The Emperor's Clothes

When we got home from breakfast yesterday morning, we spent some time outside with the kitties. It was a nice morning, and so I walked around and took pictures of every blooming thing.

This might be the best year yet for the daphne. This was a gift from Mae one year. It took a few years to get established, and the poor thing always loses all of its foliage in winter. Still, here it is in full bloom. The blossoms are very fragrant. I'm hoping it will hold until our family dinner next weekend.

The bleeding heart is just now beginning to bloom. It's about six weeks behind where it was last year.

The lilac is getting ready to bloom. I'm hoping it will do its thing before we leave on our trip, or we'll miss it.

The first of the rhododendrons is showing its color.

The chive blossoms are coming on. Usually, I make chive blossom vinegar from these. I was thinking of trying some chive blossom jam this year. 

Both cherry trees are in bloom now. With the weather improving, the prospect for cherries is looking better. That will make the raccoons happy.

Smitty is enjoying retirement already.

And we got Sadie out for a walk on her harness. She thinks she might be able to ruin those velcro tabs by rolling around in the pine needles. Actually, she did really well. She doesn't like the harness, but she did walk around a little bit. We're limiting her outings to about five minutes for now. She's a cat who is easily over-stimulated, although she's doing better all the time. By limiting her walks and building up over time, I think we might be able to tame the crazy.

After that, retirement had Mike completely worn out, and so he practiced his morning napping technique. Smitty gave him a few pointers.

After that, I got to work on The Emperor's Pawtrait. To do these, I need a good close-up picture of the animal, and Robin was able to provide me with a good image to work with.

The Emperor has been on my mind for a while, and some time ago, I "posterized" Robin's original image. This is what I use to draw the applique templates. I simply place a plastic transparency over the posterized image, and then trace the details from the picture. Here, it's important to decide what can reasonably be cut from fusing medium and what should be done with thread painting.

As I started tracing the image, I decided the photo manipulation process had caused too much loss in details such as the "eyeliner" around the eyes and the shape of the nose. After I'd traced nearly the whole image, I decided I needed to go back and try to bring out more detail in the facial features. After fussing over it for a bit, I came up with this version that I believed would make the tracing easier. 

As it turned out, I ended up switching back and forth between images to get the detail I wanted. I note which side is the "right" side because I use these both to draw the applique shapes and as a placement guide.

It's applique, and so it needs to be reversed to draw the applique templates, but then flipped right again to use as a placement guide. More than once, I've gotten confused as I switched back and forth, and so the "right side" notation works well to keep things straight.

I always start with the eyes and move outward from there. 

Once the eyes are complete, I add the face around them. The layers are added from back to front as the cat's head is shaped: black first.

Then some gray shading, and then some white.

The nose was the hardest part of this. It was hard to keep straight what was finished and what still needed to be done, and so I used a yellow highlighter to fill in the unfinished sections.

It was still difficult to pick out the details, and so I ended up making a highly saturated image to try to see the shape of the nose and nostrils.

With that I was able to better see the colors and shapes, but this will still need to be finished in thread to make the nose stand out from the rest.

I still need to add some shading in the left ear, but I was getting tired of working on this for the day. Today, I'll start adding the body to the rest. Hopefully, I'll be able to get all the fusing done, and then it will be reading for top-stitching and thread details.

The Emperor's fur is a little easier to do because it is much more uniform in color than, say, Sadie or Maggie (sniff).

Nevertheless, it'll be important to add some variation to the blacks and whites in order to keep the appearance natural. With that in mind, I'm using some different kinds of fabric with variance in the dyes and textures, but I'll also be using a lot of thread to capture the details.

Nothing on the agenda for today other than sewing, although I might get out and do some gardening as well.

9 comments from clever and witty friends:

Dana Gaffney said...

I know you don't do politics on your blog, but the title made me think this was about something else :)
The pawtrait is looking really good, I'm always amazed at how quickly you can do these.

Judy H said...

I love seeing your process on creating the portraits. While I will never be a competitor in the market, it does give me ideas on creating some wall hangings for my home or even just quilt blocks, of flowers. Thanks for sharing.

Vroomans' Quilts said...

Your new pawtrait is coming along nicely. Our trees are starting to pop buds and leaves. The fruit trees are looking like their might just give us some produce this year - now the bees need to do their work (and we seem to have them in abundance).

Debbie said...

This looks really good. Good tips about using different methods to manipulate the photos to get those details. We have turned green here and it is in the 80s already....ugh!

gpc said...

It's good to see a worthy Emperor, and one that has visible clothes, too! I can see that Mike is already putting noble effort into retirement. It's a struggle, I know, but I can attest that Slacker Status is fully attainable if he just keeps working as hard as he is today. I am living proof.

quiltzyx said...

Good to see that Mike is getting down to the good stuff right away!

Hope all those lovelies will bloom for you before you're on your way - and that the Daphne will hold on until next weekend so Mae can see it.

It's great to see the process you use with the pawtraits. You're beginning to make it look like something I could do!

Angie in SoCal said...

Love these progress posts and such a handsome subject.

Brown Family said...

I am glad that Sadie is learning the harness. Slowly is always better! The Emperor is coming right along!

Junebug613 said...

It's really neat to see how you work. Maybe I will be brave and try this pawtrait thing. It would probably be best for me to start with my dog, Diamond. Her face is mostly white with 3 black spots.