True confession: I love handmade quilts, but I’m terrible at making them. Likely that’s one reason I was drawn to Cait Sherwood’s stunning quilt-inspired art journal pages, featured in the May/June issue of Cloth Paper Scissors. Talk about having your cake and eating it too—this very cool mixed-media technique combines painting, drawing, and creating quilt patterns, with no sewing required. This needs to be in your repertoire today.
Cait’s work is elegant, edgy, and eclectic, and when I saw her quilt design pages I instantly fell in love. She reveals in the article “Quilt-Inspired Art Journal Pages” that to make these pages, she creates her own decorative papers rather than purchase them. That instantly sends this technique into another dimension. She also uses gouache, which ratchets things up another notch. And she uses patterned fabrics and papers as a jumping off point for her own designs. Sold.
Cait works on found papers, some with a little bit of patterning on them, like graph and lined paper. You can work on plain papers, of course, but if the pattern shows through the paint it adds another fabulous layer to your artwork. I gathered a bunch of found papers and some gouache, and got started.
I’ve sung the praises of gouache before, but if you haven’t given this color medium a try, I highly recommend it. It dries matte, giving it a unique look, you can paint light colors over dark, and dried paint can be easily reconstituted with water. Acrylic paint is a fine substitute if you don’t have gouache. I painted a bunch of papers a variety of vibrant colors, plus black, and didn’t give much thought to coordinating the shades—I trusted in the mixed-media gods and figured things would work out.
Next stop: my fabric and paper stashes, which would serve as pattern and color inspiration for the quilt art journal pages. That’s where Cait likes to draw her inspiration, with a philosophy not to copy the existing pattern perfectly, but to use elements of the pattern that you like. You can also use the fabric’s color pattern as further inspiration, or come up with something completely different. Here are a couple of pencil drawings loosely based on fabric and paper designs.
Painting the papers was really fun and satisfying, and I found it difficult to stop. You can always use leftover papers for other artwork, so if you’re in the zone, go for it! The article includes helpful info on working with gouache. Here is the result of my nonstop painting frenzy:
If you’re already a quilter, you may have some block designs already in mind. Not so much for me, so I did some research and found one I liked. Working with 2” squares sounded safe and sane for my first time around and a good proportion for my 8″ x 8″ art journal. After finding the center of the page I drew some faint guidelines with a pencil to make sure I didn’t go too far astray. Your level of wonkiness acceptance is up to you! Here’s my design partway done; I tried not to overthink the combination of papers, but auditioned the pieces to see which colors, patterns, and values worked best before gluing things down. Cait has a great gluing method for the block pieces that I found really helpful.
Oh, one more thing—keep your cut shapes in a box or a see-through zip-top bag, somewhere they won’t get lost. I discovered after cutting a few squares that these little pieces of paper will float away if not immediately corralled.
In the course of creating this quilt art journal page I had a bunch of epiphanies, which I think is the mark of a superb project. One: Making patterns and marks is a seriously great exercise. I started painting blue circles on a bright green background and thought, wow, these look terrible. One or two wonky circles do look bad. But 50 of them look great, because they look deliberate, which they are. Two: Creating these patterns made me recommit myself to keeping a pattern journal. I think it will be invaluable in my artwork. Three: This project made me think about color combinations and values, and that is so much of what quilting is about. I realized when I started piecing the block that I had too many papers that were the same value, and next time I do this I’ll add more light and dark shades so the colors really contrast and pop.
When I got close to filling the page with the quilt squares, I decided I wanted to go a little funkier with the design. I brushed some white gesso over strips of book text and also gathered the paper scraps I had left over from squaring up my painted pages.
I adhered the strips around the block, mitering the corners—like a quilt binding, my colleague Barb Delaney so astutely pointed out—and I was really happy with the look. The paper scraps didn’t work, so I left them off. I have a substantial amount of papers left, which makes me really happy, because I can make more quilt art journal pages!
Give this one a try—you’ll get so much out of this project and come up with so many ways to spin it. To see more of Cait’s gorgeous artwork (and tons of other projects), check out the lookbook for the May/June 2018 issue of Cloth Paper Scissors.