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!

 

Share

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

 

Share

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.

Share

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.

Share

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.

Share

Busy Signal Got Me Thinking…

As I look back at that last post, I realize that much has changed:

  • gave my website a makeover for a cleaner, fresher look
  • rearranged my studio for better energy flow
  • finished and found the perfect title for my newest piece.

Ta-Daa…I give you Busy Signal

Lea McComas
Busy Signal, 36 in x 36 in, thread-painted portrait of girl with cell phone.
moveable machine stitching over fused fabric applique’
copyright: Lea McComas, 2017, all rights reserved

In my last post, I was just beginning the stitching phase of the work.  Take a look at the results up close.

Lea McComas
Busy Signal, detail stitching of mouth
copyright: Lea McComas, 2017, all rights reserved

Lea McComas
Busy Signal, detail stitching of hand
copyright: Lea McComas, 2017, all rights reserved

 

 

 

What really excites me about this piece were the challenges that led to an evolution in my process.

One of the difficulties in thread painting is to balance the stitching in such a way as to keep the surface relatively flat, and then mitigate when it isn’t.  This usually involves a process called “blocking” where the surface is moistened and then heat and pressure are applied until the piece is dry.  If all goes well, the bulk is redistributed.

That was not working for me, until panic and frustration led to inspiration.  I realized that Busy Signal was  flat except for the face.  When pushed from the back, it was beautifully convex, if not a bit unstable.

I went with it; attached a reinforced panel, slightly larger than the face, to the back of the piece and filled the space between with batting for support.  I’m thrilled with the result.  It may be difficult to fully appreciate in photos, but when you see the piece in person, you can realize how it enhances the sense of depth in the piece.


Why I love being an Artist?

problem-solving — thinking outside the box — discovering something new


Where can you see it in person?  I’m currently working on a few options.  I’m also hard at work on my next piece, and a new series, that will use this new technique again.  Stay tuned because you’ll see it and read about it here, first.

 

Share

Moving from Fabric to Thread

Shifting gears, moving to the next phase, changing the focus; that’s what I’ve been doing in these last couple of weeks as I transition from the fusing stage of my project to the stitching stage.  I find it helpful to take a break and clear my head so that I can look at the project with fresh eyes.  So, during this period, an idea that has been floating around in my brain for several years actually came alive and demanded to be brought to creation.  I’ll img_1201share that with you in a few weeks.  It is a total departure from this project and did allow for the fresh perspective I needed.

Before going of on this side trip, the fused fabric foundation for “We Don’t Talk” was loaded onto my longarm machine.  You can see here all of the layers and how they are placed.  If you’ve done your own thread painting, you may know that it is always a struggle to end with a piece that lies flat.  I’m always on the quest for a better solution.  In the past, I’ve used a layer of raw artist canvas. This has been marginally successful, so, this time I will use 2 layers positioned under the batting so that the grains are perpendicular to each other.  I’m giving it a shot, but the tradeoff is weight.  This baby is going to be heavy for it’s size.img_1199

(2 weeks go by)

Thread, thread, so much thread needed.  Just as with my fabrics, I like to create selections for each element in the project, and just like with fabric, I use my trusty value scale to make good choices.  However, with threads, I usually put together sets of 7-10 threads: one each of the #1 and 5 values, and then two or three each of values 2,3,4.  However, given the size of the figure in this piece, I may have 3-5 threads in every value.  Here is what it looks like in my studio when the threads come out to play.img_1200

Hmmm, I think I’ll start on the face first.  Check back next week to see the progress.

 

 

Share

Finally, Finished Fusing

Yes, Finally, all of the body pieces are working together and creating the depth of field that I’m looking for.  With the face in place, I add some hair.

Helmet Hair

Helmet Hair

Yuck, that hair looks a bit too much like a helmet, but I’ll fix that when the background is in place.  I rehearsed several fabrics for the background and settled on a piece that I made a few years ago in a dye/print/paint surface design class that I took with Susan Brooks in Louisville, CO.

Periodically, I take a class that is out of my comfort zone, just to learn some new things and  get a fresh perspective.  That was Susan’s class.  I came home with lots of interesting pieces of fabric with no idea what would ever come of them.

Dye class fabrics

Dye class fabrics

more dye fabrics

more dye fabrics

How happy am I to find the perfect background in that stash of “experimental” fabrics.

Background ini place

Background ini place

Now, back to that hair….

more-hair

This is better.  Phase 1: Fusing is complete.

Share

Keep Your Eyes Where They Belong…and nose and mouth

Use Calipers to position facial features.

Use Calipers to position facial features.

Finally, I’ve posted a new video on my YouTube channel

This latest video is Golden Mean Calipers Part 4 where I share how to find the optimum position of eyes, nose, and mouth in a portrait quilt.

There will be new video coming each month on how to use my calipers and other design tools.  Subscribe to my You Tube Channel: Lea McComas Fiber Art to follow along.

Share

Body Work

I’ve reached a place with my latest piece where I need to finalize a color scheme before moving on.  So far, I’ve only chosen fabrics for the flesh.  As I put these various body parts together, I’ve got to fill in the other elements of the composition (ie. dress, phone, background, hair.)  I use my Itten Color Star to work this out.

Color Scheme

Color Scheme

 

This Color Star is my favorite color wheel for making these kinds of decisions.  It comes with a full set of templates that let me block out colors I don’t want to use and let’s me get a better sense of what colors I will be  incorporating.

The hair is going to include yellow and yellow-oranges, while the phone will be blue-green, and her dress will be blue.

No decisions on the background yet, I’m going to put the figure all together and let it talk to me (or perhaps text me).

This week I’m able to complete the body along with the hand holding the phone. I’ve dipped into my special stash for the phone.  It is made from some hand marbled fabrics I picked up in Venice back in the 90’s.

A body to go with the hands

A body to go with the hands

Placing the face with the body, I have a real sense of progress.  I’m not sure about the darkness of the upper body, but I’m going to move forward.  I’ll audition some background fabrics before I decide whether or not to replace the body with lighter values.

A face with the body

A face with the body

Share