Art Quilts: Backgrounds Make a Difference

So many factors go into your art quilt's design. Fabric selection, design principles, and the appeal of the focal point–especially with a pictorial or landscape quilt–are all important components that can make or break an art quilt.

art quilt by sarah ann smith
art quilt by sarah ann smith
art quilt by sarah ann smith
Sarah Ann Smith tried several backgrounds
before settling on the
middle version.

Yet how often do we focus our full attention on the background of a composition? In an upcoming issue of Quilting Arts Magazine, contemporary quilting expert Sarah Ann Smith shows "What a Difference the Background Makes" as she takes you through her art quilting design process for a pictorial quilt with a background.

For example, this is the process she went through to decide on the fabric for the sky in a quilted wall hanging.

"If your design includes an outside scene, start by selecting a variety of fabrics for the sky," writes Sarah.

"Although I like the glowering storm, gray autumn day, and night views, they didn't tell the story I wanted for this quilt, so those were out. The lighter, less contrasty blue sky, typical of the fading light of late afternoons, was my first choice.

"Then I saw that sunset sky. The strong value contrast (light and dark) with the tree and the fact that the greens of the apple tree and the pinks of the sky are complementary colors makes this view pop.

"But when I placed the pink sky against the warm wall fabrics I wanted to use, I had a glorious sunset-not the story I wanted to tell about the child. So I returned to my first choice, the soft clear blue sky."

Isn't it amazing how the background changes the mood of the scene? Whether you're choosing the sky for a landscape quilt, the wall color or pattern for an indoor scene, or even the background for a portrait, be sure to consider how the fabrics will affect the overall piece.

You also have a variety of "backgrounds" to choose from when looking for art inspiration. Learning more about drawing or weaving can color your approach to designing your quilt art and may even lead you to a new passion. Now, during our big sale, is the perfect time to subscribe to one of our many publications.

P.S. How do you choose the backgrounds for your art quilts? Do you prefer solid fabrics, patterns, or hand-dyes? Leave a comment below.

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