Wooohooo! I can’t share the picture yet, but I can let you know that a small watercolor of mine has been selected to be one of the new projects included in Lesley Riley’s Inspirational Quotes Illustrated, to be published by North Light Books / F+W (the latter is also the parent company to Quilting Arts and Interweave)! I am tickled silly! In 2013, Lesley Riley self-published Quotes Illustrated; a mere two days later North Light contacted her, and the book is being expanded and will be out in November 2014! You can see a bit more here. What a THRILL! Thank you, Lesley, for choosing me as one of 30 out of more than 260 new entries–really looking forward to seeing the book.
Archive for the ‘Art’ Category
I just read a fabulous article on photographing your artwork here, at textileart.org. I highly recommend it! I was thrilled that they link to Holly Knott’s instruction page for textile artists and art quilters, and they also had embedded a very useful YouTube video put up by the folks at Saatchi Online (see the video at the bottom of this post). Those posts inspired me to share with you how I do my own photography.
I’ve become adept at photography through self-education and practice, and you can too. My photographs have been used in my book (AQS even gave me a photography credit!), in Quilting Arts magazine (which has some of the best photography out there), Machine Quilting Unlimited magazine, and a number of Lark Books including 500 Art Quilts, so I think I’ve reached proficiency–at least with the best of my shots. Here’s a little of what I do in hopes that it will help you!
Set-up and level: In the photo above, I’ve shown how I set things up in my studio. I am very fortunate to have a LARGE (vast!) design wall, which I had built and installed when we moved into this house three (!!!) years ago. I can pin my quilts to the wall and photograph them easily. If you don’t have a design wall, you can create a temporary set-up easily and inexpensively: purchase either foam core or rigid foam insulation. Place the foam core or insulation flat (or as flat as you can get) against the wall (poster tacking putty may be helpful). If you have to tilt the board, make sure the camera lens is parallel to the surface (see the Saatchi video, at the bottom of this post).
I purchased a small “gizzie,” a bubble level that fits into the camera hotshoe (the place where one attaches a separate flash) of my camera so that I can be sure that the camera is perfectly parallel to the vertical wall and also level, because my basement floors definitely are not perfectly level. I purchased my camera level from B&H Photo Video, a vast emporium (a real store and online) for all things photo and video; they have really expert sales people who can help you with expensive decisions (like a DSLR!) and great prices. They are a Jewish business, so they close for the Sabbath (Friday to Saturday evenings) and holy days, so check on the website for special closings. Otherwise, they are there. Type “Camera level” into the search box on the site to find their current offerings. If my eyes are telling me one thing and the hotshoe level is saying another, I often use a small “torpedo” level to double check. When I turn the camera to vertical on the tripod, because the barrel of the lens has ridges, I make certain the front of the lens is level (see photos below).
If you want to get REALLY obsessive (guilty!) you can make sure your quilt is exactly vertical using a small bubble level from the hardware store:
To obsess a bit more, you want to make sure that once the QUILT is vertical/level, that your camera LENS is also vertical/level. The floors in my basement studio (painted that grass green!) are anything but flat and level. So I triple check with not only the hotshoe bubble level, but I use the small red torpedo level (seen in the photo at the side of my quilt and below) to check if the camera LENS is vertical. If the lens tips up or down, you will get distortion called keystoning, where a true rectangle appears wider at the top or at the bottom.
Distortion: Through trial, error, and observation, I have learned that when I use my Nikon DSLR with the extra long zoom lens, the lower right of the lens has some distortion: it just isn’t sharp in that lower right corner. So when I set up and take photographs, I know that I need to have my tripod far enough away that I can avoid having a corner of the quilt in the not-so-sharp zone. Next on my agenda: take out the shorter zoom lens that came with the camera and see how that does.
Focal length: I’ve also read that the optimal focal length for still photography like this is 50 mm (well, the digital equivalent of what 50mm was on old film cameras). You definitely don’t want to go wide-angle because you will get distortion: a square quilt will bulge out like a fish eye, the sides will appear to push out in the middle. When I set up the tripod, I set the camera to 50mm, then I move the tripod so that the quilt fills the viewfinder (while avoiding that odd spot with my particular lens) but still allows me room to crop the photo in Photoshop Elements.
Tripod: I cannot overstate how important it is to have a perfectly still camera. As you push the button, your hand introduces shake to the camera. My first tripod was purchased used for $27. Yep, that inexpensive. And photos from that set-up made it into books! I eventually replaced with an “enthusiast” level tripod, but which still didn’t cost more than $150. Since this is my business, it was a business deduction (and honestly, the only time I’ve ever used it for anything other than work is to film Eli at a few wrestling meets–I can videotape from the tripod and take still pics sitting on the floor!) and well worth it. My tripod head has a built in bubble level on it, too, but I rely on the level on the camera to make sure the camera isn’t tilted on a level tripod. If you don’t have a tripod, find a ladder, chair or other stable surface and put your camera on that. Use the self-timer, press the button, then let the camera trigger the shot; this avoids wiggling from your hands pushing the button.
At the enthusiast level, tripods and heads are sold separately. Some photography books urge you to buy a tilt-pan head, which swivels on a ball head. I have found for photographing a quilt, I prefer the heads that allow you to level horizontally, then vertically, using two separate knobs. I know that once I get horizontal level if I have to adjust for vertical, I would knock it out of level. By having the head have two separate knobs, I can adjust in one direction, get it right and lock it in, then adjust for the other direction of level.
Lighting is CRITICAL! I followed the information on Holly Knott’s website (paragraph and links below) to purchase the tulip bulbs that give even light when correctly positioned. I screw them into inexpensive shop fixtures from the big-box hardware stores (about $9 each).
Instead, follow the info on Holly’s site and move the quilt stands (made from a 2×4 and four basic shelf brackets each, construction details on Holly’s site) back from the quilt to get good, even lighting. Play with the White Balance on your camera to adjust for the type and color of light in your studio combined with the tulip bulbs. If I recall, they recommend NOT having the overheads on, but I find that my studio is so dark that I really need my daylight-bulb overhead lights on to get a good shot. Experiment to see what settings and lighting give you the sharpest, most color-correct photo.
Holly Knott’s Shoot That Quilt: For fabulous instruction on how to “Shoot That Quilt,” visit Holly Knott’s very helpful site, here. She collaborated with a professional photographer, and I can say unequivocally that her information–especially on lighting–has made a key difference in improving the quality of my photos. In particular, take a good long look at the “Gallery of Wrongs” which shows common errors and how to avoid them.
And watch this video prepared by Saatchi Online, a mongo huge online art gallery. It is very well done, with a lot of good information. I hope you’ve enjoyed this post! Now go make art, then photograph it well!
When the curtain went up on this major prize winning quilt, I knew we had a game-changer. With apologies for the analogy, this quilt is about the size of my placemat! Finally, art quilters don’t have to force themselves to work somewhere between large and vast to have a chance at a top prize.
That puppy made a second appearance in the quilt show in this larger quilt which Masanobu made with his wife:
And the signage:
Here’s a detail of the small quilt…breathtaking!
And the signage:
Hope you enjoy!
If you have to run errands, take time to smell the roses on the way. This photo is for Jacquie, with a detail below:
OR, in the case of doctor’s appointments in far-away cities, do fun stuff! Last Monday I had to drive to Brunswick (75 minutes) for a 20 minute appointment. But it is right near Freeport, home to L.L. Bean. So I did some Christmas shopping and thanks to MANY credit card points, got a couple great bargains. The next day, I had another longer drive: nearly 2 hours each way to Portland for a final check-up on my feet (a year ago I had arthritis in my big toe joints removed and can now bend my feet again!). So I visited Portland Architectural Salvage, Micucci’s Grocery, the Old Port Specialty Tile store and the Portland Museum of Art, and finally Whole Foods (the Key Lime cheesecake is awesome).
There weren’t any great deals at the Salvage shop; it has clearly been discovered by the young 20-somethings fixing up their cool downtown Portland apartments and condos! But there was plenty of free inspiration. I just LOVED looking at the lines of doors stacked up and the abstract strata design in this close up:
There were several ogival panels, too, that I am guessing came from a church. What awesome quilting or applique designs these would make:
And more inspiration in the form of old heat registers: you know how we have ugly rectangles with straight lines through which dry air blows heat at us? Well, a century ago those openings for the heat to reach you were much more interesting:
Next I went to find Micucci’s, an Italian grocery that also wholesales gourmet foods to various places around the state, including Megunticook Market in Camden where Joshua works in catering. I found a jar of chestnuts, torrona, and other delectables, and I also discovered the tile store was two doors away. I had seen ads for this place, and OH MY. Now, to win that lottery so I can re-do the bathrooms….
Then before I went to Whole Foods on the way home (I call that place the hundred-dollar-a-bag store, my foot doc says locally it is called Whole Paycheck, but my they have good food and stuff you can’t find unless you order on the internet), I treated myself to visiting the PieceWork exhibit at Portland Museum of Art. I joined the museum when I signed up to visit the Winslow Homer house at Prout’s Neck, and I promise I WILL share pics from that visit a while back. I was beyond thrilled to see at least EIGHT textile works of art as well as several mixed media.
I first saw this installation piece—it is easily 9 feet tall and much wider–at a gallery in nearby Belfast, Maine. I was thrilled it made the cut for the biennial exhibit, which is of works by people living in or with other significant ties to Maine.
You could spend an hour or more poring over the artworks within the artworks. I kept taking pictures, fascinated by the materials and messages. Here is just one of the detail photos:
I left SO inspired…all I wanted to do was head to my studio!
So you can see, I am VERY BUSY. Can someone please find me another 27 hours a day so I can make some art??????
As I mentioned a short while ago, I’ve been ridiculously busy. Between birthday (Joshua), Thanksgiving (all of us), wrestling (Eli and Paul), laundry, dog walkies, fundraising for the Cross Country and Track teams, follow-up doctor’s appointments in distant cities, it seems like the last month has evaporated. I have managed to do some doodling (I *REFUSE* to call it zentangling, as I’ve been doing this sort of stuff since about 1973) and some sketching and visiting cool places in Portland, Maine….. here’s a taste:
Both the cat and owl were done in my new Stillman & Birn Epsilon sketchbook which has 100-lb “plate” (very smooth) finish paper. I used HEAVY black ink (Pitt permanent) and there is very little show through (you can see a bit from the reverse side on the cat page). With regular sketch paper I wouldn’t be able to do ANYthing on the back side of the paper. TOTALLY love this sketchbook and paper. It is heavy enough for light water media, so I think this may become my sketchbook of choice. They also have a plate finish in heavier paper, and the journals come wirebound and hardbound, ivory or white paper. Nice!
And over Thanksgiving break, Max (younger brother of Eli’s wrestling coach) was home and came to chop down some trees. Sigh. This was a BEAUTIFUL tree. Plopped right in the middle of the yard. ???? Then, when we had to do some extensive ditching alongside the driveway to deal with water run-off, we discovered the previous owners planted this tree SMACK ON TOP of the power line to the house, which was about 24 inches below ground. HELLO? Can you say “root damage?” Out there alone this tree could easily get toppled by a wind gust, ripping up the main power line to our house. So down it came. Ditto for the two trees the previous owners planted right on top of the power box and meter and the one tree right on top of the water wellhead. WHAT were they thinking? WERE they thinking? They did so many things correctly (because the house is well-built and we love it) that it makes one wonder.
Since we feel like it is nearly criminal to cut down trees, we are sad.
I’ll share more about the trip to Portland in a post soon! It involves old stuff and art!