Tuesday, November 22, 2016

Step by Step Creative Process

A week or so before International Quilt Festival, I decided I really wanted one more art quilt collage to bring to share with students as an example of my process layering fabric, paint and stitch. I posted all these in-progress pictures on Instagram and Facebook and it was super fun to get day-to-day feed back and encouragement from my followers.

Here's a review of the whole process.

I started with a simple idea of a line of trees. I sketched the trees on parchment paper.

Then transferred the line to pre-fused fabric and cut it out.

I was left with two strips of red trees.

I was initially thinking I'd create two quilts and I auditioned some fabric palettes and color stories.

I liked the light green, but wanted to make it a little more interesting. I printed a weird blobby shape with a toilet paper tube on one piece of the green.

I added handwriting to the other strip of green.

Additional fabrics were gathered.

After much back-and-forth, arranging, rearranging, slicing, adjusting and fretting, I finally settled on this very simple composition for the background layer of design.

I decided to return to the ladder motif that I've used in other quilts lately. I created a sample ladder to think through color, size and placement.

I was a tiny bit concerned about the contrast of the bottom of the legs of the brown ladder sitting on the red strip.

I solved this by adding a wavy very light tan strip at the top of the red.

Waiting for ladders to be constructed. By this point, I'd abandoned the idea of creating two quilts before my trip to Houston. Not enough time. (But I'll get back to that second strip of red trees soon.)

Slow and steady fusing of ladders.

I've got four ladders fused in place. Now what?

Seriously, I didn't really have a plan at this point. Eventually, I decided to create a large tree that would go from the top to the bottom of the quilt, probably painted using a freezer paper stencil. First, I'd need to draw the tree. I spent more time on this than probably any other step in the process thus far. "Drawing" is not easy for me.

Eventually I mostly settled on this. I've sketched on parchment paper so that I could place the drawing over the quilt to think carefully about how the tree will interact with the other elements already designed.

Then I transfer to drawing to freezer paper and mark the pieces so I can put it back together after it's cut out.

Here I've fused the tree shape to the quilt just to see how it looks. This is the "positive" part of the freezer paper stencil. When I add the paint, I'll be using the "negative" part.

I decided the tree was a bit too full, so I pruned some of the branches. See the difference?

Oops. Before I painted the stencil, I remembered I wanted to add stones in the blue section at the bottom, so those got cut and fused in place.

Then I fused the freezer paper stencil over the whole quilt. This part feels a little scary. Once the paint is added, there's no going back. (See what I mean about positive and negative parts?)

I love how the stencil nestles right over this one tree in the red strip.

Begin adding paint, very light at first.

I've peeled back the stencil to check the contrast between the blue paint and the dark green top section. Surprisingly, it shows up really well. I was concerned I'd need to make it lighter, but the blue worked just fine.

I did need to make the roots section lighter using tan paint.

Here's the entire painted tree!

Notice how the tan roots blend up into the trunk section. I designed the roots to overlap some of the stones. I love this layered effect.

I wanted the quilt to measure 20x20, so I'm checking as I go to make sure none of the element will fall off the edge when cropped, or be too far from the edge making the quilt look off center.

Here I've taken a picture of the quilt and printed it out to mark up possible stitching designs for both free motion quilting and hand embroidery.

It seems like I didn't take too many pictures as I was stitching. Here I'm auditioning thread colors.

And all the stitching is finished! For hand stitching, I did yellow stars at the top, several red French knots nestled in the stones, and a simple line of green stitching connecting that wavy line to the background. For machine stitching, I added my beloved arch at the top. I outlined the red trees in yellow to make them stand out a bit. I stitched a leaf motif in the light green area with a matching thread to add very subtle texture. The trees and stones were also outlined with free motion stitching and additional stones were stitched into the blue section.

Squaring up.

I finished the edge with a simple zig zag with a beautiful top stitching thread.

And it's finished! Limbs, Ladders, Roots and Rocks 20x20"

A few details. Here you can see the free motion stitched leafy motif in the background.

An angled shot shows the French knots.

Want to see the back?

I really enjoyed the whole process of creating this quilt and I'm delighted with the results. Many of the techniques are straight out of my book Art Quilt Collage: A Creative Journey in Fabric, Paint and Stitch.

If you're interested in exploring this sort of creative process with me, I'll be teaching a five day workshop at Quilting Adventures in New Braunfels, TX from March 26 to 31, 2017.


Unknown said...

Thank you. That immediately sent me back to the peach orchard my parents owned and the ladders for picking.

Joanne S said...

Now I need to follow these directions and make myself something almost as nice as yours.
I love the tree stencil and the finishing touches give life to the whole. Wonderful.
I learned so much. thank you dear friend. Joanne in Maine

Deborah said...

Such a timely entry, Deborah. I've just begun a collage, inspired mostly by your new book. Had been feeling a bit stuck, but now I'm ready to explore some other stuff! So useful! Thanks!!

Linda Teddlie Minton said...

Really nice step-out, Deb, of a beautiful little piece. I love it!