New Color Wheel a Must-Have Design Tool

A Good Color Wheel is an Essential Tool.

I’ve worked with a lot of color wheels and have long been in love with my Itten Color Star.  However, after years of use, it is getting a little tattered.  The fabulous thing about the Color Star is that it comes with templates that allow you to isolate a group of colors by scheme.  I’d buy a new one, but they are no longer being manufactured, and finding them online will cost you anywhere from $100-$500.  Crazy, right??

A recurring frustration for me and my students happens when I refer to this tool and how to use the templates in my lectures: Color Theory for Quilters, Pictorial Quilt Primer, and Driving in the Dark; as well as my online class, Successful Pictorial Quilts.  Students see how I use the wheel and the templates, love it, want it, only to find out that is wan’t readily available.

Someone should!  Someone did!!

For years I’ve been saying, “Someone should reinvent this Color Star.”  So, imagine my excitement when my friend, Katie Fowler, did just that.  She designed a new color wheel with templates, even more templates, and has named it Color’s Greatest Hits. There are other significant improvements: 

  • The color blocks are bigger and so are the windows in the templates This gives more color space and less negative space and makes it easier to envision the color scheme.
  • There are more templates.   Katie has added a double-double complement, and an analogous run, for a total of 10 templates, where the Color Star had only 8.  In the past, when I didn’t have what I neededI had fashioned my own supplements out of typing paper.  It wasn’t optimum, so I like  having more options on hand.

Room for Improvement:

There are a couple of features of the old Color Star that I prefer:

  • The peg in the center that allows the viewer to secure the template and spin it to view various color combinations within a color scheme.  It’s possible to do the same with the new color wheel; you just have to steady and turn the template by hand.
  • The templates on the Color Star were black on one side and white on the other.  I find that the white negative space is sometimes easier on the eye.  The new templates are black on both sides.

These are pretty minor issues, and I believe the new version is better overall. It’s my understanding that the  I definitely prefer it to anything else I’ve seen currently on the market.

If you are interested in getting your own Colors Greatest Hits, you can order online directly from Katie’s website. 

Reminder: Have you gotten involved with the Border Wall Quilt Project?  Do it now!

 

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Artistic Opportunities: Border Wall & Portrait Quilts

Artistic Opportunities Take Many Forms

 As school draws to a close, my teaching responsibilities at Boulder High School give way to summer break. I’m gearing up for a fabulous summer of art. The possibilities are exciting and I’m hoping my fiber art friends will join me.

Artistic Opportunity: Be a Small Part of Something Big

First, are you like me? Worried about the discord and division that seems to be growing in the US. We have many important issues to address. Yet, we seem to struggle with the civil discourse needed to work our way to meaningful solutions.

The US/Mexico Border Wall is just one of these issues, but one that I want to tackle. I’m sponsoring the Border Wall Quilt Project; an art installation made of quilted bricks. I’m going to make the wall, but I need help with the bricks.  If this is an issue of concern for you, I hope you will join in.

 I’m calling on quilters to create 8×16 inch mini-quilts expressing their ideas, concerns, and opinions about the border wall and then send them to me. Anyone can submit up to 3 quilted bricks.  This isn’t a juried exhibition.  I intend to use all bricks submitted to create a wall about the wall.   Interested? Read More

Follow the progress at BorderWallQuiltProject.com

Artistic Opportunity: Portraits in Colorado

sign up for a workshop at eQuilter.com

Next, quilting and Thread-Painting people have been my art focus for many years now.  It’s my passion and I’m taking it to some pretty interesting locations this summer.

I’m pairing up with eQuilter.com to offer two workshops in my own backyard.  eQuilter.com is located right there in Boulder, Colorado and they are offering 2 workshops in their magnificent classroom space:  Thread-Painted Portraits, July 16-17, and Appliqué Portrait Quilts, July19-20

Visit eQuilter.com for more information.

Artistic Opportunities Around the Country

Finally, if you can’t make it to Colorado, look for me in these locations:

Spring Tea with the Loomis Quilt & Fiber Guild, Loomis, CA, May 5, 2018

North Carolina Quilt Symposium, Asheville, NC, May 31-June 3

Kentucky Heritage Quilt Society Getaway, Cave City, KY, June 13-15

 

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Social Media: Breakup and Makeup

Social Media: So Seductive

Lea McComas and the pressure to post.

Social Media is like that handsome guy that is so attentive and charming in the beginning; and later, changes into a demanding, manipulative creep.  With Social Media, like the creepy guy, I had to break it off.  I had long felt that trying to keep up with weekly posts was draining my energy and creativity, and keeping me from my other important interests: family and art.  

The real trouble started last June when I made a commitment to become proficient on various platforms (blog, Facebook, Pinterest) with such ease and efficiency that it would no longer be a chore, but a delightful daily routine—maybe something I did while I savored that first cup of coffee.

Social Media: Demanding & Manipulative

‘The reality: it never got better.  Social Media was like, “Hey look at how much attention I’ve brought to you: so many likes, so many shares, so many followers. Now, give me something more to work with. Would it kill you to spend a little money on advertising?  And maybe a little more attention to your SEO?”  More, More, More!!!  Never enough.

At the point that you are only making artwork so that you have something to take pictures of for your next post, you have lost your way.  Can I get a “Woop, Woop!!” for this?  (Don’t send it to me in a reply, just raise your hands to the sky and say it out loud.)

Second Thoughts

Now, after a long productive winter, I do miss connecting with other creatives, getting feedback on my work, getting sucked into a funny cat video when I’m supposed to be making a plane reservation.  It wasn’t all bad; there were some really great times with Social Media. I want to reconnect. I just have to set boundaries and be firm this time.  

Social Media with Sanity

Everyone wants to tune in and find out…

Yes, I’m re-engaging with Social Media and I’m inviting you to join me. My new focus is on sharing a journey that is real.   I’ll share with you what’s happening in my creative journey: inspiration, studio practice,  creative community, and tips N techniques .  One a month I’ll post upcoming events workshops, lectures.  This is also the place where you will see the my newest works coming together.

See it here first!  To subscribe, slide your cursor to the top of your screen and a pop up window will appear.  

 

 

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Daily Art Practice: What’s in it for Me?

© 2017, Lea McComas Fiber Art.

Day 1: Sitting on a Rock and lovin’ life.

Daily Art Series

Everyone says it’s a great experience to engage in a daily art practice; to make a small piece of art, daily, for a period of time. Some do it for 100 hundred days, others for a whole year. I decided, as part of my summer celebration of being home (most of the time) to take time each morning to meditate and reflect on the beauty of the Colorado mountains where I live and then create a prayer flag–daily.

I started my daily art practice on Memorial Day with the intent to continue until Labor Day. (That’s May 29 to September 4, the unofficial summer season here in the US.) It was glorious while it lasted. . . a whole 4 days. That’s when life got in the way. However, I will offer no detailed excuses here.

© 2017, Lea McComas Fiber Art.

Day 2: Storms pass through the valley

Plan Interrupted

Now, it’s been 2 weeks and I still have just 4 flags. Not exactly “Daily Art” However, I do have ideas and have tried to at least put a sketch down on paper each day. I’ve even tried to negotiate with myself, that it’s all OK if I roll into the studio and create a bunch of flags in one day. My game, my rules, Right?!?!

I thought this daily art practice would be a way of slowing down and living a more relaxed and focused life. With that said, I’m questioning whether or not I’m the kind of person who is cut out for this. Am I a free spirit who can’t be tied down with these false constructs? OR. . . Am I just a quitter looking for excuses to get out of something that became inconvenient?

© 2017, Lea McComas Fiber Art.

Day 3: Observing storm damage.

New Plan

I’m not ready to claim either of those labels just yet. This week I’m going back to the daily art practice. I’m going to live with it for a while to see what benefit might emerge. Four days just isn’t enough to make that determination. So, please check back next week to see if what flags I’ve created, and what, if any, insights I’ve gained.

For now, please check out the Naturescapes in my portfolio.  

© 2017, Lea McComas Fiber Art.

Day 4: Fresh, sweet smell of the Fir.

PS: My Game-My Rules

I am going to spend a few hours making all of those designs I came up with last week. They are part of the journey and I am claiming them. MY GAME – MY RULES.

 

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Vigil is Finished. See This Endearing New Work

It is exciting when a new work is completed. Vigil is finished and I’m thrilled with the results. It’s been photographed and added to the Genre gallery on my website. However, in this week’s blog, I want to share some of the details.

The lonely dog, a faithful companion, lies, waiting, and ever hopeful of the return of a loved one.

Vigil: Stitching the Dog

One challenge I faced in stitching the dog was to get the direction of the hair just right.  Stella, the dog in this composition, is similar to my own dog, Bosco.  So, anytime I was uncertain about the direction I should be stitching, I would sneak up on Bosco as he napped and use him as my reference.  Of course, he would wake up and expect to be held and petted in return for his services.

Lea McComas Fiber Art - Vigil detail

Detail of dog hair

Lea McComas Fiber Art - In the Studio

When you ask Bosco for help on a project, he is all in.

 

Vigil: Creating Depth

Lea McComas Fiber Art-Vigil

subtle value changes create feeling of depth

Another challenge was to give a sense of foreground and background.  For this, I rely, as I often do, on value changes. It is very subtle, but the black fabric used at the lower edge is slightly lighter than the dark fabric used for the upper part of the composition.  This subtle contrast was  enhanced with the thread choices in the stitching phase.  As a viewer, you may never consciously notice the changes, but the image will register in your mind as having depth.  Also, creating a broader field of gray below the white band brings that area forward.

 

Vigil: Stitching the Background

Lea McComas Fiber Art-Vigil detail

Subtle changes in thread and stitch design hint at what’s behind.

A final challenge was to add variation and subtle detail to the very large dark background area. I wanted to give the impression of a floor with a wall in the distance, but didn’t want to get too specific on where one transitioned to the other, and also wanted to maintain the feeling of a dark abyss.  For this, I employed a circular stitch design for the carpet, and an elongated vertical stitch pattern to represent the wall and then varied where I transitioned from one pattern to the other.  I also used two threads in this area: a solid black in the area around the dog, and a variegated thread of very dark values as I stitched further away from the figure.

In the end, I think this resulted in a very sweet piece that will be hard to part with. However, plans are already being made to exhibit this piece. When things finalize, I’ll let you know.  For now, visit the Genre Gallery of my website to see some of my other works.  You may notice another new work, Cruisin’.  I’ll be sharing the story of this piece in the weeks to come.

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Work in the Studio vs. Walk in the Woods

Time for Studio Art and Time for Play

Lea McComas Fiber Art

Sunrise on the Continental Divide

Two things I just can’t get enough of this time of year are: time in the studio for making art, and warm sunny days for wandering about in the woods. What do you do when life gives you both at the same time??

Progress on my latest piece has felt slow due to multiple interruptions. So when I find myself home alone, except for our dogs, and have no commitments or appointments, I’m ecstatic. YES!! WE’RE GOING TO MAKE SOME PROGRESS TODAY!!

First, I work in the studio…

Lea McComas Fiber Art "Vigil"

Vigil is fully fused

When I wake up to those first hints of sunlight, I shuffle to the coffee pot, and wander into my studio with a sense of urgency and expectation. Surveying a quilt top on the longarm,  gears began to turn. My mind’s eye can see a variety of stitch designs that I will use, thread colors and combinations, and a clear order that they will be laid down on the surface.  I am in the zone.

Lea McComas Fiber Art at work in studio

Lea at the longarm

 

An hour goes by before the dogs remind me that if I don’t feed them and take them out, I’m really going to be sorry. It is then that I get my first smell the pines and see the sun lighting up the mountains.  However, it’s still early, the air is cool and the breeze is chilling, so, “Back inside everyone, there is work to do.”

 

…Then, I walk in the sun.

As the day progresses, so do I.  But the beautiful day unfolding outside is getting harder, and harder to resist. Five hours go by before those pesky dogs are at it again, whining and scratching at my legs. Finally, I’ve had enough. We are out the door.

Lea McComas Fiber Art

Fresh air and sunshine

Being focused and closing myself off to distractions is great, to a point. However, this day has brought me studio time to work AND sunshine to feed the soul. All things in moderation, right??

Check back next week and I’ll show you some closeup photos of the stitch designs that I am using for this piece.  At this moment, my brain is working out how to handle all of that dark background.

Want to immortalize your own special pet?  Check out my Pet Portrait Memory Quilt class at Craft U.

Visit my portfolio to see more thread-paintings.

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Keeping Vigil? Who Awaits Your Return?

A Loyal Beast

Bosco Standing Vigil

I’m sure you have heard, or know of a real life example, of a dog that sits and waits, keeping vigil, for his master’s return. Recently, I noticed that when my husband leaves the house, my dog, Bosco will sit by the door to the garage and patiently wait for his return, often several hours. When I attempt to coax him away from the door to sit with me, he refuses. Sure, this is very sweet in one respect, but it’s also very distressing. I always thought I was his favorite. Anyway, it is this kind of devotion that inspired my new piece, “Vigil.”

Alone in the Abyss

In preparation for taping my Pet Portrait Memory Quilt class, I put out a call for cute pet photos and received one from a teaching colleague that captures this unselfish devotion. Immediately, I was drawn to the juxtaposition of light and dark and how it helped to conjure the image of the lonely dog laying, waiting, and ever hopeful of the return of a loved one.

Potential Energy

Another compelling feature of this composition is what is best labeled ‘potential energy’. You just know that a frenzy of barking, jumping, wagging is about to be unleashed as the door opens and the dog awakens.  Truly, I can think of few things more uplifting than unbridled enthusiasm simply because of your presence in the room. What about you?

The Back Story

Stella in the light.

Stella is the dog who inspired this piece. She wasn’t actually laying in wait. She loves to sleep in the sunlight coming in a window. A careful look at the original photo shows the legs of the dining table and chairs. I interpreted the image in an entirely different way.  Days later, when I told my colleague what I saw in the picture, she was very surprised.

PS: He loves me too.

Finally, I spoke to my husband about Bosco’s devotion to him and my jealousy. He assures me that Bosco does the same when I leave.

Vigil is the second in my series of Dog Stories.  The first in the series was Puppy Love.

Next week, check back to see how things are progressing.

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I Use Pets to Inspire Others, and Inspired Myself

Pet Portraits

We love our pets, don’t we??  Two years ago we made a frantic, late-night trip to the emergency pet clinic.  Three hours later, we came home without our precious Gretchen.  It was devastating.  That’s why I jumped at the chance this winter to put together a class where my portrait techniques are applied to Pet Portrait Memory Quilts.

I’m a dog person with lots of dog pictures.  However, in this class I wanted to address pet portraits for a variety of animals: cats, birds, horses, in addition to dogs.  So, I put out the call for precious pet photos to my friends and colleagues and found myself with many more great photos than I was able to use for the class.

I made some adorable samples for the course.  A few of them are included in this post.  As you can see, for these, I simplified the compositions.  I did this to teach the techniques and focus on specific art concepts. I’m hoping that students will learn the lessons and then apply them to more complex compositions.

I Inspired Myself

More complex compositions:  now that sounds like advice I should follow myself.  So, I went back through the photos and set aside a few more images for a new series.  The exciting thing for me is that these new compositions will include more context and will tell a larger story.  I’ve chosen some images that address the reasons we have and cherish our pets: loyalty, companionship, comic relief. . .

Last year, I completed Puppy Love.  That will soon be joined by “Vigil.” This second piece in the series is still a work in progress, so stay tuned to see how this piece and the rest of the series develops.

Cat Lovers Stay Tuned

And, if you’re a cat person, don’t worry.  A cat series is soon to follow.

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Admitting I’m Committing to Submitting

Last week a polar explorer, an astronaut, a poetry slam champion, and a former pro football

player all advised me to dream big, step out on faith, and push forward despite setbacks and rejection. I attended a session on Exceptional Career Paths at the Conference of World Affairs in Boulder, Colorado. It has worked for all of them, so I’m going with that, and I’m telling the world so I don’t wimp out.

My big dream is to be an artist whose work touches people around the world. To that end, I’m responding to the prestigious Luxembourg Art Prize call for entry. I already have the full support of my studio mates.

The application process is complex. Where others ask for a single high-resolution photo, they invite the artist to submit multiple photos. Here are some of the detail shots of Busy Signal that I’m able to share.

warm hand tones pop forward against cool shoulder tones

Mouth shaded to create depth and contour

Binding fabrics change to match image.

background fabric created by me.

Rather than a short artist statement, Luxembourg asks for details about process, inspiration, and context. Selected, or not, taking time to think and write about my work has been hugely valuable. I now understand my artist self a bit better and am even more committed to the dream. I’ll share bits of this with you in the weeks to come.

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