Saturday, January 2, 2010

Elizabeth Barton: The Artist To Whom Other Artists Turn

Practice Comes Before Impractice!

It has been said that great artists break the rules. However, the reverse is not true!!

“All great artists break the rules, therefore breaking the rules will lead to great art!!”

Yeah!!! If only! Illogic does not rule however much the spin doctors would like it to!

I think if you look at many forms of art what you’ll see is that (apart from a few amazing geniuses, usually born to genius families and occurring about once in a hundred years!) really good artists have all spent a lot of time learning the basics of their profession. Once they know the theory and the techniques so well that they have become second nature, then they can begin to bend things a little to make a particular point.

Take for example, Rubenstein’s playing of the Chopin nocturnes (wonderful music – I’ve worn out 3 copies!!) – if you actually sit with the music as he plays, you’ll see he takes all kinds of liberties with the timing. This is because he knew Chopin’s music so well, and the spirit of the music, and also the requirements of the playing of the music that he knew just exactly how much torque and rubato he could use to bring out the sweet melancholy of a particular phrase.

Because an athlete understands the mechanics and physics of a particular movement through excellent and lengthy training and repeated experiences, then he can explore a different way of accomplishing the same feat.

Because the painter knows what it necessary to make a painting effective and endlessly intriguing, then he can bend those “artistic guidelines” in the interest of expressing a particular idea.

For example, it’s generally accepted that the most important areas of a 2D visual piece be somewhere around an invisible line about 2/3 from one border and 1/3 from another – the so-called golden area not slap bang in the middle, and not on the edge.

But, if you wanted to make a piece about feeling like a target, then you might want to put yourself right in the middle of the piece…you would know that that might lead to viewers not seeing anything else in the piece and you would know strategies to overcome that.

On the other hand you might be feeling as if you were right on the edge, almost disappearing – in which case you could put yourself right on the border – just creeping in…or walking out (depending on your theme!)…and again you would know how to compensate for the lack of balance such a composition might have. You would be using your knowledge and experience to enable you to go against some of the accepted guidelines to further your main idea.

So!!! Don’t break the rules thinking that might make you into a great artist!!

Break the rules when you’ve become a competent and experienced artist! And then you might become a great artist.

And, if you have been [breaking rules willy nilly] thanks for reading!! And if you’d like to read more of my wanderings please check out my blog:  my quilts can be seen at

Thank you!

PS:  The piece at the top is Remembered Lines currently touring with Quilt National ’09 and is my 14th black and white piece…practice, practice, practice!  Remembered Lines (69"w, 41"h) is currently touring with QN '09, (black and white)

The piece in the middle,  Red Shift 5, was my 7th attempt at working with red. Red ShiftShift 5 (25"w, 36"h), is in a private collection in London, UK.

The third piece, Petergate, was my 25th street scene!  Petergate (37"w, 53"h), is available for purchase ($2000).

Elizabeth's name seemed to always surface in just about any conversation between quilting artists. One would say, "I learned this from Elizabeth Barton" or another would say, "Go and see what Elizabeth has to say on that topic." She is the artist that other artists look to for example and experience and answers. One look at her work and her success shows that she has definitely learned the art of fabric and is now more than qualified to break the rules. But even Elizabeth Barton may not get it right the first time -- but look what she's learned from -- oh dare I call them mistakes?

Thanks Elizabeth for your hard work, beautiful art and for joining us Subversive Stitchers in this promising new year! Needles raised! Salute! -- Dawn


Knit - R - Done said...

I love your blog. I agree about breaking the rules only when you are competent. I also think some people believe that a risque subject matter will instantly make them artists, but there's more to it than that.

beth said...

Thanks for sharing about this artist! I loved the last quilt and her observations!

Dawn said...

You're in luck Beth, Petergate, the last quilt pictured, is for sale!!! I will admit that Elizabeth's street scapes make me feel homesick for a place like that!

And thank you Knit-R-Done, I'm so glad you love the blog! I appreciate your comments!


Rosalyn Manesse said...

Absolutely. A true artist has an intuition.