GYPO Week One: Gee's Bend Inspired Painting #1 by Leslie

I started a five week online course called Get Your Paint On and last week I created two paintings (the first one is above and the second one at the bottom) inspired by the Gee's Bend Quilts (see them below, here and here). First, if you have not heard of them, they are incredible folk art quilts from an isolated area in Alabama where most of the population is descended from slaves. The traditions and skills associated with making these quilts have been passed down from generation to generation and remain a cornerstone of the community. The quilts are bold and graphic and have a beautiful aesthetic that is very similar to abstract painting. I love how loose these designs are, unconcerned with straight lines, but instead focused on color and pattern.

These are three of my favorite quilts:

Rachey Carey George (born 1908). Work-clothes strips, c. 1938. Denim (wool trousers, mattress ticking, cotton). 82 x 72 inches. The Collection of the Tinwood Alliance.


Annie Mae Young, born 1928. Work-clothes quilt with center medallion of corduroy strips, 1976. Denim, corduroy, synthetic blend, 108 x 77 inches. The Collection of the Tinwood Alliance

Rachel Carey George, born 1908. "Housetop"--sixteen-block "Half-Logcabin" variation sashed with feed sacks. ca. 1935, cotton sacking material and dress fabric, 86 x 86 inches. The Collection of the Tinwood Alliance

Aren't they incredible? I had heard about them before but I loved taking a closer look and using them as inspiration for my own paintings.

In the class Lisa Congdon and Mati McDonough have been sharing tons of information about their own work, process and materials, plus introductions to artists that they love and admire. There is a private Flickr group, where everyone can share their work and solicit feedback. It's a positive environment suited for any level painter and it's been fascinating to see how so many people, from all corners of the world, interpret an assignment and make it their own. I love the ability to learn with a multitude of people, while staying at home and having the flexibility to meet the demands of my regular life.

GYPO Week One: Gee's Bend Inspired Painting #2 by Leslie

The process of painting is a difficult one, one that take many years of practise, and despite my desire to teach myself to paint, and the few projects that I have done over the last two years, painting really is something that (for me) is better within the structure of a class and in a community environment where I can get feedback. I think I will learn a lot in the next month. This week the assignment is to select a painting/artist to be inspired by and I think I have settled on Ed Ruscha. I've loved his work for a long time, and was lucky enough to see some of his paintings in person in NYC a number of years ago. I still have not figured out which of his paintings to choose as my inspiration, but I have a couple of favorites.

I really do love this creative process, although I am often weighed down by the "why" of making art. I have to remember that "just because" is enough of a reason sometimes. There doesn't need to be a point or a purpose, as long as I enjoy making it. I think that is why I love the class environment so much, it gives me a reason to just explore and try new things. They will be offering the class again in the future, I know that there will for sure be a summer course called "Beyond the Basics" that is a continuation of the course I am in now.

Do you paint yourself? What are your inspirations and favorites?

I'll leave you with this great video, with audio by the fantastic Ira Glass, about being a beginner in creative work. Mati shared it in the course today and it's important to remember this wonderful advice anytime you are learning and doing creative work. Ira Glass is a writer, so he talks about creating stories, but you can switch it out with whatever creative pursuit you are following.