art supplies and materials and you won’t feel like you are wasting them anymore. You may even find that you’ve subconsciously set new goals for yourself. You may be thinking about making that original piece that keeps floating around in your head and entering it in a show or contest or you may discover some unique ideas that make the work your own “signature” style.

One thing that I discovered about myself is that I had a desire to draw and paint women’s faces. I don’t know where it came from but I knew that when I’d look at the women’s faces that other artists created that I yearned to be able to do that too. I found it discouraging at the time because there were no resources for learning what I wanted to do. Of course there were books on drawing, but they turned me off as they were trying to teach me to draw real looking faces and that wasn’t the look I was after.

So one day I had a talk with myself and made a decision.

“You are just going to do it,” was the mindset I adopted.

So that’s what I did. I started drawing. I would look at the faces of artists I admired and study them and I would ask myself “What is it about this face that really appeals to me?” I kept drawing and practicing. Believe me when I say that the early drawings were not good. But I didn’t let that stop me and I kept at it.

When I felt that my drawings were starting to look better, I decided I’d try my hand at painting them. Well, needless to say those first trials were not good either. There again I was looking hard at artwork I liked, trying to figure out how they got that look. I was basically teaching myself to create what I saw other artists making.

My trials were not always successful, but I didn’t let my use of my supplies and my failures bother me.

I told myself it was my investment in myself.

Over time, my drawing skills have vastly improved and when I draw faces today, they are much different than the early faces I once did. Even now if there is a new or different subject I want to draw, it doesn’t come to me without practice. My skills need to be developed and refined when I explore a new subject matter and my eye-hand-brain coordination needs that practice time to smooth out the rough spots.

I still take the occasional online class because I feel there is always something to learn and another artist may have a tip or trick that would be just the thing for adding to my list of skills.

You must believe in yourself. You can make whatever you want, but remember that it takes time. Don’t give up and don’t get discouraged. Remember that your work won’t look exactly like the artist’s work you love. But you don’t want it to. You want your work to be unique to you. It should be a reflection of your inner soul and shout out to everyone that YOU made it. Go ahead, play!

Photo information:

1. Acrylic painting on stretched canvas.

2. Five ATCs Terri made for a Cloth Paper Scissors magazine challenge. The faces are hand drawn with black ink and then painted with watercolors onto cotton duck

3. This face is thread sketched onto a quilted background. Shading and highlights are painted with acrylics.

4. This quilted wall hanging features a thread sketched face with transparent paints added for see-through color.
5. This quilted wall hanging features an appliquéd and painted face. I teach an online class on this technique called Faces on Fabric.

6. A small mixed-media paper quilt with an acrylic painted face on a paper fabric background.

7. The face, drawn on muslin with black ink, was then painted with watercolors.

Terri Stegmiller is a mixed-media textile artist living in Mandan, North Dakota. Terri is the author of Creative Paper Quilts and coauthor of Creative Ways with Fibre & Stitch. She teaches online at Two Creative Studios. You can see more of Terri at her web site and her blog


Unknown said...

Great guest blogging... I could NOT agree more about practicing. It is the only thing that makes you better at everything. I, too, have no formal training but like you, I spent hours and hours playing with different mediums and I never stopped asking, "What would happen if I did...."

Excellent article, Terry, thanks for featuring her, Dawn!!

Donna said...

I love Terri's art. Thanks for inviting her to guest blog and tell her story She's quite an inspiration!


Carol Wiebe said...

These are wonderful words of encouragement, Terri! Your tenaciousness in pursuing your own style and dedication to practicing and experimenting are commendable.

With all the talk of investments that don't have a good return, many forget that the BEST investment is always in yourself. You definitely prove that!

mathea said...

Thank you so much for putting words to my thoughts! I've been telling myself to practise, practise, practise and it is really encouraging to get the confirmation that it really works!

Terri Stegmiller said...

Hi everyone, first of all thank you for all your kind and thoughtful comments. I was very excited when Dawn asked me to be a guess blogger.

I'm also happy to hear that my words are encouraging you. It's good to know that we aren't the only ones that have the same doubting thoughts and knowing that someone else has had them and has been able to work through them is very powerful.

It is possible for everyone. It is possible for you.

Have fun playing!

Digitalgran said...

I love Terri's work, and her guest 'post' is an encouragement to all who read it.

Dawn said...

I'm so glad Terri's words and her work are hitting a sweet spot of need for so many of you and giving the encouragement that we all need.

I keep returning to the blog just to look at her work and how she has put such expression in them, sometimes with a brush stroke, another time with applique and perhaps my favorite where the quilting seems to give the face such expression. Don't you think her faces look like the work of a woman with a happy heart?


Terri Stegmiller said...

What a lovely thought Dawn! Thank you! I just noticed in my earlier comment that I was thanking you for the opportunity to be a "guess" blogger. LOL! Oops!

Lyric said...

Terri - I saw one of your pieces this week at Fabrications. LOVELY!
And I heartily echo your sentiments! It takes time, perseverance, and a willingness to accept your work as a learning process, rather than as perfect masterpieces, in order to become an artist.

Terri Stegmiller said...

Thank you Lyric! I wish I could have been there to see the exhibit.

Nancy said...

You hit the nail right on the head. Thanks for the encouragement to always practice and experiment. If your ideas only stay within your head nothing will ever come of them. It takes courage and support from people like you for most of us to start to "do" instead of just think about.

Your portraits are so very special! Thanks again,I'm gonna go play in the studio now.