Tag Archives: elements of composition

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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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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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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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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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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Does This Butt Look Big??

Too much off the edge

Too much off the edge

While fussing over the second horseman and I find a couple of problems with the composition.  I’m irritated by the horse’s back end hanging off the right side of the composition.  It seems to be too much.

Because I have already finished the background, extending it could be a problem.  Can it be done without creating a distinct line down the panel that is obvious and distracting??

 

 

horse butt after

Extending the water

I’ve got to try.  At this point, I think the key to the expansion project is to break up the vertical line.  As I add to each component of the background, I’ve got to stagger the additions of fabric.  The water is the largest area and most obvious, but I can camouflage that line with ripples.  Here is what I have at the end.  Let’s hope stitching hides the rest.

Try to ignore those black lines on the second photo.  I’ll explain them another day.

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Just the Right Face

Too much shadow.

Too much shadow.

The second figure has come together, but I don’t like the face.  Even though it is turned away from the viewer, it is still important to get it right.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Hair and face distinguished.

Hair and face distinguished.

First, I don’t like that the head is a solid black shape as it creates too much shadow.  Replacing part of that black shape with brown helps to distinguish the hair from the face.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

reference tools

reference tools

With that done, my attention now turns to the line of the profile. To make it accurate I  refer back to a drawing I did for my book showing the correct placement of features.  I hang it next to my fused image. BONUS: the drawing happens to be almost the same size as face of my rider.  Using a ruler I hang in front of the fused face, I place pins to mark important benchmarks: top and bottom of the head, bridge of the nose, bottom of the nose.

 

 

 

 

From there, I make some nips and tucks and put the best face forward.

Now its right!

Now its right!

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