Thursday, July 1, 2010

Aspens - yellow and purple

I love Aspen trees and have long thought about making an aspen quilt, but it has been done—a lot. Our Gerrie has made a whole series of aspen pieces. Most artists focus on the graphic qualities of the unusual bark, with its  black markings on pure white bark. But I chose to focus on the way the leaves turn gloriously yellow in the fall.

I grew up in southern Idaho among groves of aspen. I remember a place at the camp where I started going as a camper at age 8 and went every year until I was in college, first as a camper, later as a counselor. Just across the creek and a bit away from the main camp there was a thick aspen grove with a clearing in the center of it with logs for sitting. It was designated as a "quiet place" where campers could sit quietly and escape or unwind from the frantic camp activity. It was a place I liked to go to write my letters to my family and nurse my homesickness. The only sound was the slight rustle of the leaves, which spun in the slightest breeze, giving the impression of them shimmering.

Our family had a cabin on a lake that spanned the Idaho-Wyoming border. In the fall the aspens turned the most brilliant yellow, while the mountain maple were an equally brilliant red. The patches of each on the hillsides were breathtaking. Walking through one of the aspen groves was like walking under a solid canopy of glittering yellow.

So it was this feeling I was working toward.

I started with this sketch.


The yellow was a given. The purple seemed natural enough, since the shadows and shade of that solid canopy could certainly be shades of purples. I considered adding some black detail to the tree trunks, but they worked better for me without it, and lent more attention to the leafy canopy. I always find complementary color schemes difficult to work with. With the colors being opposite one another on the color wheel, it means they contain no color elements in common. To me this makes it harder to make those colors "speak" to one another. By adding some warm red to each of the complements, I felt they began to reach out to each other. My plan had been to print the dots on the yellow leafy areas, then quilt around the dots, as I did in the background, but once it was all together more quilting didn't seem necessary. In fact it felt like it would make it all too fussy and precise and the printed dots really reminded me of that shimmering leaf quality I remember so well.

So this is my contribution to the vast body of aspen-themed artworks! I hope I brought some of my own experience and point of view to a well-loved subject.

13 comments:

Rhonda said...

I just found your blog and have become a "FOLLOWER".....your Aspen quilt is wonderful. I loved reading the story behind your reasonings. Great job.
I'd love it if you visited my blog sometime.
Take care.
http://ravelly1-quiltzblog.blogspot.com

Deborah Boschert said...

Lovely. Gosh, the picture is so teeny, though -- I want close ups of the quilting, the painted dots and the beautiful transitions between the colors. I think the trunks and branches are perfect.

Karen said...

I want close ups too!. This is such a lovely take on aspens, it kind of reminds me of a Wolf Kahn painting. The colors are kind of surreal, yet based in realism.

Terry said...

I just replaced the photo with a larger one. You should be able to click on it for a closer look.

Gerrie said...

I love it!! I like the way you have concentrated on that larger image. One of my first Aspen Quilts (which Teri Springer owns) was of a grove. You can almost hear the aspens quaking! A very effective abstraction.

Diane said...

Beautiful interpretation of aspens, Terry! I am still trying to figure out what it is about the angles and lines of those tree trunks that said Terry to me as soon as the image appeared on the screen -- something about the clean graphic quality and the proportions, I think.

For me, this works perfectly -- the glow of the leaves, the shimmery detail of the added texture to suggest leaves, the white trunks against the purple. And the proportions of the whole are just right.

I'm glad you were able to do this with enjoyment and not a sense of rushing to meet a deadline. If you were feeling time pressure, maybe it pushed you to a simplicity that works beautifully.

Terri Stegmiller said...

I love your take on the aspen theme Terry. The simple but graphic tree trunks just pop on that palette of golden yellows and purples.

Françoise said...

Beautiful! I love the apparent simplicity of this piece. I like the colours you used and the way you did the tree trunks. And the little printed dots are just perfect.

Sarah Ann Smith said...

Terry.... I would not have guessed that this was your quilt! I LOVE IT... I really enjoy your work, but I'm actually thrilled that you have been able to surprise me, especially with such glorious color. WELL DONE!

There is an artist named Tony Abeyta who is Native American, and many of his quilts strike me as quilterly.... alas, his website has disappeared, but the closest I found of his Aspen/birch painting that I love is this one:

http://www.adobegallery.com/detail.php?item_id=1265402611

There is another, larger, with 3 figures in the foreground, with a composition similar to yours with the trees extending beyond the top... I printed it out years ago, and am so glad I did!

Cheers, Sarah

Nikki said...

I love your story. I can feel the quiet place in your quilt and all the wonderful memories of vacations.

Revalani said...

I wouldn't have picked this as yours, either, in part because of your stated opinion on aspens as a subject (ha), and also because of the lack of shading on the trunks and the treatment of the leaves. It sure works, though!
I like the way you used red to bridge the complements. It's vibrant and contemplative at the same time.

Kristin L said...

I didn't guess this was yours either, which surprises me because on second look it does have your deft hand. I think I expected your black outlines (though I wonder what this would look like with lilac ones?). It does have that hint of Arts and Crafts in the proportions and simplicity though that is so you. I really like your take on aspens -- it's refreshing (not that I don't still love Gerrie's wonderful trunks). This is just lovely and has a surprising depth. I like it very much.

Helen Conway said...

I really like the way the little 'bubble's hapes spill over from the foliage onto the sky. But, for me ( and its only my opinion) the starkness of the trunks distract me a little. maybe a little shading with neocolour crayons to take the starkness away? But what do I know?!