Bed book peek: Persian Cat

This Persian cat will be used as a spot illustration in the Iran spread in my upcoming picture book, My Bed. The story about children’s sleeping places in different cultures around the world is written by Rebecca Bond and will be published by Houghton Mifflin Harcourt in 2020. Children’s book publishers need at least a year to design, print and market a book, so I have to have everything finished by the winter of 2019. That means I’m practically working around the clock to get it done in time.

Just for fun, I’ve added a collection of cats from Pocketful of Posies: A Treasury of Nursery Rhymes at the end of this post.

In addition to creating full page illustrations, I’m making a series of animal icons that will appear on the adjacent text panels throughout the book. The miniature stuffed animals  relate to the geographic area of each corresponding scene.

Here are links to posts showing the other animal icons I’ve already made for the book: Goldfish and Elephant, Parrot and Sheep, Rooster. To see process photos of the finished illustrations for the book, click these links: Iran, South America, Russia, Japan, Afghanistan.

The research on Persian cats led to photographs of fluffy dark grey felines whose faces are noticeably different from regular house cats. Their cartoon-like features remind me of those 1960’s paintings of wide-eyed waifs, with large eyes and stubby little noses.   First, I wrapped tapestry wool around its pipe cleaner legs. Then, I stitched features onto its felt face. With pinking shears, I cut a mane out of felt and stitched the face on top.

For the tail, I sewed a strip of felt around a pipe cleaner.

To help make the ears point up, I sewed wire along the top edges. For a finishing touch, I added some tapestry wool stitches to its coat.

As a basis of comparison, I’ve selected a group of cat details from illustrations in my 2010 children’s book Pocketful of Posies: A Treasury of Nursery Rhymes. Autographed copies are available in my Etsy Shop.

To keep up with new posts, subscribe to this blog (top right column on the home page). If you’d like to see more frequent photos tracking the projects in my studio, please follow me on Facebook and/or Instagram.

Bed book peek: Iran (part 3)

This is the third and final post about the Iranian illustration for my new children’s book. To see the previous posts in the series, click the links for Part 1 and Part 2. The scene will be included in My Bed, a book about where children sleep around the world, with each spread depicting a different culture and living environment. The story is written by Rebecca Bond and will be published by Houghton Mifflin Harcourt in 2020. Here are links to posts showing other finished illustrations for the book: South America, JapanIndiaAfghanistan and Russia.

For this courtyard scene, I sorted through piles of fabric in my stash to find a combination of colors, patterns and textures that worked together and lent themselves to the environment. Then, following the layout drawing, I built structures and embroidered architectural details, using my preferred stitches; blanket and chain.

All variety of beads, charms, metal findings and small hardware can find their way into a piece. My propensity for including found objects has not waned since childhood, when I declared that “crayons are not enough” and that my artwork was not finished until “something real” was added!

For this over-the-top decorative style, it’s tempting to keep adding more doodads because they are so cool and need to be seen! Like with all artistic ventures, editing is key to forming a clear statement. It’s not that busyness and detail is bad, there has to be purpose to it, with some sense of order amid the chaos. I have learned to choose objects with care, constantly asking myself, “Will this enhance or detract from what I’m trying to convey?”. Most of my favorite treasures don’t make the cut and have to wait years, hidden in boxes and bags. Sometimes you have to see what doesn’t work first, to be able to recognize what does work.

Another favorite stitch is the single daisy chain, which I use a lot for leaves, like on this tree. The branches are formed with thread covered wire.

After years of being passed over, I was happy to finally use this herring bone wool for the roof.

Trees and branches are some of my favorite things to make. It’s like doodling with wire and thread.

An illustration this size usually takes 4 to 6 weeks to complete, but I am determined to get it down to 3 weeks, in order to meet the deadline. For the next 6 months, I’ll be working in the studio 7 days a week, including evenings. You see, Rob and I spent all last year doing our civic duty, making the animated film, Liberty and Justice: A Cautionary Tale in the Land of the Free, when I was supposed to be working on the bed book. Don’t feel sorry for me — this is what I want to do. And it’s a good excuse to get out of social obligations.

I made heads and arms for 2 sleeping boys. No legs were necessary, since they will be covered up. Except for the hands, they are similar to the dolls in my how-to book, Felt Wee Folk: New Adventures.

It was a treat to embroider their quilts and pillows.

I hope you enjoyed this peek behind the scenes. Documenting the process is a way to keep you up to date with what I’m making, without actually showing the finished illustrations, which will have to wait until the book is published in 2020.

To keep up with new posts, subscribe to this blog (top right column on the home page). Your contact info will not be sold or shared. If you’d like to see more frequent photos tracking the projects in my studio, please follow me on Facebook and/or Instagram.

Bed book peek: Iran (part 2)

Let’s get back to the illustration that I introduced last week in Bed book peek: Iran (part 1).  I had so much fun choosing fabrics that reflect the design and color palette in Persian Miniatures. Over the years, I’ve amassed enough bits and pieces of cloth that I can usually find something that works, without buying anything new. For storage, I use the ubiquitous plastic bins, as well as clear zipper bags that bedding and sheets are sold in. The bags are most handy, because you can glimpse what’s inside without sorting trough the whole lot.

For the rooftop wall, I used tube beads for posts, sewing matching large seed beads to one end.  As you can see, basting helps hold pieces in place until the final stitching. The tatting in the window was made by grandmother over 100 years ago. 

Even though the perspective is not realistic, I still had to convey a believable sense of space, with receding and advancing planes.

Every window, door and wall presented an opportunity to embellish and add another set of colors to the mix.

These bead heads are some of the tiniest I’ve painted.

This couple will be looking out the window. The woman’s dress is felt and her head scarf is silk from a collection of triangle shaped remnants I was given at a tie factory 40 years ago. The silk is cut on the bias and every once in a while a snippet is just the right thing to use. I keep thinking that one day I’ll make a silk quilt…

.

My first impulse was to make the woman shorter than the man, clearly an unconscious nod to cultural norms.  I reconsidered and decided to make the woman taller. It’s funny how a silly thing like that can feel revolutionary.

For the courtyard tiles, I chain stitched outlines on a warn piece of upholstery fabric.

The courtyard will be surrounded by a wall in the foreground. As an accent, I added parts of an Art Deco necklace from a deceased relative. For me, inherited jewelry holds the most promise of being used and passed on through my artwork.

Please stay tuned for Part 3 in this series.

The scene will be included in My Bed , which will be a book about where children sleep around the world, with each spread depicting a different culture and living environment. The story is written by Rebecca Bond and will be published by Houghton Mifflin Harcourt in 2020. Here are links to posts showing other finished illustrations for the book: South America, JapanIndiaAfghanistan and Russia.

To keep up with new posts, subscribe to this blog (top right column on the home page). Your contact info will not be sold or shared. If you’d like to see more frequent photos tracking the projects in my studio, please follow me on Facebook and/or Instagram.

Bed book peek: Iran (part 1)

For this illustration set in Iran, I was inspired by the patterned flat perspective of Persian Miniatures. I combed through my fabric stash for small scale geometric patterns and brighter than usual wool felt pieces. It was an opportunity to over-decorate to my heart’s content!

The scene will be included in My Bed , which will be a book about where children sleep around the world, with each spread depicting a different culture and living environment. The story is written by Rebecca Bond and will be published by Houghton Mifflin Harcourt in 2020. Here are links to posts showing other finished illustrations for the book:
South America, JapanIndiaAfghanistan and Russia.

This is a window frame with wire edging and shutters.

I searched through my collection of beads, charms and doodads to find the right architectural details. Some of these treasures have been waiting for decades to be used!

I’ve had this piece of upholstery fabric forever and was happy to embellish it with chain stitching,

beads and a button.

I have more than a lifetime supply of Hook and Eye hardware.

Adding yet another border to tie it all together…

and more beads on top for good measure.

Here’s a roof section, with a bit of black wire edging to make it stand out.

Lattices, zigzags, diamonds and diagonal lines are the predominate motifs throughout.

I had such fun playing with color and patterns for this part of the scene. Please stay tuned for more posts about this illustration.

To keep up with new posts, subscribe to this blog (top right column on the home page). Your contact info will not be sold or shared. If you’d like to see more frequent photos tracking the projects in my studio, please follow me on Facebook and/or Instagram.

bed book peek – Russia (part 3)

In this third and last post about the Russian scene in my upcoming picture book, I will show the process of making a traditional cottage or dacha, as well as a felt and wire tree. Previous posts feature other elements of this illustration. Part 1 : the larger house, including the roof and stove bed and Part 2 : the inside furnishings.

My Bed will be a book about where children sleep around the world, with each spread depicting a different culture and living environment. The story is written by Rebecca Bond and will be published by Houghton Mifflin Harcourt in 2020.
Here are links to posts showing other finished illustrations for the book:
South America, Japan and India and Afghanistan.

To get a clearer vision of Russian house styles, I researched dachas, which brought to mind Russian Folk Tales. Their distinctive color combinations, ornate window fames and top-heavy overhanging roofs were fun to replicate.

I added chain stitched snow-cover to the bottom.

After finishing this inside window, I realized that it also also needed some snow. It was tricky working around the wire muntin bar in the center.

I formed the tree skeleton with wire of different gauges and covered the trunk and lower branches with felt. This shows the messy seams on the back.

On the front, I embroidered a bark texture with fly stitches.

Then, I wrapped embroidery floss around the smaller wire branches.

No matter how determined I am, it always seems to take about a month to complete an illustration of this size (9 in. x 14 in.). In this photo, you can see a mat board frame with a green wire stapled across the middle. I use it a a guide throughout the process, so that the size and proportions are correct. The wire marks where the gutter (or fold in the center) will be.

I painted a tiny wooden matryoshka doll that kind of matches a set I made and used as props in my animated film Liberty and Justice.

As with many components in my bas-relief illustrations, the doll and pots sitting on the shelf are made from purchased wooden parts, which I cut in half with a saw before painting them. Instead of gluing them directly onto the background, I glue a small piece of felt to the back of each item and then sew that to the back fabric. Glue is so permanent and I want to be flexible up to the end and able to reposition them, if necessary.

I had fun embellishing a piece of lace for the table cloth and arranging cups and plates made of beads…

and decorating the felt curtain with diagonal slashes of thread.

I hope that you enjoyed this tour behind the scenes. Previous posts feature other elements of this illustration. Part 1 : the larger house, including the roof and stove bed and Part 2 : the inside furnishings.

To keep up with new posts, subscribe to this blog (top right column on the home page). Your contact info will not be sold or shared. If you’d like to see more frequent photos tracking the projects in my studio, please follow me on Facebook and/or Instagram.

bed book peek – Russia (part 2)

This post picks up where I left off in Part 1 of the series about the scene set in Russia. I’m working on a picture book that will depict a variety of cultures, each with their own style and decorative tradition, from textiles to furniture to architecture.

From the start, I wanted to feature painted furniture in the Khokhloma style, which is like Scandinavian tole painting. After doing some research, I designed a floral and striped pattern for a cabinet.

Lately, I’ve been using chain stitch more than ever to “draw” lines. This felt panel is embroidered with DMC flower thread, which unfortunately has been discontinued. It’s thicker, not as shiny as regular embroidery floss and has a sturdy feel that I find satisfying. I treasure my supply of flower thread and have enough to last a while longer.

Update: Catriona from Dutch Treat Designs contacted me to say, “We still sell DMC Flower Thread. We have available for purchase almost 1/2 of the colors DMC made. DMC discontinued the manufacture of their 180 colors of Flower Thread in 2003. We bought the remaining inventory from a large DMC distributor, and offer those colors here for your convenience to purchase while they last. We don’t have every color, but we have many of them.”

To make frames for the side panels, I cut out pieces of felt and sewed a blanket stitch around the edges.

Wire comes in handy for so many things. In the this case, I used it to create molding along the top edge of the counter top.

The feet are fashioned from tube beads.

I made the table and chairs out of pieces of wood, including small turned balusters that are sold to make doll house stairs.

I painted the chairs red and decorated them with a fine marking pen.

Stay tuned because there’s more to come! Part 3 in the series will show what’s outside of the house.

To keep up with new posts, subscribe to this blog (top right column on the home page). Your contact info will not be sold or shared. If you’d like to see more frequent photos tracking the projects in my studio, please follow me on Facebook and/or Instagram.

 

bed book peek – Russia (part 1)

I’m illustrating a picture book about where children sleep around the world, with each spread depicting a different culture and living environment. The story is written by Rebecca Bond and will be published by Houghton Mifflin Harcourt in 2020. Here are links to posts about other illustrations for the book: South America, Japan and India and Afghanistan.

This scene shows the inside and outside of a house, with a traditional Russian oven as the centerpiece. Besides its use for domestic heating, in winter people slept on top of the oven to keep warm. I was first introduced to this kind of “stove bed” many years ago, when it was depicted in a magical stage set made for a Russian themed Christmas Revels performance at Sanders Theatre in Cambridge, MA.

I started with the stove, using wool felt for the bricks and raw silk to convey the bumpy texture of masonry.

For some of the illustrations in this book, I’m returning to some tried and true techniques that I developed way back in the 70’s, when I made fabric pins. To make a film stove shape, I cut out a piece of acid-free mat board and covered it with fabric. As usual, hooks and eyes make size-appropriate hardware.

For roof tiles, I sewed together a string of bone beads that have been in my stash forever.

It isn’t often that I find a use for the lace from the vast supply stored in my attic. Most of the time, white lace comes across as lace. It’s hard to make it appear like something else, unless it’s dyed a color. But in this case, it could work as gingerbread style molding.

I made the head and half of the top portion of a sleeping child.

I created a recessed area for the child to rest on and sewed the stove and rooftop together. It was solid enough to stand on its own.

Stay tuned – more posts about this illustration will be coming!

To keep up with new posts, subscribe to this blog (top right column on the home page). Your contact info will not be sold or shared. If you’d like to see more frequent photos tracking the projects in my studio, please follow me on Facebook and/or Instagram.