Thursday, December 19, 2013

Remembering A Sweet, Smiling Samoyed

It tears at my heart when someone I care about loses a pet. I know how gut-wrenching the loss of a dog can be because I've been through it so many times. A beloved companion was there one day, and then he was gone, leaving a gaping hole in our lives with his passing.

To help fill that hole just a little bit for some friends of mine who recently lost their dog, Halley, I painted a portrait of their Samoyed as the robust, smiling, happy dog that I know they want to remember. Halley was a beautiful dog and wonderful companion, and I think I was able to capture his spirit in this painting.

"Halley," 9" x 12", watercolor and ink (Pigma Micron 005 black) on Saunders Waterford 140 lb cold-press paper

Another thing that is helping to fill the empty space left by Halley is this little fella...

meet Rocky!

Isn't he the cutest little fluffball? With Rocky filling their days (and nights!), it's going to be a happy Christmas after all at my friends' house.

A few notes about the painting process...
  • I drew the dog lightly in pencil onto the Saunders Waterford cold-press 140-lb. paper, then inked the drawing with a very fine 005 Pigma Micron black pen.
  • Next I wet the background with clear water, being careful to paint around the furry profile of the dog.
  • Then I painted in the background colors (wet-in-wet) and allowed them to blend. I used a small brush to further define the hairs around the edges of the dog, pulling the background color in toward the body.
  • After the background had dried completely, I began to add light shading to the dog's body. I had to be careful not to overdo it or the dog would end up looking like a gray dog rather than white. I primarily used a blue-gray color, but also incorporated some pink, yellow, and lavender to make things more interesting. At this point, I also began to put the first touches of paint on the dog's eyes, nose, and mouth.
  • Next the "accessories" were painted: the scarf, the ball, and the tags. A bit of spatter in the background and a few sprigs of grass helped to define the setting and keep the dog from appearing to float in mid-air.
  • Midtones and darks were added to the eyes, nose, and mouth to define the shapes.
  • Lastly, I added that critical white highlight in each eye.
The hardest part was knowing when to stop. I tried to keep the painting looking fresh and sunny, not overworked and dull.

I'm happy with the results. It was so much fun to surprise my friend with the painting. I hope every time they look at that smile on Halley's face, it will bring back happy memories for them.

Sunday, December 15, 2013

Waynesburg Doors

I live in a community which dates back to the 1700s, so there is no shortage of beautiful old houses around here. I've painted many of them over the years, but for this recent sketch I narrowed down my focus to some of my favorite front doors.
9" x 12", ink & watercolor, Aquabee Super Deluxe sketchbook

I included impressive entrances from Victorian mansions...

and simpler doors from Hansel-and-Gretel-like cottages...

a vintage brick home on the university campus...

and a generously-sized two-family frame house near the library...

houses with impressive stained glass windows...

and a 19th century home with a 1950s storm door...

I just might have to do a 'Waynesburg Doors II" sketch - there are so many more I wanted to include but couldn't fit on the page. During the hours I worked on this picture, I found myself wondering about the stories those doors might tell. To the people who live in these homes, that front door is where they brought a new baby home from the hospital, or where a future son-in-law stood waiting for a first date with the daughter of the house.

It's where a first grader kissed mommy goodbye and skipped down the sidewalk to catch the school bus. It's where a family welcomed relatives home for the holidays and hugged them as they went on their way.

Doors are impassive witnesses to history and the everyday life of those who live within. I'm glad I took the time to memorialize a few of them on the pages of my sketchbook. It makes me feel connected to those unknown families in some small way.

Fine art prints of "Waynesburg Doors" are available at Artbeat gallery and in my online shop.

Thursday, December 5, 2013

Fabric Origami Step-by-Step - "Fennel"

Fabric + thread + beads + buttons + wire = WOW!

This "Fennel" origami ornament is a perfect example of the end result being greater than the sum of its parts. In just a few minutes, using the simplest of supplies, you can create a beautiful Christmas ornament sure to impress anyone lucky enough to receive it as a gift.

Directions for Making A Fennel Origami Ornament
These instructions have been adapted from Flower Origami by Kumiko Sudo.
The name "Fennel" is her designation for this flower origami pattern.

Supplies for fabric origami with embellished wire hanger:
2 pieces of fabric, lightweight silk or cotton, 7-1/2" x 7- 1/2"
Needle and thread
Purple disappearing marker
Assorted beads and/or buttons
20-gauge wire
Round nose pliers
Wire cutters

1- Cut two pieces of fabric approximately 7-1/2" square. For this sample, I used a light and a dark, but you can use just one color, if you like. Always use silk dupioni or cotton for fabric origami. Polyester does not hold a crease and is not recommended.

2– Draw a 6" square on the lighter fabric with a pencil. Pin the light and dark squares together.

Steps 1 & 2

3- Sew the squares together, right sides facing each other, using small stitches. Sew directly on the drawn line.

Step 3

4- Trim corners to remove excess bulk, as shown.  Trim seam allowances to a scant 1/4".

Step 4

Your square should look like this...

5- Fold the sewn square in quarters to find the center. Mark the center of the square with a purple disappearing marker.

Step 5

6- Cut a small (1") slit about 1 1/4” from center, as shown, for turning. In this example, the slit is in the darker fabric and will result in a finished piece with a dark center "flower."

Step 6

7- Turn the sewn square right side out by pushing the fabric through the slit. Don't worry about the slit getting a little misshapen - it will be hidden inside a fold of fabric.

Step 7

Your square will look something like this...

Press the square flat, making sure all sides are straight and corners are sharp, not rounded. Use your fingers to roll the edges out so the stitching is right at the very edge of the square. You don't want to have any creases along the seam line.

Now your square should look nice and neat, like this...

8- Lightly draw diagonal guidelines on the front and back of the fabric square with a disappearing marker. On the side without the slit, make a mark 2-1/2" from each corner, as shown. Fold each corner to the mark, aligning points with the drawn diagonal lines. Press firmly.

Step 8

9- Fold each side toward the center, aligning with the corners, as shown, to create a square. Press in place.

Step 9

10- Turn the entire piece over. Fold each corner into the center. Press. They should meet perfectly.

Step 10

11- Stitch each point in place. Use thread to match the lighter color on the back of the origami, so the stitches won't be too obvious on the reverse side of the Christmas ornament. Stitches should come up from the back, through the point and down to the back side. Knot securely. (Keep knots fairly small, so they don't show too much.)

Step 11

Any knots on the back side should be fairly unobtrusive, like this...

12- Fold each side midpoint toward the corner, aligning with the closest diagonal line, as shown below. Make one or two stitches through all layers to hold in place. You’ll come up from the back, up through the left point, down through the right point, then to the back. Knot the thread securely.

Step 12

Your Fennel origami is complete!

To make it a little bit fancier, you might want to add some embellishments like buttons or beads. Here's how...

First, sew on the button through all layers with a doubled thread. Knot your thread, but don't cut it.

Add a bead or two for a little sparkle and shine. Come up with the thread from the back, through all layers and through one of the eyes of the button. Go through a large bead, then through a smaller bead, then back down through the large bead, through another eye of the button and through to the back. Knot thread securely.

A piece of ribbon stitched or glued in place on the back could serve as an ornament hanger, but I like to make spiral wire hangers - they're so much prettier!

To make the spiral wire ornament hanger:
Gather together a pair of round nose pliers, wire cutters, and a spool of 20-gauge gold wire, plus assorted beads, if desired.

1- Cut a length of wire about 10" long. Using the round nose pliers, make a small spiral at one end. 

Step 1

2-  Move up the length of the wire about 1/4" and make a tiny spiral.

Step 2

3- Slide on a few beads.

Step 3

4- Make another tiny spiral to keep the beads in place.

Step 4

Your hanger should look something like this...

5- Begin making a tight spiral at the opposite end of the wire.

Step 5

6- Complete the spiral by hand bending the wire until you reach the beads.

Step 6

7- Sew the wire hanger securely to the back of the origami at one corner. Add a bit of Tacky Glue over the threads and wire and allow to dry. This will keep the hanger from twisting off.

Step 7

You did it!

It may have been a bit challenging to make this first one, but now that you have it all figured it out, the next one will be a breeze! This is my favorite fabric origami design. It's really beautiful and looks complicated but isn't all that difficult to do. I hope you'll give it a go.

If you have any questions, just leave a comment below.

More posts about fabric origami:
Fabric Origami: The Prettiest Ornaments on the Tree (a gallery of origami ornament designs)
Silk Origami Christmas Ornaments (more pretty origami ornaments)
Fabric Origami Step-by-Step - "Primrose" (draperies with origami accents plus instructions for making the "Primrose" pattern)
Quilted Pillow with Origami (another use for fabric origami)

Friday, November 29, 2013

Fabric Origami - The Prettiest Ornaments On the Tree!

Origami, the art of folding paper into fanciful shapes, takes on a whole new dimension when it's done with fabric instead of the tissue paper that's traditionally used. The silk fabrics that I like to use for origami Christmas ornaments have rich colors and a luscious sheen that looks wonderful when paired with all sorts of sparkly beads, buttons, and bangles.

I love mixing things up, choosing different patterns, colors, and embellishments for each piece.

I sort through jars of vintage buttons until I find the perfect ones for a particular ornament.

Beads from out-of-date trim sample books are recycled into something beautiful...


I make the ornament hangers by twisting 20 gauge wire into spirals, squares, and hearts, adding beads and buttons to coordinate with the fabric colors.

The origami patterns come from the book Flower Origami by Kumiko Sudo. It's a good primer for learning the folding techniques.

All of these ornaments are available for purchase at Artbeat Gallery in Waynesburg, PA.



This year I branched out and made a few ornaments out of fun cotton prints...

These patriotic ones, with their stripes and polka dots, are some of my favorites...

And, since I live in Steelers country, I had to make a few black and gold ornaments...

And let's not forget the WVU Mountaineers...

In a few days I'll be posting instructions for making one of the designs you see here. So gather up some pretty fabrics, get out grandma's old button jar and get ready to create some beautiful handmade gifts for a few people who are lucky enough to know someone as crafty as you!

For more fabric origami inspiration, check out these earlier posts: 
Silk Origami Christmas Ornaments
Fabric Origami Step-by-Step - "Primrose" (Draperies with origami accents plus instructions for making the "Primrose" pattern)
Quilted Pillow with Origami

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