Category Archives: Tips N Techniques

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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Starring Roles and Supporting Roles

I’ve just posted a new video showing how to use a value scale to select fabrics for various elements of a pictorial composition.  By managing the value range you can make some people or items stand out more than others.   Here is a photo of a self portrait I did with high value contrast

This piece has high value contrast.

This piece has high value contrast.

I’ve done a second version of this with a narrow value range.  I did this by replacing the very lightest and darkest fabrics.  It would seem that I’ve already packed that piece in anticipation of moving to a new house and didn’t take a photo first.  You can see it, however, in my latest video.

Value Finding Tools Part3: Starring and Supporting Roles

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Placed on hold

Three months ago, my husband and I found, what we believe is our dream home.  We put

Sample 1. I seem to be be wandering aimlessly

Sample 1. I seem to be be wandering aimlessly

in an offer, it was accepted, and …that’s when things got complicated.  Without going into the details, we are still waiting for some issues to be settled.

It was hard to go to the studio to get into a new creative project when I was poised and ready to pack everything up and move with 3 days notice.  But, one week led to another, and the delays continue.  It was like making a phone call and being placed on hold where a voice breaks in periodically, not to help, but to tell you “your business is important so please wait longer.”

Desperate to make art, I decided to temp the fates.  A local guild opened up a workshop with a visiting artist and I was able to grab a space.   The workshop was about working intuitively and quickly.  These are not my strengths.  I need time to process and mull things

Sample 2. feels like a shrine

Sample 2. feels like a shrine

over, so my productivity was

disappointing at the workshop, but I brought home the “beginnings” and left them laying on the work table for another week.  I touched them, look for inspiration on Facebook, moved them around and eventually, began to find my way.  It is exciting when the process builds momentum.  Like falling dominoes, a chain reaction happens.  One thing leads to another.  The photos show my progress.

Sample 3. Going in circles

Sample 3. Going in circles

The rewarding aspect of this process is that it allowed me to work in a series without making a major commitment.  The big take away, for me, was creating a background fabric by fusing squares of one fabric onto another. I used some hand dyed fabrics I created in a previous workshop.

Sample 5. Squares in the background. Sample 6 from cutout leftovers. Kanji reads: "Creativity"

Sample 5. Squares in the background. Sample 6 from cutout leftovers. Kanji reads: “Creativity”

Sample 7. Playing with a bigger background

Sample 7. Playing with a bigger background

Sample 8. more squares with more contrast

Sample 8. more squares with more contrast

I’m going to find a way to incorporate this into a future “real” project.

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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 Tangled Web

I’ve managed to get the first two panels of my 4 Horsemen triptych fused together and have come to terms with the reality that I will not get the 3rd panel finished in time for my May deadline. I will make the 3rd panel—someday—maybe in the summer.

Before I can begin stitching, I must to do some planning and prep work now if the three panels are to fit together later. Toward that end, iI want to make sure that each panel works individually AND in concert with each other.

Panels side by side

Panels side by side

Here is the process:

  1. Lay the panels side by side. (Panel 3 is just a large sheet of muslin)
  1. Mark the corner points and 1/3 marks along each side.
  1. Run a line of string string between each of these key points.

In doing this, I can accurately place lines of the riverbank, foothills, mountains, and place the final riders in just the right position. Additionally, this web of string creates a grid for identifying key lines and points of intersection within the piece.

Here is my dilemma: the whole thing is way to large to fit on my design wall. The best I can do is clear the floor in my family room and lay out the panels. Unable to pin into the hardwood floors, I’m left to lay the string on the floor and they won’t stay put.  They are continually shifting as I move things around under them.  Eventually, I do get a sense of how things are laying out.

I see some good things going on in the right panel:

Lines o the right panel

Lines o the right panel

  • A diagonal goes down the face, hits the shoulder, belt buckle, then follows the line of the tail
  • Another diagonal follows the line of the neck, a crease in the blanket, and the shadow of the back haunch.
  • The lower horizontal connects the reins, rifle, and blanket fold

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

In the center panel:

Lines on the center panel

Lines on the center panel

  • A diagonal connects the hand, a stripe of the blanket, a line of rope, and then runs down the back leg
  • Another connects the eyes, bottom of the rope and follows the tail.
  • The lower horizontal runs along the belly of the horse

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

In the left panel:

Lines on the left panel

Lines on the left panel

  • I place the horses in the center between the horizontal strings
  • Diagonals from the upper left corner will fall along the head and back of the horse and also connect the nose, chest and stirrup.
  • I also sketch in lines for the background so that it will all come together in the end.

 

Doing this on the floor stinks! Every time I move something, I have to reposition the strings.   To make things worse, my trusty companion, Coco, has her own ideas about the placement of these strings.   I love her, but I REALLY don’t appreciate her design sensibilities.

Coco tries to help

Coco tries to help

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