Book Review: The Visual Dance

The Visual Dance (book cover)

The Visual Dance: Creating Spectacular Quilts by Joen Wolfrom. (1995). C&T Publishing. Lafayette, California. ISBN 978-0-914-88193-3

Ever looked at a piece of artwork and wondered why you liked it--or did not like it--but just did not have the words to say why? The Visual Dance, by Joen Wolfrom, will help you understand the basic elements of design, build your artistic vocabulary, and nurture your own artistic preferences. Wolfrom wrote the book specifically for quilters, but the insights she imparts can easily be generalized to painting, drawing, collage, and other art forms.

 Line drawings and photographs used to explain design concepts in  The Visual Dance  by Joen Wolfrom.

Line drawings and photographs used to explain design concepts in The Visual Dance by Joen Wolfrom.

Throughout The Visual Dance, Wolfrom provides readers with illustrations and photographs to exemplify the design concepts she outlines in detail. Starting with the line, Wolfrom shows how versatile the line is in evoking emotion from the calming horizontal line to the anxiety-provoking jagged line. By paying attention to the directional and rhythmic possibilities of the simple line, the quilter/artist can set the stage for his or her project.

 Illustrations for symmetrical and asymmetrical designs in  The Visual Dance  by Joen Wolfrom.

Illustrations for symmetrical and asymmetrical designs in The Visual Dance by Joen Wolfrom.

Wolfrom deftly explains design elements such as pattern, repetition, harmony, unity, rhythm, and balance, as well as color, proportion, and scale, to help quilters and artists strengthen their overall design abilities. Wolfrom urges readers to look at nature to discover naturally occurring "designs" that excite the eye. The Visual Dance is chock-a-block full of quilt galleries showing a wide range of styles - from representational to abstract - that are sure to inspire the reader. The final section of the book is devoted to fabric-specific issues to help quilters design and produce optimal bed quilts and wall-hangings.

 Left: Activities and Extended Learned section included at the end of most chapters; Right: Fire Facets with Two Parrots (1990) by Erika Odemer in  The Visual Dance  by Joen Wolfrom.

Left: Activities and Extended Learned section included at the end of most chapters; Right: Fire Facets with Two Parrots (1990) by Erika Odemer in The Visual Dance by Joen Wolfrom.

I recommend The Visual Dance for anyone looking to deepen their understanding of the elements of design, regardless of their expertise in quilting or other art forms.

As Wolfrom writes:

A lovely quilt that beckons us to pause and admire its beauty is not haphazardly planned. Instead, its magical effect is brought about through the blending of the maker's imagination and the elements and principles of design. Even the simplest pattern can captivate us with its graceful subtlety or dramatic flair. We are naturally drawn to beautiful designs and compelled to investigate them further. For the quilter who has developed her natural artistic inclination, this visually successful design process is clearly intuitive. For those of us who have shied away from artistic expression, the creative process must be thoughtfully planned. (p. 7)

I do not know about you, but most of the time, I feel I have to work at my collages. Occasionally, though, I have one that seems to put itself together. I swear, I could just throw the cut paper and glue at the canvas and it would come to fruition without me. It must be for that specific collage, in that specific time, I know the design elements (and how I want to manipulate them) so well I do not have to think about it. I can just let go and just see where the process takes me. Too bad that cannot be bottled!

If you read this book, please let me know what you think!

To purchase my original art collage online, click the SHOP drop down menu at the top of this page. To purchase prints, greeting cards, t-shirts, tote bags, and more, click the Pixels.com link.

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Cheers!--Janyce