Line It Up

If you're paying attention, you might notice that I'm up in the wee hours of the morning writing this post. The plan is to go back to bed when I'm finished. It's Day Two of my class with Ann Shaw, but it doesn't start until 10:00 this morning. That gives me plenty of time for more sleep before getting back to it today.

Yesterday went much better than it did last year. We talked quite a bit about photography and the notion of "gesture" in photographs. This all seemed like review to me. Since I wrote a rather detailed post about this when I took the class last year, I will refer those of you who are interested to read my posts about last year's class. They start right here with my very frustrating first day. In a nutshell, the notion of "gesture" has to do with the answers to these questions: What story does the photograph tell? What is going on in the photograph? What "direction" does it take? "Direction" has both to do with the direction of the story, and the physical direction the subjects of the photograph take on. Hopefully, this will make more sense as I talk about it.

First, a word about photographs, in general. This technique works best with "still life" sorts of photos (as opposed to landscapes) where there is an easily-identified subject. I'll start with this photograph of a scrub jay I brought to class.

It's not the photograph I'm doing, but it's one I'd like to try on my own. (Incidentally, I mentioned in a previous post having big ideas about doing this on my own after class yesterday. Ha! I was too tired to think about that.) So here we go. The bird is looking off to the right side of the photo, which is the "gesture" of the photograph, and so the initial lines will draw attention to that. Ann drew the long line just below the eye of the bird, and then the intersecting line above it. This is where seam lines will go when the pieces are sewn together, and they will draw the viewer's eye in that direction.

The class is approximately half the size it was last year, which means there's more time for individual attention and help in this part of the process. Drawing in the lines is the most difficult part for me. Before I get to the photo I'm doing of my brother, I want to point out a few things we learned about the photos brought by my classmates. People often bring photos of their pets. This is the full photo one of my classmates brought. It's a great photo. Ann used this image to show how to piece the "fringe" of the grass along the dog's body.

If you're identifying the "subject" of the photo, of course, it's the dog. But it's really more than the dog. I'm not able to post the full image, but I think I can post enough to give you an idea what I'm talking about. The "story" of the photo is about the three tennis balls he has in his mouth. (I'll just say I'm glad Smitty the kitty isn't here to see this. Can you imagine the disgust he would feel about this ridiculous Woofie?)

Since the story is really about the tennis balls in the dog's mouth, the photo will be cropped to focus on the head and face of the dog. One of Ann's quilts is shown in the image below. This is a quilt Ann made of the quilt shop owner's dog, Sparky. You can see how the face has been pieced in such a way that it utilizes the bilateral symmetry.

With animals, it helps to choose the mid-point of the face, and then draw the first line splitting the face in half. From there the lines go bilaterally out, left and right. The goal is to avoid having them meet up at the mid point, and to avoid any "plus signs" or "X's". (I hope that makes sense.)

This is probably best illustrated with these examples of some quilts Ann made of different kinds of leaves. For these, the initial line is drawn through the center of the leaf, and then lines extend out on either side. 

She pointed out that she tried to keep the piecing symmetrical so that the same design elements appear on either side of the mid-point (for example the first two little points where the stem meets the leaf in the image above). You can see how the points of the leaf are similar on each side in both images above and below, even though the elements aren't the same size. 

Here's another example.

So she's done the same thing in the image below, first bisecting the face of the dog and then working out from the center. Also, in this image, she's taken some artistic liberty in creating a more ear-like ear on the dog. If it were pieced as in the photo, it would look as if the dog's ears were cropped. In fact, he had long floppy ears that were turned back in the photo.

Also, the lines around the dog's face separate the subject (the dog) from the background of the photo.

In the image below, the "gesture" is the cat's arm extending off to the right-hand side. There isn't much to say about this photo except that it's another example of how to piece in the "fringe" of the cat's fur on the bottom side of the leg and paw.

Here, I have to point out that I was in a roomful of dog lovers. Even the woman who brought in this kitty said she was a dog lover, but that her dog has died, and she got the cat to keep her company. And here again, Smitty would be appalled at this. Cats are not consolation prizes...they ARE the prize. Sheesh. 

This woman brought in a calf, which she admits is probably hamburger by now. In any case, you can see the line bisecting the center of the face, although the line isn't in the exact center. The point is to draw the midpoint of the animal...not the midpoint of the photo. This is also a good example of a frame in the image. The post on the side provides a natural "frame" to the subject, which is the calf. She's also drawn in the ear, which was behind the post. However, it will make more sense to bring it to the front of the post for the sake of the quilt.

Also, we talked about ways to draw lines so that the "fringe" of the straw at the bottom of the image could be pieced in.

This next photograph is interesting in the challenges it presents. It's a picture of this woman's daughter swimming butterfly. The "gesture" is that the swimmer is swimming toward the viewer, and so the initial lines emphasize that by coming forward and narrowing as they approach. It's "perspective" if you want to get technical about it.

Among the challenges are how to make the water look like water (with a combination of piecing, fabric selection, and quilting), and also, how to piece the hands so that they look like hands and not flippers. Interestingly, the hands are actually serving as "flippers" in this image, and so one would try to capture the "story" of the hands, while still making them look like hands (if that makes any sense).

So let's take a look at the photo I'm doing of my brother. The background is very busy, and that will be tamed down with fabric selection. Still, I wondered how to make that skinny snake show up against any background. 

Ann has a way of bringing parts of her subjects into the border to give them more presence. Her heron quilt is a good example of this:

You can see how the beak and the feet extend into the border to give the bird a more commanding presence. Also, in the image below, I wanted you to see how the seed pod of the flower has a rounded edge where it meets the petals. By "fracturing" that line, she's been able to trick the eye into seeing a rounded line while also breaking up the line with piecing in straight-line sections. In my photo, I'll need to do this for the curves of the snake.

I'd given this some thought ahead of time and suggested putting a part of the hand and the snake out into the border. Ann took this a step further by suggesting a border within the quilt (kind of like two borders). I can use one fabric to separate out the hand and the snake in the background, and then extend the remainder of the background to the left side of that border. Also, I'd been wondering what fabric to use for the snake: striped? spotted? black, brown, gray? Ann suggested lime green, and I totally love that idea. So the image below shows the initial lines she drew, but this isn't the one I'm using.

My job was to start over and to draw my own lines. I started right in with the snake and the inner border and went from there.

Ann gave me a little help with the hairline on the face. The goal was to avoid having the hair look like a cap on the head, and so she's used a series of "wedges" to bring in the tousled look of the hair.

The hand holding the snake was a little tricky. The fingers could either be pieced or quilted in. For this, I'm going to piece them in since that really is the story of this image. He's looking out at the photographer, but the story/gesture is really about him holding the snake out for the viewer to see. Also, in the image below, you can see how the sleeve and the arm have been sectioned off. There is a cuff at the bottom of the sleeve, and so the sleeve above and the arm below are narrower. I chose to draw one of my lines in the crease of the elbow.

Ann wasn't at all happy with what I'd done for the pant legs in the image below. She encouraged me to use the folds and shadows in the pants to give them a more baggy appearance. Otherwise, one runs the risk of having them look as if they've been starched. (Does anyone remember those wire frames people used to stuff into pant legs to starch them?)

In the image below, you can see the help she's given me in drawing the pant legs, but then she also encouraged me to erase and start over with the bib of the overalls. This is probably what I've been lying awake thinking about. I'm a little confused about how to draw this, and it seems as if I've just drawn in a lot of lines for the sake of having lines. When I go back this morning, I plan to erase and start over yet again (thank goodness for my black pearl eraser). I'm thinking I'll draw a line bisecting the bib and then extend the lines out left and right where the pockets are. Keep in mind that we're to avoid "plus signs" and "X's" in our drawings, and we're also to avoid perfectly horizontal lines, which can end up looking like railroad tracks.

Also, the sleeve and arm on the right side of the image aren't right. I need to take a closer look at that. It's hard to see, but here is my line drawing over the picture. 

I'm hoping the images are clear enough to illustrate what I'm saying here. They're crappy iPhone pictures, and I'm typing and photo editing on my laptop, which has a smaller screen than I'm used to. Also, I haven't calibrated the colors in a while, and so I can't be sure my colors are true.

So that's where we left off. Today we'll be finishing up our line drawings, and then having them enlarged in preparation for committing them to our freezer paper templates. More about that later, but for now, I'm heading back to bed to try to get a little more sleep.

10 comments from clever and witty friends:

Debbie said...

Wow....this is as much a design class with details, as it is a technique class. I love the idea of the hand snake being projected in a border. Look forward to how it goes:)

gpc said...

This is such an exciting technique, even though it stresses me out to even THINK of doing it. I love some of the finished quilts, and I am sure yours will be amazing. As for the lack of cat-respect, console Smitty that at least no one will ever think of turning him into hamburger. And really, can you imagine him stooping so law as to have 3 tennis balls in his mouth? Really. Smitty will never need to face the humiliation of being a Dog. That should make him happy, even while the rest of us marvel at the joy of that ball-sy photo. :)

Vroomans' Quilts said...

Interesting class but not one I could wrap my head around - first I would have to take a decent photo and that will never happen in my lifetime. I would never humiliate my furkids with 3-balls in their mouth - poor pup.

WoolenSails said...

What a great class, really good way to put things in perspective and see the design in new ways to make it unique and original.


Sandra W said...

It's obvious that you are "getting" this class this time after your frustrating start last year. I've tried doing a bit of this but do find it too time consuming. This technique is quite different from the type of quilting you usually do--so good for you. I look forward to hearing more of your progress.
I don't know why cats have such a low position in the pet hierarchy. I don't get it. They are such fine, elegant animals with unique personalities.

Wendy Tuma said...

Thanks for such a great post! It is so enjoyable to read about what you are learning, and the thinking process that goes into all of this. I think I'd enjoy trying this, but the initial drawing would be a challenge. Hope Smitty isn't too put out when he read this post :-)

Jenny - the lilac cat said...

A fascinating post. I remember how difficult the first day was last year but you are into the swim and prepared to strike out on your own. Laughed and laughed at cats not being a consolation prize! I do think the world divides into cat or dog lovers. I do so agree with Sandra W - no competition in my view....

Dar said...

This was a very informational and interesting post. I'm not sure I could absorbed as much of the technique as you, but what a wonderful teacher she is. You and your readers are learning a new slant on another unique technique. Granted, I'm not sure I could be as successful as I'm sure you are, but I do love the results. Thanks for opening my mind to more quilting possibilities in our too short lives of making quilts. Can't wait to see yours come to life.

quiltzyx said...

Wow, so many lines and things to remember! I do like the idea of making an inner border for the hand & snake emphasis. Glad that you are having an easier time of it & more teacher/student interaction this year.

No, cats are not a consolation prize at all. We are their staff, after all.

Kate said...

That's a lot to take in at once. Looking forward to seeing how all your lines ended up in the next post.