Thursday, January 31, 2013

Illustration Friday - Wings

One goal for 2012 that I succeeded in fulfilling was monthly participation in Illustration Friday. (Yeah!)  And it's my firm intention to continue doing so this year.  Thinking of all the ways a topic can be interpreted and then trying to get an idea, a vision that's interesting and not clichéd as well as interesting to execute really revs up the ole creative apparatus.

Fortunately, there aren't any topic police (and some submissions to IF have a very tenuous connection to the topic), because, as you can see, the "wings" in my illustration here are more or less gratuitous.  Or perhaps merely decorative would be a kinder way to put it.  I labored on a totally different concept for more than a day, finally concluding that it wasn't working and I didn't like it.  This one sort of evolved, starting with the young woman who came out of a vintage photograph from The Graphics Fairy, the best site I've found for vintage graphics and illustrations.  After making a composite of several layers of her, with different filters and blend modes, I started searching Lost and Taken for a textured background.  At this point I was simply involved in the image that was evolving, no longer focusing on "wings," although there were a couple of random butterflies left over from my previous abandoned attempt.  Then the next day I thought of adding a landscape to the background, and after much experimentation with effects, I was pleased with the result.

I couldn't let all that time and effort go to waste, could I?   So I threw in a few more butterflies, with drop shadows, of course. (When in doubt, add drop shadows.)  And, voilà, Wings!


Wednesday, January 9, 2013

A new year of reading

Yesterday evening as the rain pattered outside, ten of us gathered round one of the long wooden tables at La Madeleine Cafe to discuss the first book of the year, City of Thieves, by David Benioff.  As I mentioned last year when I first introduced the bookgroup, we are a very diverse group of women brought together by a love of reading, and I find we share many values while the diversity ensures piquancy in our discussions.  I look forward every month to our talk of literature and life. 

For anyone who might like to join us (in person or virtually) here is our slate for 2013.  (Our name is slightly misleading; we read not only books by foreign authors, but also about foreign places or cultures. Thus, our next selection, Cleopatra, by American Stacy Schiff  takes us to ancient Egypt and Rome.)


Tuesday, January 1, 2013

Passion Flower scarves

Mr. C and I are in agreement on making gifts.  We both get a lot more pleasure out of creating than we do shopping, and our hope is that the recipient will appreciate having a one-of-a-kind, made-for-her (or him) item.  So, impassioned as I am at the moment with dyeing and surface design, I set about to dye and print a pair of scarves for two long-time friends (who are states apart so there will probably never be the chance of them appearing together wearing something nearly identical). 
The passion flower was plucked out of one of E.A. Seguy's beautiful Art Nouveau designs from an old Dover Book.  Then, unlike the previous two scarves which were more or less extemporary in composition, I used Photoshop to design the scarf which let me try out elements and ideas.  Over the base color is a motif from Dover Books Chinese Stencil Designs which I hand-cut out of the tablecloth vinyl that I discovered works so well for silkscreening.  The rounded rectangles under the flowers were also cut of the vinyl and silkscreened. The passion flower motif consists of three stencils: one for the petals, one for the stamens and one for the leaves. Lastly are the little "sprinkles" which I found in Photoshop's Shape menu. 

I printed each of the rayon scarves with Procion fiber reactive dye in a different order to see what difference it might make.  To begin, I stenciled the blossoms on both scarves with a resist so that they would remain white.  Then on the scarf with the little black border, I stenciled the leaves, stamens and some of the sprinkles before painting on the background color over which I silkscreened the Chinese stencil design and then the rectangles, followed by some additional sprinkles and the border.  On the second scarf, after stenciling on the petals with resist, I then painted on the background, silkscreened the Chinese stencil motif and then the rectangles.  After that I washed the scarf (because the dye mixed with the print paste builds up), then stenciled on the leaves, stamens and all the sprinkles. The difference was negligible in terms of the final outcome, but it was definitely easier to stencil the complete flower first before the fabric gets pulled and stretched and squeezed during the various processes.
I didn't quite achieve my design in terms of colors. The wet color looks so much darker than when it dries, so I need to be a bit bolder when mixing it.  For example, the rectangles are each a different blue, but they are so light on the scarves as opposed to the design, that you really can't tell.  And the Chinese stencil doesn't make very much contrast with the background, especially on the first scarf.  On the second scarf I changed the colors slightly, making the leaves a bluer green, the stamens dark cobalt instead of black, and the sprinkles a combination of cobalt and green.

That's it...much easier said (or written about) than done, that's for sure.  But tremendously interesting to do.  And isn't making something yourself so satisfying, especially when it turns out close to what was in your mind's eye?  And, of course, the way to achieve that is to just...keep doing it, keep trying, keep learning.  So, on this first day of a fresh new year, I wish all of you other crafters out there a joyous year of creating.   For anyone else who yearns to dye or sew or paint or whatever, what are you waiting for?  You will most probably surprise yourself while having a very good time in the process.