Saturday, February 15, 2014

Serpent Within, Unresolved Chord: The Creation Continues

My goodness, another snowy afternoon, and another chance to work on a few creative projects.  I'm thinking that if I segue between projects over the course of an afternoon, the projects will cross-fertilize one another.

One of the projects involves this image of a tree trunk with a belligerent sprite crouched at its base:

and so I'm doing that, using my favorite materials:  Pimatex cotton, Pebeo Setacolor paints, Shiva paintsticks, and yarn.  Last time I wrote about this project, I noted the difficulty of shaping a face to look like the unforgettable one in the crotch of the tree.  More about the face later later--meanwhile I'm going to work on the background of tree bark.

A couple of days ago I created a base for the image of the tree bark by sponging Setacolor paints in grayish-greens onto a piece of Pimatex cotton and added a light sprinkling of salt to the paint.

Today, that painted fabric having dried and been heat-set, it was ready for embellishment that would make it resemble bark.  I used Shiva paintsticks and a piece of bark acquired for the purpose:

First I wanted to check out my paintsticks and choose colors that, when applied onto the background I painted the other day, would make it look most like tree bark.

It's hard to tell from this photo, but ice blue and beige, the two colors on the right, look like the best bets to me.

So I tried these colors out, first on a piece of gray fabric with the piece of bark placed beneath it,

 then directly onto my painted piece.

I like this plain beige the best, without the ice blue.  So far, the background looks pretty convincingly like the tree trunk torso that inspired it.  After the paintsticks have cured and been heat-set (3 days), I'll start to work on the swelling contours of the thighs, probably by layering the piece from the back with a piece of muslin, machine-stitching the outline of the thighs, then cutting a slit in the material on the back and inserting judiciously and strategically placed bits of fiberfill between the two layers. 

As I wait for the paintstick to cure, I'm also trying to figure out how to reproduce that bunched-up face with its baseball nose, and I just had an idea:  enlist the aid of my friend, creative felter Robin McCahill.

Robin once made a felted figure of a giant phoenix, then devised a harness-like contraption that enabled her to operate its wings as she walked along underneath.

 Robin also made a contraption that enables the arduous process of wet felting to become a bit easier, as the wet item to be felted is mounted on a roller and that roller in turn on a frame like a lawn mower handle.   Robin calls her invention WTF, which, she explains, stands for Walk To Felt.

If anybody can help me come up with a face like the one in my original photo, it's Robin, and I'll see her tomorrow at her felting class at the New Britain Museum of American Art.

Meanwhile, I'll go on to Unresolved Chord, a very, very different piece.

For this one, I've constructed an optical illusion out of silks that are themselves optical illusions, taking on one color when held in one direction and a second color tilted the opposite way.  This piece is called Unresolved Chord because it 's intended to hang in a show dedicated to jazz ;  an optical illusion is like an unresolved chord because both are ambiguous about which way they're going.  Today, my Unresolved Chord is ready to be layered with a backing and be quilted.  .

For the backing, I'm going to piece a couple of batiks from my stash, the colors of which just happen to coordinate with those on the quilt top:

Once I pieced those two batiks together, the quilt back looked like this:

Now. I've just begun to quilt it, following the lines created by the blocks:

So this is where I stand at 7 p.m. this snowy Saturday, having done significant work on two pieces simultaneously.

Did they cross-fertilize one another?  I can't say that they did.  They're too different:  the tree-crotch image with its moody naturalism and the optical illusion with its enigmatic shape-shifting.  But I can say this:  that the act of working on them both in the course of an afternoon, going back and forth between them, was itself an energizer:  stimulation from two very different directions, and enjoyment of two wholly different kinds.

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