Artists are always looking for inspiration and challenge. I suppose that is true of most professions. You want something to look different, to express a fresh and new perspective or solve a problem. I was faced with just this issue come December 2022 when my good friend asked if I was up to creating a new commission for him.
I have a soft spot for this patron, he was the first person to ask me to do my fiber art from a photo he provided for me. He was so pleased with that work he has asked for several others since. So, I asked him to send me the picture and I would get back with him as soon as I could. A few back-and-forth calls came about and once I saw this picture, I knew I was in for a challenge!
This a house in Pennsylvania that was previously owned by his sister. The house is over 150 years old and definitely in the Federalist style. I just love the symmetry and stature of this building. Oh, my all those bricks and windows. My mind fired with just how I would do this right, Could I use fabric for the base then add the windows and shutters on top? How would I work up those brick walls with all those curves, and all that green scape. To say my interest was piqued was the least of my worries.
I then asked when he wanted it delivered and he said by Christmas. Without hesitation I told him there would be no way I could do this piece justice in a few weeks. He fully agreed and asked that I take some time and I promised to keep him up to date with my progress.
I resized the photo he sent to 12 inches by 16 inches, a little bigger than I usually do. Then I used a gray scale, printing this in black and white only. With all those greens my eyes were finding it hard to pick out details of which needed to be created.
Then the fabric sorting began, keeping in mind the tone of the many greens for grass and bushes, bricks and stone fabric and the roof shingles. It truly amazes me that there are so many different things printed for quilting fabric. For this piece I need to make sure that the scale of the images fit correctly but the size of a brick can easily be made smaller by drawing onto it with colored pencils and pen.
I decided to do a tracing of the printout to help me keep the windows and shape of the house as accurate as possible. I was busy making chimney’s, windowpanes and all those bricks for the front of the house to say the least. Here is a close up of the sky, the roof and the fabric I used for the brick front. As you can see the lines of this printed fabric for the bricks are bigger than they should be, so I started adding lines and shadows to make much smaller bricks. Then the windows were traced onto solid white fabric to fuse on top of these bricks using the tracing I had made earlier. One thing I know is a door or window needs to be straight in a picture or it sticks out like a sore thumb!
By the end of January, I was off to a four-day sewing retreat and had gotten this far on the house. I knew that the center of focus was the house and wanted it to shine as much as possible.
You can see the change in fabric for the brick front by seeing the light fabric below the door. I was able to add some color with the red doors and blue shutters. It is amazing how the color just pops against those bricks. I also realized there is a transom above the front door as I started coloring in the door. I just love the fabric that shows as dark green below the door too. It is from a line of fabric that were digital prints taken from Vincent Van Gough paintings.
I work on my art quilts as a painter would, going from background to middle then to the foreground. For this picture it was necessary because of the bushes and rock walls. But I love this kind of layering, I am painting with fabric and thread indeed.
This is progress after a few weeks of intense work. Honestly, I felt as if I was fussing with details, but it was so necessary. In fact, you can see I changed the color of those blue shutters to a brighter blue, used the same blue for the chairs on the patio and stated working on the leaves on the tree in the background. I also added the mailbox and that black iron S that is often adorned on old houses built at this time. I see that the front door frame is a bit cockeyed. Argg, got to fix that after I get some sleep.
Finally finished! I added lots of stitching with different threads and silk ribbon. I continued to fuss over the color of the bricks of the house, but it got darker due to the line work I did to keep it to scale. I learned a few other things from this too. That there are WAY more shades and tones for green that one would think. If you use purple and blue for the darkest shades on top of green, it looks more realistic. I knew from art school, it was forgotten until I piled some purple onto the background greens.
I was able to pass this on to my patron yesterday and he was more than pleased with this outcome. I do believe it is the best I have done so far. I have learned some new tricks and solutions to those constant questions of how would I do that, could I do that, and do I dare? I say yes!!