Tag Archives: mccomas fiber art

Time for a New Pet Portrait: Got Kibble?

Upcoming Exhibition

Yes, I’ve actually found time to create new original artwork this summer.  The last several

Lea at the Creative Framing Art Gallery

I’ll be in good company

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. . . .

Background detail of Got Kibble?

Some of my hand dyed fabric in the background

Face detail of Got Kibble?

Detail of dog

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.  

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Daily Art Practice: What’s in it for Me?

© 2017, Lea McComas Fiber Art.

Day 1: Sitting on a Rock and lovin’ life.

Daily Art Series

Everyone says it’s a great experience to engage in a daily art practice; to make a small piece of art, daily, for a period of time. Some do it for 100 hundred days, others for a whole year. I decided, as part of my summer celebration of being home (most of the time) to take time each morning to meditate and reflect on the beauty of the Colorado mountains where I live and then create a prayer flag–daily.

I started my daily art practice on Memorial Day with the intent to continue until Labor Day. (That’s May 29 to September 4, the unofficial summer season here in the US.) It was glorious while it lasted. . . a whole 4 days. That’s when life got in the way. However, I will offer no detailed excuses here.

© 2017, Lea McComas Fiber Art.

Day 2: Storms pass through the valley

Plan Interrupted

Now, it’s been 2 weeks and I still have just 4 flags. Not exactly “Daily Art” However, I do have ideas and have tried to at least put a sketch down on paper each day. I’ve even tried to negotiate with myself, that it’s all OK if I roll into the studio and create a bunch of flags in one day. My game, my rules, Right?!?!

I thought this daily art practice would be a way of slowing down and living a more relaxed and focused life. With that said, I’m questioning whether or not I’m the kind of person who is cut out for this. Am I a free spirit who can’t be tied down with these false constructs? OR. . . Am I just a quitter looking for excuses to get out of something that became inconvenient?

© 2017, Lea McComas Fiber Art.

Day 3: Observing storm damage.

New Plan

I’m not ready to claim either of those labels just yet. This week I’m going back to the daily art practice. I’m going to live with it for a while to see what benefit might emerge. Four days just isn’t enough to make that determination. So, please check back next week to see if what flags I’ve created, and what, if any, insights I’ve gained.

For now, please check out the Naturescapes in my portfolio.  

© 2017, Lea McComas Fiber Art.

Day 4: Fresh, sweet smell of the Fir.

PS: My Game-My Rules

I am going to spend a few hours making all of those designs I came up with last week. They are part of the journey and I am claiming them. MY GAME – MY RULES.

 

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Vigil is Finished. See This Endearing New Work

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.

The lonely dog, a faithful companion, lies, waiting, and ever hopeful of the return of a loved one.

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.

Lea McComas Fiber Art - Vigil detail

Detail of dog hair

Lea McComas Fiber Art - In the Studio

When you ask Bosco for help on a project, he is all in.

 

Vigil: Creating Depth

Lea McComas Fiber Art-Vigil

subtle value changes create feeling of 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

Lea McComas Fiber Art-Vigil detail

Subtle changes in thread and stitch design hint at what’s behind.

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.

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Work in the Studio vs. Walk in the Woods

Time for Studio Art and Time for Play

Lea McComas Fiber Art

Sunrise on the Continental Divide

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…

Lea McComas Fiber Art "Vigil"

Vigil is fully fused

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.

Lea McComas Fiber Art at work in studio

Lea at the longarm

 

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.

Lea McComas Fiber Art

Fresh air and sunshine

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.

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Moving from Fabric to Thread

Shifting gears, moving to the next phase, changing the focus; that’s what I’ve been doing in these last couple of weeks as I transition from the fusing stage of my project to the stitching stage.  I find it helpful to take a break and clear my head so that I can look at the project with fresh eyes.  So, during this period, an idea that has been floating around in my brain for several years actually came alive and demanded to be brought to creation.  I’ll img_1201share that with you in a few weeks.  It is a total departure from this project and did allow for the fresh perspective I needed.

Before going of on this side trip, the fused fabric foundation for “We Don’t Talk” was loaded onto my longarm machine.  You can see here all of the layers and how they are placed.  If you’ve done your own thread painting, you may know that it is always a struggle to end with a piece that lies flat.  I’m always on the quest for a better solution.  In the past, I’ve used a layer of raw artist canvas. This has been marginally successful, so, this time I will use 2 layers positioned under the batting so that the grains are perpendicular to each other.  I’m giving it a shot, but the tradeoff is weight.  This baby is going to be heavy for it’s size.img_1199

(2 weeks go by)

Thread, thread, so much thread needed.  Just as with my fabrics, I like to create selections for each element in the project, and just like with fabric, I use my trusty value scale to make good choices.  However, with threads, I usually put together sets of 7-10 threads: one each of the #1 and 5 values, and then two or three each of values 2,3,4.  However, given the size of the figure in this piece, I may have 3-5 threads in every value.  Here is what it looks like in my studio when the threads come out to play.img_1200

Hmmm, I think I’ll start on the face first.  Check back next week to see the progress.

 

 

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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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A New Beginning

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.

SAMSUNG

Waiting for a table

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.

Photo of Maya

Photo of Maya

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.fabric selections in 3 color ways

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.

 

 

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Making Faces All Summer Long

As a school teacher, I love summer vacation as much as my student, maybe more.  For me, it’s a chance to spend more time showing my fiber art, talking about my process, teaching my techniques, and of course, making thread-painted portraits.

This summer was no exception.  Check out this photo travelogue”

Thread-Painting workshop in Colorado Springs:

We made mouthsLook what I did!

 

 

 

 

 

 

5-day Summer Retreat in Lyons, Colorado:

Portraits on Parade

Portraits on Parade

Fused fabric portraits in Wichita, KS:

Teresa does Grandbaby

Blue dog in progress

Jo's self portrait

 

A quick visit to Longwood Gardens with Cheryl Lynch after speaking to the Calico Cutters guild in Philadelphia, PA:

 

And a mini-workshop and gallery lecture in Brigham City, UT

Brigham City Workshop

But the fun doesn’t stop…  There are more opportunities in the fall.  Join me if you can:

Workshops in LaConner, WA and Fort Collins, CO. See my “Upcoming Events” for more details

 

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