Tuesday, June 18, 2013

Snowy Meadow

I just realized that it has been over 2 months since I posted last.  Not intended, but I have been busy and not inclined to write.

I have been taking an assortment of courses in quilting and in knitting on Craftsy.  I really like this approach – the courses are not more than 40$, often on sale and some great ones are free.  They are available forever and you can ask questions.

One course that I have gotten a LOT out of is Annette Kennedy’s Painting Pictorial Quilts.  I had been painting fabric ala Mickey Lawler Skydyes, but I wanted to do more with paint.  Granted, there are some quilters out there like Pat Durbin and Susan Brubaker Knapp who paint wholecloth and then embellish with thread, etc.  I don’t quite want to go that far, but I definitely can see using paint for shadows and highlights to create more depth and details that thread might not do as well or the way I want it to.

Probably the biggest thing I got out of the course is understanding acrylic paints and how to use them on fabric.   Fabric paint is formulated to bond to fabric threads.  Normally you thin them with water which allows them to spread and mix.  However, that’s the last thing you want to happen when using it to enhance details, etc.  You need to be able to control where it goes as well as its strength.  For that you use floating medium.  It’s a gel that allows you to control where the paint goes.  It increases drying time as well.  Afterwards you heat set it like any other fabric paint.  The nice thing, even if you aren’t using transparent paints, you can make opaques semi-transparent through the use of floating medium.  

Ann’s basic approach to mixing is to first mix the basic hue full strength in one of the divots of a mixing plate.  Then put a small glob of medium in another divot and quite a bit more into another and even more in a third.  Use a palette knife to add small amounts of the full strength paint to the three.  That way you get dark, medium and light tints of the same “mother color”.  Try them out on a scrap piece of fabric until you have what you want.  You may need more medium or more paint. You need to see these dry, so a hair dryer makes this happen quicker.  You never use white to lighten – just the medium.  If you need a shade or a tone, then you have to add black or gray up front before adding the medium.

You don’t have to use acrylics specifically designed for fabric.  Textile medium works like floating medium but additionally makes any acrylic bond to fabric.  I used to do Bauernmalerei (tole painting) and have a large collection of acrylics, which I can now also use on my quilts with textile medium.  Both floating medium and textile medium can be found at craft and art stores.

There are water soluble oil crayons. Some, like Neocolor, are really expensive, but Crayola makes  great ones in their Portfolio series that work equally well and are far cheaper and more widely available.  Your options are to draw on the area and then spread it out with float or textile medium or to add the color onto the palette plate and then mix in the medium.

All this information came at an opportune time, because I had started another project based on an article written by Martha Ginn for American Quilter magazine about Ghost Quilting.  Unfortunately, I decided to use a dark background (her examples are all light background) and nothing was working for me.  With the acrylic paints and textile medium I was able to finish Water Iris.  I fused a small piece of fabric not quite centered onto the dark background fabric.  Then I painted in the flowers beyond this margin.  I also outlined quilted other elements as well.

Water Iris 18 by 24 inches

I completed the two projects in Ann's Craftsy course: Calla Lily and Desert Trail.  

 The original desert trail design had a paved road, but I opted to convert that into a trail or jeep track and add Joshua trees.

Next, I signed up for Gloria Loughman’s Linear Landscape Quilts at Craftsy.  The use of a background fabric over which is fused the main color to create the contour lines attracted me.  Rather than doing the provided project, I thought the photo taken by my friend Kyle Funke was sufficiently similar and let me do my own work.  I learn more that way.

When I had finished the basic assembly, which uses very little quilting, I decided I wanted to do more with this quilt.  I added a tree to the foreground and created and enhanced bushes, fine branches and the like with thread sketching.  Then I decided to try using paint to add more detail and depth.  This really worked well and I am very pleased with the results.

Snowy Meadow - 22 by 16.5 inches
I am particularly happy that I could combine what I have been learning in several courses (including ones not on Craftsy like Ellen Lindner).  

Then I was approached by Craftsy to be featured in their blog.  Wow, that’s a huge ego-hug, if ever.  I am so touched by the very positive response this quilt has generated – thank you, all!  At this point, it’s going into a quilt show this week – wish me luck!

I think I am finally finding the collection of techniques and tools I need to create the type of art quilt I want to make.  I now plan on refining my skills with a series of smaller quilts based on flowers.  I am going through my pictures to pick out the first ones to try.  I’ll keep you posted.