Friday, June 19, 2009

Portrait Quilts.....Learning to Fly

Portrait Quilts...they grab my attention and just won't let go. I have been following the work of many portrait artists over the years: Charlotte Warr Andersen, Bonnie McCaffery, Maria Elkins, Deidre Scherer, Hollis Chatelain, Lura Schwarz Smith and Marilyn Belford. More recently the animal portrait quilts of Toni Whitney. Click on their names if you can't resist taking a peek at their portrait quilts.

I long to create a portrait quilt. The closest I have come is photo transfer portrait quilts. They are fun, I enjoy the thread work, but I am ready to sink my teeth into more advanced portrait techniques. I have hoped to take a class from one of the artists mentioned above, but that just hasn't happened yet. If I could just glean one or two tips from each of these artists, just imagine what I could do.........I am day dreaming here.

I have decided to quit dreaming and teach myself, through trial and error, some portrait quilt skills and techniques and create my own portrait quilts.
This morning I played around with the Photo Shop Elements program on my Mac. I have had it for a few years, and never touched it. I managed to open the program, import a photo and manipulate it just a bit...........
Click Images to Enlarge:

This is the ORIGINAL image I started with
This is my niece, who is now 20 years of age.
She found a wounded bird in our yard and brought it in to care for it.

I started playing with some of the EFFECT & FILTER controls in Photo Shop, having no idea what I was doing... I love the way her freckles are pronounced in this image.
BE SURE to click on these images to see what the computer program did to manipulate them.

This image defines the shaded areas on her face and arm

This image looks like a painting on canvas with lots of texture

This image looks like it was embossed onto copper
The outline of her face, features and arms is well defined.
This will help create pattern pieces for the portrait.

I love the hard outline of her features, it defines the specific pattern pieces I need. Plus I love the freckles it created all over her skin, and the bird is more defined.

This also looks like a painting

This looks like it was cast in cement

She has a NEON glow to her in this one.
This has lots of thread work possibility.

Reminds me of a watercolor painting.
Also helps to define the separate areas of her face, hair, body.

This looks like a basic sketch.
I printed this out on transparency film.
I will put the film on the overhead projector, cover my design wall with paper, and project this image onto the paper and trace the image larger to make a master pattern.

It is a start...

"When you have come to the edge of all the light you have and step into the darkness of the unknown believe that one of the two will happen to you... either you'll find something solid to stand on, or you'll be taught how to fly." ~Richard Bach

This is my favorite of all the images I created.
I also printed this out on transparency film.
I will see which one works best when they are projected onto the wall.

I have decided to work intuitively using the skills that I have......and see where that leads me. I will keep you posted as I make progress on this portrait quilt.

CLICK HERE to view this image as a Portrait Quilt

CLICK HERE to view Photoshop Elements Tutorial

Learning to Fly...

To see my New Work CLICK HERE

To see the Thread Shed CLICK HERE

To see my Exhibit Quilts CLICK HERE

To see Tutorials CLICK HERE


  1. I love the picture you picked. Can't wait to see your finished quilted portrait! What technique(s) are you going to use?

  2. Hi Maria,
    I plan to make a master pattern on paper with the overhead projector. I am not a fan of needleturn applique, the edges are lumpy from being turned under, so I will do raw edge applique. I am trying to decide on Misty Fuse, UHU glue stick, Roxanne's Baste It, or fusible thread.....hmmm.
    My mood will probably determine which technique I go with. If something isn't working, I will switch gears.
    Thanks for asking. I will keep the camera with me out in the Thread Shed and document my keep your eye out for progress reports on this blog.
    May Your Bobbin Always Be Full,