How Fast Can You Make Art?

"I wish I had more time to make art."

I hear that all the time–from art quilters at shows, from my friends, the Quilting Arts staff…and out of my own mouth. Unless you're a full-time artist, you've probably said it yourself many times (and I'm willing to bet even full-time artists recite that lament occasionally).

Although I'm sure we'd all like endless hours or even days to spend in the studio creating, few people have the lifestyle that affords them that kind of time. From my own experience and that of other artists I know, I've discovered the following tips for fitting more art making into a busy lifestyle.

  1. Set yourself up for success. Keep your most-used tools and supplies set up in such a way that they are ready to create when you are.
  2. Make an appointment to create. If you don't make your art a priority, no one else will. So schedule studio time on your calendar, even if it's just an hour.
  3. Make art in stages. For example, fuse a bunch of fabrics to felt backing one day. Stamp them for artist trading card backgrounds another, slice them up and embellish a third day.

Balzer-Collage-TechniquesOne person who is a master at creating a lot in a little bit of time–and in not much space, I might add–is Julie Fei-Fan Balzer. Julie is a bundle of energy (and comedy) who combines paper, fabric, and stitch with paint and other media, and does it all in a small, two-bedroom apartment in New York City.

Julie has been a guest on "Quilting Arts TV" demonstrating canvas wall hangings, and her new Cloth Paper Scissors WorkshopTM "Collage Fast & Furious!" just came out. In it, she demonstrates quick and easy ways to create foundations, layer art mediums, and make patterns with paint and simple mark-making tools. 

Collage-Techniques-BirdMany of Julie's methods are demonstrated on paper, but you can adapt most of them as surface design techniques for art quilting. Processes like stamping fabrics, hand embroidery, making ATCs (artist trading cards), how to make a paper quilt, how to paint a quilt, and paper quilting all relate to her methods.

One of my favorite of Julie's techniques is how she creates a texture foundation for paint using gesso as an adhesive for fibers.

Step 1. Take a dollop of gesso with a brush and spread it over a piece of light cardstock, such as half of a manila file folder.

Step 2. Lay a piece of cheesecloth on top of the gesso. Don't be neat: scrunch it up in some parts and don't worry about covering the entire piece of cardstock. Layer more gesso on top of the cheesecloth.

Step 3. Take a paper tissue (such as a Kleenex®), twist it into a rope or rosette, and add that to the surface. Slap more gesso on top.

Step 4. Cut scraps of batting into shapes such as squares or circles and apply them to the gesso and fiber mix here and there.

Step 5. Allow the gesso to air dry or apply a heat gun lightly to speed up the process.

Step 6. Add color, such as watercolors or inks. Let dry, and you have a colorful, multi-textured surface to embellish with text, fabric, hand embroidery, and so on.

I laughed when I watched Julie demo this technique, because it took only a couple of minutes (without the drying time), and at first all she seemed to be doing was making a mess. But once she applied the color–wow! What an interesting background.

The tips, tricks, and techniques Julie demonstrates in "Collage Fast & Furious!" are lifesavers for the busy artist, and I strongly encourage you to check it out.

P.S. If you want to see the space where Julie creates, but sure to get a copy of the Fall 2010 issue of Cloth Paper Scissors Studios. It features the creative spaces of 20 quilters plus mixed-media artists, so you won't want to miss it.

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One thought on “How Fast Can You Make Art?

  1. I am ready to jump in and try it – today. County Fair deadline in a month; this messy fun production will be a new twist in the same-ol same-ol “fabric art” category. Now…what shall it be? if anything? Thanks for the summer inspiration.