Sunday, August 16, 2009


For those who are new to Compositional Conversation, it is a project involving 13 artists all working to develop one artwork. Each artists has an opportunity to place their mark on the work and then passes it to the next person. To read the first article on this project click HERE.


CONVERSATION from Rebecca Howdeshell

I was thrilled when I returned from an evening out and found the box on my porch. I had been anticipating working on this composition ever since Terry posted the first image. My first thought when I opened the box was how large the composition is - about 60" h x 40" w. I immediately fell in love with the warm red shape against the cool blue/gray. Right away, my thoughts were that whatever I added, I did not want to remove or change the position of the red shape; instead my addition would want to be beside it, get close to it, interact with it. What I didn't anticipate, was that my shape would want to inch up from the bottom and slide over the whole composition before oozing around the red shape.

I thought about all of these ideas over a two day period while I finished a class obligation. My shape always, always in my mind wanted to envelop and almost caress the red shape. "Fine" the red shape said, "you can celebrate me and caress me, but you can't take away my thunder."

I was anxious to see how this little power struggle would play out, so I took a photo of the original work, printed out several copies and cut out paper shapes to see what I liked. I have to admit to trying to rein in my shape, make it smaller and less demanding but no dice. I drew 2 full size freezer paper patterns, took photos along the way and from there decided on the winner.

The next decision was color and again, I knew that I wanted the color to be complementary to the "boss" shape but not overtly so. I wanted it lighter in value. In this part of my conversation, the size of the shape was a factor in that it is over 50" long. When I found this acid olive green in rayon, no matter how much I tried to force another choice, it wasn't going to happen. I stabilized the rayon with freezer paper and was actually grateful to this decision as it wrapped around those curves very nicely.

I do love line, line and shape created by negative space and warm against cool. I see all of those elements in the composition. I adore the movement of the flowing organic line and see the influences of my style. But I also see a "working relationship" of the two shapes and a promise of a lot of interesting conversations to come.

Thanks, Terry, for a great experience.

Thank you Rebecca, for a beautiful addition to our piece and a wonderful description of your thought process and work process. Now here is bit more about Rebecca.

Rebecca Howdeshell

For the past three years, I've been exploring the idea of strength exemplified through my artwork of the human spine. I equate the spine to the trunk of the tree or the river that carves its way through the earth. I think strength can be deceiving, we perceive a person with a degenerative spinal condition or an old, splitting tree or even a small stream as weak but the reality isn't always clear. How can we imagine what each of these living organisms went through to get where they are? Perception is perplexing.


I love the act of mark making, particularly stitching on a soft, organic material by drawing with thread. I do many, many sketches that contribute to the overall series but aren't necessarily specific of the artwork. It is all grist for the mill. I embrace this creative life as a whole, there aren't parts or multi-tasking in my mind.

The idea of having conversations in this project was utterly alluring to me. How wonderful to consider not just our conversations through email as artists, but of course, the conversation we have with the artwork as it progresses. I sincerely hope that we gain a following, too, from other artists. Thank you, Terry, for the opportunity to play!


Please follow these links to see more work by Rebecca and Rebecca's website.


  1. Rebecca's choice immediately creates that dialogue so intrinsic to this project. I see her own voice very clearly as well, as she does create the suggestion of "spine" and "strength" with this strong vertical orientation. There is still a unity in the piece as well even with the hand of two artists involved. Juicy way to start my week -- good choice to post these on Monday mornings, Terry. Thought provoking!

  2. Thank you so much Jeanne. I love the approach Rebecca took and I felt her description of her thought process was excellent. Thank you for commenting.

  3. This is so exciting... I love Rebecca's description of her experience with this piece. I can't wait until it's my turn!! :D

  4. The white on white quilt is extraordinary.

  5. I got a bit of "conversation" from a friend of mine who isn't able to post right now and thought I would share it here. She didn't see the composition before I added to it,Terry, so didn't know the order of the additions. I think this makes her observations very interesting.

    Here is what she said:
    "I like how the red mimics most of the curve of the gold's upper right side, but leaves a wedge at the base for someone to add their 'two cents' to the conversation. The red is a bold colour,it will be interesting to see what the next person does. Will they try to tone down the bold statement, bring it to a higher level of boldness, or sidestep it?"

    Interesting, huh?

  6. Rebecca, my heart is pounding in hearing the description of your process of reacting to the placement of the first "boss" red. In seeing your work, and hearing about your process, I am breathless at your response to the original piece, and the addition of yours, sliding alongside. My own work is about layers, and I admit to some consternation as I think about what will happen when I am faced with the composition as I receive it, staring at me from the studio wall. How alive it is; how the touch of each artists' hand is palpable.

  7. Gayle, You put your finger right on the heart of the issue regarding what is coming for the other artists as they face an ever more completed art work. I also agree 100 percent with your response to Rebecca's description. How delicious.

  8. Thank you, Rebecca, for having the courage to share with us your actual thoughts and emotions as they guided your hand. I have never worked in this way and I am a very private person as well which is exactly why I jumped at this opportunity--to challenge myself, especially when in such good company. Here's to more!