Saturday, August 11, 2012

“Friso” is done!

“Friso” (2012) by Susan Brubaker Knapp

“Friso,” a portrait  of my friend Lya’s cat, is done! This is a 10-3/4" x 13-1/4" wholecloth painted piece that is heavily thread sketched. You can read about the painting process in this blog post and this one. The thread really gives him texture and you can almost feel the fur looking at it.

“Friso” detail (2012) by Susan Brubaker Knapp
When I was thread sketching him last night, the piece started to go a bit wonky on me, because I was doing so much heavy thread work on the fur. When I teach, I often get questions about how much wonkyness to expect. With my technique, I don't put my work in a hoop. I rely on a fairly stiff but lightweight interfacing underneath the painted surface to keep it from drawing up and puckering. Even then, I still get some wave in the piece. Usually when I distribute the threadwork evenly over the surface, it helps reduce this. I thought I’d show you how much this piece was waving early on in the process:


Of course, my cat Wicked had to  take a closer look. With her black and white markings, she looks a lot like Friso, but has half a mustache and half a goatee.


Next week, “Friso” will be on its way to Lya in the Netherlands.

Shelter: Nests

[The theme for The Sketchbook Challenge this month is shelter, 
and this is a recap of a post I made on that blog on Friday.] 

A few weeks ago, I was on safari in South Africa, and spent a lot of time to think about how animals make or find shelter. This brought me around to nests. I’ve always loved them. When I was a kid, I used to watch the birds working in the springtime, and worried that they might not get their nests made before the eggs arrived. So I would make nests of mud and grass, let them dry and then perch them up in the branches. Sometimes in the spring, my mom would help me cut lengths of brightly colored yarn, and hang them out in the trees. Then we’d look for them in nests around the neighborhood. 
There’s something magical about the shelter created by a nest. I think it has to do with hope, with the waiting, quiet and still, for things to grow, break forth, and then to take wing.
I think it is very interesting how much I think while I sketch. Maybe that’s why I find it so relaxing and meditative. I’m usually so busy bustling around that I don’t have much time for deep thoughts. Sketching forces me to be in the moment, and frees my brain and my soul to explore.
For this sketch, I worked from a still life I created more than a year ago in a glass apothocary jar. I used smooth, round stones I collected on a beach in Washington state, a nest that I found in the woods years ago, blue jay feathers picked up while walking the dog around my neighborhood, and bluebird eggs that never hatched.
Setting up a still life for sketching is a lot of fun. Give it a try: collect things you love, things that seem to go together, and arrange them so that they please your eye. Have fun. Try bold juxtapositions. Make something pretty, or scary, or weird. Something that tells a secret story. Something that makes people look twice. Then sit down and sketch it.
I have created several pieces of fiber art with nests as their theme:
“Harbinger’s Hope” by Susan Brubaker Knapp (2007)

“Nestled” by Susan Brubaker Knapp (2011)
This last one is an appliqué design that simplifies the shapes: