Thursday, December 6, 2012

Art, stuffed animals, and a baby quilt

I finished this baby quilt that I was plotting out here using EQ6. I like how it turned out. One of my plans for the next year is to try to use more white space in my quilts.
I've been getting into stuffed animals again. I made a small doll with a dress and a unicorn/seahorse. I was experimenting with gussets on everything. The seahorse thing was a mild disaster but I did hand-stitch in the horn and I thought that went well. I'm not going to post a photo of the seahorse because the whole thing looked kind of atrocious by the end. Apparently my friend's daughter loves it though! Her favorite part is the part I don't like, a gusset situation that went awry.

I made this animal which was meant at first to be a dinosaur but I didn't feel like making big legs and I was experimenting with the bottom gusset and the face gusset.
I like the tail. The spiky spine thing was the hardest part because it's curvy and I stuffed it before stitching it into the seam, so the curve was in reverse when it was inside out, as curves are, which was hard to manipulate because it was stuffed. I used a ton of pins but still had a hard time with it. Some of the fabric on the underside caught in the seam but it was minimal so I didn't bother to pick it out. I know - horrors!!! Meanwhile I think next time I'll try to baste the stuffing up into the spikes, then remove the baste stitch after getting the piece into the seam and move the stuffing back down against the seam. I also realized I don't really like making eyeballs. These 'X' stitches for eyes are really easy. I didn't have any stabilizer to put behind the fabric to make the 'X's, but it turns out you can use a sheet of printer paper (or probably newspaper or a page from a magazine or an old bill, anything really) and it tears away easily afterward.

Here's one I did tonight. Stuffing the legs and arms was tedious but I used the brush end of a long paintbrush to push the stuffing into the narrow openings, which helped. It has a little green tail and cream hands and feet.
I also saw some knitted socks recently and decided that I TOO must knit a sock (or two). I found a book and bought some needles (size 3, 5 in a pack) but then I found this tutorial where she shows how to knit the sock on a circular needle. Now that's what I'm talking about- I just can't imagine trying to handle FIVE needles at once. I've managed to watch all the videos but haven't started on my sock yet. I admit it's still a little intimidating. She even shows how to turn the heel and do the gussets on the sock. That part is a bit counterintuitive, for sure, but was really enjoyable to watch. Seriously.

I participated in a craft project involving pieces of felt and beads and embroidery floss. There was also a bunch of pretty buttons to pick from. I chose this greenish yellow/blue button and then embroidered a flower using some greenish/blue/gray beads. Maybe I'll make it into a refrigerator magnet...
I also did a bit of painting, including some landscapes and also this one (detail) after receiving the prompt 'weird animals.' There are five animals in the painting including a duck with a bathtub for a body and something that looks like a praying mantis wearing sunglasses and holding balloons (making it look like the whole troupe is marching to a party). My favorite two characters are the ones shown here, the weird guy with the striped sweater and leg-warmers, and the giraffe-thing with the polkadot outfit.
All in all, I've done some good art-ing in the last month. Next up: more stuffed animals, and a few small quilts. And maybe a knitted sock (or two).

Tuesday, November 6, 2012

Blue leaves

I sketched one leaf, scanned it and copied it, flipping the leaf horizontally and vertically. Then I offset it x/2, y/2 in Gimp, filled in the empty space with more leaves, then colored them and exported. The spoonflower upload repeats seamlessly. I will try other color variations.

Saturday, November 3, 2012

Colored, tiled sketch

This is more like it! I sketched some flowers, scanned the image and colored it in Gimp, then did the x/2, y/2 offset of the layer, then filled in the gaps with more flowers and dots. I love the result. And it reminded me of one of my mottos: When in doubt, use ALL the colors! This repeats seamlessly in Spoonflower. Next I am going to figure out how to make an offset that will tile diagonally.

Thursday, November 1, 2012

Sketch in Gimp

I sketched a flower in Gimp, duplicated the layer, did a x/2, y/2 offset to one of the layers, then did a horizontal flip and recolored the other layer, then added some colored dots and a background layer, merged the layers and exported. This is getting to be a little bit more like something I actually like, with the colors and shapes. I'm excited to learn more about this and begin producing the things that are in my head. I ordered a few books from Amazon, including A Field Guide to Fabric Design by Kim Kight and Mastering the Art of Fabric Printing and Design by Laurie Wisbrun; as well as Making an Impression: Designing & Creating Artful Stamps by Geninne Zlatkis because I've always loved her artwork!

I uploaded this to Spoonflower and I really like how it looks. This might just be my favorite upload yet!

Repeat for Spoonflower using GIMP

I sketched these floral motifs, then scanned them and imported them to GIMP. I applied a limited color palette based on a Spoonflower challenge. When I merged the layers using the blue layer as the background, I can see blue pixels at the level of the yellow/white and I haven't found a way to eliminate them except for painting them out at the pixel level. I assume I could use a mask of some kind and I'm starting to explore those. I started cleaning it up a bit on the white leafy branch, in the middle to the right. You can't REALLY see it unless you're zoomed in, but because I know it's there, it bothers me... I offset the image vertically by about 500 pixels (the original image was ~ 4000x3000 pixels, more than sufficient to make a good resolution at the minimum 150 dpi required for Spoonflower). For now this is what I have:

Marble bust and flag: sketch > GIMP

I'm particularly excited about having created digital graph paper!

Tuesday, October 30, 2012

GIMP Tutorial: Limited color palette for Spoonflower fabric design

This is a learn-as-you-go process, as with most things. I wanted to create an image but needed to restrict it to a certain color palette. I scanned this sketch of a branch. You can see the lines around the image - that's the paper. That's easy to eliminate in Gimp by selecting Color > Threshold. You can slide the threshold which will make the image more or less pixely.

Here are screen shots of a bird that I put through the process:

Keep in mind that I started with a fairly low resolution photograph of my sketch for this tutorial, so the image is a bit pixely. This is the original image.
I applied the Color > Threshold to remove everything except the black lines and white background.
 Then I erased things I didn't want in the image, such as pen marks.
Then I used a black pencil (size 3) to add in a few lines, in this case to close in the image for filling it with color.
Next I did Layer > Transparency > Add Alpha Channel, then I did Colors > Color to Alpha. White was the default, and that's what I wanted to remove so I pressed ok, which removed the white and left me with a transparency of the black lines. Then I did Colors > Map > Color Exchange. Black was in the exchange From Color box, and white was in the To Color box. I clicked the To Color box and the color tool appeared. I selected a mauve-ish color, c33855, which is one of the RGB hex codes in a current Spoonflower challenge. I pressed okay to select that color, and okay to make the change. Then I zoomed into the image (400%) to look over it and see if there were any pixels that hadn't changed. (By the way, I first tried the color exchange without adding the alpha channel, but there were some random black pixels left behind.)

If your 'From Color' is not black, you can drag all the color setting dials to the left which will make it black. If the color you want to exchange is something else, use the color picker (Tools > Color Picker, then click on the part of your image that has the color you want to change from, which will send the color to the 'Foreground' box), then you can find out the RGB hex code (i.e. white is #ffffff). Enter the code into the color box on color exchange to select your color.

Next I started adding color to the bird and the background using the bucket fill, and zoomed in to ensure all the pixels were filled (or most, anyway - there were a few here and there I didn't bother with). I used these codes (#DE8371, #C33855, #D1CC56, #2E486B, #FFFFFF). I filled in the background with blue.
To finish it off, I added a blue layer, merged the layers and removed the alpha channel. Adding the blue layer ensured there would be no pixels that are not in the limited color palette.

Let's face it. I think this coloration borders on hideous. But I made this just for the tutorial to show how to use Gimp to modify an image and stay within a restricted palette.

As for the colored branch image at the top of the post, I noticed some pixel shearing (I just made that up) along the top edge. I could go in and manually smooth it out, but I'll look for an easier way to do it.

Process: Drawing Birds

When I try to draw birds from my imagination, without any reference, the results are mixed... (Although, I do like the little peacock-type bird in the middle. But some of these look more like slugs than birds.)
I saw some birds last weekend and took some photos. When I use them for a reference, I get better results. I do appreciate stylized bird drawings and I'd like to come up with my own version. I know that just like anything, practicing will improve skill. Here are the photos I took, and the sketches I made based on those photos:

 A pigeon: they are so pesky, but not very bright. There were a few pigeons and a few small birds. The small birds would swoop in and steal whatever crumb the pigeons were pecking at, then fly away with the crumb.

Some other sketches of birds I made:

Sunday, October 28, 2012


I took this quick sketch (below) I did the other day and played around with the edges and added color in GIMP. When I tiled it in Spoonflower as a mirror image it looked okay - almost a bit like a kaleidoscope image.

Process: more GIMP and EQ6

To experiment with layering in GIMP, I created a quick sketch of color shapes in Paint,

and a quick sketch of 'writing' - this makes me want to go buy a graphic pad + stylus so I can actually draw with a stylus instead of trying to use the mousepad to create writing...
Then I layered the images in GIMP. I made the layers opaque (70%) - just experimenting. And I reversed the grain on the writing so it appears white. My final image:
This has me thinking about all the possibilities. There are a ton of good tutorials out there. Here is one that I thought covered a lot of basic points but was fast and well-done. That tutorial shows how to make vertical stripes and lay down a banner and other things, complete with Gaussian blurs and shadowing. It's really very exciting. Part of the tutorial showed how to open an image with texture and make that a layer (I used a photo of a cloud):
This is the image without the cloud layer. I uploaded it to Spoonflower but for some reason when I tiled it, there is a visible line at the edge of each tile.
I'll have to play with it to make the edge-line go away. I made this diagonal striped pattern by following this tutorial, which creates a gradient across the width of the stripe.
These diagonal lines don't tile properly (understandably) in Spoonflower but the mirror feature creates an interesting pattern, quite like a simple log cabin.
For this one I used the same tutorial, but created vertical stripes. I can see a bit of an artifact though, which makes me think the lines are not 100% vertical (this particular tutorial uses a tool that you create the line direction manually. I'm sure there is a way to control the pitch but I did it freehand in this case). Here I changed the colors across the pattern, but if I hadn't changed the colors, this would show the original image with a gradient from left to right inside each stripe (as above).
I did find this tutorial with a detailed mathematical explanation of how to create rotated (ie diagonal) tileable patterns. I'm going to have to give that a go one of these days. It looks like someone created a plug-in from the instructions. I haven't downloaded any plug-ins yet, I'm still familiarizing myself with the basics.

I was thinking about using repeats of a basic shape to create another design. I made this quick sketch of hearts in a circle.
Then I drafted a PatchDraw Motif block in EQ6, moved the motif to the block tab, and set the blocks into a simple 3x3 on-point quilt layout with the border removed. Here is a cropped shot of the 'quilt':
This tiled well in Spoonflower. I made the motif by creating a heart shape and copying it 5 times, then rotating each one 60 degrees more than the previous. However, I don't know if it's because of the shape or what, but I couldn't align the hearts symmetrically around the middle - you can see bigger gaps between some than others. So that's another thing to figure out. I added some circles and colored the pieces. I still haven't figured out how to color the 'background' of the block in the PatchDraw Motif block so it's not just white. I'm sure it's an easy fix. This is the 'quilt' layout from EQ6:
Next I'm going to do something with this sketch: I'll color the flowers like oriental poppies.
I have to say that for the most part, I'm not satisfied with the colors in the digital images I've created. I want to be able to see the same colors I can make with real paint. I need to learn how to create better colors digitally, and experiment with layering texture to add interest to the 'color'. I think part of what makes me like a 'color' on some of my own artwork is that it is variable. It is not a sheet of pure pink or pure orange. There are bits of orange and bits of yellow in the 'pink' field. So when I'm appreciating something that looks pink, what I'm really appreciating is the entire composition surrounding the pink.

Monday, October 22, 2012

Design Inspiration EVERYWHERE

I saw a cool manhole cover this weekend:

It's like a bunch of hexagons stacked around a circle. Lots of possibilities!
I saw some apples at a farmer's market and the light was perfect for taking some pictures:

Also a pear or two thrown in there. There were also some Concord grapes, covered in bees.

And some yellow trees. Fall has arrived.
I played around with the 'panorama' setting on my iPhone. You move the camera slowly around, keeping the arrow lined up on the line and it stitches together all the pictures. It's pretty incredible. The file size was enormous - almost 15 MB. I've reduced it here but the original has decent resolution considering I was constantly moving the camera. And I did a little watercolor based on the scene:
I also did a quick sketch for another Spoonflower attempt. I wanted to see how the Spoonflower uploader tiles the design. You can do a 'brick' or 'reverse' or 'mirror' and it changes how the design looks. It's kind of exciting. If you haven't checked it out, I highly recommend it.
 I've also been paying attention recently to all the interesting motifs on the sides of buildings. I saw this one over the weekend. Lots of possibilities. Reminds me of some of the motifs on ancient Greek vases.