Michael Fuller wrote me yesterday
“Go with the detail and time consuming fussiness. It’ll be superior to the photo copy model….”
‘OK,’ I though to myself, ‘I’ll give it a try.”
That’s where I started today – I began by printing out the black and white outlined image of Brian, the figure on the left, on some Heat ‘n Bond printing paper in order to use the outlines as templates for the fabric – BUT, here’s a glitch: the technique requires a ton of cutting with small fine scissors and for the last six weeks my arthritic right thumb isn’t working – the muscles to “open” the scissors are too weak to let me cut with any precision.
I decided to try fighting through that problem but a second issue presented itself: I cut out the entire jacket in a light fabric intending to use that as the base and building toward the darker tonal qualities until I had the jacket assembled. I fused some Heat ‘n Bond to the wrong side of my lightest fabric, cut out the overall jacket shape – that worked out OK, but when I started to build the left sleeve it became immediately obvious the slight differences in weight of fabric (although all quilting cottons) was going to create an imbalance and because each tiny piece of the puzzle is so small I would be left with a slightly fraying “raw” edge in spite of the fact that I’ve fused some Heat ‘n Bond to the wrong side of each small piece before cutting it out.
Detail of Figures
The final thing that was obvious was how “lifeless” the construction would be. The very subtle differences in shade intensity wasn’t achievable with the fabrics I have.
I gave up after about an hour of finicky cutting and fusing and decided to use the fabric photo images after all and fused them to the background.
What I will do tomorrow is begin the process of edge stitching each figure and then stitching in the colour/shading boundaries. That is also fussy work but my wonky right hand doesn’t interfere with being able to do careful machine stitching.
Pilots: Printed on fabric, laid on background
Here’s the question – I’ve been looking at the art piece and wondering how might it look if I printed the figures on fabric, fussy cut them and fused them to the scene instead of trying to create them (shadows and all) from different fabrics?
Here’s the detail, right? Lots of little pieces to be very fussy cut and fused to a base fabric – very time consuming. Doing the appliqué work will also be time consuming because I will want to stitch in all those colour demarcations, but what I get is a more realistic look to the figures which are the focus of the piece.
All I’ve done so far is print each pilot on EQ Printables Fusible Fabric and carefully cut each. I haven’t yet fused them to the background. The way we see the sun on their clothing gives the viewer a sense of the light – some brightness but not full sunshine. I can’t achieve that through piecing, even if I’m extremely careful with fabric selection.
I guess what I have to do is try one of the guys and see how he turns out – maybe Brian (the one on the left). Whichever way I do this, I think it makes sense to refrain from filling in the grasses/shrubs until after I’ve got the figures in place, that way I can build up the grass around their shoes as I go along and not as an afterthought.
In case you hadn’t noticed – this fabric wall art requires a gazillion decisions and unlike oil/acrylic painting there’s no going back – you have to live with whatever decision you choose to execute.
Wind Waiting – Foreground, Sea, Sky…
This morning I painted the fabric for sea, land across the bay and sky. I will accentuate the grey tone using a pale grey thread for the thread painting. The sky has come out a hazy, cloudy day. The sea is also greyish. The foreground is likely too wide, will have to try masking an inch or two to see how that looks. It will get thread painted with golden, brown threads in short vertical stitching to simulate the grass at the top of the bank.
Still using my paper cutouts of the three men.
Next step is to set a fusible stabilizer to the four background pieces and fuse them in turn on the muslin. Once that is done, I will work at the thread painting – it will take a couple of days, I’m sure.
To paint the fabric I used a mixture of a small amount of medium blue, pale yellow and strong red acrylic paint to create a muddy grey, added white to lighten it, then a bit of a darker blue to bring the mixture to a bluer grey. I wet the turquoise/white fabric for the sea then spread the paint on it using horizontal strokes with a wide sponge brush. Next I wet the solid white fabric and applied a very diluted wash of the same paint I used for the sea. The coast across the bay is a thin strip of grey fabric with a subtle print (crackle) – I used a bit of the same wash as the sea to end up with subtle hint of blue to help it blend with the sea and sky.
I laid the wet pieces of fabric on a layer of newsprint topped with paper towel to get rid of the excess paint, then hung them to dry using pants hangers in my laundry room. Turned on the fan I keep in that room and the painted fabric was dried within a short while. I press it and then laid each piece on the muslin. I’ve played with proportions trying to keep the horizon off the center line and have moved the men around so the central figure will also be slightly off the vertical midline. In my original photo the men are standing equidistant but I’m going to position the two figures on the right a bit closer together with the one on the left just a bit further to the left – that will affect the vertical positioning and draw the eye away from the center line.
So on to the next step – fusing the background fabrics to the muslin. Actually, I will first have to fuse the muslin to a stiff, heavyish stabilizer just so I have some heft to work with when I go to thread paint.
Background Fabrics Fused in Place
Now to the thread painting.
The detail stitch work is done. Today I worked on the asparagus field; it turned out to be easier to do than I thought it would be – I think the practice I did yesterday definitely helped. I also picked out the stitching for the small shrub beside the front door, and replaced it with something more recognizable as a small evergreen tree. I also added a few small evergreens just behind the house to provide a bit more Interest to the skyline.
Now I have to figure out how to “frame” the piece – I think I’m going to add a 2 1/2″ “frame” with piping on the inside edge (using the batik fabric I used as the underlay for the asparagus field). That’s for tomorrow.
Have I ever learned a lot about how to think about an art quilt piece. Some aspects of this quilt were done out of order – in part because Laurie was moving us along so we’d have the batting covered by the end of the workshop. I now realize the sky should have been tied down first – that would have avoided the big bubble in the sky fabric. The “woods” on the left were out of synch – the dark underlay should have been much less extensive so that the tree elements could have been positioned against the sky with sky showing through the trees. Also that would have allowed a more irregular skyline. The asparagus field in the foreground should not have been added until everything behind it was almost complete – I had to fight the free motion stitch work because the asparagus was already present.
Last, I came to realize in the beginning I was too tied to the tracing of the photo – this kind of art quilt needs a lot of improvisation. The original tracing is mainly to help set out the large areas of a piece – the details, however have to be invented as the work unfolds. It’s also clear that I need to carefully study a photo before I begin – just how carefully I didn’t appreciate before I began.
There will be one last photo once I complete the piece.