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Today I’m thinking about the coalescence of some ideas this week.  When speaking with the director of the place where my son with Down Syndrome works/lives, she commented that people with special needs tend to only be able to do 1 thing really well at a time.  I remember read a book on child development when my son was little that talked about “touch stones.”  The concept was that as little children are having developmental spurts learning to walk, or talk, or potty train, or grow their fine motor skills—whatever—they tend to backslide in other areas of their development.  If, say, a child was potty trained, and then started wetting himself again, it was important to look at other areas of his life: was there some new developmental milestone or touchstone?  I shared this with the director–she’d never heard this theory before, but it certainly fits with what she experiences with the adults in her facility.

From my Amazon wishlist, I received for Christmas

and am reading it now.  It’s a look at the fascinating condition of a very narrow area of brilliance in an otherwise (frequently) developmentally disabled person.  This can also happen after some kind of brain injury, and is usually limited to just certain skills—music, art, math, and calendar counting mostly.  This rare condition reveals an otherwise unknown extraordinary talent that cannot be explained.  It makes the scientists (and me) wonder if there is this “island of genius” inside all of us.

So, aside from that whole topic being interesting unto itself, it leads me to think about the 8 intelligences, another developmental/learning theory I learned about when my son was little.  From Wikipedia:

“Gardner argues that there is a wide range of cognitive abilities, and that there are only very weak correlations between these. For example, the theory predicts that a child who learns to multiply easily is not necessarily generally more intelligent than a child who has more difficulty on this task. The child who takes more time to master simple multiplication 1) may best learn to multiply through a different approach, 2) may excel in a field outside of mathematics, or 3) may even be looking at and understanding the multiplication process at a fundamentally deeper level, or perhaps as an entirely different process. Such a fundamentally deeper understanding can result in what looks like slowness and can hide a mathematical intelligence potentially higher than that of a child who quickly memorizes the multiplication table despite a less detailed understanding of the process of multiplication.”

Well, all this leads me around to my HSHB course and our FB group, which is the closest to heaven that I’ve ever been! There have been comments about every aspect of ourselves, but today I was particularly thinking/dreaming about the advice that we should try to do just a few things well. Many of us artsy-types want to try so many different ways to express ourselves, or think we SHOULD try other things, that we kind of scatter our energies and focus, diluting our own power. It’s not the trying that isn’t good, but trying to be really excellent at a lot of things, rather than letting them go, or asking for help only lessens our chance for success, when we think the opposite is the truth

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 Dad and Jack

I’ve documented my process here on my blog and it’s finally finished!


I used the dark blue from the bottom of the quilt on the back.
I put a rod pocket across the top and I added a couple of other special touches.  I added a pocket to hold the copy of the photograph.  I also added a label for the name of the quilt, my name and date, and that this quilt was a gift for my father’s 85th birthday.

I absolutely loved working on this project.  It was like a jigsaw puzzle—-I kept thinking “OK, I’ll just add this one more detail” before I could get out of my studio.

The fabric pieces were an interesting challenge.  I love using hand-dyed and batiks, with all kinds of variations in color and tone.  Finding just the right piece can be overwhelming, but having my fabrics sorted by shade to start with really helps.  I keep in mind that I will be doing some stitching where needed for extra detail.

And the stitching===it’s so meditative. I do free-motion stitching throughout.  Sometimes when I do these quilts I use fine clear thread, but on this piece I used colored thread, changing as I needed to.  I don’t worry about matching the fabric exactly—a little contrast adds interest.

I’m looking forward to doing more portraits and landscapes in fabric.  I think this may be a new direction for my business!

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DAD AND JACK:

This photo shows the background I chose. First I had chosen just the dark blue (at the bottom) but I realized the  figure was just floating in space. When I looked at the original photo, I saw the ground/sky line—EXACTLY what was missing in my picture!  So, I found in my stash a nice mottled light blue “sky”, and used the dark fabric for the ground.  I loved the angle of the ground in the photo, so I tried to emulate that in my picture.

 

 Here is my picture with the boarder on.  Using my color wheel, I found the triadic complementary colors for my red/orange (sepia) hues were red violet and teal. I seem to have an affinity for these three colors—I’ve discovered several projects from workshops where I used this exact same combination!

Anyway, I found this nice batik with all three shades in it, which I like very much.  Also notice that I let the dog’s tail come outside the frame.  It really helps bring the whole figure forward, I think. I’m not used to adding the border before I’ve even finished the picture, but it was necessary in this case so I could finish up the stitching on the tail. I really like doing it this way.

Here is a close-up of the face.  I was not happy with something about the face as it was. I realized I didn’t have the shadow on the forehead or along side the nose quite right before.  Here you can see I added a bit of fabric on the right side of the forehead and narrowed the shadow on the face so there is better definition of the cheekbone (it’s evident on the original photograph.)

I guess I could spend another week fiddling with little things—I’ve torn out other stitching, added more here and there—but this must be finished up today!  This isn’t perfect, but then neither am I!

I will post later about the back of the quilt.  I’m doing a couple of special things there, too!

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The previous posted ended with my decision on color for the figure of my dad (age 9) and his dog, Jack.  “Sepia” is what I’m calling it.  More thoughts on my color choice: I thought if I went with black and white, it would give the impression of an old photo, yes, but I didn’t want to be caught up in trying to exactly match all the shades of gray.  I know, it might be easier that way, but I guess I’m just too independent minded to take the easier route.  And I really think lifelike color could have made the whole thing too contemporary–my dad’s turning 85, the photo is 76 years old, I want my art quilt to tell that part of the story.  So, that’s that!

I had my pattern all traced on (taped together) tracing paper.  There are many ways to create the fabric pieces from this point. Some of the choices depend on just how exacting you want to be.  I rather like to allow myself to be “in-exact” as this is, after all, ART, not another photograph!

Creating an art quilt which has sewn edges is a whole other creature, which we’ll not get into today!  I’m doing raw edge applique.  I love fabric, I don’t mind my pieces looking like they’re made of fabric, and fabric is made of threads.  So, there are going to be some threads, or edges, evident.  In fact, I like to use those textural possibilities in my pictures!  This is Fiber Art!

One nice method for raw-edge applique is to use fusible webbing on the back of all the fabric pieces.  Steam-a-Seam is great, the pieces can be moved around before they’re ironed down for permanence.

My thought here was, I just didn’t want to be bothered with all the ironing of the Steam-a-Seam.  I’ve done this type of quilt before (tho never a portrait) and have used another method successfully.  I put my tissue pattern on my light box, anchoring it with some scotch tape on each side.  Then I placed my chosen fabric over the area and trace my piece’s shape directly on the right side of the fabric using a sharp pencil or very fine point pen.  This is quite easy, of course, on light colored fabric.  You can see, though, that I have quite a bit of dark fabric.  I still traced it this way.  I drew with a light gray chalk fabric marker (any light colored marking pen or pencil is fine.)  And I re-drew, darkly, pattern areas where I couldn’t really see my lines through the fabric.  I also flipped my fabric back frequently to double-check where my pattern lines were.  

Where the pattern areas were quite large (like the dog’s body, the boys’ coat) I used a couple of pins to anchor the fabric to the tissue.  You can also tape the fabric piece to the tissue, then carefully peel the tape away when you’re finished tracing.  I left those large pieces pinned to the pattern for quite some time as I worked on getting pieces cut.

Pieces have to be cut with consideration for overlap.  Edge-to-edge piecing can end up with lots of gaps.  Think about what piece laps over which and add a little (1/8″ to 1/4″) seam allowance in those areas for glue.

Some considerations about cutting the pieces:

 I use small, very sharp scissors (some Fiskars, actually).  It’s usually best to turn the fabric as you cut, rather than the scissors.  That way you keep your hand and scissors at about the same angle and can keep control and precision.

I’ve learned from experience that, though I think I’m drawing a fine line, it’s still best to focus on cutting on the outside of my drawn line.  It does make a tiny bit of difference, which can be a big difference when you’re putting it all together.

And it’s OK to re-cut a piece.  Give yourself permission to get it the way you want it. It’s not like you’re wasting a yard of fabric!  This all takes time, and it’s a bit tedious sometimes, so be patient with yourself.

After I cut a piece, I lay it right over my pattern to see if I’ve got it about right.  You can lay it under the pattern tissue as well (this works especially well for piece placement.)

You can see I started in the middle, with the dog’s body.  I’m not sure it matters exactly where you start, but starting with a large piece makes things a bit easier.

I did have to be careful, and re-do a bit, with regard to the dog’s nearly white body and all the darker fabric around it.  Sometimes I thought it would look nicer for the dog’s body to overlap another piece, but sometimes you could see through the white too much, so I had to make very small seam allowances, or change the lap.

 The way I attached my pieces to each other was with some watered down craft or fabric glue.  I pour a little out in a little plastic lid or something and use a toothpick to dab glue under the edges I want to glue to other pieces of fabric. I did not glue all this down to the tissue!  A bit did stick here and there, but I could easily pull it off.

To be quite honest here on my blog, I’m posting a couple of pictures of Dad’s face as I worked on it.  This was definitely the hardest part.  I had very small pieces to shape and place, and fabric choices were kind of difficult (though I find that part really fun!)

Here’s the face when I played with some fabric that had stones on it. I was using the wrong side for its subtler colors.  I liked how I could get the highlight on the tip of his nose and the shadow at the bridge of his nose.  However, it just wasn’t an improvement over what I’d done before. Kinda weird looking, actually.  🙂

Another change in this photo is the mouth.  Previously, I’d gotten the lips too dark and they looked too big (tho they were the right size according to the pattern.)  It all had to do with fabric choice.  This time, the upper lip is just a shadow, and the bottom lip is, well, there isn’t a bottom lip!  What I’ve done is just place a little piece of fabric that creates a pale shadow under his bottom lip, creating the effect that his lip is there.

There comes a time when I know I better leave well enough alone.  So this is it.  I did cut out some “whites” of his eyes and some little dark pupils.  They are not glued down–more just to play with.  I may use them, or I may paint or thread paint the pupils. Just don’t know yet. But overall, I’m satisfied.

So what I’ve created is a big applique piece that I’m going to put on a background piece, which is yet to be discovered!  When I get going on all the thread work (thread painting, quilting), this piece will really come to life!

Next post will have a background and some (if not all) stitching done.

Thanks for reading!

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Dad’s 85th birthday is coming up in a few days. I wanted to create something really special for him, something that he wouldn’t expect. I’ve had this photo of him at age 9 on my bookshelf for a long time. A couple of days ago I was finally inspired—-to create this photo as an art quilt!

I have begun the project and will chronicle it here. My first consideration was color. The photo is in black and white. I could copy this, but aside from not being very inspired, I don’t think it would reflect what I want it to. I want the piece to be interesting and reflect his long life. I
thought about doing it in life-like color, but I don’t know what color Dad’s hat and coat actually were. I have been looking at challenging myself by doing a monochromatic quilt, focusing on shade and tint, texture and line. I have decided to do the picture in sepia tones. This will give it an old-fashioned look, yet being a very contemporary style of art.
Next I had to enlarge this photo to a size I could manage. The original (something like 4X6″) is too small to replicate. I used my photocopier to enlarge it (in sections) 200%. The main figure itself is now about 24″ X 14″, so it will finish to
about 30″ tall. This will be manageable (I can finish it in 10 days) and large enough to be substantial (otherwise, why bother, right?)

The next step is to create a pattern. I have laid tracing paper on top of the enlargement and traced areas from
which to create fabric pieces. I kept in mind that I can’t have pieces too small to cut and place successfully. I also know that I will thread-paint details, so that will take care of some of the small issues.

Now……fabrics! I keep my fabric sorted by color, so it wasn’t too hard to pull out lots of shades of brown. I didn’t bother to research “sepia” to authenticate my color choices, instead I’m choosing shades and tints of yellow-orange. I’ve learned something about the importance of contrast to add interest to a piece, so I tried to find my very palest and very darkest pieces. I did discover that I have some browns that are more green-brown, and some are more gray-brown, so I tried to keep with the yellow and red-browns. I also got out a bit of solid black. There are a few prints with other colors in my piles….you never know, they might be interesting somewhere in the picture!

More to come……………..