Monday, March 26, 2018

Portrait of a Man

 (Above:  Portrait of a Man, detail.  Click on any image to enlarge.)

Two weekends ago I was in my 10' x 10' Pro Panel booth at the ACC (American Craft Council) Atlanta show talking about and selling my "In Box" and "Stained Glass" series.  One nice gentleman challenged me to create something totally unique, a portrait of a man ... but using my colorful palette, synthetic stretch velvets, and unique melting techniques.  We agreed on a size, a price, and a non-refundable $100 deposit.  We also agreed that if he didn't like the results, he was under no obligation to pay the balance.  Why?  Well, my process isn't like that of a painter.  I can't really "unstitch" things and make color changes without ruining the work.  Thus, this arrangement isn't a true commission; it is a "first refusal". Later we corresponded about a timeline and selected a sketch I drew referencing several images of Austrian artist and architect Friedensreich Hundertwasser, the inspiration behind much of my gallery work. 

 (Above:  Portrait of a Man. Inventory # 4262. Unframed: 15 3/4" x 12 1/2". Mounted on a standard 20" x 16" acid-free mat board.)

I spent more time contemplating an action plan and trying to visualize/solve potential problems than actually making the work.  I also had to find my light-box, an item I haven't used in at least a decade! The result of this time, however, meant the weekend's work went very, very smoothly.  I'm quite pleased with the work and happy to report that my client is too!

 (Above:  Creating a unique background for the portrait.)

When I accept a commission or a first-refusal, I always document the process in photos and create PDF for the client.  That way, the client gets to see every step of the development.  This blog post includes many of those images.  Above is what the background looked like before starting the portrait.  The border is like my Peacock Feathers.

 (Above:  A photocopy of my sketch, Pellon's Stitch-and-Tear, and my light-box.)

The sketch I drew was significantly smaller than the size I needed.  I scanned the sketch, enlarged it using PhotoShop, and printed the correct size ... 14" x 10".  I used Stitch-and-Tear in 2013 to make my Grid of Photos.

I bought my light-box nearly two decades ago.  I can't remember why I wanted it or what I planned to do with it other than view old slides.  This was the first time I've ever used it in my studio practice!  Thank goodness the bulb still worked!  I traced the photocopy enlargement of my sketch onto a piece of Stitch-and-Tear.

The Stitch-and-Tear was then pinned in place on the background.

I was a little anxious about this part of the process.  The idea was to set my sewing machine for a narrow zigzag stitch but also for free-motion stitching. I started on the bottom in a place I could quickly stitch and then tear away to unique paper.  It worked!  I continued over all the lines, expanding the width of the zigzag stitching for thicker areas (like the eye's pupils and eyebrow).

After all the lines were covered, I started removing the Stitch-and-Tear ... little bits at a time and carefully removing any tiny pieces of paper caught in the stitching.

Generally, I use 100% black cotton thread.  This time, however, I switched to navy blue for the background.  This change allowed the background to visually recede ... because it "reads" as a "lighter" line.  Every square and rectangle was stitched with an different motif ... very much like my gallery work and in the tradition of Hundertwasser's concept of individualism.  My colorful shapes are meant to represent an aerial view to an imaginary Hundertwasser city.

After all the machine stitching is finished, I stapled the work to a stretcher bar and went to the garage.  I wear a carbon filtering ventilator mask because the fumes from melting synthetics are toxic.  I melted holes and dragged my soldering irons into lines mostly in the background areas.  During the process, I realized I'd forgotten to sign the work.

I added my name later.  Voila!  A Portrait of a Man was finished!  Today, it will be shipped to its new owner!

I am linking this post to Nina-Marie's "Off the Wall Fridays", a site for sharing fiber arts. 


Christine said...

Absolutely beautiful!
Love the design and especially those squares round the a castle wall....

Sandy said...

This is an amazing direction for your technique!
I am glad the gentleman liked it.

Norma Schlager said...

Fabulous! I visited Huntervasser village in Vienna and was intrigued. I never realized that he was your inspitstion, but I can certainly can see that now. Thanks for sharing your process,

Linda M said...

Hundertwasser is also one of my favorites, I too have been to his village in Vienna. I like how you've used him for inspiration.

quiltedfabricart said...

I love how it came out! A very good idea using the tear away. And of course doing your signature soldering iron work makes it totally unique and ...... well, you. The purchaser will be thrilled

Jenny K. Lyon said...

Wow, that is a unique and fabulous piece! I enjoyed your detailed recounting of your process. Pretty cool!