Inspired by Degas -- The Art With Fabric Blog Hop

Alida P of Tweety Loves Quilting has organized a blog hop featuring quilts inspired by works of art.  I was excited to be asked to participate.  I love to challenge myself by choosing a known object, for example a painting, a building, a sculpture or even another quilt, and using it as a jumping off point to make a unique piece of my own.

The theme this time around was Mother Nature.  I chose a painting that celebrates the female form.

This summer, the Kimbell Art Museum in Fort Worth, Texas, hosted an exhibition of paintings from the Phillips Collection in Washington, DC.  It included paintings by an amazing number of famous modern painters: Matisse, Van Gogh, Mondrian, Rothko, Monet, Manet and O’Keefe, and many many more.  One painting that caught my eye was a large piece by Edgar Degas, Dancers at the Barre, which he painted sometime around 1900. 
Degas, Dancers at the Barre, c. 1900
Degas was fascinated by the ballet.  He frequently painted scenes of dancers both onstage and backstage, depicting the grace and beauty of the performance and the unglamorous lives of the dancers behind the scenes.  Dancers at the Barre depicts two dancers stretching backstage before a performance.  It is a very large piece, and painted largely in orange and turquoise.  It definitely commands attention.
I decided to create my own abstract piece about dancers inspired by the painting.   So I squinted at the painting and decided that two things jumped out at me: the orange and turquoise color scheme and the curves and angles of the bodies of the dancers.  (As an aside, I find that squinting is a very valuable tool in abstraction.  If you blur out the picture itself, somehow, you can break the piece into the basic elements of its composition.)

I pulled a variety of shades of turquoise, orange, cream and black/gray and started to cut freehand curves.  I love to piece curves.  But I find that it helps a great deal if I make a few chalk marks to match up after I cut the line:
Chalk marks across the cut line

And it helps if I pin carefully:

If I’m careful with the cutting, marking and pinning it is a breeze to sew a smooth curve.  Well, except for a little interference from my studio assistant: 

 After the first afternoon, I had this:
I liked it and thought I was perhaps finished.  I left it hanging on my design wall overnight.  A few hours away from a composition always helps me evaluate it more objectively.  When I walked in the next morning, I stared at it for a while, and decided to make it larger.  
I got to work.  First, I added another section:
Here is the piece at the end of the second day:
I was liking the movement and the interplay/interconnectedness of the piece.  With each addition it was moving further from the inspiration piece.  Intentionally.
At the end of the third day, I had tried different arrangements of the sections I had pieced together.  It went through several iterations:

And ended up here:
Dancers by Heather Pregger, 29"w x 24"h, © 2017
So the end piece does not look much like the inspiration painting.  But isn’t that the point?  

Visit the other artists in the Art With Fabric blog hop!  This week also features posts by:

Monday, October 9th, 2017

Tuesday, October 10th, 2017
Krysia, Hosted by Alida

Wednesday, October 11th, 2017 

Thursday, October 12th, 2017 

Friday, October 13th, 2017 


This is awesome! It really does have the feel of the original. Thank you for showing us your methodology as I keep wanting to try abstracts but just can’t seem to get an idea or where to begin. Eye squinting, now that I can do.
LA Paylor said…
Very Abstract! I get your thought process and enjoy hearing about decision making. Finding the most important features of an original that drew you in, and using them as a stepping off point of your own journey

I go to the Phillips often and will miss the museums when we move, wah! So important to send exhibits to other venues, I didn't realize how important til we decided to move West. Yikes!

Funny that abstraction is hard for some, representational is hard for others. The color stood out first for me. Then the gestures, as you said, curved lines. Great work Heather!! Always impressive!! (and a pleasure to talk to as well, btw)
AlidaP said…
I love the Phillips collection. I stop there every time I go to DC. Thanks for sharing your process... the eye squinting tip is so easy and so brilliant!! Thanks for sharing your talent as part of the blog hop!!
I love the colours and forms in your quilt. And the description of your process. I enjoyed your post very much. Thanks!
Tu-Na Quilts said…
Very interesting! I've seen that painting in real life. He is a wonderful painter. You've captured the flow and curves well.
Wow, your piece is amazing!
e said…
What a stunning piece !!! I love your color combinations. Thanks for sharing your piece with us.
Barb said…
What an awesome interpretation....
The flow in the images of your work is amazing!
Linda M said…
Fabulous piece, it does capture the essence of the dancers.
Sewmotion said…
Simply beautiful, the colours, the shapes, perfect, well done!
It's not a copy of the Degas but you can definitely see the connection in the fluidity of the blocks as you pieced them; it's beautiful and what a lovely source of inspiration!
Gemini Jen NZ said…
Very very cool, I really like what you've come up with! Last weekend I did a class with Lyric Kinard at the NZ National Quilt Symposium, in which she taught us about creating abstract work from representational art. I think she would love what you have done.