Monday, November 16, 2009


The COMPOSITIONAL CONVERSATION project is headed into the 'home stretch' with only one more artist before it heads back to South Carolina. This week our artist is Leslie Riley of Skokie Il. and Leslie has worked her 'compositional magic' on our ever evolving project.

I can't wait to share Stage 13 so " drum roll" please...

Stage 13 by Leslie Riley

When I was invited to participate with this project, Compositional Conversation, I tried to stay open and receptive to the process. I was interested in each person's contribution and did my best not to judge the outcome. I wanted to evaluate the project produced on criteria that I used to evaluate my work.
  • Did the piece work, on the whole or in parts?
  • Are the color relationships interesting?
I did not have to address these concerns directly until I received the piece. It was then that I looked at it closely and evaluated it to see what I could add to the dialogue. I made a commitment to honor as much of the previous work that I could and remain true to my artistic temperament. First, I would not work with the palette as it existed. It did not excite me. Part of it worked for me and others dulled it and made it uninteresting for me. Second, I examined the elements that remained and decided early that I did not know how to manage the crosses as a motif. I find that they are visually loaded with meaning because they are a commonly used icon. I do not understand how to use the crosses and take advantage of them in a meaningful way visually, so I choose not to use them. I felt similarly about the small dots. They reminded me of olives made out of the hand printed fabric. I kept many of the elements and used them as I found them.

When I received the piece in the mail, I opened it up and spent the first evening looking at it to evaluate what elements worked for me and what did not. I wanted to figure out what would

Stage 12 turned 90 degrees to the right.

stimulate me to get started. When I start any project I organize my work space. This project was no different, so the next day I decided to open up the bags of pieces and put them in similar piles to see what elements had been created and what was available to be used. I decided to use as many of the elements created by the artists before me that attracted me. It connected me to the creative energies of each of the other artists.

I took the piece apart and ironed it and put it back on my design wall. I carefully trimmed the elements if the edge was not clean. I find that after I decide the basic structure of the piece I must choose the colors that I think will support it in order to invest the time and energy to compose and later to construct the piece. In this case I started with the color first, much of the form and their relationships were already in place. Parts of the palette that was used did not appeal to me. I eliminated some colors in the palette

Eliminated fabrics

and added some to replace the ones I removed.

New fabrics added.

Starting composition.

This is where I started to compose. I kept the basic elements and the relationships that were formed.

The form of the piece was defined by the elements or motifs created by the other artists. I used the motifs established by others and created more. The elements I created are modified forms of the motifs established by others. I used the elements created by others but cut that element in a color from the palette that I choose to work with. After applying some elements I posted some fabric with the intention of auditioning the fabrics to support the forms already applied to the composition. I repeated some of the elements to create a rhythm that both moved across the piece as well as down the piece.

Basic structure with new colors.

The basic structure of the piece is in place and now I consider how the plane of space is used with the application of the elements or motifs and how the color is distributed.

Motifs are introduced.

The process of refining the composition begins at this point. The changes that follow are not major but are significant in the impact of the whole. I consider how to resolve the upper right corner.

Upper right corner still needs resolution.

I consider that there needs to be a neutral in the bottom left corner and I add the grey pieced fabric on the diagonal.

Final Version

I approached this piece in a more relaxed manner and with more freedom than I approach many of my own projects. I attribute some of the freedom to that fact that I did not have to construct it so I did not think once how to engineer the construction of the visual space I composed. I appreciated the motifs that evolved over the weeks that this project has been in play. It has mined a rich vein of wonderful forms to play with that is outside of my usual vocabulary. It was fun to elaborate on them in a minor way. I felt that I had a chance to improvise freely with no agenda in mind. Ah, bliss.

This project contributes to my sense of confidence that I can create with a sense of freedom and explore places without a roadmap or a definite plan set in place. This could be rich ground for exploration and more ideas to work from.

I am pleased to be included and introduced to a broad spectrum of artists.


Leslie in her studio. Photo by: Wyatt Gollub

Leslie Joan Riley is a graduate of De Paul University and studied painting at the Art Institute of Chicago. She is a professional yoga instructor and is highly regarded in her field.

Cascading Boxes - 2005

Her work focuses on color, color relationships and complex-intense piecing. She has exhibited her work widely in competitive exhibitions including Quilt National, Quilt Visons, The Artist as Quiltmaker, Art Quilt Elements and Form Not Function. She was recently awarded the First Place award at Quilts=Art=Quilts at the Schweinfurth Memorial Art Center in Auburn, NY.

22Comp - 2009 - This study is almost the size of a king size quilt.

Brown Plaid - 2009

Thank you Leslie. Next week we will be viewing the work of Marina Kamenskaya, the last of our talented artist.


  1. Wow!! I love the new transformation. This just brings home the concept of how many different ways there is to have a conversation. Each week has made me re-evaluate what I thought about the week before! (does that sentence make sense??)

    Love how you have used the different elements to create various motifs that connect and excite, bringing us a totally new design.

  2. Leslies' conversation is truly exciting. She used the elements and motifs from other participants to inform her design decisions. Certainly, each participant has had to free herself from ego and Leslie is no exception. She honors the former elements and offers a sophisticated understanding leading us to her resolution.
    Thank you Terry for this inspired exercise. I've lived vicariously through each step, wondering what I would have's like being served a multi-course gourmet meal.

  3. Leslie, I am thunderstruck. Holy cow, what an amazing transformation. I LOVE this addition to the Conversation. I think you managed to bring together the personalities and aesthetics of each artist in a focused, richly complex design that is exciting to explore.

    This gives me the same feeling as the quilts I see that make me want to stand in front of them for hours and examine (learn from) them.

    Wow, wow, wow. I'm breathless. Thanks for shaking things up!! :D

  4. Amazing to me how the variety and individuality of the artist is still alive and well after all the 'conversation'! I think I now have to go back to the beginning and follow the topic all over again. Thanks for the opportunity to follow, learn and start to understand!

  5. This is so interesting to me because you have so much going on, and you have managed to make it work so well. Everything looks like it belongs together. It's really well done.

  6. Great article about your process, Leslie, and love the result, and the "dancey" non-static feel of it. Sorry the "crosses" gave you pains. I meant them to be "x's", or, really, just shapes, but understand your decision.