Saturday, May 7, 2011

Special Guest Sketchbook Profile: Gloria Hansen

Gloria Hansen is considered a pioneer in uniting the quilt maker with the computer, and in 1996 she co-authored The Quilter’s Computer Companion, a ground-breaking book published by No Starch Press. She also wrote or co-wrote 13 titles in the Free Stuff on the Internet series publishing by C&T Publishing. Her latest book Digital Essentials, the Quilt Maker’s Must Have Guide to Images, Files, and More, published by Electric Quilt Company, was a USA Book News “Best Books 2009” finalist. Her works have appeared in nearly 200 magazine articles, within nearly 30 books, on several magazine covers, and a college text book cover. She has been a technology columnist since 1996; was selected as the NJ featured Artist of the month, August 2007, by the NJ State Council on the Arts/Art Pride NJ; and was a featured guest on the HGTV show Simply Quilts and on the cable TV show Exit 8.

Gloria’s work has been exhibited throughout the country and abroad for over two decades. She has won over 200 awards, including the 2007 Master of Innovative Artistry award at the International Quilting Association show in Houston, Texas and the 2008 Best Wall Quilt award at the American Quilter’s Society show in Paducah, Kentucky. She also has a quilt in the permanent collection of the National Quilt Museum in Paducah, Kentucky. In 2008, Gloria’s work was displayed in a solo show at the San Jose Museum of Quilts & Textiles where she was described by the curator as “one of the world’s foremost digital quilt designers.”

"My work is about geometric shapes and visual ambiguities expressed in cloth and stitch. I create the foundation of my work by merging digital and traditional media. This can include using computer programs as design tools with or without my photographic imagery, printers to help create printed cloth, and various surface design tools and techniques with paints, pastels, and traditional media to further the work."

Why do you keep a sketchbook and how often do you work in it?
I've kept a journal for many years, since being a teenager.  Sadly, in my early 30s I tossed many of them into the garbage; a mistake. However, I still have many from decades ago.  The most frequently used are diary-like books, one for each year, that includes notes of what has been going on in my life, prints of photos that I adhere to pages, and various lists that are in the front and back of the journal.  Regarding the lists, they are generally things I want to accomplish, things I did accomplish, good books, and so on.  At the end of each year, generally on New Year's Eve, I review what I've done that year, and list out the highlights.

As the many years has gone by, I am often amazed at how many things that I have achieved that were at one time on a list of things that I hoped to accomplish.  Early on I wanted my artwork in a show and to one day win an award, and that has happened and I'm honored to say many times; to have work in a magazine, and that since happened many, many times; to write a magazine article, and I have since written many; to have my own magazine column, and that has been going on for nearly 15 years; to write a book, and that started with first providing material for other persons' books and then going on to have 15 of my own books published with my latest being a USA Book News Best Books finalist; having a solo exhibit and not having a clue of how to get such a show, and then getting a call out of the blue requesting a solo show of my digital work at a museum in San Jose; and the list goes on. I really do believe there is something in a power of words and putting them to paper.  Of course you need the hard work and focus, but I believe putting the works to paper is the first step.

I'll add that I have a bit of a hang up with time.  I have always seem to have and continue to feel the minutes, hours, days ticking by.  While I take time to relax, I often have a sense that I'm wasting time; I haven't accomplished much; that things are taking too long.  One of the great things about keeping journals is I can pull them out, go through them, reflect, and feel a bit of pride in what I did accomplish.

Then I have many sketchbooks for different purposes.  One, for example, is a type of reference book.  It has notes of different types of art-related things I've learned but may not immediately use.  I'll write down how I did something and then attached either a finished example or each of the steps in case seeing the finished sample isn't enough for me to remember.  For example, I once learned how to sew incredibly skinny stripes of fabric together.  The instructions seemed counterintuitive, and I knew I should detail them them for the day I may need to incorporate such a skinny sliver of fabric into my work.  I have notes and stitched or printed examples of various things I've learned from working on different projects, from asking a friend how something was done, from coming across something I've seen, and so on.

I have sketchbooks with prints of digital designs, different types of substrates I've printed on, with notes on how I did what, and so on. When I'm stuck for ideas, I often look through the pages of those books to get more ideas.

I have a very large loose-leaf book completely filled with sets of drawn designs, color mock ups, and notes for work that resulted in a final piece.  That particular book is precious to me as it's a history of most of my early work (with more recent work being in the digital design books).

I also have sketchbooks that I use simply for drawing.  I tend to get into drawing moods when I'll sketch daily for weeks and weeks and then will not sketch for long periods of time.  They are generally pencil and black fine tip pen.  I have one that I collage and journal into.  Oh, and I have a book for extended writing.  I use it when I need to pour my heart out about something so that I can mentally work out why I'm either feeling a particular way or why I'm allowing something to affect me a certain way and so on.  It's almost like having a shrink session with myself.  I gone through several of those over the years.

Then there are the smaller ones for notes and sketches while traveling. Until writing this, I didn't realize just how many are around in various forms.

What's your preferred format (sketchbook size, type of paper, single sheet,spiral bound etc?) and preferred medium for using in your  sketchbook? watercolor, pen, pencil, crayon, collage etc?

My preferred format -- it varies depending on the purpose of the journal.  For my yearly journal, I'll buy something in that year format.  I try to keep them a certain size, but they vary.  It has more to do with how it feels in my hands and if I like the type of paper being used. For sketching, a good quality spiral-bound book.

I also keep smaller books - moleskin - in my handbag.  I have piles of finished ones that migrated to draws and cabinets in my office and workroom.  Often I use them for notes/doodles when I'm traveling or for other notes that pop into my head when I'm not at home.  Recently when cleaning I came across one that I wrote when I went to Australia with a friend.  I had forgotten all about that book, as I went nearly 20 years ago.  For some reason, I started that book on the back page and worked forward.  I've no idea why I did that at that time.  I then found another with notes of a trip to Jamaica to see my younger brother (who my husband and I had legal custody of) get married.  He is celebrating his 15 anniversary in a couple days.  Going through both brought back memories I long since forgotten about.

I also have journals that I've made either out of watercolor paper or fabrics of digital prints and so on.  Again while cleaning, I found a book that I made nearly 30 years ago of embroidery stitches from when I was active in the Embroiderer's Guild of America.  I have a friend who makes incredible stitched work, and I just made a mental note to show her that book!

As far as preferred pens and such, for my sketchbook I use good quality drawing pencils, although I can often use a regular no 2 pencil. I also like fine tip micron pens.  I also have a lot of art supplies. Just as I'm about to say they do not make it into my journals, I realize that I have sketchbooks specifically for trying out different types of pastels, crayons, paints and so on before using on fabric.  I never consider those sketchbooks, rather just books to try out different media.

What advice do you have for someone who wants to keep a sketchbook but doesn't know how to begin?

Ask yourself what would you like your book to contain.  Visualize it in your mind.  What do you see?  Words?  Pictures?  Both?  Look for a thinner book rather than a fat one so that the page count doesn't feel overwhelming.  I'd suggest not buying a beautiful book in case you fear "messing it up."  Keep it plain, with good quality paper, and make it special as you go.  Then, if at one point you love it, you can make a beautiful cover for it.  Don't be afraid to rip papers out of it.  If the paper is thick enough, gesso over something you don't like.  Or, if you do have a beautiful book and fear messing it up, use a nice paper to do your thing onto and later adhere them into the book.

Anything else you'd like to add?

The vast majority of my books are personal.  I do them for my growth and understanding; to record events in my life; for working out art that I'd like to make, to chart the steps of art that I made.  While I'm sure one day after I'm gone they will be collected and put into the trash, for me, now, they are important to my being and I cannot image being without them.

I'll add that once I took a big book of my notes, drawings, mock-ups and such of my early work to a class I was teaching.  After the class, many people paged through it, seemingly enjoying the contents as they looked at the fabrics and removed larger papers folded and put into pockets. While in some ways I enjoyed that others were enjoying it, it was the only time that many people I didn't know were looking through this book, and, interestingly, I found I wasn't comfortable with it.  Why I wasn't could be the topic of another journey entry.  Or not.


  1. I truly enjoyed reading Gloria's interview. In addition to being a gifted artist and web designer, Gloria is one of the kindest and most generous people I know. Thanks for sharing your thoughts about sketchbooks! Loads of food for thought!

  2. Thanks for the article on Gloria, she is truly multi-talented and I liked reading about her accomplishments which were created from her own desires.