Channeling my Inner Matisse (the Art with Fabric Blog Hop)

A few months ago, Alida at Tweety Loves Quilting asked me to participate in a blog hop.  Not your typical blog hop, but one with an interesting twist.  Each participant was to choose a "conventional" art piece (painting, drawing, sculpture, architecture) of any era, and to create a fiber piece inspired by the chosen piece.  How cool is that?  Of course I said yes.
It was a very well timed request for several reasons.  First, studioQ is in the middle of a monthly challenge based on this very idea.  Each month a member selects a "masterpiece" and we all reinterpret it in fabric.  It's been a fun exercise.  And second, my new "thing" is creating intricately pieced quilts based on photographs, using my favorite tuning fork unit as the building block, and taking them from realism to abstraction.  They end up being blurred, distorted pieces, with the inspiration only obvious if you look at the original photo.  I'm really enjoying these pieces.  You can read more about the studioQ challenges and the two (so far) photo-based tuning fork quilts on this blog.

For my blog hop piece, I wanted to combine the two processes.  I decided to take a painting and transform it into an abstract piece using tuning fork units.  I had done several landscapes this way, but this was my first effort at using the tuning fork to recreate a portrait.

So I needed to chose an inspiration piece.  I had assembled a lot of "candidates," but nothing really stood out in my mind. And then, about a month ago I visited the Barnes Foundation in Philadelphia.  In the first gallery there were a number of paintings and murals by Henri Matisse.  I walked into the gallery and, well, I had my socks knocked off.  Not literally of course, but mentally.  I loved the assertive colors and the graphic simplicity of the piece. I'd found my inspiration piece!
Le Rifains Assis (The Seated Riffian) by Henri Matisse
I loved the bold, clear palette, so I decided to stick with it.  I pulled fabrics, many of them my own hand-dyes, and started to make tuning fork units.  For those of you new to my work, this is the basic building block of many of my quilts.  I used to build each tuning fork unit using only two fabrics, a background and a foreground.  Recently, I've kept the format of the tuning fork, but each unit can contain up to 7 different fabrics.  And some may only contain one or two or three fabrics.  It depends on its ultimate position in the picture.
The tuning fork unit in two fabrics
So I started making tuning fork units to represent the head of the man in the painting.  And for the first green stripe on the wall behind him:
I then added the blue rectangle to the man's right (that's his right, our left), started adding dark green for his clothing, and started making red tuning forks for the floor.
Here we are at day three.  I've pretty much roughed out the picture, and am making more units to fill it out.  The darn thing always shrinks a lot when sewn together.  The blue rectangle, for example, became way too small, so I had to add another row (both vertically and horizontally) of blue tuning forks.
And then I started sewing it together.  For this piece, I sewed a great deal of it together in vertical rows.  The exception was the blue rectangle section and the stool.  I wanted straight horizontal lines between the blue and yellow, the yellow and red and the brown and red.  So I sewed those in rectangles rather than strips, giving me a sharp line between the sections.
Here it is nearly together:
And finally, here is the finished piece.
Man on Stool, Blue Field (Tuning Fork #32) by Heather Pregger, 30" x 35"
There are several things I would have done differently (for example, the stool is too narrow -- it looks like a tree trunk), but I think in general this was a good exercise.  I like the overall effect.  And I haven't quilted it yet, so I can go back and add more of the golden brown.  Or I may learn to live with the tree, and retitle it "Tree, Blue Field."

Check out these other artists participating in the blog hop!

Monday, May 9th, 2016

Tuesday, May 10th, 2016

Wednesday, May 11th, 2016

Thursday, May 12th, 2016

Friday, May 13th, 2016


Love this! The colors appear to be spot on and they are very well balanced. Matisse would be proud! Also, your tuning fork block is very cool!
I have always loved your tuning fork quilts. You have another winner here. I love that you did not just reproduce the original artwork. Your tuning forks make it abstract.
LA Paylor said…
fascinating process. I bet it is fun as well as creative. Building with a set shape, and using color to guide you. How're you doing Heather? You weren't too far from me in Philly. I'm near Annapolis. LeeAnna
Julia Graber said…
I love your interpretation and process. Thank you for sharing.
Nice job! Interesting to hear about your process. It is an abstract after all it is not supposed to look like the real thing so I think you pulled it off. It is very pleasing to the eye
This is beautiful and thank you so much for describing the process you used. I agree that when doing improv of this nature that figuring out how much things shrink when pieced can be a challenge.
Kathy said…
What a creative process. I've never seen a tuning fork process before and it was interesting to see your process. Your results remind me of the man/ stool in the original portrait being beamed up by Scottie onto the starship enterprise. Amazing what thoughts art can provoke! Great job!!!
AlidaP said…
Absolutely amazing technique and wonderful result! I really appreciate that you shared the process too. I did some pixellated pieces a while ago and I had a similar experience of having the piece so much smaller than what I expected! But it is part of the fun of having many pieces I guess! Thanks for joining the hop!!
Kathy said…
What a creative process. I've never seen a tuning fork process before and it was interesting to see your process. Your results remind me of the man/ stool in the original portrait being beamed up by Scottie onto the starship enterprise. Amazing what thoughts art can provoke! Great job!!!
Love your process! The colors are so wonderful. Who cares it it's a bit treelike? The end result is a gorgeous quilt.
DeAnna said…
Your process and technique was awesome! Very creative abstract with awesome color combinations!
Lena Pugacheva said…
Thank you for sharing, the idea is original and the result is stunning! Inspires me to try some improvisational piecing.