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House of Kings

I showed some detail pictures of this piece a while back. At the time, I didn't do a full reveal because it was part of a group project that we were keeping under wraps. I explained about it here.


"House of Kings"  18" x 18"     ©2012 Martha C. Hall
Painted whole cloth and plastic credit cards, machine quilted

Since then I have regrettably bowed out of the project. It was a tough decision. The concept was a good one. It could have made a good exhibit somewhere. But after a lot of soul searching and rumination I determined that it was mostly a huge diversion from the work I need to be doing.

My time in the studio is limited - by life and by my evidently faulty time management skills. The large quilts that I want to make take many, many hours. Heck, my small work takes many hours!

I'm working hard at focusing my efforts. Some of that involves setting boundaries and saying "no" to some things. My mind is always reeling with ideas. Part of the limits I need to set involve not pursuing every idea. That is really hard for me - I want to make it all!  But --- there just isn't enough time in a day, or a year. I must home in on one or two main concepts to pursue.

For now, for me, that means letting go of outside projects that don't lead toward my goals.

So --- That leads me to something else I've been thinking about.....

Lately I've noticed a lot of these collaborative groups popping up. I suppose this type of thing has been around for awhile, but it does seem to me that they are becoming more prevalent.

I think in the past they consisted more of people who lived close to one another and got together in person. The new groups I see forming are taking advantage of online connections and often consist of people from various far-flung reaches. They are able to connect and show a cohesive unit through blogs, websites, and Facebook.

I will confess that when I'm reading about some of them I immediately think, "What a distraction!" I mean, stopping everything to divert into creating a new piece based on some arbitrary theme.

Maybe it's just me. I admit that my decision is largely based on my need to expand my own cohesive body of work. I just can't take the time away from that right now to distract myself in some other direction.

My questions to you are.....

  • Do you belong to a collaborative project group? Do you want to join one or start one?
  • What is the benefit to you? or.....
  • Is it a distraction from your regular work?
  • If some "big name" artist(s) asked you to join up, would you? Why?
  • Do you enjoy working to a chosen theme? Particularly a theme chosen by someone else.

Please leave comments. I would like to know your thoughts on the subject.

Until next time -


My Fab Day in NYC

I had an “artist date” in NYC last week. I know you’re supposed to do these solo, according to Julia Cameron, but Mark came along with me.

We spent the day at the Metropolitan Museum. I invited Mark to come on my artist date for a particular reason, which I’ll explain in a moment, but also because he enjoys spending the entire day in an art museum as much as I do. Lucky for me!





The first exhibit I wanted to see was the drawings of Albrecht Dürer and others, called “Dürer and Beyond”. I’ve been drawing more lately – at the weekly figure drawing open studio at TraillWorks, and also in my own studio, setting up small, random still lifes to draw for practice. So, of course I had to see the masters. The exhibit includes a lot of etchings and engravings also. The drawings were mostly done in pen and ink. I was intrigued with the way they used line to create shadow and depth and to articulate drapery. Parallel lines and cross-hatching. I want to try that method in some of my drawings.





Pens_and_InksWe bought this cool little set of pens and inks to try out. Looked too fun to pass up! Good thing there are two pens – Mark and I can try them together, no fighting!

Next stop was “The Steins Collect” – gallery upon gallery of paintings collected by Gertrude Stein and her brothers Leo and Michael. I can’t resist the romantic notion behind their story. Americans living in Paris, collecting and living surrounded by original paintings, befriending Picasso before he was “Picasso”, not to mention all the other artists in their circle. Of course I immediately wanted to move to Paris and live that life!

If you want to see a fun movie that incorporates the Steins’ story, watch Woody Allen’s “Midnight In Paris”. They were actually selling the DVD in the gift shop. The movie even addresses that romantic notion of how we idealize a previous era as more interesting and important than our own. I, for one, am a total sucker for that. Now I want to see that movie again….. and go back to Paris.

All I purchased at the gift shop were two small magnets which are now included on my refrigerator mini art gallery.

Gertrude_Stein_Picasso Gertrude Stein 1905-06, Pablo Picasso

Pink Onions 1906-07, Henri Matisse Pink_Onions_Matisse


And finally….. ta da! ….. the initial reason why we visited the Met and my impetus for inviting Mark along. Each month there are recitals playing various instruments from the Met’s Musical Instruments collection. Last Wednesday they played the Thomas Appleton pipe organ. We saw the organ and learned of the recital when we were at the Met in February. I jotted down the date so we could return for it. Mark, being a musician, would of course want to be there.

We sat at the far end of the large open hall from the organ. If you can imagine it, the Appleton organ is a “soft” organ, not deafeningly loud. For that reason we wished we had move over to the close side so we could have seen and heard more. When they ever play it again and if you go, go sit close to it.

Next month they are playing instruments from the string collection. We may go back for that one. It holds particular interest as the violin is Mark's primary instrument.

After our full day at the museum we met up with a dear friend for dinner in town, then back to Port Authority for the bus back to New Jersey.

And that, readers, was my fab day in NYC!

Until next time -

Structure: Shape

I’m working on a small series of quilts with the First Tuesday Salon. At the end of last year we designed a group project to take us through this year with the idea of exhibiting it as a group show when it is completed.

We decided on an overarching theme of “Structure” for this project. Each of us will make 6 quilts – one every two months – and each quilt will have an additional sub-theme under the “Structure” heading.

We also decided on some other parameters for the project – enough to give our individual work some cohesion, but open enough that everyone has room to interpret and create in their own style and vision.

Probably the most unifying element of our quilts will be the shape – a square, which gives a structural aspect right from the start. We set size criteria that each artist may choose from at will – 12” x 12”, 18” x 18”, or 24” x 24”. We can choose from any of these square sizes on each or our quilts, so size may vary from quilt to quilt.

When I started looking into the definition of structure what I found are many meanings! “Structure” can be a noun or a verb and from there the list of definitions and applications is nearly endless. I have a full page of ideas from which to draw. So, although we created a theme to keep things cohesive, the variations on the theme are limitless.

In deference to the group decision not to completely reveal finished work yet I’ll give you some sneak peeks at some details of Structure #1. Our sub-theme for #1 is “Shape”.




I decided on what I consider a somewhat conventional interpretation of structure – a building, or architectural structure. I am using ‘shapes’ cut from credit cards to build the architectural structure of pyramids.





detail of pyramids ©2012 Martha C. Hall       background detail ©2012 Martha C. Hall


The pyramids will be overlaid onto a background that I painted.

For this part of the work I interpreted structure as a “pattern of organization”. Here I’ve used repeating ‘shapes’ to create uniform patterns.

The desire to create patterns harkens back to my study of textile design, and really, all the way back to my first inklings of love for patterned fabric and quilts.

These patterns are inspired by motifs found in ancient Egyptian art. There really is nothing new under the sun!

Until next time -


Figure Drawing

I keep meaning to get back to you on the quilt-in-progress I wrote about a couple of posts back - Painted Circles (although I've since given it a new name, something more interesting than Painted Circles!) I will get back to that in a future post, but in the meantime I've also been doing some other things and I wanted to share.

TraillWorks in Newton NJ has recently started Tuesday night Figure Drawing sessions. This is not a class with instruction, but rather a weekly opportunity to draw from a live model. Every few weeks the models switch so participants get a variety of experiences. The first session I attended had a male model. Last night we had a new, female model and she was excellent.

Here is a sampling of my drawings from last night.


We start with some gesture drawings to get warmed up. These are 2 minute gestures.


Then we moved on to some 5 minute poses. Each progression allows us to get better acquainted with the model's figure and to 'warm up' a bit.


Our model gave us some very challenging poses! See how her legs are receding into the distance. This is difficult to capture, but drawing is about visual relationships and so I worked on seeing the relationships. Her head is not quite right either. I guess I spent my time on the legs, and also on the drape of the right hand.


This was one of my more successful drawings of the session. It's also a receding perspective, but I managed to capture it a little better. This was a 20 minute pose (oh, and no hands or feet to bog me down!)


This was yet another challenging perspective/pose. I really wanted to address the hands. How could I not? They are front and center. I was concerned that I totally blew it, but looking at again I think I didn't do too badly!


This was the final pose to finish the evening - a quick 10 minutes. We implored our model to give us something straight forward and easy! She obliged us with this simple yet elegant pose. In 10 minutes I had no time to fully address the feet and hand (or at least that's my story!), but I do think I captured the face in profile pretty well.

It has been ages since I've done figure drawing and I am really loving these weekly sessions to draw again. I don't consider myself a good draw-er. I do sketch out a lot of ideas for quilts in my sketchbooks, but I consider them rather rudimentary. Drawing wonderful imagery out of my head is not a strong point. I do better drawing from direct observation.

So far we have a couple of regulars attending on Tuesday evenings. I know there is room for more, so if you are local and want to practice and improve on your drawing skills, come join us! You can sign up here or call or visit TraillWorks Gallery and lesson space for more info or to sign up.

I'm quite sure the drawing practice is going to help me with all my artistic endeavors. Back to basics!

Until next time -


Thirteen Moons Revisited

Earlier this year I was contacted by artist Serena Kovalosky. Among her many talents, she creates beautiful sculptural pieces out of gourds. You really must see them! She's also a traveller, a foodie, a writer...... well, she's a woman with many sides and talents!

This year she started a blog project entitled, "365 Days of Everything I Love About Being an Artist". Each day she writes a short missive about something on her artist mind - topics that I think any creative can relate to. She also includes images of a different artist's work each day, which gives a wonderful introduction to so many artists we may not know of.

A couple of days ago (Day 28 to be exact!) I had the distinct honor of having two of my quilts featured on Serena's "365 Days....." blog. She selected two pieces from among my work. One of her choices, "Thirteen Moons", surprised me, actually. I might not have chosen that one, mainly because it's a little older, I guess. But once I saw it there it seemed a most appropriate selection.


Thirteen Moons   47" x 26"
©2007 Martha C. Hall


Since the begining of this year I've been having a hard time finding my creative zone and not too happy about it either! As it happens, "Thirteen Moons" was made at a time several years ago when I was in the exact same state. I hadn't made much art and was feeling restless. Then I had an idea for this quilt. It involved using some letter fabric as a starting point for adding text. I brainstormed a bunch of words and phrases that related to art-making and also feeling blocked in art-making. Using the letters cut from fabric as my starting point, I 'wrote' out the words and phrases with rubber stamps. Thirteen_Moons_detailThen I opened up my scrap bins and started piecing together small bits and strips of fabric saved from other projects. Combining the pieced sections with my phrases, I built the quilt up to what it is now. The machine quilting was a form of practice and learning too, as I was still kind of new to it at the time.

Creating "Thirteen Moons" ended up being a really fun process and broke the spell of creative block for me. Right after that I started making my "Split Circle" quilts, which is a series I've been coming back to time and again ever since.

This quilt hangs on my studio wall as inspiration and as a reminder during fallow times to keep on doing the work. Seeing it anew on Serena's blog was a chance to revisit the piece in my own mind and know that "this too shall pass".

So, Serena, thank you for sharing your ideas, and for scouting out so many creatives to share with us, and especially for including me among the wonderful artists on your blog, and for giving me a creative nudge!

Until next time -


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