Nellie"s Needles

Saturday, February 23, 2008

Finding Balance

When the decision was made to document my designing process on line, I had not foreseen that this would be one of the most complex quilts I've ever created. The process started out as usual for me. I put the 8 spiral blocks on the design wall and pulled coordinating fabrics from my stash. I intuitively positioned the blocks and began to see ways to transition between and connect them. I very much enjoy this "what if" part.
The light and dark value placements balanced nicely. The distribution of the bright colors worked well. Then I messed up this good plan by mixing up the center blocks when I constructed the middle section. It took quite a few days for me to realize my mistake. In the meantime, I couldn't figure out why I was no longer happy with what I saw on the design board. I couldn't keep from "fiddling" with it and feeling antsy. It felt "off."
Most of us have an intuitive sense of balance. We've had a lifetime of perceptual experience. We may not be able to put into words why an arrangement of objects, colors, or shapes does or doesn't balance, but we surely can recognize if it does or doesn't.

Here are B&W photos of each arrangement. In the first organization the white square flanked with the medium value gold triangles combined to form a large shape in the middle of the quilt. The larger size of that focal point allowed for substantial sub units. I felt confidently well on my way at this point.
The accidental grouping is the photo below. The white square is surrounded with the black triangles to make the center focus a much smaller shape. This switch threw the balance of sizes and values out of whack. The center of the quilt was fighting for attention.
Here's a B&W photo of the final arrangement. I felt a need to break up the unit of three spirals that "played together" so nicely. They had overpowered the isolated white focus block. Now there's a good distribution of light, medium, and dark values that feel balanced within the whole.
The top and bottom sections of the design support and enhance the center focal point rather than vying for attention. There are more nebulous background type blocks in the top section to give that area an impression of lighter weight. The greater number of defined spirals and shapes in the bottom one give more weight and stability to the composition.

The center panel is made up of bold shapes and complex details plus the strong value contrast between the white and black. These combined factors add up to the most visual weight for the smallest area within the piece. It now balances with the top and bottom sections and reclaims the most attention.
As much as I was satisfied with the first composition this one pleases me more.


StegArt said...

It looks fabulous Nellie! When you first started this project, I wondered how you would work all the spiral blocks into one piece, especially since they seemed so 'separate'. But you surely have done it. It has a definite ethnic feel to me.

jenclair said...

It is a beautiful quilt and going through the process with you was quite enlightening. I agree that the final composition is the most pleasing, but doubt I could have ever explained why.

self taught artist said...

looking at this piece brings to mind belly dancers and gypsies. i can hear the jingling of their jewelry

jude said...

thank you for the thought process. putting things into words, it is really hard to explain how we perceive things like balance. i have started to think that this balance concept may also be influenced by the context of what we are doing also. just part of a new wave of questions that have caught me off guard lately.
i like how you use the black and white photos to enhance this discussion.

arlee said...

The energy in this one is invigorating--and so different from the lake series----i love spirals myself but don't think i could put as many diverse colours and sizes together as cohesively as you have!

Nellie's Needles said...

Your comments are much appreciated. Thank you.

Arlee, some of your spirals from a goody you sent ended up in this piece ... the dark red strips in the top and bottom sections. Thank you.

McIrish Annie said...

Thanks for reinforcing the use of intuition in design. I have left things on a design wall for days moving pieces around until it "felt" right. Like you, I can't usually explain the "why" but I know when I finally get it right.

It has been fabulous watching you put this piece together. Thanks again for sharing!

Karen said...

I think this turned out beautifully! But, whew, you must have been in a bit of a tizzy when you first saw the mistake! So glad to see that it worked out so well in the end!

teodo said...

Nellie, I think the complex projects usually give the best results in the end.
This one is getting wonderful.
ciao, ciao

Belém said...

Your aproach to quilt design and color balance is very interesting and I have learned a lot with you. Thanks for sharing your experience and knowledge.

Kay said...

I loved watching this develop; it's encouraging to see that everyone makes false starts and goofs. Like Jenclair, I couldn't have explained why the last one is better, but it is. I definitely like the big spirals separated.