Matisse, process, and series

Have you seen this? If not the actual exhibit, but articles about the exhibit? This Matisse exhibition is right up my alley, and I would LOVE to see it. Below is a quote from the NYTimes.

“…this exhibition …sheds new light on Matisse’s penchant for copying and working in series.”

The exhibition at the Met will be up until March 17, 2013. Not only do these painting show his series work, but also glimpses of the process. The review likens these paintings as an “excavation.” How interesting! Also interesting is this bit:

In the 1930s Matisse began having black-and-white photographs taken of his paintings at regular intervals as he worked on them.

Maybe some wisdom for the weavers among us. Take pictures before it rolls past the breast beam! Because tapestry is slow, and I weave on a horizontal loom, I do write down date and how I began the piece, so that when I finally get to the end, I can do the same thing in the finishing. But I love reading about his process (seeing the works would be even better, right?). As I’ve mentioned before, having the artist’s sketchbooks or some other depiction of process, well, that’s what fascinates me.

Going back to the first quote above, the copying part—and I took that partly as copying “masters” but also his own work–maybe that would be useful to improve one’s own weaving and carrying forth the design into new territory. What do you think?

In the meantime, I may need to buy the catalogue for this exhibit. At least it’s cheaper than a trip to NYC!

Matisse again

I seem to have an obsession with Matisse. I’ve written about his art before, several times. But something caught my attention in this article in the WSJ.

When confined to his bed, Matisse would sketch on the ceiling by attaching brushes and charcoal to a long pole. As painting became more difficult, he focused intently on the sleek, stylized paper cutouts he had first started experimenting with in the 1930s, using scissors to create the sinewy shapes and swaths of color that he could no longer render directly on canvas.

2012 Succession H. Matisse / Artists Rights Society (ARS), New York

I have read before that Matisse’s cut-outs were the result of his failing eye sight, and I am fascinated by the idea that he would use paper that he had painted with gouaches. But just think of the determination to make art that one would “sketch on the ceiling.” Wow!

Text, Science, and Matisse,

Spiral_close-upI’ve been thinking about the text and weaving. In looking at the soumak pseudo spiral above, this may be the best method of making text. Curves are much easier to obtain, and one might even get a cursive-type of writing. But I really wanted wider letters, so I tried the what’s shown below. Before deciding what to do next time, I will have to change the orientation of the letters before weaving. Then I will also probably try some blockier type of font, maybe something like this, without the little curlicues at the bottom of the t.




Imagine working for seven years on the same project! Now I know that Matisse was working on other projects at the same time, but gee, don’t you just finally say enough already? In the NY Times, there is an article about how the paintings of Matisse evolved over time—not the usual study from one painting to the next, but the study of one painting and how it changed to the final product. Of course, this type of reflection that brings change to a project is not possible for most of us weavers. How many looms with unfinished projects do we have room for? However, I’m sure we’ve all looked back at a finished work and thought how we’d do something differently. Maybe that’s what leads to a series. But is it something we’d do differently, or just an advancement on the original idea?

Succession H. Matisse/Artists Rights Society, New York

“Bathers by a River” went through a seven-year evolution as Henri Matisse continued to make changes, which can now be traced by curators using X-ray technology.

The following is a quote from the article about how this exhibit came about and the process of studying the various works.

The exhibition’s organizers, Mr. Elderfield and Stephanie d’Alessandro, the curator of modern art at the Art Institute of Chicago, where the exhibit was first shown, focused on 26 paintings, drawings and sculptures, which they examined with new digital imaging techniques, laser scanning, ultraviolet illumination and up-to-date computer software. They also tested paint samples and studied fresh material unearthed from the artist’s family archives in Issy-les-Moulineaux, a Paris suburb.

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Artists and textiles

This is not really a blog post, but a collection of articles about artists and textiles. And when I say “artists,” what I really mean is famous artists. The American Textile History Museum has an exhibition called Artist Textiles: Picasso to Warhol. It will be there through March 29. The Textiel Museum in the Netherlands, also has information on their website, with a different set of pictures. Here’s a great article on art and textiles by Mirka Knaster. Below are a few of my favorite books. What are some more? Let’s compile a list.


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Yes, I did it

You may remember that I REALLY wanted to see Matisse: The Cut-Outs at MOMA. So, I did it! Yes, I traveled to NYC in February and lived to tell about it. I was there between storms of the snow variety.

JFK sculpture

JFK sculpture

New York is not my favorite place to go; it’s just too darn busy. Crowded. Rush rush. First off,, right out of the box, the gate where we landed was at the farthest end of the terminal. I didn’t know that when I set off to wall to baggage claim. I was offered a ride in one of those golf cart vehicles, but no, I was fine. Geez! After miles and miles and miles, I got my luggage and worked my way to ground transportation and the shuttle.

It was important to me to stay within walking distance to the museum. Driving from the airport, dropping off the other passengers, seeing all the familiar things we associate with NYC, well, there’s just something kind of exciting about that. Driving past the famous theaters, seeing the marquees, kind of makes the pulse beat a little faster. My hotel was on 8th Avenue and 53rd. After dumping my stuff in my room, I went out on a reconnaissance mission and a bite to eat.


The next day I worked my way toward the museum for early hours for members. The sidewalks were slushy and slipper in spots, so I very carefully walked across streets. I could just see myself getting flattened after a fall in the middle of the street.

The exhibition was wonderful. I took notes of the pieces that grabbed me the most and why. Nearly always it was the color, but shapes came in a close second. MOMA-bag

Unfortunately, my knee didn’t cooperate to the extent that I would have preferred. I got a shot in it just before leaving, realizing that this would be kind of a test for it. I want to go to Peru, which will require a lot of walking. Well, the knee is not ready for Peru. Plan B.

If only… I would go to NYC

From Amazon

©Sherri Coffey-Journey

This was designed in the “Matisse way.” Everything was cut out of paper and arranged to make the design.







February is probably not the best time to travel to NYC, but I seriously considered a quick, two-day trip to see the exhibition Henri Matisse: The Cut-Outs at MOMA.  Matisse has been a favorite artist of mine for a good long time. I have written, or at least mentioned him often. When I analyze the reason for this admiration, I think it boils down to color. He definitely has a way with color! So, since I am seriously considering a long trip to Peru in the fall, I passed up on going to New York, even though flights and rooms were reasonably priced. I just went to a film about the exhibition instead.

The film was held on one night only, in one local theater only, but it was well worth it to get out in the cold, blustery wind. At night, no less! The film includes additions that would not be available at the actual exhibition (maybe?), such as a segment of ballet, including how it was filmed, a segment on a chapel which Matisse designed, and film of how the exhibition groupings were decided by the curator. I have to admit that I never knew he designed a chapel, and it’s wonderful! Here is an image of my favorite of the many stained glass windows he designed.

One could say that I’ve been consumed by this exhibition. I admit it. I bought the exhibition catalog, but there is no way that it could compare to the film. The pictures on a page of a book in no way allow one to see the scope of the cut-outs. The cut-outs are huge, and are much more impressive when seen on a wall, in context with the rest of cut-outs. But in defense of the book, which I have not examined thoroughly, there is more detailed information about the materials Matisse used. Of course, in the film, there were actual clips of Matisse cutting, of his assistants placing the cut-outs on the wall, and rearranging them at the direction of Matisse.

I am inspired once again, eager to do some designing. I came home all revved up after the viewing. I know I am not alone in this. Other artists have commented to feeling the same. By the way, I have always heard that Matisse started making the cutouts because he couldn’t see well. That was debunked in the film.


Public art

Tree-detail Last week I went to a presentation about public art hosted by Fort Worth Public Art. Usually I put these kinds of things on my calendar, and then talk myself out of going when the day arrives. In my effort to get to more art activities, I made myself go–yes, MADE myself–and I am so glad I did. The presentation was by a representative of Franz Mayer, a German company that constructs architectural glass and mosaics. A slide show of the many artist-designed projects was inspiring, and the process of creating those large art Tree-mosaic pieces was interesting. Getting the right colors by combining tiny bits of glass in a mosaic, laminating different kinds of glass for a particular design, painting on glass, airbrush, stained glass, mouth blown glass, you name it, it’s all done. There were brochures with examples of the work.  Above is a pic of one of the brochures. I was captivated by this tree, but then I opened the brochure and saw this whole scene from a subway tunnel. All I can say is, “Wow!” Artist Norie Sato was at the presentation and talked a bit about her designs for columns on a new parkway in town. Her work is beautiful and worth a visit to her website.

Matisse-and-textiles Another of my new favorite things to do is to use the interlibrary. I recently found out (through the interlibrary) that our local museums all have art libraries that are quite extensive and are available for anyone. This comes in handy when you’re thinking about buying an exhibition catalog or other expensive book. I have wanted to see the catalog Matisse, His Art and His Textiles for a long time, and there it was, just waiting for me to check it out! Artsits-and-textiles

There was also Artists Textiles 1940-1976, so I requested it also. It’s an interested book, with fabrics designed by artists. Some are really ugly, but that’s because they just don’t appeal in this decade. There are just some fashion decades that should be obliterated!

Both of these books have interesting bits, and perhaps even inspiring bits, but I am not going to buy them.


Evolution of a design


Prairie Fire drawing


Prairie Fire

Prairie…what do you think about when you hear that word? Most people think of vast, flat land that goes on forever. That prairie is probably a tall grass prairie on the Great Plains. You can read a little about the Tall Grass Prairie here, and there’s a really interesting article about preserving the Tall Grass Prairie by setting fires here.  I recommend that one. Where I live here in Texas is the mid-grass prairie, although the Texas Parks and Wildlife Department calls it the Cross Timbers region.

Frankly, I never considered the prairie at all, and if I did consider it, probably thought it boring. That was before I actually studied it and came to appreciate it. Our prairie is not that vastly flat Great Plains. We have hills. Low hills, but hills. And this brings me to my real topic today.

A few months ago, I went to a lecture at the Kimbell Art Museum during the Picasso to Matisse exhibit. The lecture was really quite interesting, but as I was sitting there, I started thinking about possible weavings about the prairie. Before I left the lecture, I had thumbnails of many of my ideas and a list of more possibilities. Since that time, I have been trying to decide how to actually execute my ideas. My first attempt was not a total success, maybe not even a fractional success. The two drawings above show what I wanted to do in terms of depicting grasses. Yes, I know, it’s yellow. The rest of the story next time…

Books, Part I


Colour: a workshop for artists and designers

I’ve been thinking about a series based on how color interacts and appears with other colors. I’m also interested in the phenomenon called simultaneous contrast. Not having ever had any formal study of color, I usually just go with my gut, and frankly, I kind of don’t want to mess with that.

Anyway, I pulled a book on color off the bookshelf, and it’s exactly what I wanted. In fact, I may actually do the exercises! Gasp! The book is called Colour: A Workshop for Artists and Designers. The exercises utilize gouache paints to try out the different principles in the book. Then, by the time you’ve done a few exercises, you will have a pile of painted papers to use for the other exercises. This appealed to me because I have often thought about painting papers with colors that I like and then combining them to make a design, like Matisse did later in his life. You can see a bunch of those compositions here.

Maybe I’ll set up a card table in the spare room and play with paints. I’ll keep you posted.

Treating myself


Artistic endeavor???

This week has been really big week for me so far. Not only am I having lunch out with friends twice–yes, two times!–my first workshop in the new studio space at the Kimbell was on Wednesday. What fun! As usual, the docents took us in small groups to view selected pieces, pointing out special details that they wanted us to notice and giving us information that we might not know about the artist or the work. All of the work that we viewed were in the exhibit Picasso and Matisse, and all related to collage. The works were not actual collages, but looked like a collage, probably having been constructed as an actual collage and then painted. Then we returned to the studio, which is absolutely marvelous. There are three studios, each with built in cabinets designed by the education director to include amenities that have been needed. Before, there was not even one room for studio creating. All was done at tables in the lobby as patrons walked by.

There were painted canvasses of various colors, but of course, I chose red. There were many interesting papers to choose from, stencils, and paints. What I found most interesting was that I started out with an idea that morphed into another idea entirely. I’m pretty happy with my work of “art.” And it was fun.

What does that tell me? Probably that I need to get out more, but also that playing around with new forms of art is good for the soul, that I need to do more experimenting with art at home, and let myself play without that critical voice saying a darn thing! Try something new!