Tag Archives: pictorial quilts

New Work: Dogs & Cats

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.

Body Building

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? at CF Gallery opening,

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.

 

 

Cat Nap, 44″ x 24″, fabric & thread, © Lea McComas, 2018.

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.

Pet Portrait class sample

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?

I’m thinking dogs rule.

    Cats rule, Dogs drool!

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.  

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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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I Use Pets to Inspire Others, and Inspired Myself

Pet Portraits

We love our pets, don’t we??  Two years ago we made a frantic, late-night trip to the emergency pet clinic.  Three hours later, we came home without our precious Gretchen.  It was devastating.  That’s why I jumped at the chance this winter to put together a class where my portrait techniques are applied to Pet Portrait Memory Quilts.

I’m a dog person with lots of dog pictures.  However, in this class I wanted to address pet portraits for a variety of animals: cats, birds, horses, in addition to dogs.  So, I put out the call for precious pet photos to my friends and colleagues and found myself with many more great photos than I was able to use for the class.

I made some adorable samples for the course.  A few of them are included in this post.  As you can see, for these, I simplified the compositions.  I did this to teach the techniques and focus on specific art concepts. I’m hoping that students will learn the lessons and then apply them to more complex compositions.

I Inspired Myself

More complex compositions:  now that sounds like advice I should follow myself.  So, I went back through the photos and set aside a few more images for a new series.  The exciting thing for me is that these new compositions will include more context and will tell a larger story.  I’ve chosen some images that address the reasons we have and cherish our pets: loyalty, companionship, comic relief. . .

Last year, I completed Puppy Love.  That will soon be joined by “Vigil.” This second piece in the series is still a work in progress, so stay tuned to see how this piece and the rest of the series develops.

Cat Lovers Stay Tuned

And, if you’re a cat person, don’t worry.  A cat series is soon to follow.

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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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Quilts Stored in Bathtub. What could go wrong??

Sometimes I look at people and the awkward or unfortunate situation in which they find themselves and I think, “Really? You didn’t see that coming?” Well, this week I’m saying that again while looking in the mirror.

Quilts in the bathtub.

Quilts in the bathtub.

As we moved into our new house, I was just stashing things wherever I could find space. My new studio is a spare bedroom with a full bath. That’s how my rolled up quilts ended up in the tub. After a few days, I decided it was the perfect storage place. It’s not like anyone was going to be taking a shower in there. I removed the handle so the water couldn’t get turned on, stood up about 20 quilts, and pulled the curtain. Five weeks went by and all was well…

Then, last weekend, the power went out. Our water now comes from a well, but the pump is electric. In time, we used water until the pipes ran dry.  When the power came on, the faucet began to drip.

Two days went by before I happened to look in the tub and see that it was now filled with 3-5 inches of water. YIKES!!!! Quilts came flying out of the basement. Cloth storage bags were stripped off and every surface in the back yard that wasn’t dirt was covered with a quilt. There were wet, dripping quilts everywhere. What a mess!!!

Wet Quilts 1Wet Quilts 2

Next, every towel in the house was brought out to soak up as much of the moisture as possible. Most of the quilts were OK, but several had colors that had begun to run, including: Bamboo, Running Commentary, and Turkeman Mother with Children.

What now??

Bamboo was the worst; a piece done in green fabrics, red dye from the backing fabric migrated to the front.

In a panic, having nothing to lose, I filled the tub again with cool water and poured in some Synthropol to capture the color. I submerged the quilt and let it soak for about 20 minutes, pulled it out, and rolled it in dry towels. This seemed to do the trick as most of the red color was washed out. What remains is faint; probably not noticeable if you don’t know what happened. No time for the “Before” photos, but here is the “After” shot.

The red is gone--almost.

The red is gone–almost.

Next was Running Commentary. There were multiple colors on the runner’s white shirt, but worse, were dark streaks across his neck and chin. My runner became a “batholete” and went swimming in the tub. He, too, was restored except for some faint areas on his white shirt. Again, only a photos of the end result.

Extra dye is out of the face.

Extra dye is out of the face.

Some unwanted dye remains.

Some unwanted dye remains, but it looks like shadow under the numbers

 

Out of time, I’m off to Kansas City with Turkeman Mother in tow. I’ve still got to deal with the water damage to her. Stayed tuned.

 

 

 

 

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