Posts tagged raven

Making Tattoo


Woohoo! My first piece in Dinner@8! I know there are a lot of you that can’t comprehend what a big deal this is, but it’s kind of like winning the lottery. It’s a juried invitational show, so I had to apply to be a part of the Dinner@8 group in order to be invited to make a piece for the current year’s show. After I was accepted, I made a piece according to the theme, which this year was Personal Iconography: Graffiti on Cloth.

I haven’t shown the piece in process on the website because that’s a no-no in this show. Virgin rules, except you can post after acceptances go out.

I’ll admit that I was stumped by this year’s theme. My goal, just as I did the Yvonne Porcella piece (Yvonne in the Garden), was to make a piece that was wholly in my style while still working within the framework of the theme, but I knew that doing that with this theme was going to be hard. I knew that I was going to make a portrait of a person, and I spent some time thinking about how tattoos are so personal and would work well within the theme. My daughter has several tattoos, and she spends a lot of time considering the symbology of each piece and finding the right artist before she gets them. I wanted to honor that, but I also knew that finding a female model would be hard. I envisioned a back shot with the main tattoo on the arm. I’m not entirely sure why, but it seems to me to be a deeply personal pose, enough that I didn’t know anyone personally that I felt I could ask. And really, who’s always available? (Me.) Thank goodness I have a remote control for my camera. I set it up in my studio, and by the end of one afternoon, I had a series of shots I could work with to create what I had in my mind.

I started with the shoulders and back first since the hair would drop over the back. I usually start with the face, but in this instance, the shoulders made more sense. This is the first couple of values.

This is the 3rd value. I ran out of the fabric — or rather ran short on it. I knew I needed enough to cut out for the face and decided that I needed to supplement with a fabric that was close. I could use it on the extended arm and the change would be less visible. (This prompted a late night run to JoAnn’s as it was the only thing open at the time, & I was in the creative head space to keep moving forward.)

This is also the point at which I realized I needed to complete the hand along with the arm — and make sure I had enough fabric to do it as well.

And then I added the deeper values, a dark tan and a couple of dark blues — and then the black garment.

And then I started on the face using the same fabric. These are the first two, and you can just see the basic outline.

This is the 3rd value, the one that I ran out of. I’ve had this fabric for a long time, and I’ll have to try to replace it. (Never let anyone tell you that calicos don’t have value. They’re wonderful for faces.)

This is the 4th value. It inadvertently looks a little like horns, but really, that’s just my high forehead that will go under the hair.

The 5th value. You can tell I was working at night in this one.

And then the rest of the darkest values. I leave the main parts of the eyes and the mouth for the end, so at this point, she looks a little bit like a zombie. I did play around with the darks around the eyes a little bit. I naturally have very dark circles around my eyes, but it wasn’t aesthetically pleasing in the piece, so I backed off on the value a little. (This is part of what I call creative license. Do what’s best for the piece and don’t feel tied to exact duplication of the photograph.)

These are the eyes. Not quite right. I almost always freehand cut these nowadays.

And in this one, a darker blue around the rims of the irises and larger pupils. Then I made the teeth (or the suggestion of teeth) and the mouth.

I did go back later and make the eyebrow on the right darker.

I spent quite some time trying to figure out how I would do the tattoos. I wanted them to look like dotwork tattoos, and so screen printing seemed the way to go. I had, years ago, done some screen printing. What could go wrong? I drew the tattoos in my sketchbook, scanned them, skewed them in Photoshop so they would look as if they were on an arm and tilted across the back, and sent them to Fiber on a Whim to be burned to screens. After fusing my figure to a background and appliquéing it in place, I then screened them right on my piece. What was I thinking? The moon is clean but way too light, and the crow is a mess. I even have a paint blotch above the crow’s head.

With the moon, I just grabbed a fabric marker and filled in all of the light spots to clean it up.

The crow was much harder. I think it sat on my ironing board for at least a week while I thought it over. No use crying over split milk. I had leftover fabric, so I made a bunch of screens of the crow until I got a decent screen. I now have mad appreciation for anyone that screen prints, especially to fabric. It’s much harder than it looks to get a clean screen print.

On the finished piece, I cut out the crow and the blotch. I had to pick out appliqué stitches in two places. Those will be covered by the new crow.

Then I took the new crow, cut around the crow shape, and then fused it onto the arm. I also made a patch to fuse onto the area of the blotch that I had to cut out. Then I ran an appliqué stitch around the crow and the patch. I worried that it would be too obvious around the bottom area where the fabric value is darker, but it’s hardly noticeable on the final piece. There’s only about a quarter inch of light fabric around the crow, and it blends with the fabric it’s next to. In the end, it was a good solution to a difficult problem.

As I was making the piece, I thought it would be cool to add graffiti to the background. That’s why I went with a solid blue background. I even studied graffiti shapes and practiced lettering. I made the graffiti, but then I decided it was too much of an in-your-face interpretation of the theme — so I took them off. That was much worse. So I spent time thinking about the background — and about how I approach my work. In the end, I decided that I didn’t want to be safe, and leaving off the graffiti was safe. Keeping them on there gave the piece a vibrancy it didn’t have without them. So I played with their placement and added black outlines to them and some sparkly points.

You can see the final piece on the Tattoo page here.

Tattoo will premiere in the Dinner@8 exhibit at International Quilt Market & Festival in Houston this coming October/November.

The White Raven


After finishing Firecracker, I did not have another project in mind. I spent a few days doing administrative things — donating my time to do some volunteer work — but then it was time for the rubber to hit the road. If inspiration doesn’t come, you still have to keep creating. So I went looking.

I have had a fascination for years with ravens. I have a newspaper clipping that is probably eight years old on my design wall about the ravens kept at the Tower of London. Legend tells us that if the ravens were to leave the Tower, the Tower and thus the Kingdom of Great Britain would be lost. Charles II declared that at least six be held captive there for the rest of time. Their wings are clipped and they are cared for by a Yeoman Warder.

All of those ravens are common — or black — but there are rare instances of white ravens in British Columbia, Canada. These are not albino ravens with red eyes but rather white ravens with blue eyes.

Which leads me to the inevitable question — what if a white raven were to inhabit the Tower?

There is a wonderful photographer at Qualicum which the white ravens call home — Mike Yip. He very graciously gave me permission to use one of his photographs as inspiration for this piece.

This is the first value — pure white. I started this piece in the late afternoon and the failing light gave me a yellow cast on my design surface.


The second value is almost harder to see as it has a yellow cast to it.


The third value is a little easier to see.


The next day, of course, the light in my studio was better for photography. This is the fourth value and you can really start to see the bird emerge. It is strange to think that a white bird is more than white — but even the majority of the colors in the clouds in the sky are not white. White always has a supporting cast of characters.


This is the fifth value.


And this is the sixth. I had to go outside my stash to find the fabrics for this piece and I had counted on 7 values — but I miscalculated — there are 8. So I took my range of fabrics, tried to figure out where I felt like there was a large enough value jump between two fabrics, and went to my fabric drawer to try to fill it. I was very lucky — I had the perfect fabric that snuggled in perfectly to what I had already set up — and that is the fabric here.


The seventh value goes into gray.


And the eighth and final value is the black.


Then I worked on her eye. I had the perfect blue in my stash. It is actually a little lighter than the blue in the photograph but I think it works well. I’m surprised at how visual I’ve become. I envisioned the exact blue that I wanted and then went to pull it from the drawer.


The beak was tricky. It has a different texture to the feathers and I knew that to make it stand out visually from what I had done previously, I needed to use different fabrics. I liked the range of pink for the top of the beak, but they didn’t work as well for the bottom.


In the photograph, the plum around her eye is repeated in the lower section of the beak — so I tried a range of plums for the lower beak. This is closer to where I want to be. There is always something in a piece that isn’t clear cut.


You’ll notice that I had to tape my smaller pressing sheet to my newer one. I never thought I would go beyond the dimensions of my ultra large pressing sheet — but it didn’t take me long to press the boundaries.

I don’t know if I’ll keep the beak the way it is, but I’ve set it aside on my design wall for now. I’m working on the Tower pieces. Once again, I loved the way she looked so much on the black, I considering giving her a plain background — but then she also looks good on the primary Tower fabric that I chose, so I’m going to experiment with that and see where it takes me.



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