Close-ups (emotion)

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One of the fun and challenging parts about illustrating for children is showing emotion and action, especially in fiber art, which tends to be static. To counter-act the stiff blandness, I like to bring forth emotion by exaggerating the poses and facial expressions of my characters. But there’s a fine line between evoking believable feeling and creating a grotesque appearance, much like the difference between acting well and over acting. I’ve seen some doll faces that are downright scary and bizarre. My goal is to portray emotion with a subtle firmness, without being too disturbing.

Nursery Rhymes are full of emotional and physical activity, so I had lots of opportunities to experiment with poses and facial expressions in my book, Pocketful of Posies: A Treasury of Nursery Rhymes. Here are a selection of close-ups from the book.

Do you want to see the original embroidered illustrations from the book? There are still several locations scheduled for the Pocketful of Posies Traveling Exhibit, which has been touring the country since 2010.

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artwork @ Rainbow Babies & Children’s Hospital

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I recently heard from the curator at University Hospitals in Cleveland, Ohio, who acquired some of my artwork for their collection in the 90′s. It’s been more than 15 years and I haven’t been very good about keeping records of where my work has gone, especially from the pre-computer days. I remembered that that my work was at the Rainbow Babies and Children’s Hospital, so I was glad to clarify which pieces have been hanging there all these years.

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There are 2 original illustrations from the 1st edition of Mary Had a Little Lamb. The book has been out of print for years and a few weeks ago, I found a carton of them in my attic! So, I’m selling them in my Etsy Shop (while supplies last). This is a rare opportunity, because it’s practically impossible to find a new, hard cover copy, let alone an autographed one!

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The public can see these pieces on the first floor of the Rainbow Babies and Children’s Hospital. In addition to the 2 original illustrations, they’ve mounted the printed pages from the book along a wall, so people can see and read the whole story.

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Another piece, Falling Leaves, is hanging in the 2nd floor elevator lobby. It makes me feel good to know that families spending time in the hospital may have been comforted by my artwork, even if for a moment.

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closeups (wheels)

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Working in miniature, there are many objects available for wheels; buttons, washers, snaps, key rings, etc. This series of images are mostly from my earlier work, starting with a detail from a piece I made in 1986. The wire bicycle is less than 2 inches long. Looking at these, I’m amazed that I had time to do all of the stitching because I had a baby and a preschooler to take care of. I remember working every evening after they went to bed.

The button wheels in this detail (below) from “Fall”, 1987, are about 1/2″ in diameter.

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Skip ahead 10 years for this detail from the Sidewalks poem in my 1997 book, “You and Me: Poems of Friendship“. The car hub-caps are fancy coat buttons and the tires are made from black insulated wire. The stroller wheels are 1/2″ buttons.

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Here’s a detail from “The Hollyhock Wall”, 1999. The car hub-caps are made from regular sized snaps.HHWpinkhouse2WM

The bicycle wheels in this detail from “You and Me” are made from the smallest key rings I could find, about 1/2″. The bicycle spokes are metallic thread and the helmets are painted acorn caps.

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This is another detail from the same Fast Friends illustration in “You and Me”. That’s my husband Rob in the truck.

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16 years later and I’m still making ice cream trucks. This 2″ embroidered one is from a baby quilt I’m in the process of making for a friend. Stay tuned for more quilt images!

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Closeups: Spring

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Today is the Spring Equinox! Let’s celebrate the coming of warmth and the promise of the growing season. Here are some spring-inspired closeups of my artwork, starting with a house and tree, which I guess is from the first grade. Skip 50 years, to a group of details from some nursery rhyme illustrations in Pocketful of Posies. If you have the book, you can look carefully and pick them out.

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Russian video of my artwork

This YouTube video was pointed out to me a couple of days ago. Russian, Aleksandr Smolyaninov has taken images of my artwork from this blog (I presume) and blended them together to the sounds of a bouncy polka played by Larry Cheskey and his Orchestra. This explains why my blog and Facebook stats have been showing a lot of visitors from Russia and other countries from the former Soviet Union. I think Aleksandr has done a good job, although the video’s bursting title letters aren’t to my taste. Rollicking music and moving photos make it active and enjoyable to watch. Should I be concerned that a video was made without my permission? I don’t think so — it’s a good way for lots of people to see my artwork. Anyways, I have sent a message that I would like him to ask permission to use my images.

Posies goes to the Foothills

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…the foothills of the Blue Ridge Mountains, that is. The Crooked Man and 24 other nursery rhyme illustrations are traveling to Elkin, North Carolina for the next leg of the Pocketful of Posies traveling exhibit.

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I’m happy to announce that the show will at the Foothills Arts Council from January 11 to February 23, 2013. I hope that many people from the area will see the exhibit, as this is as far south as the show will travel. To find other locations around the country and the schedule for the rest of the year, visit the Pocketful of Posies Traveling Show page.

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Birds of Beebe Woods: robin

Back in the spring, when I started working on Birds of Beebe Woods, robins were in abundance,  hopping around the yard. After making the larger, dominant crow, I added a robin to the piece, placing it in the center, down on the ground. Compared to the smaller, realistic looking birds that were made later, the crow and robin’s bodies are more abstract, with stylized patterns on their wings and breast. My approach to rendering the birds seems to have changed during the 4 months that I worked on the piece. Toward the end, when I sewed the nuthatch, chickadee and warbler, I referred to photographs more closely and was caught up in making them identifiable and naturalistic. I like to combine realism and abstraction.

In keeping with the robin’s perky nature, I curved the bird like a sideways apostrophe, with its tail flaring upwards.  The red breast presented a opportunity to play around with warm tones and metallic thread.

To see more posts about the making of Birds of Beebe Woods, see the archives here. A 18″ x 24″ poster (pictured at the beginning of this post) is available through my Etsy Shop. Also, the piece is part of “Intimate Woods”, a fiber art exhibit at Highfield Hall in Falmouth, MA. through November 16, 2012. Then it will be on exhibit (along with 2 original illustrations from Pocketful of PosiesDecember 1st, 2nd, 7th, 8th and 9th at the Plymouth Antiquarian Society’s Fairy Christmas at Hedge House Museum, Plymouth, MA.

Birds of Beebe Woods: warbler

I wanted to include a warbler in the Birds of Beebe Woods piece and found that a handful of varieties live in our area, each with their own distinct markings. I liked the look of the black throated green warbler best and thought its color patterns and striped wings would show up against the brownish gold background fabric.

To start, I found many photographs of warblers in books and on the internet and sketched until I found a pose that fit into the  scene of birds. After making paper patterns, I cut out the bird’s shape from matt board and cut pieces of white, green, black and yellow from wool felt. Thinking ahead, I glued cheap acrylic felt to the back of the matt board body, so there would be something to grab the stitches while the front felt piece was later being sewn in place. I also basted thick wool felt padding to the top of the matt board piece.

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I embroidered the texture and markings on the warbler’s green head. The bead eye is sewn inside a cut out hole in the yellow felt. Periodically, I would hold the bird up against the background fabric, to make sure there was enough contrast.

I used a combination of blanket stitch, fly stitch and lots of little single stitches.

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The wing’s stripes were defined by chain stitched lines.

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To finish, I made a little felt tail and added thread wrapped wire legs. Then, the black throated green warbler was ready to join the flock.

To see more posts about the making of Birds of Beebe Woods, see the archives here. An 18″ x 24″ poster (pictured at the beginning of this post) is available through my Etsy Shop.

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3 shows, 3 prizes

Three of my fabric relief pieces are currently in three different shows in La Conner, WA, Framingham, MA and Falmouth, MA. I’m happy to say that they’ve all been recognized in some way. I tell myself that art isn’t competitive and that prizes don’t matter, but it sure feels good when one’s work is noticed in a special way. Thank you jurors and voters! It just so happens that all three pieces are available as posters in my Etsy Shop.

This is the first time I’ve entered a quilt show because without 3 layers and a hanging sleeve, my work doesn’t usually qualify. But, the La Conner Quilt Festival made me feel welcome. The quilt show structure (and culture) still feels alien, though, with its myriad of categories and prizes.  I’m not complaining — it’s wonderful to slip into the “fiber art – not quilted” category.

Self Portrait: a personal history of fashion received 2nd place in the Masters Fiber Art – not quilted category, in the 2012 Quilt Festival, La Conner Quilt and Textile Museum, La Conner, WA. The show is this weekend, Oct. 5 – 7, 2012.

Rabbitat (see film here) was awarded Second Prize for its inclusion in the Danforth Museum of Art’s  Annual Juried Exhibition of Children’s Book Illustration Picture This!. The show will be at the Danforth Museum (Framingham, MA) until November 4, 2012.

And I just heard that Birds of Beebe Woods was voted “Most Favorite Artwork” by attendees at the Beebe Woods Exhibit opening last friday night. That’s nice! The show will be at Highfield Hall in Falmouth, MA (Cape Cod) until Nov. 16, 2012.

Birds of Beebe Woods: cardinals

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See other posts about making Birds of Beebe Woods here. A poster is available from my Etsy Shop.

Most of the birds in Birds of Beebe Woods are the colorful male variety, but I decided to add a pair of cardinals to the mix. The female is shown in her nest, which is made of florist’s rafia-like straw.

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After consulting photographs of cardinals, I did a simple drawing to follow. The basic shape is cut out of matt board and the padding is basted in place. I don’t know what the padding material is made of— a friend gave me a bunch. In this case, I made a felt hood and embroidered feather patterns with variegated thread.

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Then, I stitched the beak and surrounded the bead eye with several rows of black blanket stitching.

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The tail has a wire armature to help keep its shape.

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