Principles of Design - Judy Coates Perez

SAQA Seminar (Artist Q&A)


Tell us about your artwork and artistic career.

I have a degree in graphic design, but have worked with textiles for the last 30 years. I always start with while fabric and use paint and collage techniques to create the imagery and then everything is stitched on a domestic sewing machine.


If the Principles of Design are pattern, rhythm, proportion, balance, unity, and emphasis, which one (or two) do you focus on most in your work?

I don’t think I could narrow it down to 2, there are always numerous factors that come into play when communicating a message visually. The primary thing is focal point, what is subject matter of the piece? The focal point is where all proportion relates to, then symmetry/asymmetry, movement, contrast, and pattern.

Depending on the type of artwork I’m making, whether it’s illustrative imagery or mixed-media imagery, I have completely different processes for design.

When I’m doing illustrative work, for example: Pink Bird, I think about proportion first, with my focal point (the bird) being the largest object, that I usually place in an asymmetrical position if I want to give a sense of movement.

Pink Bird by Judy Coates Perez


I’ll make imagery symmetrical or in the center of the piece, if it’s diagrammatic or I want it to have a more formal feeling.

Arbol de Vida by Judy Coates Perez


If applicable, l scale the other objects in the composition in relation to my focal point (proportion). Usually, I want one large object, then a few medium size (odd numbers preferable) and then more small-scale objects (pattern).

Fear of Flying by Judy Coates Perez


I often pay attention to how the eye moves across the surface of the work, reading left to right, top to bottom when I arrange objects in a composition. Items that bleed off the edge, create movement, objects more centrally placed are more static.

Polychromatic Predilection by Judy Coates Perez


Polychromatic Predilection is centered which you would think would make it more static, but it has 2 others things happening that give it movement. The succulent sweeps in from the left and increases in scale and intensity of color and then bleeds off the right side of the quilt. It also has dramatic contrast with the background making it pop forward in space.

Often when I’m working with mixed-media, the process often goes in reverse with the focal point coming together at the end. So, I may be focused on pattern first and then create the focal point as the piece comes together.

8 of Cups by Judy Coates Perez


What techniques and materials do you use to create design in your work?

When I’m doing illustrative work, all the design is done with paper and pencil then scanned into photoshop where I may alter the design or add additional elements and then scale it up to size and print out a cartoon to work from.

If I’m working with mixed media, incorporating multiple layers of imagery with collage, stamping, and painting, there is very little or no pre-planning of design or imagery. I let the piece evolve on its own taking into account various elements of design as I’m working, in a way that’s more second nature than cognitive.

Black and Bloom All Over by Judy Coates Perez


Are there certain steps in your design process when you think more about the principles of design than others?

I think it’s something I’m always subtly aware of as I’m working. It’s more like it expands and contracts in my consciousness while I’m in the zone.


Is there a particular question you ask yourself or an idea that you keep in mind when you are focusing on the visual design of an art quilt?

Mostly I think about my message or intent while I’m in the process and make adjustments as I go to emphasize or de-emphasize things, and create structure and cohesion of the various elements in the composition, making sure that the objects read separately from each other in value and color.

Inky by Judy Coates Perez



Judy Coates Perez is an International award-winning mixed-media textile artist and author, who travels globally to teach painting and mixed-media techniques and lecture about her creative process and sources of inspiration.

You can find her work in her books; 10+ Techniques with Acrylic Inks, and Alternatively Bound and Stitched, between the pages of Quilting Arts and Cloth Paper Scissors magazines, and many other textile publications, in 3 instructional DVD’s published by Interweave and on Quilting Arts TV.

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