My last blog entry was last summer when I gave a teaser about my new work, and now, we’re fully in the winter holiday season. Has it really been that long? The winter solstice, at our house, is a time to stop and reflect on the events & accomplishments of the closing year, and set goals and expectations for the approaching year.
I set a goal last year to lose some weight and get in shape (sound familiar?). My body building efforts were really about building up a body of new work.
Got Kibble? is just one of the new works that I completed this year. It was a hands-down favorite at my show in the Creative Framing Gallery in Louisville, CO in Sep-Oct. Pet compositions are fun to show in the Boulder area is because we are such an animal oriented community.
Not to be left out, that other favorite pet, the cat, is featured in my new piece, “Cat Nap”. This work was inspired by a photo I took while traveling in Greece, back in the mid-1990’s.
Previously, I completed a couple of small studies using this image. Two versions were made for my online Pet Portrait class. Here is one with a tetrad color scheme. Prior to that, a small work was donated to a charity event. Finally, after 20 years, the full up composition has come to fruition. Now, it’s subtle charm makes it one of my new favorites.
Cats VS Dogs?
At the show, a survey of viewers revealed that cats are more popular pets than dogs. Now, I’m getting a lot of pressure (and fun photos) for a series featuring cats. What about you? Are you a dog person? or a cat person?
Stay tuned, there is more work to share in a future blog. In the meantime, if you’ve been inspired to attempt your own pet portrait in fabric, check out my online Pet Portrait Memory class with The Quilting Company.
No time for that?!? I do commission work. Contact me and let’s talk about capturing a favorite image of your pet in fabric and thread.
Border Wall Quilt Project
Can’t write a blog without mentioning the Border Wall Quilt Project. We’re still accepting bricks and the wall continues to grow.
Yes, I’ve actually found time to create new original artwork this summer. The last several
months have been packed with travel, teaching, and the Border Wall Quilt Project, but I’ve still carved out some time to focus on several new works of art, including a new pet portrait. I’ll be a featured artist at the Creative Framing Art Gallery in Louisville, CO in the months of September-October, and these new pieces will be fully revealed at that time. If your in the area, please save the date: Sep. 7, 2018 for the opening reception, 6-9 PM.
New Pet Portrait in the Dog’s Life Series
For now, let me share a sneak preview of what’s to come. . . .
I often find inspiration from my students as I travel and teach. In Ft. Collins, CO a student shared a photo of her, “Crazy dog!” I had to agree, he looked pretty crazy, but also endearing. With her permission, I’ve done a new, larger than life, pet portrait.
I find that animal portraits don’t demand the same level of precision as portraits of people. This is just one more way that animals are more forgiving than humans. In this piece, the fabric does a lot of the work. The edges are raw and fuzzy and add a bit of dimension. I’ve done less thread-painting to keep those edges visible. It’s more like thread-sketching, and it’s great fun when you have to balance a new work with another new project that has a steep learning curve and lots of moving parts.
Plan to come and see this piece in person. Come to the reception and see me in person, too.
Border Wall Quilt Project: Section 3 Under Construction
OH, and that other new project is the Border Wall Quilt Project. Follow the link or follow me on Facebook and Instagram to see photos of the individual bricks and the process. There is still time to register and submit your own bricks.
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.
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.
Vigil: Creating 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
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.
Time for Studio Art and Time for Play
Two things I just can’t get enough of this time of year are: time in the studio for making art, and warm sunny days for wandering about in the woods. What do you do when life gives you both at the same time??
Progress on my latest piece has felt slow due to multiple interruptions. So when I find myself home alone, except for our dogs, and have no commitments or appointments, I’m ecstatic. YES!! WE’RE GOING TO MAKE SOME PROGRESS TODAY!!
First, I work in the studio…
When I wake up to those first hints of sunlight, I shuffle to the coffee pot, and wander into my studio with a sense of urgency and expectation. Surveying a quilt top on the longarm, gears began to turn. My mind’s eye can see a variety of stitch designs that I will use, thread colors and combinations, and a clear order that they will be laid down on the surface. I am in the zone.
An hour goes by before the dogs remind me that if I don’t feed them and take them out, I’m really going to be sorry. It is then that I get my first smell the pines and see the sun lighting up the mountains. However, it’s still early, the air is cool and the breeze is chilling, so, “Back inside everyone, there is work to do.”
…Then, I walk in the sun.
As the day progresses, so do I. But the beautiful day unfolding outside is getting harder, and harder to resist. Five hours go by before those pesky dogs are at it again, whining and scratching at my legs. Finally, I’ve had enough. We are out the door.
Being focused and closing myself off to distractions is great, to a point. However, this day has brought me studio time to work AND sunshine to feed the soul. All things in moderation, right??
Check back next week and I’ll show you some closeup photos of the stitch designs that I am using for this piece. At this moment, my brain is working out how to handle all of that dark background.
Want to immortalize your own special pet? Check out my Pet Portrait Memory Quilt class at Craft U.
Visit my portfolio to see more thread-paintings.
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.
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.
How happy am I to find the perfect background in that stash of “experimental” fabrics.
Now, back to that hair….
This is better. Phase 1: Fusing is complete.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
I’m liking the detail in the eyes and mouth.
Next week I hope to fuse the body and put the pieces together.
After 8 months of buying a new home, selling an old home, packing, unpacking, FINALLY, it’s time to be back in the studio. For my next piece, I’m taking another break from the historical series I’ve been working on. This next piece addresses a contemporary social issue.
I’ve long been uncomfortable with a shift in communication that takes us away from face to face contact, replacing it with texting. Several years ago, I took this photo outside a restaurant, intending to use it for a piece titled “We Don’t Talk Anymore.”
In my day job, teaching high schoolers, I set aside a period of time each week for “Community Building” where we engage in an activity, purely for fun, that requires us to talk with each other. At the start of this school year, I’m aware of how uncomfortable this is for many of my new students. This is the inspiration for a new project.
Instead of the original photo, I’m working from photos I took of my step-daughter, Maya. In the interest of full disclosure, she posed for these photos. They were not candid shots. If she has actually done this to anyone, it hasn’t been me.
With the photo cropped, edited, and printed to size, fabric selection is next. Usually, I choose a set of flesh toned fabrics for each person in my compositions so that they have individual complexions. In this case, with this bold close up of Maya, I’m going to need to establish 3 sets of fabrics just for her. I want to establish her body on 3 different planes: hand in front, face in mid-ground, and upper body in background and in shadow. I’m hoping, by doing this, to pop the hand forward and give real depth and dimension to this piece.
I start by choosing fabrics for the face. It’s in the mid ground so I choose pinkish, red-violet fabrics. For the hand, I choose warmer fabrics in the red-orange range to make them feel closer. Finally, the main body is in cooler, violet fabrics. The cooler temps of these fabrics will push them back. The tricky part will be the arm that transitions from the hand to the body.
Check in next week to see this piece coming together.