Lynda C.

This was another hard week, but writing is getting easier.  I found it much simpler when I realized it wasn't about design but how we approached it.

As to the exercise I have the book Creative Strength Training and in the past got as far as getting the black paper and cutting the squares and then stopped.  I have done this more than once!

This time I decided I HAD to do it and with great trepidation

I took just a couple of straight lines and then worked with them.  Once I had eliminated a lot of "stuff". i.e. circles, flowers, faces, images etc. it became manageable. It wasn't even about following or not following the rules, it was just about completing something.  I finally just jumped in.

I haven't figured out who all the voices or committee members are yet, but I don't think it really matters at this point.  I am just doing something!

I am going to focus on the process not the final outcome.  That is my mantra for this week.  If I can come up with the committee members good, but I am not going to dwell on them, instead work forward.  But I will keep writing.

Reorganizing my studio space today!

Susan L.

The Rebel Expanded Square

I really loved this prompt and exercise. In fact, it was so much fun that I purchased the Kindle book to read more on Notan and am enjoying it, in a slow and leisurely manner.

Initially, I started my expanded squares on an airplane, and this led me to do so with Adobe Illustrator which doesn’t require scissors, knife, glue, etc. Somehow that wouldn’t be too easy to do on a flight.  As I teach fashion students how to use the software, I thought it would be a good exercise of thought for me to figure out how to achieve the same actions with the computer. So, on to square tool, using the Pen tool and shapes to determine cutting edges, and then the Pathfinder panel to aid in cutting out the shapes. Lastly, I used the Reflect tool to mirror the cut-outs and then created a repeating pattern so I could visualize the imagery as fabric.. As you will see by some of the examples I’m including, it is pretty easy to explore an idea and take it all the way into a garment to get a real sense of how it looks.

Cutting Four sides shows you the same squiggled line taken from all four sides of the square.

Two Sides Only and Taking a Bite files show you other experiments.

Two Sides Only

Two Sides Only

Taking A Bite

Taking A Bite

Later, when back home, I took time to hand-cut an expanded square or two. The file Hand-cut1 shows you the result (sent via phone photo to Illustrator), and an example in a garment.

Breaking the Rules..

Now for the fun… I wanted to try and use some sort of shape for cutting that had an extra or hidden meaning. So, in thinking and doodling, it came to me that I should use a sound wave. Since Valentines day is just around the corner, I decided to use a line from an Elizabeth Barrett Browning poem… “How do I love thee, let me count the ways”. You can see the sound wave screen captured on my phone, and then the resulting square where I broke the rules by introducing a new color (red) and not reflecting one of the sides.

Of course, there was mind mapping again (which I enjoy), as I explored the various ways of breaking the rules. I would still like to explore more, but I am late with this as is. I would love to see how I could make this work with a triangle. And could it possibly work in some way with a circle? Obviously, there is still more to do.

But, as in life, on to the next challenge.

Anita M.

breaking the rules

I have finally managed to finish week 2

I have never come across expanded squares and wasn’t quite sure what to expect just reading about it.

I made 2 squares following the rules..

Then I made one not following the rules.

Screen Shot 2017-01-30 at 12.02.19 PM.png

I didn’t follow the rules so much, that I had no plan or any idea of the finished piece. I just kept cutting and breaking down each bit. 

It was an interesting exercise, but I did end up thinking why was this a good way to break rules, there weren’t any consequences for doing it either way.

It was strange that breaking the rules fell on week when I wasn’t well and most of my rules were impossible to implement.

So how did I find not carrying out my rules, which did have consequences…..but not life threatening!

I didn’t feel comfortable about not submitting work on time…but had to except thats how it was.

Of all my other rules the one I found hardest to accept was leaving the washing up after supper. It wasn’t much fun seeing it all pile up…so I did ask the kids for help,….my husband was away working. This broke another self imposed rule that people should notice what needs done … I shouldn’t have to ask…..I can’t say the task was done with a glad heart but it was done.

I also brought takeaways for supper and had to accept if we wanted to eat that’s what it would have to be.

So by default lots of my self imposed rules were broken….which has made me assess does everything I do really need to be done every day and with such intensity? 

Rayne V.

The first picture is an asymmetrical expanded square by the rules.  I was thinking of a program I saw "The Secrets of Water".  A Japanese Scientist ,Masaru Emoto,  exposed water to music and flash froze it to reveal how the sound effected the structure of crystals.  The crystal I had in mind to use for inspiration was one that heard the sound of the sun.  I used it for a model and these four look nothing like the original.  I could not capture the complexity in cutting paper but it was fun to play.

In my rebellious expanded square I did not keep the integrity of the square but bent the sides in and flipped 3 sides and the bottom was slid out.  The bent sides became stems and I added a figure at the top that is not a flip design.

Amber M.

Week Two: Exploding and Exploring Squares

I find myself recoiling at the word "rebel." Of course I know why: in high school Mom called me a rebel whenever I did something I later came to realize was actually "discovering my own identity." 

In some ways I've never been anything bu a rebel. I skew every single statistic I'm a part of. One time a boyfriend broke up with me while I was busy doing something else. He said, "I can't stand your smoking [I smoked then] and YOU CAN'T QUIT, so I'm leaving you." Only half paying attention, all I heard was..."Uh..can't? CAN'T? Excuse me?" I quit smoking that week, and stayed a non smoker 3 years, then a personal best. Oh, and I noticed he'd broken up with me a couple of months later; when I wasn't so busy anymore, I looked around and said, "uh..didn't I start this semester with a boyfriend? Oh...yeah, I remember...bummer." Give me a direct order and watch how fast I undermine it.

Part of my background of people-pleasing has stayed with me. Because I have trouble with trust, this rebel is still a fastidious follower of the rules, the ones I know and the ones I've made. I'm the self-appointed grammar Stormtrooper, for example, a born proofreader and stickler for saying it clearly. When the rules are hazy, I get a little freaked out -- especially when part of what I'm expected to do with them is to break them. It's not as simple as ending a sentence with a preposition (ooh! Bold!) or refusing to make every sentence a complete one. Words I get; *art* not so much.

I never got the Rules to Art By that the other kids got, nor did I get the lingo. Any terminology I got was by accident, or osmosis, or down at the pool hall where the shaggy people hung out. And no matter how many times they said "HUE!! VALUE!! CHROMA!!" I still couldn't quite make out what all three meant. Till about a year ago. So when I got to this section of Jane's book I wrote down the Rules To Art By that I've picked up over the many years and many failed-to-complete art classes. This is a not-exhaustive list.

1. Coloring inside the lines is acceptable; sloppy is not.

2. If you are drawing a cow, it should be easily identifiable as a cow.

3. If it's not hanging on the wall, it's not as highly valued as the other kids'.

4. You're not allowed to call yourself an artist. People will roll their eyes.

 4a. You are allowed the moniker when you've sold a piece or won an award for one.

 4b. Unless your art is of the Fine Art variety, however, you need to add a qualifier to the type of art you're winning prizes for, as in "Fiber Artist."

5. ART is the stuff people appreciate and get pretentious about. It's hung on walls, literally put on pedestals, set apart as a Special Thing: A -- R -- T .. When I say my pretty things on T-shirts qualify as "wearable art" I get snickers. T-shirts? Hah!

 5a. Therefore, T-shirt "art" is just a "craft" and therefore a lesser talent. 

 5b. Craftsmakers don't get into the rarified floating city where the Artists dwell amongst the angels.

Rule 6 was the harshest of all: Don't bother taking an art class. You can't draw things, and it will be humiliating when the other students (and the teacher) find this out. Before the end of the first lesson, everyone knows your cows look like potatoes. By lesson 3 you're always supposed to be looking for shadows on an apple from some invisible mysterious light source. My shadows made my apple look sort of cylindrical. Creative, perhaps, but only by accident. By lesson 5 you're talking about vanishing points like it's something you've always noticed, hey sure, parallel lines meet on the horizon, groovy, makes sense, but your lazy eye means you've never seen actual 3-d in your everlovin blue eyed life except in the ViewMaster when you were 6 so you just sort of creep away and stitch down some pearls on some satin silk. "I embellish! Pearls on Elizabethan costume in flashy patterns!" Hopefully that will be of value somewhere down the line. Well, at least I can do *crafts*.

How do I break down a square, then? I played with this when I bought the book, made a bunch of them. The later ones looked more streamlined and were better glued than earlier models, and I just turned them out feeling a bit like a monkey doing tricks. With the pain in my hands, each took almost a day to cut and glue. Apart from making spiffy things to fill my sketchbook and probably turn into Thermofax screens later, what was I learning? Positive space and negative space. I've come across these before, and now I'm getting a clearer handle on what they mean and how they look. Cool. Appreciating just how painful it can be to use scissors, even with the adaptive cutting tools I've acquired over time. These are what I learned from cutting out paper squares.

So to the questions. Oh my good gracious what is she *asking* me? First a hazy rule about not cutting through the middle and now what if the little bits of black paper were a form of poetry?! Say what? Thinking outside the box, yeah I get it, even giving us boxes to think in/out of, but *poetry*? Sigh. Flashback to performance art exercises, and "what does yellow smell like, man?" What if the squares were dimensional? Oh heck, what a thing to ask a person with amblyopia and a generally poor sense of space. Argh.

I think I believe that the making of Art is taking an idea, a notion, a concept, a condition, etc., and making it into something tangible. If Andy Warhol had to envision "cow," perhaps he'd use the Laughing Borden cow in six different colors in screen print. Mark Rothko examined the notion of "red" and invented a whole school of art, the Color Field School. So why not take "dimension" and see where it goes?

I'll see you in a bit, when I've got something to show. Meanwhile, these are the spiffy images I got from the bits of paper.

Following the Rules. I think.

Following the Rules. I think.

Breaking the rules. I made a fish-like thing.

Breaking the rules. I made a fish-like thing.

Making a Thermofax. Probably.

Making a Thermofax. Probably.

So, I was thinking about how to make little bits of black paper dimensional. I happened to glance over at some fabric I had on my table. I'd cut off the corners from a dyed piece where the corners were the only part I liked. I was looking at these four triangles of cloth, and then had to shade my eyes from the intensity of the light bulb going off over my head.

This is what I made. I had to rush it to get it done in time, and also worked through a fairly significantly awful flare, so it's a bit sloppy.




It's a little hard to see the actual square in the centerpiece, so here's a closer view:

Close Up

Close Up


This is pretty simple, just a little window for a picture; I could see a series arising from it though, with each piece becoming more fragmented and less like a square. It could happen. And someday I vow, I *will* learn how to use Angelina fibers successfully! At any rate, this felt a whole lot more authentic to me than cutting out bits of paper, however much I liked the spiffy things. Spontaneous and authentic.

Screw pain. This is fun.

Joyce G.

          I experienced some degree of difficulty understanding the Notan process. I turned to YouTube and found several posts and feeling much more confident started one of the two in the black and white. I have to admit my work felt boring to me and decided to change it up by adding color like a Jean Miro colorful painting. I liked the results. I can be a rebel at my age. Having grown up as a middle child of three with an older brother who was difficult and young sister who pushed all the boundaries. I took on the responsibility of an adult at the young age of eight in 1957 when our 39-year old mother died of breast cancer and our Swedish-Norwegian immigrant father had the thankless task of raising three children under the age of ten. Therefore I was the 'good helpful child'. I decided a few years ago that I could re-invent myself and rebel as much as I needed! This is why I explored the colorful Jean Miro and loved this little bit of rebellion! 

Sara N.

Week 2 Assignment - I had difficulty with.  I had a problem seeing the purpose.  I could get the 'break the rules' bit, but I am not somebody who would tear paper and glue it down, and I like a purpose for it to be 'fun' for me.  So I have deliberated daily, telling myself I need to do it to experience it.  But then I thought, why not break the rules and not follow the rules?  I was really quite comfortable doing this with fabric, possibly because I can now go and embellish it and use it for something....... even if I don't actually complete it for ages.   Oddly enough, it was quite liberating making up my mind and just doing it.

Now I actually feel more ready to go back over the instructions and maybe try it as it is intended.

Janel T.

The week in review:

Wednesday: Beating myself up because I didn't get the first assignment in on time. But Jane (I whine), I have a responsible job. I'm a grown up. I CAN'T get into the studio (like, who even has one?) to do this stuff. I sit down and pull myself together, submit something, even if it's late. Whew! Read others' submissions--looks like each of us is a mixture of artist, writer, fierce and gentle soul. I'm humbled to see how much influence mothers and grandmothers have on us.

Thursday morning:  Very Important Meetings both before and after work. Studio time? Hmph. I guess I'll just have to see if I can work on something sometime this week.

Thursday after the Very Important Meeting: Writing through what I now see as resistance. Insight: if I want to call myself an artist I need to spend time doing creative things. Not leftover time, after Very Important Work, or time sandwiched between Very Important Meetings and Very Important People. I need to PLAN my time and keep commitments with myself as truly as I keep commitments with the Queen when she summons. (Not really the Queen, but you'd think it was...)

Friday: Took the day off work. Put an "Out of Office" memo on my email. Did not look at my phone. Gave myself time to play, and I mean really play, in my creative space that is not yet but soon will be a studio. I just need to keep calling it that.

Friday night, Saturday, Sunday: Women's March in Washington. Will I really go? Back and forth, back and forth--is this really a Very Important Thing or do I sell my bus ticket  because I have this class and this art thing I've committed to?  Another remembered insight:  An unexamined life may not be worth living, but an unlived life is not worth examining. Balance, balance.  I go. Take tons of pictures and now am thinking about how the flood of images and noises and feelings will inform what I do in my (gulp) studio.

Monday: Humbled--at the strength and kindness and power of women AND at the feeling I have when I am engrossed in making something that holds my attention and intention. Spend time after work taking pictures of the "bad" art I made while I was learning to take time to make "art."

Tuesday morning:  I'm at the computer before I have to leave for another Very Important Meeting. The expanded squares exercises were difficult--I wasn't sure what I was doing or if I was doing it right; it was tedious work; my "creations" were "ugly;"--but there were some times I found myself smiling and once even laughing out loud because I was having FUN. And they led to a piece that I love that probably doesn't comply with any of the parameters of the assignment which is really cool because that's what the assignment was about, wasn't it?

I have Very Important Things To Do this week and my calendar has no holes in it. I'm going to make it into an expanded square and put holes where I think they can't go and fill them with empty space--for me.

Image 1 and 2--Playing with expanded squares, breaking rules.





Image 3 and 4--playing with dimensional squares--same rules as expanded squares except I allowed folding both the base square and the cut out pieces, and placing the cut out pieces in 3D space. I did lose a piece I was using as the tail on the critter, though.


The odd blue and black contraption (Image 4) is a mobile--not a very successful one but certainly the start of a larger thought process. The outer layer is Lutrador but heating it only provided a mess, not the re-shaping I was hoping for. Next time I will not back it with paper.


Image 5--what came about because I was playing. I may use this as the basis for an art quilt. I'd really like to learn how to make one.


Christine W.

As part of preparing for this course I went through my boxes of craft supplies looking for materials to use. I hit gold when I opened my box full of sketch books (both full and in progress), working samples from past projects and tidbits from the many many workshops I've taken. What a great time going through it all. It includes examples of this exercise I had done in a workshop several years ago.

Showing the assignment to my husband and what I had done previously and the basic rules to be followed, he pointed out that I didn't have an example that followed all the rules. Hmmm. Aaaand after doing this exercise again, I still don't.

In working through this exercise this week, I challenged it on different fronts:


  • base colour combinations - using other colour combinations, red on white. Strong colours work well; you sacrifice impact when you use pastels.
  • what about reversing it and using white on black. An interesting result with a different energy flow in the piece.
  • shifting rather than reflecting pieces. A combination of both gives a more pleasing composition.
  • exploding pieces - cutting slices and adding space between each slice
  • using shapes other than square. What is the result using a circle or an oval? (this still to be explored)

I tried to covering the image with transfer paper and doing rubbings with chalk pastels then layering these over the original (or not). I quite like the results. The images coming from this exercise also make great patterns for screen prints.

Working through this exercise has been personally informative. I don't have a problem with asking "why?". My work life has been to ask why, both to understand the reason behind the many rules we worked under (the "spirit of the law") and to know what can be changed to meet the challenges of today's reality. In my craft, I have always pursued the different. The artists I've admired and followed have always pushed the limits of the media and I have followed suit. I don't have a strong background in art or design. I don't know the rules I'm not supposed to break. This is both a handicap and a strength. Without knowing what rules I am supposed to be breaking, I feel a bit like a "rebel without a cause".

As I was journaling about this exercise I started to ponder the questions "why" and "what if". I find they are complimentary and both essential to growing your personal voice. "Why" is important to challenging the status quo and rules we function under (per Jane's lesson notes), and also for understanding what works and does not work. The question 'what if' is essential to finding new directions to explore. For me at this time, "what if" is what my artist rebel is asking.

Jo Van L.

I have Jane's book so I have made a bunch of expanded squares. I made them five inches and black. I was never impressed with any of them so I threw them away. This time I started big 9" x 9" and purple. It is always more pleasing to me to be purple. I quickly figured out why they are not large....the white paper behind needs to be really large. My first picture is my first try. It is not impressive...then I went smaller and did more that did not impress me. Then I said the heck with it and did my favorite. It is not detailed but it is whimsical and looks figurative to me. As I was doing this I fought the voices in my head that said " you are not any good at this " and "you have seen stunning ones, yours will never look stunning". So I went with my strength, my sense of humor. Perhaps a coping skill but it got me through the exercise. Notan Man definitely my favorite.

First attempt.

First attempt.

Notan Man.

Notan Man.