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Play Date with Color & Composition

My success in creating award-winning fiber art, is due, in large part, to my continual search for

The Long Goodbye, ¬©2019, 

new knowledge and understanding of how art works; specifically understanding how colors and elements of a composition interact, or play together.  Many years ago, I began taking breaks from my “serious work” to just play with the scraps and leftovers. These play dates with color & composition provided a low-stress, no-cost opportunity to experiment, while engaging in the hands-on type of activity where I learn best.

Scrap Collages

Early on, I simply created small collages using leftover, fusible-back scraps from my applique portraits.  I just played with the scraps, not giving a great deal of thought to color or composition–working intuitively.

My success was mixed; some compositions were pleasing, and others were–well, a mess.

Because I really wanted to understand how I achieved success so that I could spend less time making crap, I became more disciplined in the process. I began to think of these exercises as science experiments with dependent and independent variables.

I asked questions like,

  • If I keep the colors the same, but alter the values of the various elements, how does that effect the overall composition?
  • How does the placement of various elements effect the balance of the composition? 
  • What combinations draw the viewer in? Send the viewer away?

Monochrome Tessellations

First, I started simple, working monochromatic and playing with symmetry and tessellation.



For the unfamiliar, here is a quick tessellation activity:  Using a scrap of rectangular fabric, cut a chunk, or shape out of 1 side and rotate it as I did above. Another option is to cut shapes from 2 adjacent sides and slide those shapes across to the opposite side as I did below.

These early attempts were quite simple. However, below are more complex monochromatic samples that I put together later. Still, each new iteration conjures more ideas.

(For more information on how light and dark values play together, visit my previous post on positive and negative space.)

tree drawing is used to create various versions of a 3-value notan

Mirror image tree composition created with 3-values.

Mirror image tree with 2-value notan.

Mirror image tree with 2-values.

I could have traveled down this rabbit hole indefinitely, but I didn’t.  In future play dates, I engaged with more complex color & composition schemes.  Next, I’ll share my explorations with complementary colors and radial design.

Play Date with Color & Composition Workshops

In time, these play sessions became the basis for a new workshop where I take participants through 6 color schemes and 6 composition schemes in a few short hours. Now, there are multiple opportunities to take this workshop. It is fast paced and fun, and everyone goes home with original works of art.

Let’s get together and work through this process in person. Please join me in one of my upcoming workshops. Below are the places, dates, and links to register.

Stitch Fest – Loveland, CO, April 13
Intro to Thread Painting, 9:00 AM-4:30 PM
Play Date with Color & Composition, 6:000-9:00 PM
Stitch Fest – Milwaukee, WI, May 25
Intro to Thread Painting, 9:00 AM-4:30 PM
Play Date with Color & Composition, 6:000-9:00 PM
Kansas City Regional Quilt Fest, June 14-17.
I’m teaching a variety of workshops every day.  Follow this link to see what is available.