Tag Archives: thread painting

“No” to the Nose

original nose

Original photo

When I thread paint, I rely on the thread to do the bulk of the work.  My technique allows me to blend colors and create subtle shading and contours, as if I were working with paint. In my process I find that there is an OTZ (Optimum Thread Zone).  Stitching below the zone creates what I consider dense quilting, and stitching above the zone overloads the fabric and causes it to expand and buckle.

With this in mind, I consider the facelift that is needed by my horse. As mentioned last week, the shape of the nose needs some adjusting.  However, having applied heavy stitching to the face already, there is a limited amount of thread that can be added without exceeding the OTZ. This means I need to get it right, right away.

In the original photo, the horse is moving his head as the photo is snapped, so it is blurred and doesn’t provide the details that I need.  It is off to the internet to find images of horse heads that face the right direction, at a similar angle, and in the right light.  I also look to reference books of paintings done by several Western artists.

sketch of nose on plastic sheet

sketch of nose on plastic sheet

 

 

Next, I place a clear plastic sheet over the face of my horse and outline its shape and key lines with a red marker.  That sheet is then set on a white background where  black lines  indicate where stitching is to be added or changed.  In this way, I can audition the additional stitching, erase, and redo as needed until it’s right.

 

 

 

 

 

Back at the longarm frame, I keep this plastic sheet handy and begin the facelift.  In addition to creating a more boxy snout, highlights were added around the nostril and above the eye to give them more depth.

Facelift results

Facelift results

First Face

First Face

 

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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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See Me on The Quilt Show

I recently taped an episode of TheQuiltShow.com with Alex Anderson and Ricky Tims.  Subscribers to that website got to see that episode last week.  Many thanks to those of you that sent kind words through email and Facebook.

sitting talking

Photo by Gregory Case

Now, I can share a link to that show with the rest of you. Click on the link here and you can watch too.

Watch The Show

This link will work until May 11, so make a cup of tea and sit back to enjoy.

Let me know what you think Also, for those of you that subscribe to The Quilt Show, I have a new series of lessons in the “Classroom” section of the website.  This course is on “Contemporary Batik”  If you’ve ever wanted to try batik, but were afraid of the mess, check out this class.  It will be FUN, and EASY!! http://thequiltshow.com/learn/classrooms FTI: you have to be a subscriber to the website to access this class.

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Who Scored Big this Sunday–I did!

Wow! it was a busy week with other projects getting in line before the 4 Horsemen.  The most demanding project this week was a portrait quilt of my step-daughter.  I’m using her image for an upcoming show.

Bracing for the snowstorm

Bracing for the snowstorm

Cutting out the pattern. Wow, this is stringy stuff

Cutting out the pattern. Wow, this is stringy stuff

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Work began early in the week.  While my friends on the east coast were preparing for “SNOWPOCALYPSE”, I was soaking up the sunshine and cutting out the pattern.  It was fused and ready to go just in time for Superbowl Sunday.

 

Kickoff

Kickoff

2nd quarter

Half time

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

I haven’t been on the longarm for several months and it took some time to get back into the groove.  But, by the time the game was over, I had scored big.

 

 

Game Over--almost

Game Over–almost

4th quarter

4th quarter

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Lights, Camera, Action

This is the week that the crew from TheQuiltShow.com comes to Denver to tape their next season of shows.  I was the guest artist on their first show in the new studio.  I’ve been to several tapings before, but there is nothing like being on the other side of the camera.  My husband , parents and sister were able to come and support me and help calm my nerves.  Here are a few shots from behind the scenes.

family on the set

Family on the set.

Alex holds my book

Alex holds my book.

computer prep

Ernie gets the computer to work

hanging quilts

Hanging quilts with Adele.

how does this work

Sewing lesson from Alex.

jim

Jim, my muse, my mentor

makeup

Makeup

my guys

My guys.

prep talk

Hmmmm.

sitting talking

Speaking of quilts.

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Better than Wrinkle Cream

One of the things I’ve learned in my challenge to create great portraits in thread is that subtle value changes can make a big difference.  Sometimes the effort to define facial features leads one to over define, or to define with thread that is darker than necessary.  Here are two examples of a portrait I did of a woman I photographed in eastern Turkey.  She was a member of a nomadic Turkeman tribe that I visited in my travels back in the 90’s

photo 116In the first photo, you can see that the crease running from her nose around the corner of her mouth, known as the nasolabial furrow,  is stitched with a dark thread, one that is more than one value shade darker than the surrounding area.  It is harsh and makes her appear older and, well, a little harsh.

 

 

 

 

 

Consider the next option where the details are stitched in a lighter thread, one that is just one shade darker than the surrounding area.  The details are not as strong, making the subject appear younger (relatively), and visually, the results are more pleasing.  This is a case where less is more.

photo 117

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Bloopers-Part 2: Know When to Walk Away

As I blog about my bloopers, my plan was to start small and build to the big one. However, the really big goof up is like an elephant

1st Lt. Jacob Wright

1st Lt. Jacob Wright

in the room. There is no space in my head to process words about anything else, but coming clean on this is embarrassing and it has taken me 2 weeks to decide that I have the ego strength to share this.

If confession is good for the soul, then here goes…

The hardest thing about thread painting faces is getting a big beautiful smile to look right. My nephew, Jake, graduated from college this spring and was commissioned as a US Army Officer. This was a huge achievement and I wanted to honor him with a portrait in my book. Here is the picture from which I worked.

 

I know, I know, he is right in the center, directly facing us, with a great big smile. I should have walked away, but pride wouldn’t let me.  The only thing that could make this more difficult would be facial hair.

"The mouth is weird."

“The mouth is weird.”

 

When I finished stitching, I sent a picture to my sister Hope, who is tactful, yet, brutally honest and she called me out, “Great! but his mouth looks weird.”

 

Can't get it right.

Can’t get it right.

 

 

I tried several times to do some corrective stitching: add highlights, adjust accents, but it just got worse, and worse, and worse, until the piece was so thick is created a muzzle. I’d show various attempts, but I’ve already destroyed the evidence.

Hmmm, pondering life's challenges.

Hmmm, pondering life’s challenges.

 

Sometimes, it is best to accept defeat. So I gave up and started over… with a profile shot.

 

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Bloopers and Out Takes-Part 1

Too dark too soon

So, about my book, The Thread Painted Portrait… Just talked with my editor and it on schedule to be available by the end of October.  As I mentioned a few weeks ago, getting there hasn’t been without its challenges.  The creation of several new portrait pieces was a necessary part of the process.  Each phase or step was photographed to illustrate my process. The book, of course, will only contain the successes, but, to be honest, there were some bloopers and out takes.  While it is uncomfortable to reveal ones flaws and weaknesses to the world, thre is some learning to be gained from it. I’m going to share some of those with you in the blog over the next few weeks.

replacement thread choice

replacement thread choice

One of the pieces that caused me some heartburn was the Turkeman Crone.  All went well until the stitching.  I attempted to simplify the process and work her face in just 5 threads.  My mistake was with these thread choices where I went from light to dark too quickly.  The result was that she appeared to disappear in shadow.

Original photo

Original photo

You can see from the original photo, that this was not the case.  I was able to do a bit of course creation by over stitching with a lighter thread.  Of course, had I intended to create the shadow effect,  this would have been a brilliant move.

Finished portrait

Finished portrait

Hmmmmm, I like being brilliant, so perhaps its time to edit my version of reality.

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Making Faces With My Friends

I’ve been away from the blog for a while, but that doesn’t mean that I haven’t been

writing. In fact, my fingers are nearly worn down to the first knuckle due to non-

Debbie Fishell worked from a baby picture of her husband.

Debbie Fishell worked from a baby picture of her husband.

stop typing these months of June and July. Among the various writing projects, the most exciting is that I’m working on a book titled The Thread Painted Portrait. It presents my techniques for creating a fused fabric foundation covered with threadwork. Now that the manuscript is being edited, I have a chance to stop and reflect on the publishing process and share some of it with you. This is just an introduction to be followed by several installments about the trials and celebrations I experience in writing this book. Check in and follow my progress, and look for the book hot of the press by the end of October.

First, Why write a book? I’ve beenteaching my portrait quilt workshop for several years now where I teach the fused foundation technique. It’s a real kick to see faces emerge from the fabric, and

Judy Armstrong added a pop of color.

Judy Armstrong added a pop of color.

an even bigger kick watching others get excited when they produce a portrait. Take a look at some of the portrait quilts that students have done.  Everyone adds their own special design element to their piece.

If you’ve seen my work, you know that this is only the beginning for me. After creating the fused fabric face, I spend hours covering it up with miles of thread. Invariably, in a workshop someone will ask me to teach them to thread paint the face. Being able to do something well requires a certain level of understanding and skill development. However, the ability to teach that technique to othersrequires an even greater level of skill and understanding.

Judy Liebo combined two very special images.

Judy Liebo combined two very special images.

It is only recently that I felt that I understood my process well enough to adequately share it with others.

Laurie Carson with her best friend.

Laurie Carson with her best friend.

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Getting Rid of Those Unwanted Bumps

Lumps in the back tire

Lumps in the back tire

The recently finished Bike Boys crossed the finish line with some unwanted bumps and lumps. This was most prominent in the area around the bike tires.  Sewing in a circular motion, and some significant corrective stitching caused some stretching that made that part of the quilt pop up.  I needed a way to block the quilt.  Because of it’s size, roughly 4×6 feet, simply pressing it wasn’t sufficient.

Once again, it was an artist friend that came to the rescue.  Peggy, my dog sitter, and an accomplished  water color artist told me how she used to block her water color paintings.  She placed them face down on a piece of glass, sprayed the back with water, placed a second piece of glass over the top, weighted it down and waited for 2 or more weeks.

I was able to create a similar set up, large enough for my quilt, using a couple of large tables at the school where I teach.  Once school was out for the summer, I found an out of the way room with 2 large conference tables. I cleaned the tables thoroughly.  With a bit of help, I turned one table over and stacked it on the other with the quilt in between.  I did give the quilt a spritzing and a little extra moisture in the trouble spots, and walked away for 2 weeks.

I checked back in this week and, to my amazement, it worked!.  The piece will need to be handled with some care so as not to stretch it out of shape again.

Bike Boys

Bike Boys

 

In the future, I think I can repeat this process using the hardwood floor in my living room and a piece of Plexiglass.

Now, it’s time for me to go out for a run and try to get rid of some of my own unwanted lumps and bumps.

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