Thursday, March 30, 2017

I Want to Learn...

This week has just slipped by me, with no progress in creative endeavors.  That means it is time for a top five list, just to get something on this blog!

Five embellishing techniques that I want to learn next:

1. Discharge "dyeing"
2. Foil transfer
3. Devore (Fiber Etch)
4. Thread Painting
5. Image transfers, other than printing directly on fabric through my inkjet printer.

Bluets in my lawn this week, yeah!

Wednesday, March 22, 2017

Another Children's Book Illustrator

Today, I’d like to take a look at the illustrations of Ed Emberley.  I discovered Ed Emberely’s Drawing Book: Make a World (Little, Brown and Company, 1972) when I was a bit older than the book’s intended age target, but I remember being charmed by the multitude of things he drew with just a few simple shapes and lines.  As I have been seeking ways to get people to not be intimidated by drawing, I recently purchased my own copy of Make a World

His drawings are in the realm of stick figures, however, he shows how to put lines and shapes together to make many recognizable things.  The animals, buildings and objects show how one can abstract something to a simple form without losing the identity.  Textile artists, think applique or free motion quilting here.  If you can get a copy of Make a World, study it for the breakdown of forms to their bare essentials, then try making your own near-abstract creations of everyday objects.  Draw them, or cut pieces of colored paper.  Isn’t it fun to be a kid again?

Here is a free-motion thread sketch of a train that I did in Emberley’s style.
copyright RPS, please do not copy or repost 

I made some changes from Emberley’s instructions, I didn’t like the look of his caboose at all, and my coal car is quite different too.  Had I not been running late with this post, I would have looked at some pictures of real trains to get the images I wanted.  Then, I added color to my quilted train:
copyright RPS, please do not copy or repost 

If you want to make your own folk-inspired or applique designs, take a good look at Emberley’s drawings.

Saturday, March 18, 2017

Children's Book Illustrators, Again

One of my all-time favorite books as a youngster was Anno’s Journey by Mitsumasa Anno (original U.S. edition, William Collins Publishers, 1978).  As much as I loved to read from an early age, Anno’s Journey has no text, only ink and watercolor landscapes that trace a traveler’s path across Europe of an undetermined historic time.  Anno’s drawings consist of very simple ink outlines, augmented by watercolor wash.  (Take a look at examples here and here.)  They are simple and complex all at the same time.  His buildings are a delight of textures, while his people and animals are outlines unencumbered by shading for depth.  There really isn’t room for too much detail in his figures, as they are very small in his vast land and cityscapes.  The color in his illustrations is typically understated –mostly muted tones.

Image copyright RPS. Please do not copy or repost
My first attempt at a free motion drawing inspired by Anno.

As a child, I missed Anno’s Flea Market (first U.S. edition Philomel Books, 1984), but I have been studying a copy of it, and I think I love it more than the Journey.  Another wordless tale, this flea market unfolds over the pages, set within the walls of a medieval fort/city/castle.  The place and time that this flea market takes place is ambiguous, and the ages of the items don’t give any clues, nor does the dress of the people in the market.  What I find most fascinating in Anno’s drawings of the flea market is the way he ignores perspective and scale to show the viewer all that is happening.  The vendors’ table tops are tilted to nearly vertical so that Anno’s economical line drawings of the items may be viewed.  The items themselves are drawn out of scale; hand tools as tall as the people, garlic bulbs as big as the figures’ heads, and so on.  The skewed scale and perspective really doesn’t matter here, as there is so much going on in his story illustrations.  Here and there, you will find somewhat sinister things going on at this flea market – a man with a trumpet on his head, an artist painting a busty rendition of a flat chested model, and Kermit the Frog makes an unexpected appearance! 

Image copyright RPS. Please do not copy or repost
The same quilted piece from above, with colored pencil added. 
Next time, I would add a stabilizer under the top fabric. 
Colored pencil does not adhere well to stretchy fabric.

What I take as an art quilter from Anno is his use of line, his mastery of storytelling without words, and his inclusion of unexpected surprises.  After looking at these two books, some free motion quilting exercises came to mind.  First, try “drawing” outlines of everyday objects by free motioning.  This is a great way to improve you hand-eye coordination.  Next, try creating a simple line landscape with a building in it.  How can you add texture to the land and structure with stitching?  Finally, what little details could you add to your art that would surprise the viewer?  What can you add that would make the viewer look longer at the piece?  

Tuesday, March 14, 2017

Return to the Purple Collage

No, I have not forgotten about the purple collage!
Image and design copyright RPS.  Please do not copy or repost

This is just another example of how art simply doesn't happen suddenly.  I had to set this piece aside for awhile to figure out how to proceed with it.  Since I'm not following a pattern or even conventional quilting techniques, I encounter frequent problems, especially many "what-do-I-do next" moments.  I still do not know if this piece will turn out OK in the end.  It is going through an "awkward teenager" phase now and  hope that it will look better with some more embellishing.

I think that I now need to attach the top, still unfinished, to a three layer quilt base that I have made, slightly smaller than the collage top, so that the edges of the collage extend beyond the base.  The base (below) is a lightly quilted and pillowcase bound piece made from plain Kona cotton and a piece of ice dyed flannel that didn't turn out well.  The flannel will be hidden once the collage is attached.
Image copyright RPS.  Please do not copy or repost

I am going to free motion quilt random loopy shapes in the negative spaces of the collage.  I am still pondering how to stitch the edges, since I cannot see where the base edges are if I am quilting the whole thing face up.  What have I gotten myself into?

In between this purple monster and a challenge project, I am working on some free motion quilting examples influenced by two more of my favorite children's book illustrators.  Check back in a couple of days for the results!

Thursday, March 9, 2017

Influences and Essentials

One of the books on art journaling that I have from the library (Alphabetica by Lynne Perrella) has an interesting feature. The author profiles fourteen artists who journal and part of each profile includes each artists' ten studio essentials and ten influences.  I thought I would come up with my own list of ten.  It is not easy to rank a top ten - I have more than ten each of essentials and influences.  So, the lists I present today could be different on another day!  Some of my selections would always make the list, others are subject to my whims.  Of course, the selections are in no particular order.

Studio Essentials:
1. vintage Sewing Machines
2. ephemera
3. Procion dyes
4. fancy embroidery threads
5. variegated machine and hand sewing threads
6. fusible interfacing
7. vintage damasks for dyeing
8. a variety of different fabrics
9. funky yarns and lace trims
10. my personal library of books, magazines and articles

1. Joseph Cornell
2. Viktor Schreckengost
3. nature
4. Tom Waits
5. Heather Thomas
6. Stuart Davis
7. Robert Rauschenberg
8. Kurt Schwitters
9. classical music
10. my mother

Tuesday, March 7, 2017

Considering Children's Book Illustrators

I’ve mentioned before that I have been sporadically completing the exercises in the Art Quilt Workbook by Jane Davila and Elin Waterston (C&T Publishing, 2007).  One on the things that I appreciate about this book is the short list in each chapter of “artists to study” whose works relate to the lesson in the chapter.  The artists are mostly well-known and easily researched names.  No matter what art medium you are exploring, you cannot get away from looking at the work of other artists and learning from them.  Art history constantly builds on what came before.  College art students often get assignments to copy a painting hanging in a museum to learn multiple techniques.  One word of caution, it is always prudent to respect copyright, artists at any level need to be familiar with copyright laws.  Check your local library for a selection of good resources on copyright, and you could always try to wade through the essential source for copyright, the U.S. Copyright Office  

There are other artists to consider aside from the usual suspects of art history.  At my day job, I spent some time recently shelf reading the children’s books.  I have re-discovered some personal childhood favorite illustrators and found some new ones that are worth study for applying to my own art adventures.  Of course, I cannot insert images of these illustrators’ work here, but I encourage you to investigate them further. 

First, consider the collage illustrations of Lois Ehlert (Lots of Spots, Boo to You, etc.) and Eric Carle (Pancakes, Pancakes, The Very Hungry Caterpillar, etc.).  Ehlert creates images from layers of paper shapes accented with cut-outs and tiny paper bits.  Carle creates his collage illustrations from shapes cut out of painted papers, then adds detail with more paint and crayon lines.  If you want to create representational images from fabric using applique, take a look at these two.  The two small quilts below are what I created for the chapter two and three exercises in The Art Quilt Workbook.  These were done before I rediscovered Ehlert and Carle, but they make my point nicely; I certainly could have had the two illustrators in mind when I made the quilts.  The carrots and squash were created by fusing fabric cut into the desired shapes, then detailed with hand or machine stitching, similar to Ehlert’s and Carle’s techniques with paper.
Images copyright RPS, please do not copy or repost

On a bit of an aside, I highly recommend giving the children in your life a copy of Carle’s Pancakes, Pancakes for the message it contains about what it takes to make something. 

I’ll have something different on Thursday, next week I will look at another illustrator, hopefully with a quilted example that applies what I see in the art.  I’ve got to get busy!