Is Your Face in the Right Place?

I’ve just finished a new piece titled “Simple Pleasures”.  It features a young boy named Indigo who is celebrating his 6th birthday and is thrilled with his new plastic horse.  How wonderful to find such pleasure in something that has no bells, whistles, screens, login, or even batteries.

In this weeks video, I show you how to check the size, location, and dimensions of facial features so that the face looks realistic and well proportioned.

Golden Mean Calipers Pt 3: Facial Features

This piece was a chance for me to try a bolder color scheme.  I like the energy and vibrancy of it. Below are process photos to show how the piece came together.

Face and Hands

Face and Hands

Shirt and shorts

Shirt and shorts

Horse in Hands

Horse in Hands

Thread-painted face

Thread-painted face

Finished piece

Finished piece

 

 

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Fibonacci Sequence Strip Quilt

This week I want to share with you a quilt made by my friend, Jeanne Lounsbury.  She made a strip quilt for her son using the Fibonacci Sequence (1, 1, 2, 3, 5, 8,…).  When she shared it with our local quilt group, I got really excited and thought others would appreciate it, too.  She used my favorite hues of blue with a pop of red.  Here is the link to the Fibonacci Sequence Strip Quilt video.

I’m currently in the middle of my 2-week winter vacation from school and am thoroughly enjoying the extra time to work in my studio.  Next week, I should be ready to share with you my latest piece.  Stay tuned.

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Golden Mean Calipers Part 2: Crop a Picture

This is my second video on how to use the Golden Mean Calipers.  This week I show you how use them to crop a photo around a focal point so that the outer dimensions are harmonious and the subjects in the composition are well placed. These calipers are available in my web store.  If you find these videos interesting or helpful, subscribe so that you get notified whenever I post a new one.  I’m trying to do this once a week until I run out of things to say—like that could ever happen.

Calipers video part 2

calipers 2

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Golden Mean Calipers Part 1: Establishing Borders

This is my first video about how to use Golden Mean Calipers.  Ever Wonder how wide to make your borders.  You can use this tool to find a width that is in harmony with the size of your blocks.  If you already know the finished width of the borders you need, use the calipers to determine the best way to divide that width into multiple borders and sashing.

I’m not done with the Value Finding Tool Kit.  Watch for more videos using a variety of design tools.  Subscribe to my YouTube Channel: Lea McComas Fiber Art to see them.

Here is the link to this week’s video:

Golden Mean Calipers Part 1: Establishing Borders

Use the calipers to determine the width of your borders

Use the calipers to determine the width of your borders

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Value Finding Part 2: Near & Far

I’ve just posted Value Video Part 2.  Watch this video to learn more about how to use my Value Finding Tool Kit when making pictorial quilts.  This week learn about using the concept of value when building a landscape composition.

Next week I’ll post my first video showing how to use the Golden Mean Calipers.  I hope you are enjoying watching the videos in place of a text blog.  It is certainly more fun for me to share my thoughts via video rather than text, at least for now.

I’m hoping to build a following on my YouTube channel, so if you like the videos, please subscribe to the channel and share it with others who might be interested.

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Using the Golden Mean Calipers


Golden Mean Calipers

Today, I want to share with you a tool that I’ve discovered called the Golden Mean Calipers..  I’ve also seen them labeled “Fibonacci Gauge.” can be a useful design tool in your artistic process. There are a variety of ways this particular tool can be used. Let me illustrate a few.

Finding the Sweet Spot Within Your Composition

A focal point is used to grab the viewer’s eye and engage the viewer in your artwork. Generally, it is best to avoid taking the viewer’s eye to the center, for when it arrives there, it will tend to stop and rest. Placing key elements off center will tend to prolong the viewer’s engagement with the composition. Use the calipers as shown below to determine the best placement of the focal point and other key elements of a composition. In portraits, eyes and mouths are important features for focal points.

Use calipers for cropping the sides of an image.

Use calipers for cropping the sides of an image.

focal point 1

Lay the calipers over a photo print, to determine the best way to crop it.

Focal Point Landscape

Use the calipers to determine the placement of a design element within a larger panel.

Taking Elements Off the Edge

Avoiding the middle also applies when taking lines or elements off the edge of a composition. See how the calipers can be used to determine the most visually pleasing locations for the placement of lines that will carry the viewer’s eye to the edge of a composition.edge 2edge 1

edge 3

Creating Borders with Harmony

This tool is also useful when adding borders to a traditional block quilt. One method is to start with the blocks themselves. Place the outer points of the calipers at the edges of the blocks. This will give you two new measurements that will be in harmony with the blocks. Use the larger measurement for the total width of the border. This area can further be divided by placing the outer points of the calipers on the edges of the border area. This will indicate pleasing widths for and inner and outer border. All measurements indicate finished sizes. Don’t forget to add seam allowances.

Measure the width of your block.

Measure the width of your block.

Create a single border matching the wider measurement of the calipers.

Create a single border matching the wider measurement of the calipers.

Create harmonious smaller borders.

Create harmonious smaller borders.

Divide the border area using the calipers.

Divide the border area using the calipers.

Sometimes, a specific finished size is necessary and this isn’t achieved in the process above. In this case, determine the desired total width of your outer borders, open the calipers to this desired width and then measure the distance between the points to determine the finished widths of an inner border and outer border.

Perfect Facial Proportions.

The Golden Ratio occurs naturally within faces and calipers are useful when creating portrait works, either when drawing the face, or problem solving when a face doesn’t look quite right. See the photos below for ways to check the proportions of the face, and placement of the features.

Placement of mouth between nose and chin

Placement of mouth between nose and chin

face 1

Bring of the nose in relation to forehead and chin.

Placement of eyes

Placement of eyes

If you are interested in learning more about facial proportions and portrait quilting, check out my book, Thread-Painted Portraits: Turn Your Photos into Fiber Art 

AND look for videos on my YouTube Channel Lea McComas Fiber Art.

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Value Finding Tools

I’m trying something new in my blog this week: a video.  This is my first attempt, and let’s just say, it was a learning process.  I’m thankful that I get to spend a large part of my day with teenagers who know all about this and are happy to advise their teacher.

Follow this link to learn about the tools I use to select fabrics.    Value Finding Tools Video

These tools are available in my web store if you want a set of your own.

Value Finding Tool Kit

Value Finding Tool Kit

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The Tale of a Tail

Too Much Tail

The tail is too big for the longer frame.

A you may recall, when I first loaded both of the horsemen panels on the longarm frame, the tail of the right panel hung off the edge.  At the time, I chose to ignore this and deal with it another day.  That day came.

The beginning of the solution involved removing both panels and reloading them one at a time.  This move actually solved two problems.  Thread painting the first horse caused that panel to draw up, in turn, making the second panel too loose on the frame.  The initial reason for loading both panels at the same time was so that the backgrounds could be stitched together, creating some continuity across both panels.  With that done, it is now obvious that that the panels will be completed one at a time.

With the second panel off the frame, I add extensions to the backing and batting.  When it is reloaded, I use clamps to hold that extension tight and in place while the stitching is completed. (sorry, forgot total a photo)

Boning to stiffen the tail

Boning to stiffen the tail

The next problem to be addressed is how to keep the tail from curling back or flopping forward when it is on display.  That solution comes from the notions department of my local fabric store:  polyester boning, typically used to give shape to a dress bodice.

This piece was finished with an artists facing, rather than a binding.  A strip of the boning was stitched into the bottom edge of the tail extension, then covered with the facing.  This seems sufficient to keep it in place.

Horse tail finished.

Horse tail finished.

Cover up with facing

Cover up with facing

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“No” to the Nose

original nose

Original photo

When I thread paint, I rely on the thread to do the bulk of the work.  My technique allows me to blend colors and create subtle shading and contours, as if I were working with paint. In my process I find that there is an OTZ (Optimum Thread Zone).  Stitching below the zone creates what I consider dense quilting, and stitching above the zone overloads the fabric and causes it to expand and buckle.

With this in mind, I consider the facelift that is needed by my horse. As mentioned last week, the shape of the nose needs some adjusting.  However, having applied heavy stitching to the face already, there is a limited amount of thread that can be added without exceeding the OTZ. This means I need to get it right, right away.

In the original photo, the horse is moving his head as the photo is snapped, so it is blurred and doesn’t provide the details that I need.  It is off to the internet to find images of horse heads that face the right direction, at a similar angle, and in the right light.  I also look to reference books of paintings done by several Western artists.

sketch of nose on plastic sheet

sketch of nose on plastic sheet

 

 

Next, I place a clear plastic sheet over the face of my horse and outline its shape and key lines with a red marker.  That sheet is then set on a white background where  black lines  indicate where stitching is to be added or changed.  In this way, I can audition the additional stitching, erase, and redo as needed until it’s right.

 

 

 

 

 

Back at the longarm frame, I keep this plastic sheet handy and begin the facelift.  In addition to creating a more boxy snout, highlights were added around the nostril and above the eye to give them more depth.

Facelift results

Facelift results

First Face

First Face

 

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A Horse of Course

I’ve been away from the blog for a while, but, as you might have guessed, progress did continue on the horseman.  In my race to finish it in time to submit to the Houston quilt competition, all available resources were diverted to making progress on this piece.  I did take some photos along the way and will share that progress with you in my next few blog posts.

Shiny and dull threads for this horse

Shiny and dull threads for this horse

This week, let’s focus on the stitching of the first horse.

I selected a variety of threads in the full value range.  This first horse is pretty dark, and if I think about what the horse would look like in real life, my thread choices would fall in the medium to dark range.  My analytical brain has to take over to pick the very lightest threads.  Because this horse is standing in water,  a selection of threads with dull and shiny finishes were chosen to differentiate between the wet and dry parts of the horse.

Often, stitching begins with the lightest threads, working toward the dark areas, but this time, I did the opposite. I can’t say why with certainty.  Perhaps it’s because the dark threads will complete most of the stitching and the lighter threads will add the finishing touches.  The first step is to make some broad, sweeping stitch lines to hold things in place.  That is followed by several passes, filling in more and more each time.

These photos show how the work progressed.

Stitching horse 0

Stitching horse 1

Stitching horse 2

stitching horse 3

While working up close, it’s hard to fully appreciate what is happening.  I have to rely on

Reference photo on the computer

Reference photo on the computer

what I know should work as I’m stitching.  I also keep my laptop near by with a reference photo on display.  It is always such a treat to step back and look at the work and be able to appreciate that it has come together as planned.  Sometimes, it’s even better, like the stitching along the neck of this horse.  That’s when I smile, pat myself on the back, and say, “Lea, you’ve done well.  You should have some chocolate.”

After a cup of tea and a few Thin Mint cookies, I had to admit that I was not thrilled with the nose.  More on that next week…

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