Friday, September 2, 2016


I had this crazy idea that I could create a fabric portrait of our now nearly 11 month old grandson.  Okay, I also KNEW it would be difficult....yet the challenge was intriguing.

I spent hours and hours and hours online researching various techniques.  Lea McComas lessons were quite helpful. By combining several's what I did.
 It began by selecting a photo
Cropping it
 Posterizing in Photoshop - I'm not Photoshop savvy so this took some doing, of course now I see how really simple that task was! 
The photo was printed and with the aid of a light box and freezer paper, the face was traced, divided into sections.  Each was assigned a number for its value, with a total of 5 to correspond with 5 solid fabrics. 

Next, each of the marked sections of the freezer paper were cut out and pressed to pieces of Wonder-Under prepared fabric.  One needs to keep careful track because once the piece is cut it's hard to know whether it is the outline of an eye or the mouth!  As is typical in appliqué, you start from the back and work forward, adding each piece to complete what feels like working on a jigsaw puzzle. And like a jigsaw, where one often begins with the corners, I found it worked best to get the outline of the face fused first.
So....finally all the fusing was completed.  AND DRAT......regular blog readers are aware of the trouble I've had with my cataract surgery. My vision is much, much worse than pre-surgery.  AND the promise of seeing color so much better.....NOT!!  So, that's my excuse for not realizing just how dark the #3 color was.....way too dark...which contributed to making this darling little boy look like he's 5!

I kept thinking that quilting with lighter thread would lighten it up....but it didn't.
 After countless days, much hand wringing, and with the help of my fiber buddies......all possible options to rescue this piece were examined.  Finally, it became clear that I'd have to paint it.  GULP!  Thanks to my pal Kate who introduced me to Golden's Paint Medium....which helped the paint flow and blend better. 
 I did several light layers to achieve the right color.
An email from talented blog buddy Gwyned Trefethen, (written after my posting of my last project which also needed rescuing), helped to steady my hand as I painted.  She said: If anyone has courage as an artist, it is you, Mary. Lopping off the bottom of your quilt, then finding a way to make the pieces work together. Courageous and brilliant!  I'm sharing this because it meant so much to me......and it's a reminder how much we share, inspire, and encourage each other via our blogs!  

It took over two weeks to decide how to finish it.  Cropping the face, eliminating the too skinny neck seemed to make him look more his age...though still too old.  I must have pulled every piece of fabric from my stash auditioning ideas for borders.  I cut who knows how many different colors and sizes of mats and tried who knows how many frame options.  In the end, instead of lopping off the bottom of the tree as in my last project.....I lopped off his neck.  

This isn't a masterpiece and I'm not sure I'll attempt another one......yet there is a certain sense of satisfaction that comes from creating such complex piece.
Elan Stori 2016
11" x 13"

Please take the time to visit other artists to help encourage them on their does make a difference!!    Nina-Marie's Off The Wall Friday, Sarah's Whoop Whoop Friday.


Kathy said...

What an accomplishment! Portraiture is so very, very difficult and your result is so very nice. Great job!

Norma Schlager said...

I have done a few of these and boy, does it ever teach you about value. I think you did a terrific job. Cropping it the way you did much improved the piece.

Nancy said...

Once again you overcome the challenges- and a child's portrait has a lot of them. Well done!

The Inside Stori said...

Norma pointed out the challenge of selecting the correct I can't say I was especially good at that prior to cataract surgery.....but with the darn problems I continue to have AFTER the's lucky the kid doesn't have purple hair and red eyes!!

Brenda said...

thanks for sharing your process here. I've seen this technique but never attempted it myself.

quiltedfabricart said...

This illustrates what a talented artist you are. Instead of giving up you took it as a challenge to figure how to make it work. And you did brilliantly. The cataracts make everything fuzzy and blends colors so to you I'm sure the value was ok . The cropping did help a lot. It s hard to go wrong with a cute face such as his though

The Idaho Beauty said...

Yeah - you did it! Can imagine how scary that was wielding the paintbrush but it solved the value problem nicely. And the cropping - so perfect. I went back to the original photo to see where that skinny neck came from and saw that had you included a bit of the shirt he was wearing, all would have been well. Or if you'd altered your posterized version to draw in the other side of the neck. But this is even a better solution. Another example of how "zooming in" when composing the final version can make it stronger compositionally.

This technique is really difficult to pull off and not have the subject come out looking ghoulish. You've done well and the stitching works well on it too. Not something I ever plan to try and I'm surprised that you did, not surprised this may be your one and only. ;-)

Windy Hill Happenings said...

The painting and cropping did wonders for the piece...looks great and am sure Chris and Kelly will love it!!

Robbie said...

This is wonderful, Mary!!!! I think you did a great job!!! I love it!!!

Sarah Craig said...

Mari, I hope you realize just how amazing this is - I'm sure his parents will treasure it forever!!! Whoop whoop whoop!!!

Angela said...

Way to go! It is not likely I would ever attempt a portrait like that!