Tag Archives: art composition

Women's Work by moonlight

Women’s Work: When Will It End?!?

Women’s Work, a masterwork that has consumed, and fed, my artistic spirit for the last year and half, may finally be coming to an end.  This journey started in September 2019, when I was approached by a representative from the Clinton Foundation about creating an art quilt for Women’s Voices, Women’s Votes, Women’s Rights.  This is an exhibit to celebrate the 100th anniversary of women getting the right to vote in the US.  Originally scheduled to open at the Clinton Presidential Library in September 2020, COVID-19 delayed the opening 1 year.  Not to diminish the devastating effects of this virus, but isolating at home gave me the opportunity to create the most ambitious project I’ve ever attempted.

What do you want to do?

This question stopped me in my tracks.  Initially, I couldn’t decide on a single person or event to celebrate in my work; there are just too many options.  The more I researched, the more difficult the decision became. Finally, inspired by Raphael’s painting, School of Athens, I realized that I could create a piece celebrating the work of dozens of women whose voices and deeds have contributed to the fight for women’s votes, rights, and equality.

Inspiration for Women's Work

Raphael’s painting titled School of Athens.

My vision:

In my mind, I saw a gathering of women representing a variety of time periods and vocations, and gifts. I would group them by theme to demonstrate how women’s work has progressed through the centuries, with each generation building on the progress of the previous.

Now, this was a bold, big idea, and big ideas need big space, so I decided to make the piece 10 feet wide and 8 feet tall.  The unintended consequences of this decision are fodder for a  future blog post titled “Bloopers and Blunders”.

How Do You Eat an Elephant?

Having a vision for Women’s Work, and knowing how to bring that vision to fruition are two very different things.  My progress stalled as I just couldn’t decide what to do next. The project was enormous; something like eating an elephant.

One Bite at a Time.

Women's work: Lea drawing a life-size pattern of the quilt

Drawing the pattern

Finally, in November 2019, this vision took off in 2 directions. First, create an appropriate setting

for the composition. Second, choose the women to be represented in the quilt.  The project started to disaggregate into bite size pieces, and I found a way forward.  Hungry for progress, I began to devour the tasks.

On physically active days, I drew a life-sized pattern and built structures from fabric.  I discovered that organza made a great glass ceiling, as pillars morphed into caryatids. All the while, insufficient amounts of fabric prompted creative design decisions.

Women's Work: progress photo shows entry, steps, floor, wing walls, glass ceiling, pediment carving and distant sky

Distant sky is creative solution when there is not enough fabric.

Women's Work: shows first 2 phases of creating building setting of the pictorial quilt.

Glass ceiling and marble floor.

 

 

 

 

 

Women's Work in progress: working out statuary.

Working out statuary with paper versions.

On mentally active days, I researched women and their achievements. Going “old school”, I

Lea doing research for Women's Work

Lea, conducting research for Women’s Work

wrote information about each woman on a 3×5 notecards.  Over and over, I laid them out, rearranged,, stacked, and paper clipped them.

Now, with Women’s Work is nearly complete, I’m impatient to share what I have done. Please, subscribe to this blog to get the full story. (A pop up window will appear when you leave this page.)  In the months to come, I’ll share essays about the women who are depicted in the work, (there are more than 50) and tell you more stories about how the quilt was made. Later, when the conditions are right, I invite you will join me to see the quilt in person.

Women's Work by moonlight

Solo exhibit in the time of COVID

 

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Color Temperature

Fabric Fever: When Color Temperature is Cause for Concern

In these winter days, especially now, having a fever is cause for concern. Staying home and

Does you fabric have a temperature?

away from others gives me more time with my fabric, where temperature has also been on my mind.  Last year, I started teaching a monthly Zoom class on Color & Composition through the Rocky Mountain Quilt Museum and our color focus last month was about temperature.  Here is a bit of what we discussed…

What is Warm? What is Cool?

The exact dividing line between warm & cool colors has been an open topic for centuries.

various versions of color temperature

What is your preference?

Your preference likely depends on your medium: a digital graphic artist lives in a different color world than a fiber art quilter.  Here is what I work with…

my take on color temperature

Here are my play groups for warm and cool colors.

I also think of red and green as temperature neutral.  They can function with either play group, but will be the coolest kids in the warm group, and the hottest kids in the cool group.

color temperature - warm

What’s cool in the warm group?

color temperature - cool

What is warm in this cool group?

How is Temperature a Tool?

It’s a fact that warm colors advance and cool colors recede!  In a composition, we can create a sense of depth using temperature.  Warm colors will seem closer to us and cool colors will fall to the background.  Or do they?  Do we know this because someone told us, or because we have experienced it?  I say, “You don’t really own that knowledge until you test it out.”  

So, I created a series of simple compositions of a box on a background.  These are only  8 x10 inches, easy to make, and keep on hand for future reference.

Warm vs Cool – Round 1

First, here is a box in a warm color sitting on a cool color background. 

Does the box visually pop off the surface?

Now, here is the reverse: a cool color box on a warm color background.

What about this box?

If the concept holds true, the first version should appear to have more depth, and the background should fight for dominance in the second.  What do you think?

Warm vs Cool – Round 2

In my next experiment, I pitted warm and cool colors against each other in the same composition.  Using a temperature neutral color green for the back ground, I put a large and small box together in the composition.  Size will indicate to the viewer that the larger box is closer, but, how does color temperature amplify, or mute that message?  

 

Warm vs Cool in Pictorial Quilts

These examples are very dramatic, but the concept can be used in more subtle ways.  Color temperature is relative.  Even within the “Warm” or “Cool” color play groups, each color will appear warmer, or cooler depending on what color plays next to it.  For example, orange is cooler than yellow, but warmer than red.  Also, blue is cooler than green, but warmer than violet. 

I use this concept in all of my work.  Look through my genre and portrait galleries to see how warm tones advance from the cooler backgrounds.  When more than one person is included in a composition, I employ subtle temperature changes in flesh tones to make one figure more prominent, or appear closer than another. 

Which figure has the warmer complexion?

How does temperature amplify depth in this piece?

Experience is the best teacher

Now, if you really want to own knowledge of this concept, you need to conduct your own experiences.  It can be a simple as cutting out some circles of various sizes and colors, and then experiment with placing those circles on different backgrounds.  You don’t even need to fix them permanently.  Try one version, take a photo, rearrange, and take another photo.

If you try this, share a photo of your experiment with me:  Lea@leamccomas.com

Learn More About Color Concepts

Every month, I teach an online Color & Composition class through the Rocky Mountain Quilt Museum.  We meet via Zoom on the 4th Saturday of every month from 1:00-3:00 (Mountain Time zone).  Each meeting is a chance to explore a color concept, a color scheme, and a composition concept.  Come every month, or participate when you can.  The cost is $20/ session. Click this link to join us.

Here is what we’ll be exploring at our next meeting on January 23:

Color Concept: Creating Depth

Color Scheme: Analogous

Composition Concept: Variety & Unity

Sign up for the next Color & Composition class with Lea McComas

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Quilt Stories: The Making of Crossing Over

In a Quilt Stories interview with Lisa Walton, I spoke extensively with her about the making of  my quilt Crossing Over.  It was great fun to talk with a friend, and sister quilter from Australia.
 
QUILT STORIES - See how LEA McCOMAS creates her THREAD PAINTED AWARD WINNING masterpieces
 
 
Here is a link to the interview 
 
Lisa is creating a series of these interviews with quilters from around the world. Subscribe to her channel because there is more to come
 
You can see this piece and more of my work in my Portfolio galleries.
 
I’ve not been posting much in recent months as I’m working on a major new artwork that is bigger and more ambitious than anything I’ve ever done before.  It is a commission for an exhibit being put together by the Clinton Foundation to celebrate Women’s Voices, Women’s Votes, and Women’s Rights.  I can’t wait until I can begin to share this journey with you.
 
Take care and be safe–wear a mask when you go out.
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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.

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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

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Talk to the Hand

The fusing has begun.  This week I was able to put together the hand for “We Don’t Talk”.   It is created from warm red-orange flesh tones that I hope will pop off the surface and give it a real “in your face” feeling.  For greater realism, I’m working with 7, rather than my standard 5 values.

The hand

The hand

Next, the face emerges from those cooler red-violet fabrics.  You can begin to see that there is a significant contrast in the temperature of these 2 features.  I hope it works as planned.

The face

The face

I’m liking the detail in the eyes and mouth.

Next week I hope to fuse the body and put the pieces together.

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Puppy Love, Part 2

Oh joy!!! I’ve finished something in less than a month; 2 1/2 weeks actually.  It’s such a thrill to jump into a project and just breeze through to the end.  With this piece, I took a break from thread painting and just did some dense stitching.  The new challenge was to establish some designs that would fit with each element of the composition.

The blonde hair of the girl was easy.  I used various values of yellow threads in long, undulated lines of stitching.

PL hair

Next, similar, but shorter, wavy lines were put down with some variegated threads in a pattern that alluded to the hair of the dog.  Several times I had to stop and pet my dear Coco’s face in order to really understand the changing direction of her hair.  She didn’t mind too much.

PL dog

Stitching the face was a leap of faith.  It is so tricky to stitch the face!  If you try to recreate the actual contours, and the lines aren’t just right, it throws off the perceived shape and makes the face look distorted.  I decided to go in a completely new direction: loop-d-loops.  I covered the entire face in a small repetitive design that had nothing to do with its shape or contour.  I still varied the threads, letting the values do the work.  I’m really pleased with the results.

PL face

The background was the most troublesome decision, just as with choosing the fabric.  The print was complex and busy.  Afraid that it would become too strong and overpower other elements, I didn’t want to stitch the printed design.  I came up with a wandering ribbon design with a tiny meandering stitch to fill in the spaces.  I feel like the 2 patterns of the fabric and stitching sort of neutralize each other and take away their power to dominate.

PL background

Finally, here’s the finished piece.Puppy Love

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Puppy Love, Part 1

Maya & Coco

Maya’s selfie

This week I’ve jumped back into my art with gusto.  I’m tired of being on hold. I need to be creative!!  With a 4-day weekend and plans to pack and move postponed (again!) it was time to make up for lost time.

4" x 6" thread painting.

4″ x 6″ thread painting.

 

This past week has been devoted to making a piece titled “Puppy Love”.  I’ve done smaller versions of this piece in the past for small art auction donation pieces, but this one is big and bold.

It started with a selfie taken by my step-daughter, Maya with our little dachshund, Coco.  While previous versions were printed on fabric and thread-painted, this one is raw-edge fused appliqué and 30″ x 40″.

My color scheme is an analogous run of yellow-orange, orange, red, red-violet.  This kind of scheme tends to be calm and mellow, so, to punch it up, I threw in some blue-green.color scheme

A couple of marathon work days, and the piece was nearly completed.  Selecting the background fabric had me stalled for day as I just couldn’t decide.  I took audition photos with my phone and toggled back and forth between the shots until I was able to make a decision.

Background option 1

Background option 1

Background option 2

Background option 2

 

 

Now, it’s on to the stitching.  I’m going to try something new and will share that with you next week. Check back in next week.

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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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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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