Wednesday, February 29, 2012

“Passion Flower” – Day 3

Hooray! I’ve finished fusing down all of the pieces in “Passion Flower,” and I’m ready to start thread sketching. There are a lot of details and shading to be added with thread. The photo above shows how the piece looks right now; the shot below shows it under the positioning overlay.

This is one of two projects I’m designing to teach at my retreat October 4-7 in Black Mountain, NC

One of the trickiest parts of this piece was the many small “radial filaments” (the purple squiggly things that radiate out from the area in the center (which contains three stigmas and 5 anthers). When researching this plant, I discovered that the passion flower may have been named after the passion of Christ in Christian theology. The numbers of things in this species were said to represent specific things in Christianity (10 petals representing the 10 apostles, excluding Peter – the denier – and Judas Iscariot – the betrayer; three stigmas representing the three nails with which Jesus was nailed to the cross, etc.) Interesting.  

The radial filaments will get a good deal of thread work on them to add the white striations you can see in the photo on which this piece is based:

As you can see if you compare my piece to this photo, I took some artistic license, and changed some of the details. First, I made the color of the flower and buds more pink than purple. I wanted the color to be brighter. I left out the green foliage in the upper left corner, simplified some of the leaves below, and made the sky bluer. 

There are two buds in the photo; I made the one in the lower right pinker, because I thought that the bright pink color helped move the eye around the piece better. And odd numbers are usually more dynamic in a composition than even ones. 

I also chose to do the buds and vines in a very bright chartreuse, so that they stood out better against the background.

In the next few days, I hope to have some of the thread sketching done; I’ll share my progress here as it moves along.

Tuesday, February 28, 2012

“Passion Flower” – Day 2

Today, I’m starting to cut out the pieces for “Passion Flower” and place them under the positioning overlay I traced on clear upholstery vinyl. Each piece has to be traced onto the fusible adhesive (I use Lite Steam-a-Seam 2), then fused to the wrong side of the fabric and cut out before it is positioned.  

Here are some of the fabrics I am using on the flower. As you can see if you look at my previous post, I am changing the colors somewhat, going with a pinker shade for the petals.


Monday, February 27, 2012

Starting “Passion Flower”

I am starting work on a new piece based on this photo of a passion flower. (I took the photo at Daniel Stowe Botanical Garden more than a year ago.) It is one of two projects I am designing specifically for my Once in a Blue Moon Fiber Art Retreat, which will be held in Black Mountain, NC (near Asheville) Oct. 4-7, 2012. 

I am getting very excited about the retreat. Joyce Mullis, a friend and fellow quilter who is organizing the retreat and handling registrations (she’s also a wonderful cook, and will be preparing our breakfasts and lunches!) and I are planning some really fun stuff. There are only five spots left, as we are limiting this retreat to only 25 people. We will spend the first full day constructing the fused appliqué art quilt, and the second day thread sketching it. If you are interested in learning more about the retreat, you can download a PDF flier and registration form by clicking here.

Tonight I pulled out some green fabrics to audition them with the photo. I use this process to see if I have a good range of values in the colors I need. In some ways, the value is much more important than the color. You need to have very dark values, very light values, and everything in between. 

When I’m working on a piece that is highly realistic, I look for fabrics – I prefer hand-dyes and batiks – that have lots of variations in one color range, but without strong patterns or recognizable designs. Solid fabrics usually look too flat. I love working with batiks and hand-dyes because they usually are a nice heavy weight, and because their high thread count keeps the pieces from fraying too much. 

I will be sharing some photos of this project as it progresses, so stay tuned!

Sunday, February 26, 2012

Meet your macro: Post from The Sketchbook Challenge

Have you been following The Sketchbook Challenge blog this year? I’m one of the host artists for 2012, and I’d love it if you’d join us! Get inspired to work in a sketchbook, and get your creative juices flowing! What follows is my post from a few days ago:

The theme for February – Close Up – got me thinking about the macro feature on my camera. When I sketch, I work a lot from my photos. I often don’t have much time to sit and sketch my subjects where I find them, so I use my camera to record what I see, and then sketch later. Here’s a sketch I did yesterday (above) based on the photo below.

I used the macro feature on my inexpensive point-and-shoot digital camera to take this photo. If you are not familiar with this feature, I urge you to get out your camera now, and look for it. On most cameras, it is the button with the little tulip symbol on it. On the camera in the photo below, it is just to the left of the "FUNC. SET" button. See it?

On this camera, when you push the macro/tulip button, you can toggle between the regular setting (shown as a little person in front of a mountain) and the macro setting, and it shows up on the big screen:

When you use the macro setting, your camera can shoot things – and keep them in focus – from only 3 to 6 inches away (depending on your camera; check your manual for details). Just make sure you are not zoomed in at all. If you zoom in with the macro setting on, it will go out of focus.

Here’s a photo I took several years ago, in the fall, when the blooms on my hydrangea had been touched by the cold, and had turned amazing shades of purple and maroon. Taking this photo with my macro lens helped me to observe the tiny structure with the pistol and stamen at the center of the bloom in the lower left:

Here’s a sketch I made from this photo:

When I look at the photo next to the sketch, I can clearly see that I need to work on value in this sketch. Nearly all of the values are medium values – there are not many lights and darks. I need to go back in and darken the green areas a lot, and add more shading to better define the petals. Discoveries like this are another great reason to try adding photography to your bag of tricks in your quest to become better at sketching.

Using the macro feature on your camera can help you start to see up close, to train your eye to observe the tiniest details in nature. You’ll be amazed at what you see through your lens.

Saturday, February 25, 2012

“I See the Moon” is done!

Last night, I finished putting the facing on my newest piece, “I See the Moon.” As you can see, it is long and skinny – 24" x 60". It was fun – and somewhat of a challenge – to design and work in these proportions.

I am really happy with this piece. It gives me a wonderfully peaceful feeling when I look at it, and remember the song my parents used to sing me to sleep:

“I see the moon, the moon sees me
Shining down through the big oak tree
Please let the moon that shines on me
Shine on the ones that I love.”

I think that I also like it because of its clean, graphic quality. Plus, I love trees, especially in the winter, because you can more clearly see the structure of their branches that make patterns as intricate as lace against the sky. 

Maybe it’s because I was born on Halloween, but I have always felt that there is such magic in a full moon. To me, it is a symbol of serenity and stability, the sense that all is right with the world… and at the same time, of the mysterious, miraculous and fragile universe in which we live. I tried to capture all of these feelings in this piece.

The rising moon always reminds me of lyrics from one of my favorite singer-songwriters, James Taylor, in “You Can Close Your Eyes”:

“Well the sun is surely sinking down
But the moon is slowly rising
So this old world must still be spinning ’round
And I still love you.”

Wednesday, February 22, 2012

Quilting “I See the Moon”

I am making good progress on quilting “I See the Moon.” I have quilted around all the branches (whew!), done some of the darkest part of the sky at the top, and have finished the moon.

I used two colors of thread on it, a medium blue on the darker areas, and white. At first, I worried that I had made it too textural and bumpy. But I think it looks okay, especially since the rest of the quilt is fairly flat. And since it is the focal point of this piece, I guess it doesn’t hurt to let the quilting draw some attention to it.

Monday, February 20, 2012

Cat on the moon!

In honor of the fiftieth anniversary of John Glenn's orbit of the earth (on February 20, 1962), I bring you The Cat On The Moon!

This is my kitten, Wicked!, taking a stroll over my latest piece, “I See the Moon.” I had it on the counter, preparing it for basting before I quilted it. She gave me some pretty funny looks while I was photographing her!

Painting “I See the Moon”

Yesterday, I finished painting all of the branches and the full moon on “I See the Moon.” Here’s how it looked by the time I was headed for bed:

The moon is painted, too, but you can’t see it very well in this photo. I use a metallic pearl white paint for it. 

Today, I started work on the background. The challenge here was going to be carefully painting around all the branches with blue paint. I realized that this would be very time consuming. Hmmm … could there be another solution?

First, I considered using paint mixed with extender – a lot of extender for the light blue area at the bottom, and just a little at the top, where it would be darker. But I worried that the blue paint would cover up the black branches at the top too much. Too bad I couldn’t dye it, I thought. I have dyed fabric before, but I wanted something I could control a little more, and I didn’t have the supplies on hand to dye. Plus, I don’t have a good area in my house for dye work. 

Then it hit me: I could use acrylic ink! I have some bottles of Liquitex Acrylic Ink, which I have played with a bit. I got out a bottle of blue ink and went to town. I mixed up one dropperful of ink with a lot of water and painted the area at the bottom with this mixture, using a foam brush. I used latex gloves to protect my hands (but they are looking a little blue anyway, now, because I took them off before I started the cleanup).

Every six inches or so, I added another dropperful (or two) of ink into the water mixture, and worked my way up the piece. At the top, I used the ink almost full strength. I did this all on my ugly 1970’s era formica kitchen countertop. Almost anything comes up off it using SoftScrub cleaner.

Once I was done, I dried the piece using my hair dryer. I really like the results. The photo below shows the piece drying completely on my front sidewalk. (The dark diagonal lines you see on the piece are shadows from actual tree branches!)

I am very pleased with how the Liquitex Acrylic Ink worked in this application. I got the transparency I needed to make sure that the branches showed up, and the color is beautifully saturated. And it only took about a half of a bottle to do this technique on this large piece (it is about 24" x 60").

Now, on to the quilting!

Sunday, February 19, 2012

“I See the Moon” begun

I have just started work on a new piece that I am calling “I See the Moon.” You can see the beginning of the painting – the black branches on white fabric – above. When I was a child, my parents used to sing me a bedtime song that went:

I see the moon, the moon sees me
Shining down through the big oak tree
Please let the moon that shines on me
Shine on the ones that I love

This was a ritual I repeated with my own children. When I sang it to them, I hoped that they would feel as safe and secure as I did as a child, when my parents sang it to me as they tucked the covers up under my chin. 

I had the idea for this quilt in my mind’s eye for some time. A few days ago, while waiting in the car pickup line a my daughter’s school, I shot a photo of a wonderful post oak silhouetted against a beautiful winter sky through the windshield of my car:

I love the branches of post oak trees; they are wonderfully curvy and they look so alive, almost electrified. I took a slice of the photo and superimposed a moon shape on top to start getting a feel for my composition, which is going to be 24" wide by 60" long.

After I traced the branches, I blew up my traced drawing and printed it out in tiles (sections) and taped them together to make the pattern. I placed PFD (prepared for dyeing) cotton on top, and now I am painting the branches from my drawing. 

My plan is to paint the branches first, and then to use shades of blue for the background, from a medium-light blue at the bottom to a very dark blue at the top. I think I will use a metallic white pearl paint on the moon, with a little detail for the craters and shadows on it. I want it to be very simple, clean and graphic. 

Wednesday, February 15, 2012

Foto/Fiber 2012 starts today!

Foto/Fiber 2012, Virginia Spiegel’s fundraiser for the American Cancer Society, starts at 10 a.m. Central time today! I am one of the participating artists. Our goal is to add another $7,000 to the $215,000 that Virginia’s fundraising efforts have already donated through Fiberart For A Cause

For information on how to donate and receive great photos and a “fiber bonus” from a participating artist, go here. All patrons of Foto/Fiber 2012 have a chance to win this stunning quilt by Mary Ann Van Soest when the $7,000 goal is reached.

Yellow Barns II (18" x 24") by Mary Ann Van Soest