Fiber Arts

on knowing your audience

I love that phrase… know your audience… because it holds meaning from past experience for me.  As a teacher, I know that the learner has to connect to prior knowledge.  What do I know already?  And then asking, what do I still need to learn.  If an artist is to communicate through her artwork, then she needs to identify the audience…. who will enjoy it and why will they connect.


Ariane Goodwin writes about this topic… the artist’s “fingerprint” in her blog.   She writes:

“Know Thyself” Is A Good Place To Start  ~

For this perspective to work, though, you have to step away from “how am I different?” (could be tricky for an artist), and become a sociologist asking “how am I the same?””  

 I recommend this article, and others on her blog, if you are an artist who is wants others to respond to your artwork. If you create art just for yourself, then you already “know your audience”, correct? 


Being an artist is new to me.  I have been different sort of experts in the past:  teacher to children, of writing and reading and math and art and technology.  Mentor to teachers: of writing and reading and art instruction and instruction with technology as a tool.  Teaching is both an art and a science… processes that will support this new processing.  


Now in retirement, my focus will be on learning to use mixed media to create art.  I am a beginner in this field, although I have had hours of practice in sewing and technology and music.  My blog will focus on the process of learning that occurs as I approach this new area.  My time to spend on it is pretty unlimited, and it will include writing this blog because writing is also something I enjoy, and it helps me clarify the process.  An early step will be to take some classes in the art field at a nearby college or university this fall.  I am newly located in Durham, NC, but not fully settled, so getting started may have some limitations.  Any suggestions for classes or teachers to seek out is appreciated.  However, first we have a house to sell in Minnesota and another one to find here in lovely NC!  First things first.  I’ve always loved to study the processes of learning and doing. Retirement is a wonderful time to live where you want, to do what you love, and to learn the processes of art and of life.

Fiber Arts

on being a beginner…..

Part of being an artist must be knowing who we are in our creativity and how we process creativity.  I know I am a “finisher”,  a product person, so I think I will have to allow the product creation to be a part of the practicing.  I do not enjoy just playing with sketching or painting or fabrics without some sort of end product in mind.  Or, at the very least, while I am trying a new process or medium, so many creative projects pop into my mind, that I have a great deal of trouble just continuing to practice and play with the materials.  My focus has gone to the product I’d like to create. Further, once I begin a product, I can’t seem to move on to other products until I have worked through the creative process to an end point.  I see this as neither a plus or minus, just my “work dance” as it seems.  As I have been mulling over these thoughts, I have read a couple of books on other topics.  Still, the content seemed to speak to my thoughts.


Having read Sarah Brokaw’s book Fortytude with her message aimed at the 20 and 30 (and beyond) somethings as they approach 40, I found she spoke to these thoughts.  I am definitely in the “beyond” category, but still thoroughly enjoyed reading about the process that she is describing and recommend it to you. At one point towards the end of the book where she is discussing spirituality, she describes learning to surf and being disappointed that she didn’t become an expert after just a few tries.  She didn’t enjoy the embarrassment she felt when the waves tossed her around, and she lost her surf board from under her.  After all, she had always been athletic! What she said about being a beginner caught my eye.  What her surfing instructor told her was that


      “I would enjoy myself a lot more if I consciously embraced being a beginner and with it the wonder, thrill and anticipation of trying something new.”


Lyric Kinard, Professional Quilter’s 2011 Teacher of the Year, is such a wonderful mentor to so many of us.  She writes and talks to us about identifying ourselves as artists.  She teaches us that everyone has the possibility to be an artist.  When I hear those words, I am very encouraged, but I immediately leap to an advanced level, visualizing Van Gogh, Picasso, or Matisse paintings that I would love to create in fabric.  After all, “I am” an artist!   (Always the optimist and enthusiast!)  Keeping the surfing instructor’s worthy words in mind, I am going to take a step back.  I will try to claim the identity of artist as Lyric advocates, but I must also allow myself


“… to be a beginner”  in the world of art and to “embrace” the newness of the experience with anticipation of where it may lead me.


That doesn’t mean I haven’t been working at developing as an artist.  As I said, I am a “finisher”.  I started by sketching a pineapple and am working in a series of pineapple themes, trying different media for each one.  As I visualize an end product, I allow myself to let the product be a practice session.  The product doesn’t have to be perfect, and I do want to learn during the process.  I created the pattern and made the first fabric applications.  Now I have completed the surface embellishments and in the process have learned that I would probably most like to claim to be a “mixed media” artist.  I enjoy all of the processes, but need to focus on practicing just a few of them at a time.  For the surface embellishment, I used machine embroidery, hand embroidery, stenciling and fusing processes.  Laura Wasiloski’s article in Quilting Arts Magazine (May, June 2011) was an inspiration and her completed works have made me see the value to working in a series.  I have researched her web site and watched her videos as I have tried to imitate her process.  So much time has been spent on this that I have not done any sketching, but new sketching will probably always result in some sort of product initiation, so it will become a part of my process and not an end result in itself.  Whenever possible, I will do some sketching exercises such as from the book 52 Creative Exercises to Make Drawing Fun for Mixed Media Artists by Carla Sonheim. 





The surface embellishment progress can be seen in the newest pictures above.  Next, I will add the borders and then will do some machine and hand quilting that will further enhance the background and the pineapple details.  Practice. Process.  Product.  Progress.  Four “P”s to provide a guideline on how to move forward.

Fiber Arts

Water Color practice…

Yesterday I attempted to water color the ink drawing I had completed of a dogwood flower.  The first attempt was scratched, but I learned to use more water and less color.  The quotes about beauty are from *The Book of Qualities* by J. Ruth Gendler.

Fiber Arts

The Struggle…

The struggle is to make myself practice.  I just want to be able to draw right now.  So after going through some exercises, I attempted the “mirror” drawing again, first drawing with a pen so I could not erase, and then doing two sketches with pencil.  I think I can see improvement… shape of face, expression in eyes and mouth.  It could be “someone”, but probably does not look much like me.  The accomplishment is simply that I will want to practice again, and won’t feel like giving up.  Do you want to give up? Don’t give up…. practice, practice, practice.  Just do it!

© 2010  All images and text are copyright of Mary A. Ritter (aka ‘M Unique) and may not be reproduced without express permission
Fiber Arts

A mug shot, perhaps?

No, not really.  And I just know you won’t laugh.  I’ve been practicing looking at myself in the mirror and trying to draw my image without looking at the picture very much.  At first, I used a white crayon and drew several practice sketches, finishing them off with a wash of acrylic paint so the white crayon outlines would show.  Then, I made this one with pencils.  At first, I tried to just catch the basics… no details.  I made marks on my paper to get the dimensions of the face closer to reality.  Lyric Kinard has instructions for all of these practice sessions in her blog… her link is to the left of this blog post area. After getting the basic dimensions on paper, I used some shading and added some details.  I see after looking at her blog today that I need to try again to eliminate making it look perfect and just catch the basic lines.  Much work to still do before I can feel I’ve accomplished this skill, but I at least I am practicing.  I still haven’t done anything that would fit with the Spill Over theme for the Sketch Challenge, but I have a few days before the end of March.  Happy drawing to you!  (Drawing removed)

© 2010  All images and text are copyright of Mary A. Ritter (aka ‘M Unique) and may not be reproduced without express permission