Saturday, October 7, 2017

Working from Photos: Good Ole Boys at the Shady Rest--

My brother and his partner Barb are incredible photographers.  They post a lot of their photos online where I pour over them.  When I saw this image of trucks I wanted to try to recreate it in fabric. I emailed my brother and Barb to ask if I could use the image. They weren't sure which one of them took the photo, but they graciously agreed I could use the image.

Ordinarily I don't work from just one photo, especially one taken by someone else, because I'm not interested in just copying a photo.  I usually see something in a particular light or time of day and like the image, then take a bunch of photos, and often make sketches to work from.  In this case I just had one photo of a scene I'd never seen.  But for some reason, the image really grabbed me.  Maybe because it is a story of aging.  These trucks used to be the big bruisers of the highway--working trucks driven by working men, and now sidelined due to age and infirmity.

I changed a few things, like I moved the window, and added the brown truck and the old fashion promotional thermometer to the left of the brown truck, to try to balance the composition a bit. I also made the second truck all red because I wanted it to be clearly separate from the yellow truck.  But mostly I stayed pretty true to the original image.   I like to sketch old farm equipment and trucks because they are complex, but this was my first attempt to quilt machinery.

ipad sketch, on Sketchbook Pro 

Pen & ink plus watercolor sketch of Grand Canyon train.

As usual, I made each element separately. Since the yellow truck is so big, I broke that into smaller units--the grill and lights, the hood, the cab, and the big tire.  That way, if I screwed something up, I wouldn't ruin the entire piece.  
I loved that "school bus yellow" truck but couldn't find any at any of the the fabric stores in NW Washington.  Everything I found was either harvesty-goldish or Easter-egg pastel, so I ended up hand-dyeing the yellow fabric with Procion Cold Water dyes from Dharma. With low-water immersion dyeing I was able to get variations in the color that looked a bit like the deterioration of the metal on the truck. I'm not a master dyer, so I ended up dyeing about 4 yards of Kona cotton to get the quarter yard or so that I actually used.  

I wasn't sure about the background.  I didn't really like the metal walls in the original photo.  I wanted something brighter, but in the end, went with the warehouse look.  the window draws the eye back into the image, but I'm not happy about it.  I think I should have made the window panes more green-ish, but since the walls were blue-gray, I decided, wrongly, that blueish window panes would work. I might go back and try to alter the color with Derwent INKtense color blocks...but that's always risky business on a finished quilt, because if I screw that up, I'll be in a bad mood for about a week.

Here's a close up of the truck fender.  I glue all the little pieces in place with Elmer's Washable School Glue until I can get the section to the sewing machine and stitch things in place with clear monopoly thread.   The glue is great, but I don't trust it to hold things over the long-haul.  

I didn't build these pieces on a background fabric, each little piece is only attached to it's neighbor.  Initially I pin all the little bits in place, then I go back, glue down the edges, and then stitch it.  Yes.  It's redundant.  Yes, it takes longer.  BUT I like the process, and until the quilting begins, I have lots of chances to change my mind--which I do a lot.

When I'm happy with the look of things, I make my "quilt sandwich" (the top which is the image of course, the batting and a backing fabric, and then I spend about a month tightly quilting the dickens out of the piece.   The quilting not only nails everything in place, but by using varying colors of thread I can add shadow, highlights, or blend together areas that are a little choppy. 

 I was especially pleased with the Coke machine.  I wasn't sure how I could do that, but ended up drawing the logo on Golden Threads Quilting Paper,  then sewing around the outline of the lettering, tore the Golden Threads paper off, and filled in the outline with free-motion quilting.  It's a little wonky, but I'm OK with that.

As usual, once I finish constructing and quilting, I avoid the boring final steps--square it up, binding it, making a hanging sleeve and a label. Once the challenging parts are done, I'm pretty much finished...unless I HAVE to finish it up for a show.  I'm not one of those never-put-off-until-tomorrow kind of gals.  Procrastination is my middle name.

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