Wednesday, December 1, 2010

Inspired Ideas: The Christmas Issue

Inspired Ideas is an online ezine I just found out about via Elizabeth Dulemba’s blog. It has 168 pages plus an appendix... click here to check it out:
It’s full of creative and unusual craft projects such as a Christmas village made of recycled cereal boxes, a yarn ball wreath, cookie cutter jewelry designed by a gallery of crafters, artists, and bloggers including Mary Engelbreit. The brainchild of Amy Powers, it is an impressive example of innovative publishing... and it’s free!

Happy browsing!

Saturday, November 27, 2010

Whimsical bird in progress

It’s been awhile since I’ve posted about the LIQ project but never fear, progress is being made ever so slowwwwly. Above is the rough sketch of the bird drawn in Photoshop for size and placement in the larger scene... the plan is to refine her when the bird is actually constructed. Sometimes I make a very precise sketch but in this case it seemed reasonable to wing it (pun intended.)
My original theory was that the bird would be some shade of blue with a red belly, but a dotted violet, orange paisley, and black on black fabrics ended up working out best. You have to keep an open mind! I first tried matching orange and violet points on the wings and tail, but didn’t quite look right.
The striped fabric seen above right had the violet and orange in it plus some other colors that added interest. For the legs (below), I wrapped gold ribbon around black rickrack. The feet are made of interfacing painted with gold metallic acrylic paint. This photo shows more of a bronze color, but the gold ended up working better.
After gluing on the points, I machine embroidered the wings and tail. They are attached at their bases, but left free on the tips to give more dimension. I had sewn the body to the quilted background with a machine zigzag stitch, then remembered there was supposed to be a “swish” behind the bird...oops!
So I ripped out part of the stitching, put the light blue swish under the body, then restitched it. Some simple free-motion-quilting was done on the body, a beak and bead eyeball was added, plus some beads along her belly.
She’s carrying a piece of fabric back to her nest, in case anyone is wondering.

Tuesday, October 26, 2010

Home at last

Here is how A Free Spirit (on the right) looks in his new home in New Zealand:
Love the two images together...many thanks to Julia Arden for sending this photo!
The previous posts about how this mini-quilt was made are here and here.

Wednesday, October 13, 2010

Pine in progress

I’ve been wanting to depict this pine tree on our street for a long time, so it’s nice to finally get going on it. The photo is a nice start but I’m going to leave out the distracting trees behind it and tweak the colors. 

Here is the sketch on tracing paper, not too detailed but gets the idea across:
I started with a plain piece of some generic white cotton fabric, then globbed a lot of acrylic paint onto a silicone-treated sheet, one of the ones made for ironing appliqué. I folded over the sheet a few times, added more paint, etc. then laid the white fabric on it and pressed down.
This is interesting, but is too dark and contrasty, so the next step (after letting it dry thoroughly) was to brush over some lighter, semi-opaque paint. I also added some metallic copper paint. This is more like it:
Here is a close-up of the painted background:
Acrylic gel was used to adhere the fabric to a stretched canvas, then it was allowed to dry. (Note: if I was going to go in a more quilty direction, I would skip that step.) Next I transferred the sketch by using my weird method of taping the sketch over the canvas and drawing underneath it onto the canvas with a watercolor pencil. Next, the outlines of the tree were painted on:
I plan to paint in some color then use a few if the collage papers shown in this post to complete the tree. But, we’ll see what actually happens!

Thursday, September 30, 2010

Tag Galaxy... a fabulous way to find images

Do you need reference photos and/or inspiration? The Tag Galaxy image search system has been around for a year or two, but I just heard about it. You enter a tag (i.e. search term) such as quilts and a solar system appears:
The main term quilt is on the Sun, while related terms such as fabric, sewing, and patchwork orbit around it. When you click on the Sun, images start flying in from all sides:
The images are photographs coming from Flicker that have been tagged with the word quilt, apparently. Once they have arranged themselves into a sphere...
 you can rotate it up, down, and around to see the images on all sides. If you want to zoom in on one photo, just click on it...
 ...and it enlarges. The web site is animated with Flash, so this post gives just a hint of how cool it is. Try it and be mesmerized!

I almost forgot to mention where I heard about this, on the Teach Science and Math blog...many thanks to David Wetzel. There are several other image search engines mentioned in his post, so you may want to check those out, too.

Monday, September 20, 2010

SAQA auction starts today (Monday) at 2 p.m.!

Just a quick reminder that the Studio Art Quilt Associates benefit auction starts today. My wolf quilt is on the first page, click here to see thumbnails of the available artwork. There is a link on that page to get to the bidding form. Everything is $750 today, then the price is reduced each day until Friday, when everything costs $75.

Happy browsing and (perhaps) bidding, everyone!

Thursday, September 16, 2010

Great source for vintage graphics

I was looking for an image of a doily, and stumbled over The Graphics Fairy blog. If you need pre-1923 images, here are thousands of copyright-free engravings, playing cards, postcards, advertisements, etc. It’s well-organized with categories, plus a search box. Speaking of ads, there are plenty, but it’s worth it for these goodies.

Check out this wonderfully bizzarre pair of scissors:

Tuesday, September 7, 2010

Goodies... in the mail and made in the studio

One of the perks of being accepted into the Quilting Arts calendar is that they send you stuff. Last year, they gave a gift certificate to be used in the Interweave store, which made for some happy online browsing (and buying!) This year, along with the printed calendars came this pile of DVDs, two magazines, some Angelina fiber, a fat quarter, some batting, and what appears to be a very nice book about surface design on fabric, Art Cloth by Jane Dunnewold.
At first I was thinking I’d rather have made the choices, but though I haven’t looked at anything other than the mags yet, these all look great to me. When I get a chance to read/watch/use these goodies, I’ll pass along my 2¢ worth of opinion. The Cloth Paper Scissors Studios issue is very nice, full of inspirational photos of fab studios. If anyone wants to buy the 2011 “Flavor of the Month” Quilting Arts Calendar or any of these other goodies, click here.

What is that image at the top of this post, you may be wondering? It’s a close-up of the paper in the bottom row, second from the left (below). In a couple of different sessions, I cranked out loads of collage papers with the help of my artist friend Joyce and my 2 nieces. These were plain white cardstock, layered with regular and metallic acrylic paint and iridescent/metallic watercolors (from Daniel Smith.) Hmmm...except the one on the top right, which was painted on a restaurant napkin that was similar to interfacing, more substantial than the usual paper napkin.
The paper on the lower right was scribbled on with crayons, then painted with black paint, others were pressed together, stamped on, etc. It’s such fun to splash away without worrying about anything. One thing to remember when building up a stash of papers is to make plenty of light toned papers for contrast, and not just stick to the bright and dramatic colors. The plan is to use these in some upcoming collage work, along the line of these previous pieces. I also want to try these techniques on fabric, just am pressed for time at the moment.

Have a creative week!

Wednesday, September 1, 2010

Free Spirit will be auctioned for SAQA

Do you remember this wolf? I decided to donate him to Studio Art Quilt Associates (SAQA) for their annual auction to benefit the group’s activities to increase awareness of art quilting. Almost 300 quilts are available, so there’s something for everyone. It starts on Monday, September 20, and is a reverse auction where the prices decrease every day until the works are sold. More details about how the auction works can be found here.

A large image of Free Spirit can be seen here. Two previous posts that show how he was made can be found here and here.

Have fun looking at all the artwork... it’s amazing to see what artists are doing with fabric, thread, and whatever else they can stitch on. : )

Sunday, August 29, 2010

Painting faux granite

Why would anyone want to do that, you ask? The photos below should make it clear...feast your eyes upon the hideous green formica countertop that we lived with for seven long years. Before anyone gets too excited about the prospect of transforming laminate countertops, let me make it clear that we ripped out that green monstrosity.

However, note the strange bulge behind this backsplash, and the feeble attempt to cover up the top of it with a random strip of green trim. Apparently the first builder made a half-wall, then later someone added the rest of the wall but since the lower part was not plumb, they decided to fudge it this way, leaving a bizarre wedge of drywall behind the backsplash. Basically, the wall is a mess and a professional contractor friend of ours had never seen anything quite like it.
Anyway, after our gorgeous shivakashi granite counters were installed, I had to figure out how to cover up this little glitch. First I used drywall compound to fill in the gap to make it as level as possible with the granite. You can really see how off kilter the wall is here, because the granite top is actually level to the floor while the green monster wasn’t.
The drywall compound was sealed with latex paint. Then the fun began. I used Golden OPEN acrylics to paint with because they don’t dry nearly as quickly as regular acrylics, which leaves more time for blending. I mostly used the stiff stencil brush on the left because I didn’t need fussy details, just needed to smear some paint around.
I applied a base coat of sort of a pinkish gray.
Next came some patches of the various colors from the granite. These acrylics dry a little darker, but don’t shift as much as regular acrylics. If you click on the photos, you can really see what’s going on. It doesn’t matter if the colors aren’t exactly right at first, they’ll be blended into each other.
The darker streaks that follow the flow of the granite really make it happen. The painted area isn't as smooth as the granite, of course, but I put some glossy sealer over it and it's very hard to tell it isn’t the real thing with a casual glance. My husband was flabbergasted at how well this turned was I, frankly. I asked several people who came over to see if they could spot anything that looked faux painted to match something else, and no one could figure out what it was.
Here’s the other end. The wall wasn’t as crooked, but there was still about 3/8" that had to be faked. The actual width of the granite is the same on both the backsplash and the counter, three centimeters, I think.
In case anyone is wondering about the gap along the top edge, well there was no way I was going to paint all that, plus it would get too much wear to hold up over the long term. We’re still looking for the right trim piece of tile to cover it up, or possible wood molding. And we still have the lighting, some cabinets, and a few other things to do. No worries, I have my new faucet, undermount sink, and much lighter, glam countertops, so who cares about a few little details?

Hope you enjoyed this little detour from my usual artistic pursuits. You just never know when mixing some colors may come in handy!

Thursday, August 26, 2010

Uploading your custom background image in Blogger

It’s a little tricky but worth the effort to use your own image to give your blog a unique identity, rather than the prefab ones anyone can use. I created a new blog for my children’s books yesterday, and wanted to use them for the background image. 

First you need to prepare an image. Mine is a photo of a stack of my books, laid as horizontal as possible so there won't be awkward visual jags when the image is “tiling,” that is, when the image repeats horizontally and vertically to fill the space. If you’re feeling ambitious, you can create a seamless image in Photoshop using the Offset filter (here is an online tutorial). The image is supposed to be less than 200K...more details about size are on the Use Your Own Photo etc. article linked below. Anyway, here’s the book stack image:

The template is Ethereal, with a 3-column layout as shown. (Not all templates have a background image.) 
I customized most of the colors, type, etc. in the new Template Designer, which is found under the Design tab. The Template Designer is great, it gives you a preview of your changes as you test them. 

However, if you click on Background in the Template Designer, there is no option to upload your own image, you can only choose from what is there. The answer is to go to Blogger in Draft to do it rather than the usual Blogger Dashboard. It looks the same, except there are a few additional options. Here are the steps:
Make sure you’re “signed in” to your Blogger Account and are in Blogger in Draft.
Click on Design, then on the Template Designer (right under the Design tab.)
Click on Background (upper left), then click ON the Image box itself.
You should see a button for Upload Image, so go ahead and upload your image.
Click Done, then choose Tile and check Scroll with page.
Click on the orange Apply to Blog button on upper right.
A yellow alert that says Template Applied should flash, then it will go away.
Click Back to Blogger (upper right) and your image should be on your blog.

If not try again, or check the article Use Your Own Photo for Your Blog’s Background and the Comments for clues, .

To see the actual blog we’re talking about, click here.

Good luck!

Wednesday, August 25, 2010

New blog for my books

For a number of reasons I’ve decided to set up a separate blog for my children’s books. I’ll still talk about creating the illustrations on this studio blog from time to time, but the books blog will have activities for kids, publishing info, lesson plans, and that kind of thing. A little more focus is always a good thing, doncha know.
I wanted to mention a couple of things about designing the new is a screenshot:
I used a template called Ethereal which is quite a bit wider and has three columns, (I think there were several options.) Blogger has a Template Designer feature that is apparently pretty new that makes it very easy to get the colors, type, and so on the way you want them. 

The tricky thing was to change the background image. I took a photo of a stack of my books and after struggling quite a while got it to show up. You have to use “blogger in draft” to get your own image in there, and it’s very tricky to do... this article sort of tells you how, but not clearly enough. I couldn’t tell you exactly how I did it, but after trying several times the Upload button appeared and after that I selected “tile” and it worked.

So, check it out and let me know what you think! Here is the link, or click on the button on the right.

Monday, August 23, 2010

My Teacher Is a Dinosaur free coloring page

Yesterday I received copies of my fall picture book and they look great. The full title is My Teacher Is a Dinosaur and Other Prehistoric Poems, Jokes, Riddles, & Amazing Facts. It takes readers on a whirlwind tour of the history of life on Earth starting 4 1/2 billion years ago... not bad for only 48 pages, right? For more info including reviews, please check out this page.

These previous blog posts tell a little about the behind-the-scenes activity. I also wrote about doing the research for this book on I.N.K. (Interesting Nonfiction for Kids) here and here. Last but not least, here is my I.N.K. post about how to write jokes and riddles.

I haven’t forgotten about the coloring page... here it is!
Click on the image to enlarge it then print it out with a horizontal orientation and get out your crayons. (Did you know there is a Crayola set with 96 colors!?!) Or drag it off the web page to your desktop. Feel free to send it to any kids you know that love dinosaurs. If anyone sends me a photo of a colored-in page, I’ll post it here. Or, post it on my author page on Facebook!

Thanks, y’all!