Photographic Inspiration for Abstract Art Quilts

Pauly-Beeches
“Beeches” an art quilt by Pat Pauly inspired by a photo.

Creating abstract art quilts can be a challenge. Finding interesting compositions takes practice. You can start with making free-motion sketches by sewing bits of fabric and paper onto notecards. Or you can pin pieces of fabric to your design wall and watch relationships between shape and color develop. Or you can look to a photograph you’ve taken for inspiration by picking out sections you find interesting.

All of these are great exercises to try. Although, nationally acclaimed fiber artist Pat Pauly discusses all three of these techniques in her video workshop Abstract Art Quilt Design from Start to Finish, today we’re going to focus on photographic inspiration.

A camera is such a handy design tool, maybe even the handiest of them all. Whether you are using a smartphone or hand-held camera, it’s quick and easy to snap a picture when you come across something you find inspiring. Once you have several photos saved, start looking for compositions you can interpret abstractly.

Pauly-Water-Earth-III
“Water, Earth III” an art quilt by Pat Pauly inspired by a photo montage.

Here are 5 ways to create abstract compositions starting with a photo:

1. Use a photo for inspiration: Some photographs may not need to be edited to find an appealing abstract composition. For these images experiment with the colors and patterns of your fabrics as you build your quilt.

2. Delineate shapes and forms: Slide your photograph into a clear page protector or cover it with tracing paper and then outline the shapes with permanent marker. This is a great way to identify forms, proportion, and scale; plus it’s wonderful inspiration for cutting fabric freehand.

Pauly-Broken-Chair
Upper Image: Abstract quilt based on a photograph of a chair that was cut up to create the lower image. Lower Image: “Broken Chair” by Pat Pauly

3. Create a photo sketch or montage: Cut up your pictures into smaller building blocks. Audition different combinations of elements from several images and glue them down onto a blank piece of paper to create a photo montage. Or cut one photograph into pieces, arrange them, and rearrange them until you find a composition you find appealing.

4. Edit for composition: Make your own cropping tool by cutting a window out of a plain sheet of paper. Look for sections of your image that have movement and interesting shape relationships.

5. Use an image that reads as an object and then abstract it: This is also a good option if you’re not happy with the way your design is unfolding or if your photo inspiration is coming through more strongly than you’d like. Simply cut your quilt up into square pieces, mix them up to create eye-catching interactions, and then reassemble.

Want to learn more art quilting design tips and techniques? Learn every step of making an abstract quilt, from exercises to get your creativity flowing to flawless finishing techniques, from Pat when you order or download your copy of Abstract Art Quilt Design from Start to Finish today. Brenna's Signature

P.S. How to do start your abstract art quilts? Do you have a favorite exercise or technique that helps you get started? Leave a comment below to share your methods.

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Art Quilt, Quilt Designs, Quilting Daily Blog

One thought on “Photographic Inspiration for Abstract Art Quilts

  1. I start designing on the computer and I often use Painter or Photoshop to produce coloured tiles from an image. My start image might be a picture or several gradients and then I play about usually with the square tile option but sometimes with the equilateral triangle or hexagon. If I add a dark grout I can ample and fill squares with colours I prefer. I can also use the personalised paint brush to add further detail and interest to the design.

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