Tuesday, April 7, 2015

Sharee Dawn's !2' X 12" Challenge
"Heartland Beauty"

I have a large collection of photographs that I have taken where we live in beautiful Southern Illinois. Our property borders Shawnee National Forest, snuggled in the middle of the woods, and surrounded by fields and streams. 

I have saved to my laptop literally thousands of shots taken on my treks across Kay Roma Ranch, most of them taken with my father (and sometimes my mother along for the adventure) driving his pickup truck with me bouncing around in the back, shouting through the small open window for him to “Stop!” when I wanted to take some photographs. Then I would climb out of the back and take my pictures, many times lying on my back or climbing to to the roof of the cab for a vantage point; my father patiently waiting in the cab while I attempted to record the beautiful nature surrounding me.

These are some of my favorite memories, ever, and have become especially treasured as I lost both of my beloved parents within the past three years.

 I attribute my ferocious love of the natural world (well, perhaps some cultivated crops as well…) from my father, and you will find that nature is always the inspiration for all my textile designs.

The photograph below left is one of my digital “cornfield” shots, and the one on the right is the same photograph that I enhanced with Photoshop.

Below is the final 12” artwork that I completed inspired from my digital photographs. “Heartland Beauty” is appliqued and machine embroidered, stretched across a 12” canvas. The pre-stretched canvas has 3” sides, which I discovered posed compositional challenges I hadn’t anticipated. I am posting a few of the steps that I used to transfer my photograph to fabric and thread.

First, I prepared my canvas, cutting a 22” square; then marking a 12” square in the center using a Black Sharpie permanent marker. I extended the lines to continue off the edge of the canvas. Because the canvas has 3” sides, I added grid lines 3” from the center so I would know where the canvas would wrap around the frame.

 Here is the image drawn onto the canvas, centering the main part of the design inside the 12” square and extending beyond. This is when I discovered that the 3” sides needed to contain interesting design elements, while keeping the 12” part of the image a compositional whole. Truly, this was the most difficult part of creating a pleasing composition when so much of the design “fell off” the edge!

 You will notice that I used simple watercolors to help fill in the design, allowing me to see color and value to help with the fabric selection. All will be covered with fabric of course, so this step was painted in very quickly.

Everyone can identify this as one of the favorite steps for any project; auditioning from your fabric stash for the applique shapes. No, I  didn’t use all of the ones I selected, but still; how fun is this. Polyester silkies, crepe, over dyed Kimono silks; just to handle them and reacquaint yourself with each fabric’s luster and lure; well, I’m talking to fabric lovers so no more description needed…

I fused in the back shapes first with fabric backed with “Wonder Under.” It is staring to transform into a textile design!

Completed design; all fabric applique shapes fused and ready to applique.

Okay, now for the thread; remember, my paint. Did I mention that I once owned a thread store, “Web of Thread?” I don’t need, again, to elaborate. You all understand, right? You will nver have enough of the colors, hues, sparkle, sheen, iridescent shine of threads you need. Just buy decorative thread whenever the opportunity presents itself…

My very favorite step is adding the embroidery to the appliqued shapes. I go into zone mode and wake up with a thread painting.

This final photo illustrates how important the wrapped sides are to the compositional whole. I discovered that it does matter where the piece is hung, as this view is one of my favorites, therefore restricting the spaces to hang it. Also, much of the design, such as the top wrapped side, is not viewed and is “lost.” I’m not sure I’m happy working with wrapped canvases, but next time I will know to take these design challenges into consideration!