Category Archives: Portraits

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.

Also what plays into this problem is an unconscious fear. Fear that we will “not be good enough” at the task, afraid 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.

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!

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

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. I was taking the first step!

The quilt was done in various florals, some with a pale blue background and some with an off-white or cafe au lait colour and some with a pale blue or green. 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) and I wanted to do it on my own. 

I read the debate about prewashing your fabrics, or not, before making a quilt. Having already cut out a bunch of half square triangles (the whole quilt was the same). 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.  Which, although it felt awful at the time it turned out to be a bonus. Some of the fabrics shrunk a lot while others; being a better quality hardly shrunk at all.

So back to cutting pieces out!

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.

Several mystery quilts later I was feeling more confident and decided to just try it and see what happened.

I started sewing the seams (on an old Singer sewing machine with just a regular foot) and had no problems at all!

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?

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! 

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

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

I don’t always agree with instructors and may decide to do things my own way but I learn the basics and have a solid foundation for experimentation.

Take the time

Starting also ties in with taking the time. If we don’t set aside even a little time (even 15 minutes) for creating it doesn’t happen. So set aside some time for you and your art!

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.

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

I always 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! A topic for another day.

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!

Watch for the next post for those who have no problem starting but instead have a problem with finishing projects.

 

 

Enlarging a Photo and Printing it at Home

Resizing your Photo or Drawing and Printing it at Home. A Solution!

Have you wondered about enlarging a picture to print on multiple pages at home?

The Problem – Printing a Large Photo on a Home Printer

One of the big issues when teaching a portraits workshop is finding a way for students to easily resize and print their photos.

I have suggested a variety of options such as Block Poster (not really accurate enough for what we want to do), taking the photo to a printing shop or Staples. Or using a program such as Rapid Resizer.

I resize photos all the time for my portraits and use Rapid Resizer to enlarge and print them.  This is a great program and I will continue to use it. 

But I wanted to find a simpler, cost-effective solution for my students!

The Solution – MS Paint

Recently I was at a Fibre Art Network Conference and had a wonderful time catching up with other members. A big part of the conference is sharing information. 

Terry Aske mentioned that she uses a program called Microsoft Paint for enlarging and printing her patterns. Paint is a program that comes pre-installed on Windows computers.

Eureka! Problem solved!

Terry was kind enough to send me the instructions that she gives to her students. I have taken them and added detail and photos to make it super easy to follow along.

 

Step by Step Instructions – for Enlarging a Photo in Paint and Printing it on your Own Printer

The program Paint is found under:

 Start Menu: All Programs: Accessories in Windows 2007
and under Windows Accessories in 2010
.

The icon looks like this:

Paint palette and paint brush

  1. Open your photo in Paint by clicking on the file icon arrow in the upper left and choosing “Open”.

 

 

 

 

 

 

  2. Browse to where your photo is on your computer, select the photo and then click “Open”.

  3. Open “Properties” by clicking on the file icon (in the upper left corner) and selecting “Properties” to see the current size of your photo

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

4. Click on the circle next to “Inches“. It will be black when you click on it.

5.  Note the size of the photo shown in the boxes. The key measurement for portraits is the height. Changing the height will resize the rest of the photo.

Close Properties.

Paint - properties

Properties screen

 

 

The Process for Resizing your Photo

6. Determine what size you want your full-size photo or drawing and thus how much you need to enlarge the photo (percentage). The current size of your photo is 100%.

So if your photo is now 6” H and you want it 18” H, you would set the percentage increase at 300% (18 divided by 6 =3) and 3 x 100, so the photo would be enlarged by 300%.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

7. Next, click the file icon again and select “Print” – “Page Setup”. 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

8. Check that you have set the “Orientation” for the direction you want – either Portrait or Landscape.

9. Find “Scaling” in the lower right and then click on “Adjust to” and enter the percentage for enlarging. Click OK.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The orientation for the above photo is “portrait”.

Choose “Adjust To”

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Printing

10. Click on the file icon and select “Print” – “Print Preview”

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

11. Look at the enlarged photo or drawing and check that it isn’t too pixelated to use. You can also see how many pages will print by counting the pages that you view (click on the down arrow repeatedly).

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

12. To print: select “Print” and choose the size of paper that you want to use (letter or legal). You can usually find this setting under “Preferences” and then click on Print.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Assembling the Photo

13. Lay out the printed pages and number them in the order that you want them.

14. Trim the borders, allowing some overlap for the adjacent page(s) and tape them together in order.

I have presented here a simple way to enlarge and print your photos or patterns at home on your own printer. I would love to hear what you think about this idea and what solutions you may have found.  Leave a reply below!

I look forward to hearing from you!

How to Create Facial Expressions in Portraits

How do you come up with the best facial expressions in a portrait?

Here is a new way of creating faces that will make it easier for you to get a good likeness in your portrait.

In the past, I traced the contours of the faces from the enlarged photos and then determined the values. I proceeded from there by creating the face out of fabric. I found that I wasn’t always totally happy with the results, particularly if I had too large a section of highlight.

Photo showing the tracing of a boy's facial expressions.

Tracing of boy’s face

New Method for Faces

So, what to do? I started in the same way by tracing the face, but then photocopied and printed the traced image, so that I had a copy that I could alter without changing the original.

 

Photo showing the photocopied tracing of a face (facial Expressions) that has been adjusted for the values.

Photocopied and adjusted.

I shaded in the face based on the values that I wanted and then checked to see whether I liked the result. You can see the numbers that I use for referencing the different values. The only problem with this method is that the photocopy doesn’t erase like a pencil drawing would. You can see the White Out that I used to remove some of the lines.

This is the second face that I did with this method:

A boy's face (facial expressions) showing the shading for a portrait.

Boy’s face 2

Once I have what I think is the best result, I lay the tracing, as seen above, back over the photocopy and adjust the lines on my original tracing. I use this traced image for the placement of the fabric pieces.

The Finished Face

And here is the result in fabric:

Boy's face recreated in fabric.

Boy’s face recreated in fabric.

I really like this method as I readily notice any odd lines, or shapes, and can double check the values that I have selected before I start cutting up the fabric.

These boy’s faces were difficult to create. The original photo had all the boys looking into the sun and their eyes were all squinty and the faces were somewhat overexposed. This is the time when a good book on sketching comes in handy. I am currently using “The Big Book of Realistic Drawing Secrets – Easy Techniques for Drawing People, Animals and More” by Carrie Stuart Parks & Rick Parks. It has really clear visuals for sketching and is a great reference for facial expressions.

Comments

What do you think of this method? Do you sketch your pictures first? What is your favourite reference book?

 

She’s a Cutie! My Latest Portrait Quilt Completed.

A little girl hoding a colourful sand pail stands on a beach.

Summer Fun Quilted

I have finished my latest portrait quilt, the little girl at the beach, and decided to call the quilt “Summer Fun”. She has turned out to be quite cute! I love her sparkly blue eyes and her sweet smile.

Close-up of girl's face

Detail of Summer Fun

Now I have to decide what the next one will be. I have two pictures that I am considering. One is a little girl sitting on a porch, and another is one of three boys in hockey uniforms, circa 1934. Subscribe to my blog, and find out what is next!

 

Gallery News

“Summer Fun” and a number of my other quilts are currently hanging in the Blankstein Gallery, on the second floor of the Millennium Library in downtown Winnipeg, MB. Here are a couple of photos of the preparations for hanging the show and a few of the quilts.

Laying out the quilts

Laying out the quilts

First we laid out the quilts on the floor, to decide the order in which they would hang. My husband was wonderful as a helper. Here he is putting a hanging rod in one of the quilts:

Getting the hangers ready

Getting the hangers ready

The next step was to actually get the quilts hung. It took us 2 1/2 hours to get it all done! It went faster after the first two, when we had figured out the easiest way to hang them. Here are some of the quilts on exhibit:

Vintage Portraits

Vintage Portraits

Nature's Glory

Nature’s Glory

And here is the view in to the gallery from the library:

 

View from the entrance of the Gallery

View from the entrance of the Gallery

It was wonderful to see them all hung. I hope that if you are in the area you can check it out! The gallery is open during library hours . The exhibit runs from August 3 – 30, 2015.

From Ugly Duckling to Swan

After I posted my progress on the little girl in the sunsuit, I decided she was in fact rather an “ugly duckling”.

I spent a couple of days, filled with angst before I figured out what was wrong.

Then came a number of changes to her face, hair and her eyes (I straightened them) and I like the result.

Part of the problem was the lack of eyebrows (see the previous post). Also, I felt that her hair looked too orange, so out came the Tsukineko inks.

I figured that if I hated the changes, I could always give her new hair. I am pleased to say that all worked out well! The new colour looks better and the highlights and shadows are in place.

She also now has feet and shoes which helps. Don’t you just love her strappy sandals?!

A little standing on a beach, holding a sand pail.

Girl in sunsuit revisited

I am now creating a beach scene in the background, complete with a sand castle!  So far, I only have a piece of paper standing in for the sand castle, as a prop, to see how it will fit into the scene.

I didn’t have a fabric that I liked for the water, so I painted some white fabric with Setacolor transparent paint. I love the look of the rolling waves. 

A small island in the distance helps with perspective and I have pinned a piece of multicolour fabric in place, as a test, to see if I like it for the sand pail.

If this piece is like any of my other works in progress, it will undergo several more changes before its final look.

Do you go with the flow when you are working on a piece, or do you have a plan and stick to it?

I would love to hear your thoughts on this subject. Please comment.

Exhibition Update

Well, I didn’t get them all sewn down before I left for Quilt Canada, but I was happy with what I had done. I knew, that I only had a few more pieces of fabric to sew down, once I got back home.

The plan is to get these guy done by mid-June, for my solo exhibition, so I have to concentrate and work hard!

4-Kids-done---no-background

The kids were cut off the backing that I had used – in this case, stabilizer. I will never use this again as it is too stiff, and wrinkles badly. Lesson learned! I was able to cut some of it away but left the rest in place.

The kids were then placed on the background that I created.

Kids-with-sleigh-and-trees-

I found a lovely fabric, at a local quilt shop, that looked to me a lot like falling snow. Wonderful for the sky! 

The trees I had painted were appliqued to the background. I played with positioning them as I wanted them to act as a frame for the kids on the sleigh.

Then on to sewing everything down. It always surprises me how long it takes. Why I don’t know, as I have done this many times. Maybe wishful thinking that it will be faster this time!

As seen below this piece had more snow added and further detail on the faces.

Kids-with-sleigh-and-snow

The next step is the quilting. First, the detail quilting the boys, and then on to the background.

I always have a hard time coming up with names for my art. Is this a problem for you too?

I am trying to think of a name for this quilt. Perhaps the Four Musketeers. What do you think? What name would you give this piece? Can you help me out? I would love it if you would!

Last minute changes

Based on a comment by a reader – Thanks Marg – I added further detail to the eyes of the boy at the front of the sleigh. My husband says “he is now looking at you and not staring”. Check it out below:

Eyes on boy at front of sleigh have added detail.

Eyes on the boy in front of sleigh have added detail.

I like the change!

Portraits Class

A recent class on Portraits was a lot of fun, and the students did some really great work!

Class members at work.

They were a quiet group, as they were concentrating hard!

They started by making a tracing of their enlarged photos. The tracing is shown here used as the overlay, for help in positioning the pieces of the portrait.

Adeline's tracing

Adeline adding small pieces of fabric for the face.They then progressed to adding small pieces of fabric, like a jigsaw puzzle, to a base fabric. Adeline was doing a portrait of her grandfather.

Adeline's grandfather finished

Adeline found some great fabric, that mimicked the 70`s print, that was in her grandfather’s shirt in the original photo. Her portrait looks great now, but will look even better, when the final details are added with the stitching!

Ricky had some initial problems with values in her fabrics:

Ricky working on portrait

But was able to overcome these early problems to create a good likeness of her husband:

Rickys portrait of her husband

Of course, this portrait is still in progress. Here Ricky was auditioning fabric for his hair.

Helen chose a photo of a friend, who had been in a Passion play with her. Although, the fabrics that she had brought to work with were a little on the green side, they made for a dramatic portrait.

Helen's start

Here is Helen hard at work:

Helen at work

The face done:

Helen's man

Adeline said that she had had a lot of fun and learned a lot. I can hardly wait to see the completed portraits!

 

Flowers, leaves and ribbons in free motion quilting.

Portrait of a Grand Lady

This woman is the subject of  my latest portrait, painted in fabric. I loved the photo of this woman as she looked so regal, and had just a hint of a smile.A lady wearing a lacy gown.

I decided that she needed a rich colour for her dress; and chose a deep burgundy fabric that I had hand-dyed.

It took a lot of searching to get the lace for her dress. I wanted a good quality lace in white, and  a large enough size to fill the bodice area. I  ended up using two pieces of lace for the front of her dress, to get the look that I wanted.

I glued the lace on using tiny drops of fabric glue to get it to stay in place, until I could sew the edges.

Detail shot of a ladies portrait in fabric.

Close-up of Milady

I debated what motif to use for the background as I wanted a vintage look. A friend Julia, from New Zealand, suggested trying to use the motifs from the lace.

It worked out really well, with a few ideas from a fabulous book called Doodle Quilting by Cheryl Malkowski. This is a great book for learning how to start free motion quilting and then how to combine different motifs. You can find the book here.

 

Flowers, leaves and ribbons in free motion quilting.

Floral free motion quilted background

I stitched this lady’s hair extensively as I wanted the upswept look and the little wisps sticking out.

This is the final result:

Portrait of a lady circa 1900 in a lacy ball gown.

Milady finished!

 

I am now on to my next portrait. Another portrait of a lady. This one in a white debutante gown. I’m not sure about doing a white dress, but I will give it my best shot!

 

 

 

 

Stepping Out – my latest portrait

My latest portrait is done! This little girl looks as though she has just started walking, and is delighted to be able to get around on her own.

I was thrilled to have it finished! The next thing then was to decide on a title for this portrait. I have a difficult time naming quilts. Do you? My husband suggested “Spokesperson”.  Funny, but no.  After some deliberation, I finally decided on “Stepping Out”.

Wilson_Valerie_Stepping-_Ou

 

I did some research on the car, to try and date the photo. I love researching the details! It helps to bring the person, and the piece, to life. I found out that this car was probably a 1920 – 30’s car.

Then at a recent vintage car show in Selkirk, MB I found a 1925 model, beautifully restored! I was thrilled! I took several photos and used these to help with some of the details that were “flashed out” in the original photo.

 

Vintage 1925 car

Vintage 1925 car

 

One major part of this quilt was done twice, to get the look that I wanted. I redid the entire car as I decided that, although looking great, it was too bright in relationship to the little girl. I wanted the girl to be the focus, not the car.

Little girl with vintage car

Stepping Out – first attempt

I find that I always resist changing anything, as I see all the work that needs to be done again. I try to talk myself out of changing anything. So I go away for a break, and as soon as I get back, I look at the portrait. If something is still bugging me, I resolve to change it. I am always happier with the result in the end. I then take a deep breath, and just start.

Have you ever had to redo part of your quilt? How did you meet the challenge? Do you have any advice for people facing the same situation?