Valerie Wilson, Author at Valerie Wilson Fibre Artist

Author Archives: Valerie Wilson

Choosing a Photograph for a Fabric Portrait

Choosing a Photograph for a Fabric Portrait

When teaching a fabric portrait workshop, the question I get asked most often is “How can I know that I am choosing a good photograph to use for my portrait?” 

Choosing a photograph can be an easy process by paying attention to the following tips.

Use these tips for a stress-free experience!

 

1. Head and shoulders photograph

For someone starting out doing fabric portraits, it is best to start with a photo that shows only the head and shoulders of a subject.

This generally means that the photographer got closer to their subject and that you have a clearer, larger image to use.

This also means that it will be a manageable size for a first attempt

Portrait photo of a older woman. Fits with the text about a head and shoulders photo.

Head and Shoulders Photo

2. The lighting is balanced.

You want a photo that shows good light and dark areas (contrast) like this one:

Example of photo with good lighting. Fits with the text on lighting.

Even lighting

a. Avoid Photos where the lighting is Not balanced

If the lighting is too bright, it will be hard to distinguish the planes of the face and will make it very difficult to create a pattern for the portrait.

Here you can see that the detail on one side of the face is lost. 

Face overexposed in a photo.

Too bright

b. On the other hand, if the lighting is inadequate, the face will be all dark and it will again be hard to distinguish the correct values and the details of the features.

Underexposed photo of a man. Relevant to the text on lighting.

Too dark

 Lighting is insufficient. Photo is too dark.

 3. Copyright-free Photograph

You want to be sure that you have the right to use the photograph that you choose. 

The person in the photo has some say in how the photo is used and the photographer holds the copyright for the photo, particularly if it is one taken of a famous person.

Ask for permission to use a photo and get that permission stated in writing (emails are OK).

There are a number of free image sites that provide copyright-free photos.

Just be sure to check their rules of use.

Some sites for free photos are:

https://pixabay.com/ 

https://unsplash.com/

https://www.pexels.com/

 

4. Have a good quality photograph

size and quality matter

Since you will be enlarging the photo for your fabric portrait it is a good idea to choose a good quality photo in the beginning.

The best size to have is no smaller than 6″ x 8″ (15cm x 20cm), taking into account tip #1 above.

Or at least 1mb in size when scanned into the computer.

Small photos with a number of people in them generally do not enlarge well for a portrait.

As well, blurry photos make it difficult to accurately determine the outlines of the features and without this critical element; the resulting portrait will look distorted.

 

5. Choose a photo for your fabric portrait that tells a story

Choose a photo that intrigues you. You will find it more interesting to work on the portrait if it tells a story.

My method for choosing photos is to look at the expression on a face, the clothes and or/the stance of the person. The combination of these elements adds to the interest and appeal of the portrait.

For example:

You may want to create a portrait of a grandchild.

Do you have a photo that shows them doing something memorable?

If the photo is of a parent or spouse, is there one that shows them as you most like to think of them? 

Does it tell a story or create a mood?

These are all elements that add interest to a portrait.

Steam a Seam II Lite – Top 10 Tips for Success

Tackiness and Steam a Seam II Lite

1. Buy the Steam a Seam II Lite (Steam a Seam) on the roll – the sheets in the packages tend to not want to stick to the fabric.

2. Be sure to wash all fabric before using Steam a Seam.  It will stick to the fabric better.

3. If the Steam a Seam will not stick to a particular fabric, place the fusible on the back of the fabric with the release paper on the back.

ie. sandwich = fabric, then fusible with one paper removed (sticky side against the back of the fabric) and the other piece of release paper still in place.

Quickly run an iron over the fabric side of the sandwich. Check to see if the Steam a Seam is sticking to the fabric. If not, then repeat this procedure.

Be careful to not allow the iron to stay in one place too long or the fusible will melt and stick to the paper and the fabric and be a mess!

4. Use Wonderclips, or a similar product, instead of pins. Pins will get all gummy and will leave black glue dots on lighter fabrics!

wonder clip, binding clip

Fusing Steam a Seam II Lite

5. Use steam when fusing for effective fusing.

6. Fusing requires a lot of time (30 sec per section). If you have multiple layers it will take even longer. 

7. Be sure that the faceplate of your iron is clean. You don’t want black marks on your art!

Needles

8. If when you are stitching and your sewing machine needle gets too gummed up try going back to the fusing phase.

9. You can clean your sewing machine needle with rubbing alcohol. Put some on a piece of paper towel and rub the needle.

10. Use the right size needle for the thread that you are using. I tend to use finer threads 60 wt to 100wt). The advantage is that the finer needle size leaves smaller holes too.

 

 

 

What is holding you back?

Is there something holding you back from what you would like to do or try?

There are many things that can hold us back from achieving our desires.

One of the top ones is self doubt. If we think that we cannot do something we are right. Interestingly, though, is if we think that we can do something we are also right!

Mindset plays a huge part in what we can accomplish. If we think we can we are more likely to try and therefore to succeed. If you don’t try, you will never succeed and you will never get anywhere.

Sometimes we need to act “as if”.

As if we were an art quilter of fibre artist. The idea is to think about what someone like that would do to further their skills and take action accordingly.

A second factor

–  being a perfectionist. I struggle with this one. I had a father who would rip out half a sweater that he was knitting because of one tiny mistake (barely visible) he had made early on. It is very tough to try to live to that standard of perfection as it is unattainable and makes us miserable in its pursuit.

You are never able to appreciate what you have created but instead, see all the things you could/should have done differently.

I liked my Mother’s philosophy when she was teaching to wallpaper – yes, back in the days of wallpaper! She said that I needed to learn to fix mistakes, as it was inevitable that I would make some. A much more freeing idea! And one that I try to use to this day.

The third factor

–  “going it alone“. You search the internet for clues and follow a bunch of different people to see what they are doing and try to decipher it all by yourself.

This can work for some but it takes a lot of time and energy and it is a lot easier if you seek out a course or workshop for advice, tips and tricks and get support to learn something new.

As Margaret Burger said about my workshop Facial Expressions (everything you want to know about fabric faces):

“I wanted to learn how to do faces in fabric. I was looking all over the internet and could not find the specific way I would like to do it.

The live sessions in the workshop helped me to see that other people also struggle with the same issues.

I would recommend this workshop to anybody who is passionate about fabric and art. It put me on another level.

It helped me to realize that I can be an artist. I always wanted to be one! ”

Would you like to feel like an artist and create a fabric portrait of someone you love?

Check out my workshop Facial Expressions that starts January 27.

There are lots of great bonuses included:

  • The Eyes Have It mini-course
  • PDF on Choosing a Good Photo 
  • PDF on Accurate Shading of a Face

So act now as registration closes Friday, January 24 at midnight CST.

Fabric Portraits Workshop

Registration is now open for the online fabric portraits workshop – Facial Expressions.

Fabric portrait of a young boy by a student of the Facial Expressions Workshop

Student’s work from the Facial Expressions workshop.

Fabric portrait of a young woman by a student of the Facial Expressions Workshop

Student’s work

If you have been wanting to learn all about creating fabric portraits this is your chance!

This is an online workshop that you can do from the comfort of your own home.

Check it out here. 

I hope that you can join us!

 

 

Fibre Art – My Top 10 Picks on Facebook

           Listed in no particular order.

These are my favourite groups/pages that focus on art quilting/fibre art on Facebook and I encourage you to check them out: 

Groups:

1. Textile Fine Arts

 This group has some incredible fibre art posted on a regular basis. Wonderful eye candy!

  2.  Remade Fabric Collage Quilting

 Sandra Deprey’s group is low key and engaging. Learn different techniques and follow along with interesting challenges.

  3. Artful Quilting and Sewing  

 A great place for beginner art quilters/fibre artists to get started and show what they are working on.

 4. Fiber Arts/Mixed Media

 A great eclectic mix of fibre art and mixed media work.

 5. Collage Quilter

The mission of the Collage Quilter group is to provide a welcoming community for aspiring and experienced collage quilters. Our community enables learning, provides inspiration and promotes support of one another!

This is not a group that I have joined as yet but I know that a large number of people that I know follow it.

Pages:

6. Canadian Quilters Association

Promotes Canadian quilters and quilting in Canada. They have a comprehensive annual Canadian show that is scheduled in different cities across Canada.

Become a member, and you will receive 4 magazines a year jam-packed with quilting patterns, information, what is happening around the country, and much more!

7. Fibre Art Network

 The Fibre Art Network is a cooperative of Western Canadian fibre artists that have regular exhibits of their work and are an incredibly friendly, supportive group. This page features not only their art but other artists as well!

8. Walking Foot Quilting Designs

 Melissa Marginet shares her wonderful quilting designs based on the techniques from her book of the same name. She also posts photos of her latest quilt patterns as well.

9. Maggie Dillon

 Maggie does wonderful collage-style portraits and often shares her step by step photos of the process.

 10. Susan Carlson

 Another collage artist who creates gorgeous colourful quilts using her personal collage style.

 

          Check out these great groups/pages and enjoy the tour!

Let me know what you think of them.

Creating a Dynamic Fabric Portrait by Focusing on Value Challenge

Image of a fabric portrait of a little girl.

This is a FREE challenge to help quilters learn more about value in colour and how best to use value effectively when creating fabric portraits.

 

Do any (or all) of these describe you?

I want to know how to blend values.

I want to be able to determine value in fabrics.

I want to be able to select fabrics in the right values for a portrait.

I want to be able to to use shading to create dimension

 

Imagine for a moment what it would be like to:

  • easily identify value and choose fabrics effortlessly
  • know how to blend values
  • create depth and shading in a portrait

This can happen!

By putting into practice what I’ll be teaching in this challenge, you’ll see how easy this can be.

Learn what value can do to add dimension, realism and excitement to your art quilts!

Join the Challenge Now!

I look forward to seeing you there!

Val

Valerie Wilson Fibre Artist

P.S. Coming soon  – Facial Expressions workshop!

Starting September 16 so get on the waitlist now for the first chance at registration. 

What is it About Taking that First Step?

The biggest problem with starting something new is taking that first step. 

Often we get stuck because we don’t know where to start or what that first step should be.

Part of this problem is an underlying unconscious fear. Fear that we will not be good enough, fear of not being able to do it at all, or fear of the unknown. So we procrastinate and “it”, whatever “it” is, is never attempted.

Procrastination comes into play and we never start, often using the excuse that we don’t know where to start. This is fear of the unknown or of making a mistake. Our inner critic warns us not to try as it could have horrible consequences.

I see this with people who want to create fabric portraits. Many yearn to create one but are afraid to start. They worry that the portrait will not accurately enough represent the person, or that “they” will not like it or that they do not have enough skill to create a portrait.

They stop themselves before they even try!

This fear can also generate strong emotions.

Even though I am now aware of the problem, I find that when I want to try something new that is outside my usual experience I get flustered and uptight. Have you ever had that experience?

If you take time out for a few minutes, or maybe for an hour or two, to do something pleasurable you will find that the feeling subsides. The best thing to do is something with physical activity involved.

Recently for me that meant going to Staples for some envelopes I needed, getting a latte at Starbucks (it was yummy!) and buying some embroidery floss at Michael’s.

Let your mind work on the issue in the background and later you will find that you are relaxed and have decided on a first small step.

Great resource

There is an excellent book by Susan Jeffers called Feel the Fear and Do it Anyway. Susan explains that fear is a built-in natural reaction to what is new or strange. 

She explains how we can reeducate our minds to accept the fear as normal and learn how to expand our zone of comfort so that the fear does not control us.

Does researching your topic help?

Image by StockSnap from Pixabay

It can!

However, another aspect of this fear of starting and a way of dealing with it is to research your topic. This feels safer and you tell yourself that once you know “how to” you will proceed. This can be an excellent idea if you restrain the impulse to keep on researching looking for that final perfect, definitive answer.

The problem here is that you can get lost in the research and it becomes an end in itself or you get lost in contradictory advice which leads to analysis paralysis. The result is the same – inaction.

My Experience

Taking the first step

This happened to me when creating my first quilt. I had picked out a Kaffe Fassett design that I loved and was excited about making. Here I was taking the first step! Then I started shopping for and collecting fabrics which ultimately became a stalling manoeuver, as I continued to feel like I never had enough different fabrics to start. Sound familiar?

Researching

Eventually, I got past that hurdle. Then I made the mistake of researching. Remember this was my first quilt (so picture me nervous).

I read the debate about prewashing your fabrics, or not, before making a quilt. I was now worried about what would happen if I didn’t prewash the fabrics.

Time passed and I decided that I would wash them. Yes indeed, including the triangles that I had cut out! It was a fast way to find out the quality of the fabric that I was using.  Can you relate?

Then I read about how difficult bias edges are to stitch as they stretch. Now I was terrified to go further. What if I wrecked it! So on the shelf, it went.

Eventually, it came out of the closet and was sewn on a vintage Singer sewing machine. That quilt turned out to be exactly the size it was supposed to be. I was thrilled! That experience gave me a larger comfort zone and a belief in my own skills.

That quilt turned out to be exactly the size it was supposed to be. I was thrilled! That experience gave me a larger comfort zone and a belief in my own skills.

Kaffe Fa

 

Can you see how researching too much and getting information from random sources can lead to never starting or having too many problems along the way?

What to do?

  1. Just start! Decide on a first step and go.

 Take the first step is like a leap into the unknown, but you can do it! 

2. Give your self permission to make mistakes

Mistakes are a part of learning. The best advice that my mother ever gave me (when wallpapering together) was to plan ahead what to do when there was a mistake. It was inevitable that there would be mistakes. It took all the stress out of learning.

Resource: Here is an interesting discussion on the Role of Failure in your Art Practise by some artists on Alyson Stanfield’s blog.

I tell my students that if they don’t like something they are working on they don’t have to show it to anyone. They can just toss it and use it as a learning experience and try again.

On the other hand, sometimes it is great to get feedback on specific issues and find out that it isn’t so bad after all and may actually look really good to others.

We are our own worst critics! 

3. Seek guidance.

A guide can help you figure out those steps and support you along the journey.

Seek out knowledgeable people, take courses or workshops and get support when trying something new, so that you don’t have to struggle to figure it all out by yourself. 

You don’t always have to agree with instructors and may decide to do things you own way in time but you learn the basics and have a solid foundation for future experimentation.

Remember that every time you start something new and then work at it you build up your confidence and expand your comfort zone.

What stops you from starting? How do you deal with it? 

I would love to hear your thoughts on the subject!

 

 

 

Find the Time or Take the Time?

Antique watch

I keep hearing people say “If I could only find the time!”

Do we find the time or do we manage our time?

I have had a slump for a while in terms of creating my art by having allowed the business side of my art to take over.

That is when I came to the realization that to be more productive again, I needed to take control of my time again. Not find the time but take the time. A big difference!

Merriam Webster Dictionary defines “Take the time” as:

: to make an effort (to do something) : to attempt

Finding the time implies that there is a source out there somewhere that one needs to search for and has little control over. Taking the time gives back that control.

When I schedule my time and make my art a priority I get a lot done.

In my schedule, I allot time for my art, my business, relaxation, family and friends.

Once you prioritize your art, you have a clearer path. This has to be a conscious decision.  

If not, you will be busy all day and find out at bedtime that you have not left room for your art.

What to do? 

Schedule your art in the same way that you would schedule any other important task. 

I keep a somewhat loose schedule as I like to be able to take advantage of spontaneous occasions.

But I do now take time for creating my art. This is what fills me up and gives me great satisfaction.

If something comes up that I really think that I would enjoy I see how it fits in terms of everything else that is on my schedule. And determine what is the greater priority at that time.

Also, whether I would need to take time at another point in my day to make up for that change.

What are your thoughts on time? How do you manage your time? 

I would be most interested to know. Please comment!

 

Struggling with Learning a New Technique?

When I started out 9 years ago, I struggled to learn fabric portraits

My problems were identifying values, choosing fabrics and the thought of doing the stitching terrified me! My first portrait stayed in a drawer for a year before I decided I would risk stitching on it. 

I wished that there was someone out there who would give me support and help me with a step by step approach.

I did finally do the stitching on the portrait and was pleased with the result. My husband who was my guinea pig for this venture loved it and has it hanging in his office. 

I look at that portrait now and can see what I would do differently.

This is where the experience of trying new things gets you; whether it be meeting new people or trying a new technique. To a point where you can see what you would do differently and you do it to get better each time.

It is the ability to say to yourself “OK, I am going to try this…..” and then to allow yourself to take the risk that the first time may not be perfect. 

Perfection is over-rated! I have been a perfectionist most of my life. It sucks!  Only in the past few years have I developed an ability to look forward to challenges and trying new things.

This change has transformed my life! I now seek out new opportunities.but also, look for mentors that can help me with any struggles that I may have

Now I have sold my work, done commissions and shown my work in numerous shows.

Woman with art quilt of a man and his vintage motorcycle.

Artist Valerie Wilson and her art quilt – French Wonder.

Are you willing to try something new?

Take the leap! Give your self permission to try creating your first portrait.

The Facial Expressions workshop offers an in-depth look at fabric portraits and walks you through the steps one at a time with lots of feedback for whatever step you are on.

You can access the workshop on your own schedule and receive feedback and support through the private Facebook group where I am active on a daily basis.

The Live question and answer sessions will be scheduled on feedback from the students as to what times/days work best for them.

These Live sessions will be recorded and posted in the group so you can see them later if you have to miss one. 

And just in case you are wondering, you don’t need to know how to draw to take this workshop!

If you have wanted to try creating a fabric portrait there is not a better time than now!

Join us in the Facial Expressions workshop now!

If you haven’t already, join us in the Fabric Faces Facebook group where we have resources for and discuss all things relating to fabric portraits.

I hope to see you there!

Val

Visit me on Facebook 

Creating a Dynamic Fabric Portrait by Focusing on Value

Focusing on value is critical to a good result when creating a portrait, whether in paint, pencil or fabric.

When creating a realistic fabric portrait you need to have a good grasp of shadows and highlights. 

This is what is meant by value.

I have created a Free 5-day challenge on the topic of value and its use in fabric portraits.

Here’s what you will learn:

  • What a gray scale is and how this will help you to identify values.
  •  
  • How to distinguish between values so that you can choose fabrics for maximum effect.
  •  
  • The relativity of value or how one fabric can be several different values.
  •  
  • How a variety of values create depth and interest. 

And more…

 What would it be like to easily identify value and choose fabrics effortlessly?

What if you could create depth and shading in a portrait?

This can happen to you.

By putting in to practice what I’ll be teaching you in this challenge, you’ll see how easy this can be.

The challenge starts on Friday, April 26 so sign up now!

If you are interested in creating a fabric portrait in the future,  join the

Free 5-day challenge – Creating a Dynamic Fabric Portrait by Focusing on Value.