One week on and this is the progress I have made. It took a lot of thinking about how I want the finished quilts to look. The last group of faces I made were mostly colourless, or very lightly coloured. For these quilts I decided I want to add a new dimension, and colour is going to be my focus.
Over this past week I have spent a lot of time trying different colour palettes; from realistic to complete fantasy. The image above is what I have decided to go for. It is interesting that in this photo they left eye does not work well, yet when I look at the quilt top it seems fine. I need to find out what is going on, and if necessary make some changes.
I have never really painted a large face with colour before, and I knew I would need to mix a lot of different tints and values so I could give contour and definition to the face . As you can see, the style I have chosen is not exactly 'realistic'.
This is what I did.
Like your art teacher probably used to tell you - start with primary colours.
The paints I used are Daler Rowney Graduate acrylic paints mixed with a little Berol fabric medium. Nothing fancy, but not the budget type of acrylic either. I started with Primary red, blue and yellow. I also used mixing white a bit later. (I didn't use the brown that is in the photo at all.)
I used these 3 colours to create a base colour from which I made all the other tints.
I began by mixing equal quantities of each colour, but ended up with a sludgy grey yuk. After some trial and error I ended up using 2 parts yellow, 1 part red and 2/3 part blue to yield a dark brownish yuk. I made a small jar of this to use as my base.
This is the yuk that turned out to be perfect when mixed with various amounts of white.
I made a (not terribly accurate) record of my mixing in my sketchbook, as you can see below.
Using just the dark yuk to start, by adding small amounts of white, red, yellow or blue as I worked I was able to paint each part of the face with different values and tints. I also took a photograph of my own face to use as a value reference which proved to be very helpful.
This is how my paint palette looked at the end of the day.
I had intended taking lots of photos as I worked, but unfortunately I got so engrossed with it all that this is the only photo I took before it was finished. You can see form this image I started by adding the lightest values around the eyes first.
And this is how both faces look now.
And now the project continues - next stage - how shall I quilt them?????
Thanks for reading.
Alongside my 'Stitched Alchemy' quilts I have another ongoing body of work, named 'In This Skin' (All my quilts are on my website gallery which can be viewed by clicking here.)
Until recently I didn't used to like working on different themes at the same time as I used to find it too confusing. Funny how things change... nowadays, I prefer to work this way, as I can take a break from one set of thoughts, leave the quilt to sit on the wall for a while and give myself time to mull things over whilst getting on with something different. It gives my mind time to work things through.
And that is exactly what is happening with my 'Goddess or Sex-Object quilt at the moment. It is almost finished, but at the moment is sitting on the wall whilst I contemplate one more idea before I think it will be complete. It involves some violet-red velvet....................
Which brings me to the other quilts I am working on; they are a development of the large faces I made in 2016. Those quilts focused on physical appearance and how there is a whole industry dedicated to persuading us that we are not beautiful enough. For the new quilts I want to explore how important physical appearance is in the way people view gender and the multitude of stereotypes that accompany that.
For my first two quilts I have decided to focus on people who identify with a gender that is different to that which they were assigned at birth.
This is the sketch that I began with. I am trying (not very successfully) to start each day with a drawing in my sketchbook. I want to improve my portrait drawing skills and thought it would be a good habit to get into. Unfortunately I am not very good at the discipline this requires.
This original face is of nobody in particular, but I think it is fair to say that it is what many people generally think a beautiful woman would look like.
Is it the long slender neck; the defined cheek bone; the pouting lips; the long lashes? If you look like this you are categorised as 'feminine' by society - an attribute solely based on appearance. I am thinking here about identity - not the sort that gets you a bank account, but how we feel about ourselves and how we 'fit' into society as a whole. It makes me wonder if you don't look like this are you less of a woman?
Like it or not, our 'looks' have a great impact on the way we inwardly perceive ourselves and the way others perceive us. Gorgeous, pretty, plain, ugly.....leads on to other assumptions: strong, confident, smart, sensible, ditsy, shy, dumb, geek, .......... the list is long. I know it has always been this way, but I think that since the growth in popularity of social media more and more we find ourselves tied into roles and identities that others have chosen on for us. And that is where things can start to go wrong. What if you don't like the identity that you find you have been put in? What if you believe you have been placed into the wrong one? Do you go with it and accept it? Do you put up with it and feel unhappy? Or do you rebel and make efforts to change it? That is what my first two quilts are about.
Developing the idea
Moving on from my original sketch I drew another one, but much bigger this time, about 1 metre by 1 metre in size. I wanted to explore how changing the neck, cheek shading, eyes and hair could change the perceived gender of the subject. After I made the first drawing on the left I flipped it over, made a copy with a few subtle changes in shading, a tiny change to the mouth, taking away most of the eyelashes, softening the hair lines and slightly thickening the neck. Apart from that it is virtually the same drawing. I was amazed to see how little it took for the perceived gender of the face to change.
To transfer these images onto fabric I put a large piece of white cotton fabric over the top of each drawing and used the sketch to guide my painting. The pictures below show my progress.
From here I need to begin to think about how I want to create more interest in the images. Obviously colour is one avenue I need to explore, as are some other mark making techniques on the cloth. I need to do some more thinking and sketchbook work to figure that out.
Thanks for reading.