The Story Behind My Next Series: Four Corners and Helen Frankenthaler

My next series, Four Corners, is loosely based on a painting I saw by Helen Frankenthaler. My Instagram friend Brianne of @briannealves posted about Helen Frankenthaler last year and I have been hooked ever since. I have decided that whenever somebody mentions an artist I'm not familiar with, it's in my best interest to check that artist out. In this case, Brianne has a fantastic sense of color and design and I've been following her since I started the 100 day project in April 2015. We share a love of the color blue. So I knew I would most likely be fascinated by Frankenthaler's art. 

From the website

I've read a few books from my local library on Helen Frankenthaler. She started the influential color stain technique where she poured thinned out paint onto an unprimed canvas. For some reason, she is not as well know as her husband of 13 years, modern artist Robert Motherwell. I have included her biography from the Artsy site.

I wanted to see more of her art than I found at the library. One way I look for well reproduced photos of art online is on the website Artsy. You can follow artists and even see some pieces for sale at galleries. There's a short biography of each artist. It's a great way to noodle around looking for inspiration for colors or designs and learn about art history and contemporary art. 

Now as I've said before this is not about copying somebody else's Art. This is about looking for things that trigger an interest in you. By way of example, I've included the Frankenthaler painting that was my starting point for my next series. Here is a run down of my thinking process. The photo shows the Four Pochoirs for sale on Artsy. The one that inspired me is on the upper left and is called Wind Directions.

As I thought about my next series and looked at Wind Directions, I decided I wanted to modify all the colors. I didn't want a white background. As I said, one of my favorite colors is blue so I'm mixing in many different blues as the main color for the background. As for the design, I love Frankenthaler's attention to only the corners. Ironically, the third quilt I ever made was based on a traditional pattern called Snowball. The design is only remotely similar. The traditional Snowball is a little uptight with consistent triangle corner shapes and usually the same color triangles in the corners. Frankenthaler's painting is a wild child with each corner being a different color and shape, and is not related at all to the other corners. 

My idea for the design for my next series Four Corners is to pick a color palette with enough variety to make the color interesting, similar to Frankenthaler. I want to "up the contrast" with the blue center and will use oranges, lime green and lemon yellow (think Mike and Ike candy colors). Of course, I want to make each square visually interesting by having different shapes in each corner. Different shapes. Different colors.  I'm looking for something much more free-form than the traditional Snowball.

My third quilt from the early 2000's using Snowball blocks

As I said, when I saw Frankenthaler's painting, I thought of a Snowball design but realized I could have a lot of fun with all the variations she uses in her painting. One of my major themes to help people working in a series is to say...

You need some constraints and some freedom. You need a structure to get you started. You need flexibility and a sense of play to want to keep doing it. 

I feel this will be a perfect balance of those parameters in my next series.