Wednesday, June 23, 2010

Economy as a Design Principle

I've been very intrigued lately by the concept of economy in art. It's the idea that a piece of art has only what is necessary to convey the desired message or meaning. No extra lines, colors, shapes, images, layers.

I think I am drawn to it because I tend to keep adding more and more layers to a piece. Sometimes when I'm not really sure what is needed, I just do something. I am good at ignoring that voice of intuition that says, "No! Don't touch it! You're not sure about adding that screenprinted image, so don't do it!" I often do it anyway, and it may not detract from the piece, but it doesn't really move the piece forward, either. And sometimes it turns out to be a disaster (like a piece I worked on last week - more on that later).

I think it also ties back to working with intention. It is easy to lose focus, to be unconscious of how each layer, each step, each printed image or handpainted color effects the final piece. Sometimes it's a matter of being lazy and not wanting to take the time to test an idea first.

That's how I created a disaster last week. It was on a piece that was almost finished. It had been committed to an invitational exhibition and I was just finishing up a few details. I decided to add gold leaf, but didn't have the proper tool to achieve what I wanted. Instead of waiting until I got the tool, I tried something else. Of course, I didn't test it on a scrap to see how it would look. Well, it was really awful. It did detract from the piece. Fortunately I was able to save it with a few additional tweaks and now the piece looks great. The final product actually did accomplish what I had envisioned - I just took a bit of a detour to get there. Sure, I received the end result I wanted, but it was a bit hard on my nerves!

I'm consciously trying to incorporate the idea of economy into my work now. Being intentional with each step, each mark, each color. Being conscious of whether or not it will move the piece forward, or just be extra "noise". Listening when my intuition says, "Stop - come back to it tomorrow." I can't say that it's not challenging. I can easily fall back into old patterns, especially when working under a deadline. But hey, I love a challenge.

1 comment:

  1. I always find the end of a quilt project intense. It is one thing to go the wrong direction early in a quilt. You have little investment in the quilt and can quit or you can go whole hog in another direction with it. But at the end of a project--when you already love the quilt but it finish it to perfection--that is when the patience and economy counts!


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