Archive for the ‘3D’ Category

Tidbits

Sunday, May 14th, 2017

MothersDay

 

Thought this was fun. I made this with some pretty minor variants to a Photoshop filter I found in the Filter Forge library, “Little Swimmers”. The filter was made by a user known as geekatplay. Nice filter; good of the person to make it available on the library.

 

TORlogowhite500

I’ve mentioned the Threads of Resistance exhibit a couple of times. It’s an exhibit created “to protest the Trump administration’s actions and policies”. The exhibit is in the jurying process, but they’ve posted the submitted works and artist’s statements, which is a classy touch.

The group received over 500 submissions to the exhibit, which is a massive, impressive outpouring of work and concern. I have no idea what percentage of those will be in the exhibit, but posting them online lets all of the artists’ voices be heard.

 

I’m working. I guess that’s an understatement. I’ll probably wait to post about most of it until it’s done, but this is fun:

 

Scar0

 

That’s a portion of a texture map that’s getting applied to a 3D model of a guy’s body:

Scar

 

It’s been fun, or at least interesting, learning how to make scars. I won’t go on a rant about diffuse maps versus displacement maps versus blah blah blah. Let’s just say that my little scheme to find a free photo of a scar and use that to build a skin texture didn’t pan out. Yes, there are stock photos of scars. I am also too cheap to use them.

The “good” news is that there are plenty of scars on my own body and, if I can keep from gagging when I glimpse my pot belly, I can even use them as references. So this hunk is going to get covered with an assortment of scars from my C-section, appendectomy, and gall bladder surgeries. He may end up with a “dashing” C-section scar across his face, masquerading as a dueling or battle wound.  Shhh. Don’t tell.

Do Dragons Like Cookies?

Tuesday, April 4th, 2017

DoDragons1000

Here’s my latest quilt, Do Dragons Like Cookies? 

It measures, um, 39 3/4″ wide by 32 1/2″ tall. Thought I’d throw that in. Some folks like to know about sizes.

 

The stitching

GirlAlone1000

A closeup of some of the stitching. Don’t look too closely at the craters on the moon. They aren’t scientifically accurate. They’re more along the lines of “stitched in a desperate, manic fashion after drinking far too much coffee”.

I’ve been thinking of coming up with an obnoxious label for my style of stitching. We have McTavishing and thread painting and I don’t know what else. I’ve been toying with names like StitchGanic (a bad combination of Stitching and Organic), DesperationStitch, and my favorite, ResentStitch. What do you think? Could I market a book on ResentStitch®? I’m envisioning chapters with themes like “What to do when the coffee runs out,” “Is there a problem? Just sew over it,” and “Yes, I totally intended it to be that way.”

 

DragonAlone1000

Whee. More stitching.

 

SnowflakeAlone1000

And … even more stitching. I have nothing nice to say about the process of sewing the snowflakes. Let’s just say that the closer the wings got to the little girl’s body, the harder it was to make out what was printed on the fabric. And I designed the @#$% thing. In several places I ended up making my peace with the Devil’s Thread, aka clear polyester monofilament.

 

GirlReverse

What the heck. I’ll throw in a couple of views of the reverse. Some folks like to see that sort of thing. Just pretend that I went over the surface with a lint brush before taking the photo, okay? Pretend you don’t see stray threads here and there.

 

DragonReverse

This piece is notable for being the first I can remember where I avoided the Valley of Despair. (The Valley of Despair occurs when one has been working on a project for so long that one can’t remember the beginning and one can’t see the end.) That may be because I broke the project down into half hour increments this time. Each time my timer went off, I made a hash mark on paper, then got up and stretched. It made a world of difference as far as time tracking, taking care of my body, and having a tangible measure of progress.

 

About the surface design

The surface design is a 3D rendering printed on cotton. If you’ve looked at my work recently, you know the drill: you create or acquire geometry on the computer, apply textures to it, light it, and have a computer calculate what the scene would look like.

GirlDragon10Wireframe

Here’s the scene layout in wireframe mode. Hopefully that makes it clearer what I mean by “geometry”.

I originally intended this piece to be a lighting study. I thought it would be fun to do a scene inspired by paintings such as The Lanterns, by Charles Courtney Curran, and Carnation, Lily, Lily, Rose, by John Singer Sargent. However, instead of a bunch of little girls with lanterns, I used a dragon and a fairy holding a firefly. I can’t remember why. Probably it was late at night and I was getting a little loopy.

Here are the models I started with:

Girl

This little girl is Skyler, offered by Daz.

This is what she looks like when she’s loaded into a scene initially. Boom. No clothes, no hair, just the computer equivalent of a rag doll for you to pose and dress and so forth.

 

dragon

This is the Millennium Dragon LE, also by DAZ.

 

GirlDragonV1

The scene took shape pretty quickly. I threw some wings on the little girl and had her kneel on a rock, offering the firefly to the dragon. Mind you, I’m not sure why one would offer a firefly to a dragon. The dragon in this initial version is large and definitely on the menacing side, so perhaps the young lady decided it would be smart to offer whatever she had on hand.

 

GirlMFD

Paddling around in one’s skin can get chilly, so I put some clothes on her. I chose the Morphing Fantasy Dress (MFD)  from Daz because of its versatility. It’s a very basic dress, and one can do a great deal with it by modifying textures. The MFD has been around for years, so there are tons and tons of textures available, things people have created and offered for free out of the goodness of their hearts.

 

GirlDragon1_5

This test render shows the scene lit by the firefly she’s holding in her hand. I was experimenting with some different camera angles to see if there was something more striking than the first view I’d come up with. I like this angle quite a bit, but decided the one from the side was more striking.

The dress has a fern surface applied. One of the things I like about the MFD is the availability of free textures. One can download anything from a belly dancer’s outfit to a meat dress to a princess dress and swiftly try out different looks for one’s scene. Even if one doesn’t use a particular texture, one can get a better sense of what may work.

In this case, since I was working with a fairy, I downloaded a fern fairy texture. This one was offered by a user I know only as Chohole, who has shared many, many textures with the community.

 

GirlDragonV2

Back to the original camera angle. The firefly has been replaced with a cookie, and now the scene has the moon as a backdrop. (Courtesy of the Iray Worlds SkyDome Super PAK)

Our story is beginning to come together. In the way of children since time immemorial, our fairy is offering a treat to a wild creature she wishes to befriend. Hopefully the dragon will like gingerbread!

That dress isn’t quite right, though. It was nice for previewing the fairy look. However, we’re no longer in a woodland setting. She has snowflake wings, icy white hair, and the whole scene seems quite cold. Perhaps a snowflake dress would be better?

 

GirlDragonV3

This dress texture was courtesy of a lady named Trixie, whose ShareCG profile says “I’m just a ranch lady, raising cattle … this is my hobby 3D textures”. And very nice they are, too. Thank you, Trixie!

I’ve curled the dragon’s tail around so that it curves toward the fairy. That felt more balanced, plus I didn’t like having the creature’s tail lopped off by the side of the picture.

 

DressTexture

At this point I decided I wanted to make my own texture for the dress, one which would mimic the snowflakes on the girl’s wings. Here I’ve overlaid the lace on top of a template offered by SnowSultan. If one builds the graphic in layers in Photoshop, it’s straightforward to use the template as a guide, then turn it off, flatten the file, and save the result out as a jpeg for one’s texture.

 

GirlDragonV4

Fairy with custom snowflake lace texture. I had to make several custom textures, actually. It turns out that when you’re rendering out a scene at 6300 x 5400 pixels for printing on fabric, many textures are too low resolution to look decent.

At this point I was also trying some different camera and moon positions. I do like the way we see reflected moonlight on the water in this test render.

 

GirlDragon1000

However … surprise! When I placed the moon behind the girl’s head, the composition became much stronger.

That’s one of the advantages of working on a computer and being able to save a thousand different versions. You can do some experimentation apart from whatever you may have sketched out or planned.

I have no idea how this scene ends. Will the dragon accept the cookie and become her friend or will it chomp her hand? Not all fairytales have happy endings, after all.

Speaking as the mother of a twelve year old boy, I do hope the fairy’s vaccinations are current.

This and That

Thursday, March 2nd, 2017

GirlDragon1000

Tentative title: Do Dragons Like Cookies? (click image to embiggen)

This is the surface design for the newest quilt-in-progress, AKA the latest thing I’m griping about. And gripe I shall. When I stitch, those snowflake wings and the lace dress on the girl are going to give me fits unless I use what I call The Devil’s Thread: clear polyester monofilament.

 

GusherDetail

Yeah, I finally tried that stuff. I used some on Gusher, in the area with balls and cups and such. I feel like it was a devil’s bargain. Yes, I preserved the fine shading of the cups and styrofoam containers and I didn’t have to do fifty thousand thread changes. On the other hand, the texture of the thread itself is yuck, like something I’d cut out of a vacuum cleaner roller with a utility knife. It glistens. It doesn’t have the same soul as the thread I normally use. I know it’s irrational, but I’m terrified that it’s going to spring loose from the quilt and attack someone.

If I’m going to spend weeks or months hunched over a sewing machine, I want the end result to have some poetry to it, even if the quilt depicts a drowning polar bear or an automaton crapping out plastic cups. There needs to be a good reason I chose to make a quilt rather than printing the same design out on flags to sell at a roadside stand. The stitch needs to contribute to the design. Ideally it would be essential. I’m not so sure I’m accomplishing that with The Devil’s Thread.

 

GirlDragon10Wireframe

Anyhow … on to the surface design of the fabric. This is a 3D rendering. If you’ve followed my work in the past, you may be familiar with the process. Create geometry on a computer, barf some textures on it, set up fake light sources, and let the computer figure out what that might look like in real life. If you look at the wireframe, you can see that the scene is extremely simple.

This time I used some purchased assets (3D models) and posed them rather than making everything myself. The little girl is the Skyler model from Daz and the dragon is the Millennium SubDragon LE. I posed them in the Iray Worlds SkyDome.

Much like using The Devil’s Thread, using purchased models is something I wouldn’t have done once upon a time. Instead I would have laboriously spent days creating every blasted model myself, and I would have made sure that everyone around me was miserable while I did it. I also would have bragged about it afterward, and when the thing hung in a gallery, no one would have understood or cared.

Using the Daz assets was nice. I hate to admit that, because I think some of their marketing verges on pedophilia, and there are a couple of things on their site that I find obscenely racist. (Note the afro-wearing gorilla shown in one of the shots for this product. Seriously. Do we really need to go there?)

That said, sometimes it’s nice to grab a pre-made model and get on with it. Daz has a lot of models. Often they’re pretty darned cheap, especially if you consider the labor that goes into them. (Afro-wearing gorillas notwithstanding.)

 

LaceDress

Look at the lace on that dress. I thought I was being real clever when I created that texture. “Oh, it’ll match the snowflakes her wings are made out of,” I told myself, “It’ll be pretty! Visual poetry!” Yeah, it matches. It’s pretty. It’s also going to be horrible to stitch. Either I use The Devil’s Thread on it to hide mistakes or I spend the next two months hunched over it while I stitch with a magnifying glass.

Stay tuned.

 

blueHair

In other non-news, I dyed my hair blue.

Sometimes I hear people complain, and justifiably so, about becoming “invisible” after one turns a certain age. Let me tell you, when you go around with a head full of long blue (or purple or hot pink) hair, you are no longer invisible. People smile and chat with me when my hair’s blue. I get great customer service. My kid likes it. Sure, I get the occasional stinkeye and backing away reaction too, but that’s also fine. It lets me cull out the people who are superficial.

The main reason to do something like hair dying, though, is because you enjoy it. I do. I could care less about growing fingernails and half the time I don’t remember to put on makeup, but seeing blue hair when I look in the mirror cheers me up.

 

HerStory

Here are a couple of new works, celebrating the lives and hard work of Maria Goeppert-Mayer and Mary Blair. They’re slated for Susanne Miller Jones’ HerStory traveling exhibit, along with scads of works from other artists. It should be a good exhibit; the subject matter is juicy, and the other works I’ve seen have been creative and heartfelt.

I admire people who, to use a hackneyed phrase, “do things to make the world better”. It’s easy to plotz on one’s La-Z-Boy and complain, but quite another thing to conceive an idea and bring it to fruition.

Susanne’s doing just that. She’s conceived and spearheaded several exhibits on thought-provoking topics. That gives artists like me a venue to speak our minds, and it makes for provocative, interesting viewing. One of those exhibits, Fly Me to the Moon, is currently traveling the country.

 

MQU

MQU_2

The latest Machine Quilting Unlimited has a few of the works from Fly Me to the Moon. Yep, that’s my rocket in the second shot. Also, check out the articles about Betty Hahn’s work and on pictographic quilting, which are pretty darned cool.

 

OurStory

Susanne is currently accepting entries for a new exhibit, OURstory: Civil Rights Stories in Fabric. Its goal is to “tell the stories of disenfranchised people and their fights for equal rights”. This is another great topic, and very timely.

The deadline is March 8, so it’s coming up pretty quickly. Fortunately, all one has to do by that date is submit an idea, not the actual quilt, so there’s plenty of time to register.

http://www.susannemjones.com/ourstory-call-for-entries/

 

TORlogowhite500

On a related note, The Artist Circle, a group of well-known quilt artists, is accepting entries for an exhibit to “protest the Trump administration’s actions and policies”.

One only has to skim over the news to see matters of concern – climate change, fake news, education, racism, and on and on. This exhibit is an opportunity to speak out about those issues. The deadline for that is May 1.

http://threadsofresistance.blogspot.com

 

GusherTrim

This thing, Gusher, is finally stitched and faced. I need to do a little inkwork on it, but I think I can call it all but done. Not a moment too soon, either. I don’t know how many years I’ve been working on it. I could look it up, but hey, why don’t I not do that? The number is probably depressing.

The fact is, I’m not one of those gracious people who writes only sweet things or gushes about how many spools of thread they’ve used or how they were inspired by a butterfly tenderly sucking the nectar from a flower. I start projects because I believe in them. Sometimes I get tired of working on them and I finish only because of sheer cussedness. This is one of those projects.

I’ll leave you with a few gratuitous shots.

desk

My desk, or a portion of it. I also call this Still Life with Key Pad, Dust Mask, and Brain Pin.

Sometimes it’s fun to see others’ work spaces. I hadn’t realized how cluttered mine had gotten. It’s taking on a “Where’s Waldo” appearance.

 

Shoes

My twelve year old’s shoe on the left. My shoe on the right. Having your kid outgrow you is one of those rites of passage, I guess. Bittersweet. We want our kids to grow and thrive, and it’s horrid when they don’t, but it would be nice to hold the baby he once was just a few more times.

 

Endcap

Alright. This. (Another “click to embiggen” picture.)

I try to be a decent person. Hopefully I’m a better person than I was ten or twenty years ago, and that usually includes just walking by and not commenting if I see something that I think is nonsense.

I’m going to make an exception this time, though. This was an end cap at one of the local Michaels. It’s for “customizing” slime. Not making slime – there’s school glue, which is an ingredient for making slime, but no borax and no instructions, so I guess we aren’t actually MAKING anything, are we? We’re just taking glitter and plastic crap and mooching it inside a viscous polymer blob so we can, I don’t know, have it fall on the floor, get dirty, and throw it away?

I have clearly outlived my usefulness on this Earth.

Thirty Infamous Views of a Gusher

Wednesday, January 18th, 2017

Yes, I totally stole the title of this post from Hiroshige’s One Hundred Famous Views of Edo. When I steal, I like to steal from the best.

While I was cleaning my hard drive, I ran across these images from the development of one of my pieces, Gusher. It’s fun looking back at the design process and some of the disasters.

See that first image, with the bold, graphic marks depicting the oil shooting out of the derrick? Yeah. Those bold marks looked okay on paper when I was sketching, but they didn’t translate well when I built the scene. Neither did the huge backdrop of garbage bags one can see in the third image. Using moody blue and gray clouds in the background didn’t, either. After looking at some photos of pollution in China, I decided a yellow would be more forboding and would provide better color contrast.

Then there was the oil. I’ll just put the words “particle system” and “simulation” out there and spare everybody details. It got ugly, comically so at times.

I did all that work just so I could print the thing out on fabric and turn it into an art quilt.

I’m still stitching the thing, using the stitching to create motion lines for the oil droplets and so forth. I don’t know that it’ll look significantly different after I’m done with the sewing, but I guess that’s part of the fun. We try things, see if they’re going in the direction we want or a direction we think is interesting, and we make adjustments.

Now … I just need to find some shows that want a quilt showing a guy gulping down oil and defecating out plastic cups.

gusher01 gusher02 gusher03 gusher04 gusher05 gusher06 gusher07 gusher08 gusher09 gusher10 gusher11 gusher12 gusher13 gusher14 gusher15 gusher16 gusher17 gusher18 gusher19 gusher20 gusher21 gusher22 gusher23 gusher26 gusher27 gusher28 gusher29 gusher30 gusher31 gusher32 

 

Beware the fickle Daz shopping cart

Saturday, November 12th, 2016

I have a minor annoyance to gripe about. Minor. It isn’t on the scale of people having homes wiped out by a hurricane and scrabbling to find clean water or shelter. It isn’t on par with the overt racism, mysogyny, homophobia, etc. which are evidently part of this country’s core values, or the fact that people feel they have targets painted on their backs.

No, it’s a minor whine. I was shopping. I’m not a clothing or shoes or handbag kind of gal. I’m more like a books or software or 3D model person. I could care less what I wear, in general, as long as I can whomp up a plate of Mexican food and have some cool books and art and computer stuff.

Lately I’ve been buying stuff from Daz. One of their products, Daz Studio, excels in “allowing users to manipulate ready to use (3D) models and figures”, as Wikipedia puts it. Once upon a time, that wouldn’t have been interesting to me. If I wanted to create a piece of artwork that involved 3D, it was going to be highly specialized, not something that involved models one could purchase in a store. The idea puzzled me, actually; why would I want to use somebody else’s models? No, it was Blender for me all the way; I’d just go hack together whatever I wanted myself.

Then I started making book covers as opposed to pure art. Dear lord, so many book covers and so many people on those book covers, people making out or turning into dragons or being chased by UFOs. Yeah, you can do paintings a la James Gurney, pay human models to pose for you, or you can troll through the offerings of stock photo agencies. However, that stuff gets expensive and time-consuming.

You know what’s cheap and easy? You go to Daz, download their free software and core set of free models, and you start posing the figures. Then, after you get the figures the way you want ‘em, you poke the render button and use the result as a reference for a painting, or throw it into Photoshop with some lens flares and vague fuzzy blobs that might be Bigfoot.

So that’s what I did.

“I can do this,” I thought. “I can get by with just their base models and work everything else out in Photoshop. It’ll be cheap and easy. I don’t have to spend a bunch of money. I’ll keep things simple.”

nudebasefig

One of the free stock characters, who is deeply unhappy because I chopped off his legs at the knees and he lacks the equipment to urinate.

Then I found out about the Platinum Club. “Discounts galore! Girls, girls, girls!” their ad read, or something like that. Okay, fine. They were running a deal on memberships. I paid a pittance, something like ten bucks, for a three month membership. The risk seemed minimal for that price, and I figured I’d see if the membership paid for itself.

lillithenvintens5

Lillith 7. Hobbies: crouching in virtual water while I experiment with bump maps. Likes midnight taco runs, strolls along the beach, and fast render times.

Holy cow. It was like getting hooked on crack. So many 3D models I couldn’t live without, discounted oh-so-cheaply. They started their “Platinum Club” sale somewhere in there, and my buying resistance eroded even further. Sure, I could get by without more stuff, but wouldn’t making covers go even faster if I had a few more figures and clothes for them?

So I bought. I became one of those people who lurched over to the computer at the crack of dawn to see what had been added to the “Eight for $2.99” category. One model became another and another, and this morning I went hog-wild. “Platinum Club Final Catch-Up!” bellowed their website. I could barely even tear myself away from the computer to go use the toilet, the offerings were so succulent. Pretty much every darned thing on my wish list was discounted by mammoth amounts!

terradome3

Terradome 3 was going for $12.95, massively on sale from its $59.95 list price. I flopped it in the cart and got another nice discount, down to $10.36. Woohoo! I found a bunch of stuff on my wish list on sale, and soon had piled in about $50 worth of stuff. For example, a base model of Ivan 7, which lists at $44.95, was on sale for $9.71 – then, when I added it to my cart, I received an additional discount to $7.77.

ivan-7__2

My thuggish heartthrob, Ivan 7. A steal at $7.77!

Wow. So much wonderfulness. At those prices, I wanted to see what else they had. But meanwhile, my kid was joggling my arm and whining about how he was hungry, so very weak he couldn’t even make it to the kitchen to whip up a piece of toast by himself, and he desperately needed some pancakes and an orange and a couple of pieces of bacon. So I muttered under my breath, heaved myself up off the couch, and lurched into the kitchen.

An hour later, I came back to my computer and updated the cart. Suddenly, its contents shot up in excess of $80. What the heck? We’re talking a difference in time of ONE HOUR on the SAME DAY yet the prices shifted upward. For example, Terradome skyrocketed from $10.36 to $17.26 – still on sale, but now $7 more. That was true across the board.

Or, to summarize my experience, “Big sale! Things I want massively discounted! I throw things and things and things in shopping cart! I go cook breakfast and look for even more things! Shopping FUN!” Then: “Prices go up … what do I do now? NOT fun.”

My theory is that they’re running an algorithm to see what kind of pricing gets people to buy or not buy – Amazon does that kind of thing – and if people were jumping on the sale in droves, maybe the algorithm hopped in and adjusted the prices upward. Or perhaps there’s a coding issue.

Here’s the thing, though. Once I’ve added something to the cart in good faith, at a particular price, I like it to stay at that price. An hour or two delay in checking out is not excessive. I should be able to hammer on the shopping cart and update it and add things all day long, until the clock ticks over to midnight, without seeing pricing changes.

This is not the first time I’ve seen this. It’s happened enough that I’ve started making screen captures of the shopping cart in between adding items, or making a text document with items and their prices itemized. The appropriate thing to do now would be to write the company, send them the screen captures, and ask “Say, folks, why did your prices bump up over the course of an hour?” Alas, I jotted prices down this time, which is equivalent to having no solid proof. (Much like the saying about oral contracts. “They’re worth the paper they’re written on.”)

It is what it is. Now I know, and now you do too. Double check that shopping cart one last time before you check out and enter your credit card information; otherwise, you may get a nasty surprise.

I didn’t actually need those models; I just wanted them. They were luxuries or items that would have made my work go a little faster. It’s not like I can complain about the company’s pricing in general, really; it takes time and hard work to make models, and I’ve benefited plenty from the Platinum Club sale. I know that running a company and all the trappings that go with it are expensive. However, once I’ve seen a price I find acceptable and put something in my cart, I really, really don’t like seeing the price increment upward. It’s one of those practices that lowers my trust for a company and makes me tend to avoid them.

I was planning on writing a review/comparison of Terradome 3 versus some other systems, but that isn’t going to happen now. On the positive side, I just saved myself $50-80 by abandoning the entire transaction.

I doubt Daz will notice the difference. They were doing fine before I came along. They’ll do fine after I’m gone. There are plenty of people who’ll see Terradome 3 listed at $21.58 and will swoop in and happily grab it up, not knowing that it was listed at $12.95 this morning, with an additional discount down to $10.36.

But I know.

Yep, I made some more stuff.

Friday, October 21st, 2016

Whee! Look what the letter carrier angrily hurled on my doorstep! It’s the 2016 edition of IQF Quilt Scene! That means one of my quilts must be inside. That means I must rapidly thumb through looking for it – with great care, though, so as to not wrinkle the magazine. I want the magazine to look nice and crisp so that I can leave it out on the table and nonchalantly lure people over to look at it.

showscene1_490

Here we go – page 75, deep in the bowels of the Special Exhibits section. The title of this piece is Leaving Home: Launch of the Apollo 8. It’s one of a collection of art quilts in the Fly Me to the Moon exhibit, commemorating the 50th anniversary of the Apollo 11 spaceflight and humans’ first steps on the moon. That exhibit will be debuting at IQF Houston soon.

showscene2_490

My particular piece commemorates the moment when Frank Borman, James Lovell, and William Anders first blasted away from the Earth and headed toward the moon. They orbited the moon ten times, then returned to the Earth. Although they didn’t get to land on the moon, they were the first to make this particular trip; their mission was important in terms of demonstrating its viability.

The piece was executed in watercolor on soy-sized cotton, then stitched. I wanted to evoke something of the spirit of the works of Ando Hiroshige.

This is only one of the pieces in the exhibit, of course. There are, I think, 176 pieces total in the collection, a portion of which will be at IQF. They have a diverse range of treatments ranging from the literal, to pop culture, to folk art.

One can see a few more in the friends@Festival eZine, a publication of Quilts, Inc. The article is also well worth reading for its interview with Susanne Miller Jones, the person who thought of the exhibit and has driven it.

Also debuting at IQF Houston: Odalisque with Squeak Toy, seen below. It’s supposed to be in the digital art category, so do say hello to it if you’re in the area.

odalisque490

Alas, I suspect it’s another of my pieces that no one will really “get”, at least in terms of understanding how the surface design was executed. On some level, that’s okay. People don’t necessarily have to understand how something was created in order to interact with it, like it, or dislike it. On the other hand, people often are curious about that sort of thing.

As a reminder, Odalisque involved things such as creating a computer-based 3D scene:Odalisque6

 

It also involved simulating the fall of the cloth throw that’s at the end of the chaise, “dropping” it and having my computer figure out what that would look like.

Odalisque15 Odalisque16 Odalisque17

Game Over involved similar activities, such as modeling the polar bear and the water it’s floating in:

box9

 

water

GameOverComp

When I recently received a judging sheet for Game Over, there were comments about thread tension and binding. This is standard for work I create, unless it wins an award, so I am sure that the sheet for Odalisque will have similar comments.

Here is how I feel after I’ve spent countless hours on a piece and I get back comments which totally disregard the surface design and whether the stitching compliments it, in favor of issues which are difficult to see except from the back:

Moving on … just finished this piece, Chaos Contained. It won’t be going to any shows, so get your fill of it here.

chaos1

I made it from a variety of bits and scraps, such as fabric and yarn tidbits. The stitching is eccentric and messy, and would utterly horrify the people who congregate at quilt shows and run their ungloved hands over the backs of display pieces.

chaos2

(Click image to embiggen.)

I like it, though. Good enough.

The Annual PIQF Post

Friday, October 14th, 2016

I saw this when I went to PIQF this morning:

brianpiqf490

I’ve been telling people it’s an award for not bleeding all over my work, but I think it’s actually for machine workmanship.

Awards aren’t everything. They’re a polite gesture on the part of the show, and I’m guessing the judges have just a few minutes to make a snap decision about what grabs them by the gut. Get a different judge or have the same people look at things on a different day, and somebody else would have gotten that ribbon. Maybe most of the works in the show deserve some kind of ribbon, because they have good heart and it took the creators some guts to put their work out there.

Nevertheless, this week I got lucky. I really appreciate it. I’ve been in the dumps this week, heaven only knows why. Maybe there isn’t a good reason, other than spending too much time staring into the open running sewer that’s the current presidential election campaign.

I could have gone to the show yesterday. The convention center is six miles from my house, so it’s not as though it’s an arduous drive. Instead, I stayed home and repaired the floor in one of the bathrooms, because nothing says glamour quite like crawling around by a toilet prying up wobbly floor tiles.

Anyhow, went today. Glad I did. Couldn’t stay long, because I’m nursing a mild sprain, but I managed to hobble around the show for an hour. (Bo-Nash lady, I’ll have to come back Sunday to hit you up for fusible powder. You were being nice telling the lady ahead of me all about Angelina fiber, but my ankle just hurt too damned badly to stand much longer.)

spectators

One thing I enjoy about shows is seeing how people interact with the work.

I have a couple of pieces in PIQF this year. One is the depressing, semi-apocalyptic piece on the righthand side of this photo, showing a plastic polar bear clinging to a plastic block of ice. The other is Why Knot.

Almost without exception, people tend to walk by the polar bear piece, Game Over, in favor of looking at Why Knot. That isn’t a knock on the viewers, by the way, but simply a statement of fact. Maybe the composition is just better, or maybe people relate better to children than they do to distressed polar bears who are about to drown.

Among those who look at Why Knot, there’s a group who look at it, smile, maybe study the workmanship, then move on. Then there’s the group who stop and actually read the knot names in the background. Once they do that, they’re usually stuck there for awhile. Let’s just say that I didn’t use standard knot names.

I’m not going to itemize all the work I saw at PIQF – there are plenty of other blogs that’ll do walkthroughs – but I did want to point out a few things that caught my eye.

unknown

The first is this work, whose name and creator I unfortunately didn’t record. Sunday. I’ll go find out Sunday, just before the show closes and I pick up my work, and I’ll post an update. Anyhow – lovely abstract of cheerful colors. Sucked me right in.

If memory serves, the artist is from the U.K.. That’s one of the things I appreciate about the Mancuso shows, the fact that they have a sampling of works created by people from outside the U.S.. The work is often stylistically a little different or depicts subject matter we don’t see over here, such as poppies for Anzac Day or swagmen hanging out with their faithful Blue Heelers. You see, I’m of the opinion that we don’t need walls built around the United States, either physically or metaphorically. We need to instead look outside our boundaries and wonder and learn. Most years, when I go through the entries from the World Quilt Show, I learn something that’s a little new to me, then I come home and learn a little more. Alright. End of that lecture.

cgriner

This piece caught my eye, Le Chat de Mondrian by Connie Kincius Griner. It’s a nice crisp, bold piece with a good heart. I like her background stitching. There’s just enough of it, and it’s large enough to make an interesting, discernible texture without competing with the foreground imagery.

kfox

This quilt is The Three Watchers, by Kathryn Harmer Fox of South Africa. It’s a huge, monumental piece, 72 x 56”, and is all the more impressive when one takes a closer look at her stitching.

kfox2

Look at that. I’m going to guess that she’s free-motion stitching on a zig-zag setting, but maybe not. However it is that she’s achieved this effect, it’s given the work a wonderful organic, painterly quality.

knida

Here’s one of Kathy Nida’s works, Part Time Oasis. Always nice to see Kathy’s work in person. I’m going to note that it includes nudity yet, astonishingly, I didn’t see any viewers clutching at their pearls and calling news stations, or any horses getting startled and bolting. Perhaps it’s because we’re in Northern California. The place is probably lousy with aging hippies, and no doubt a few of them quilt. I think I even smelled musk or patchouli when I paid for my admission.

landerson

Yuja, by Linda Anderson. She’s done a great deal with wonderful economy. Look at the marvelous, skilled base painting she’s did, and how expressive the waves of notes cascading around the piano are. I think she won Best Wall Quilt for this, and it was well deserved.

Also, not to change the subject, what is it with people wearing thigh-high stockings with short skirts or shorts? Is this a thing now? Am I just revealing that I’ve gotten past my sell-by date because I’m unfamiliar with this custom? I ran into another example of this yesterday; I’ll post it in a minute.

nhenderson

Glimmer, one of Neroli Henderson’s lovely nudes. She’s done a number of photo-based nudes, printed on fabric and stitched.

Again – astonishingly – no one seemed particularly shocked or scandalized by the nudity.

ychapman

True Blue Mates, by Yvonne Chapman. She’s done a very nice job on this. She’s told a story of friendship with great economy.

ychapman2

Look how she’s conveyed the water sort of bubbling over with the stitching she did around the rim of the billy can. That’s the kind of clever work she did throughout the piece. Oh, you say you can’t tell how nice it is because my photo kind of stinks? Alright. Come Sunday, I’ll see if I can hobble alllll the way to the back of the ballroom and get a better photo. Her workmanship deserves to be seen.

 

barista

So a minute ago – or, rather, a few paragraphs ago – I was grumping about the possible trend of people pairing thigh-high stockings with short skirts. This is where I first saw it, on a picture for a 3D model of a “trendy coffee shop barista outfit.” I’m guessing “trendy coffee shop” really means “Hooters with caffeine”, but perhaps that’s just the fuddy-duddy in me speaking.

I’ve been using more readymade 3D models lately, since I’ve been cranking out book covers that use a lot of human imagery. Oh, it’s not clear what I mean by a 3D model? Um, here. Maybe this’ll help:

michaelwf

michaeltext

This is Michael 6, a Daz offering. Sadly, he has no privates. (Click the image to enlarge it, if you’d like to verify this for yourself.) He had a tragic encounter with a viewer at a quilt show in Grand Rapids, Michigan, and that put an end to his aspiration of being able to digitally urinate while standing up.

I’ve usually made my own 3D models, as with the bear for Game Over and whatnot, but sometimes it turns out to be incredibly convenient to be able to download a model of a guy and pose him like I would a real human model. This is how I crank out tawdry book covers, for example.

Alas, some of the models get a little pricey. I’ve had my eye on the Scott 6 Pro Bundle, for example, but I just can’t bring myself to puke up $135 for the guy. He’s really dishy, though.

scott6

Just look at him, holding his helmet. Oh yeah, Scott 6. You can hold my helmet any time.

scott6_3

Here he is patrolling a subway car for manspreaders. I feel safer knowing that Scott 6 is out there with his digital gun, ready to shoot anyone who dares to use more than his fair share of seat space.

scott6_2

He also moonlights doing surveillance, I guess. Ah, Scott 6. Is there anything you can’t do?

harpoongirl

It’s sad. I think I have a crush on a 3D model. However, it could be worse. I could have a thing for Harpoon Girl, who stands around in a bikini and a pair of stylized spats, thinking wistfully about stabbing fish.

Sometimes it takes awhile

Saturday, November 7th, 2015

thumbnails

Work. I’m gearing up for the next thing. Tentative titles: Big Fish or maybe Fish Story. I had a green screen session with the boy recently, getting him to model various poses, and took a bunch of shots. (Around eighty, to be precise.) Sometimes it takes awhile to loosen up and get in the mood, and sometimes something special and spontaneous happens during the modeling session and you want to stick with it. These days we don’t have to pay for film or developing, so why not? The boy has a rubber face, so he can generate about a thousand different expressions. I pay him, so he’s a good sport about it. Probably he’d be a good sport even if I didn’t pay him, though. He’s a good kid. (No, I totally don’t dote on him or anything like that.)

I was working from sketches when I posed him. Fortunately, I don’t have the sketches at hand, so nobody will have to see them.

One of the things I consider when having a modeling session is how to dress him and what sorts of props to employ. Stuff can be edited in Photoshop later, but it’s nice to get relatively close to the desired scene, and nice to have props for him to interact with. In this case I wanted the boy in a plain red shirt, but we don’t have one. I ended up turning one of his T-shirts inside out to hide the logo and giving him a bamboo pole with clothesline tied on to stand in for a fishing pole. Later I’ll replace the bamboo pole with a digital model of a real pole.

Awhile back, I posted about some of the equipment I use, including the green screen and background support system.  These are some of the best money I ever spent; they make removal of a person from a background about a thousand times faster, cleaner, and simpler.

Terrain

There’s going to be a UFO plus some terrain, trees and water in the scene, so I’m starting to develop models of those. It’ll probably take months. It doesn’t necessarily have to take months, but I tend to work on several things at once. I’ve come to like the clarity I get from walking away from a project and coming back to it.

spacecraft

Here I’m starting to rough out the scene with polygons, before getting too deep into the modeling. It looks like a dog’s breakfast and that’s okay. Stuff evolves.

There are a couple of books I love which might be interesting to others who like to compose their own images. It turns out that years ago, Norman Rockwell was doing exactly the same sort of thing, posing models in costumes with props and taking reference photos for his paintings. He didn’t have the digital tools we have today, but he was very clever with the non-digital tools of the time.

Rockwell

The book about his methods is Norman Rockwell: Behind the Camera. It’s by Ron Schick and is available for around $25 on Amazon; less if one gets it used.

Gurney

Another book is James Gurney’s Imaginative Realism: How to Paint What Doesn’t Exist. In it, he discusses his use of maquettes, models, props, and sketches to create art which looks “real and believable”.  His blog, Gurney Journey, also a great read.

I prefer to use digital tools, or a mix of real-life objects, human or animal models, and digital tools. There’s no reason one has to do that, though. One should use whatever tools one likes. Rockwell and Gurney are proof that one can achieve marvelous results with a pencil and a paintbrush. One can sketch a spaceship from one’s imagination or craft a rudimentary model out of Play-Doh rather than modeling it on a computer.

 

Odalisque1

On the production end, I’m stitching on Odalisque. (Odalisque is another of my computer-assisted, composited images. See parts one and two from about a year ago.)

It feels like there’s several million miles of stitching. That’s why I have to put projects aside now and then. They can start to feel overwhelming when I’ve been working for weeks or months, or I can get terrified of an area and fear messing it up. What if I do the wrong thing on that tatted throw? An utter disaster!

OdalisqueDetail

See the screen behind the chaise? This is some of the stitching. I’m having to use magnifiers. It’s making me crazy.

There’s a quality I’m striving for where the stitching and the base image marry. I’m not there yet. It’s going to take some time and experimentation to master.

FloodedShoe

The shoe and leg in my work Flooded come close to what I have in mind.

Mardal1a

So do this hand and couch done by Mardal and Hougs.

There’s a quietness about these examples. The stitching and the base imagery support each other, rather than the stitching being an afterthought stuck on top of something which was already complete. That is, alas, the look of many works where someone has printed out a photo and stitched on top of it.

I don’t mean to criticize those who have that aesthetic and enjoy that type of work, by the way. It just isn’t to my taste. One’s aesthetic is a personal preference, not a matter of right or wrong.

I’ll get there. In the meantime, I should finish Odalisque and see what I can learn from it.

 

CrapCloth

There’s also this thing, a side project I stitch on when my brain is fried. Sometimes one needs to keep one’s hands busy but the light is bad or it’s just too much effort to do precise work.  I call it “Crap Cloth”. Yes, that’s vulgar. Probably I need a politer name. However, “Crap Cloth” does at least communicate that it’s made of odds and ends.

It began life with a section of fitted sheet that had blown a giant hole. Yes, I know one shouldn’t waste time on cloth whose integrity may be questionable. I do it anyway, though. I tie knots in the worst parts and let the dogs play tug-of-war with them, and I make shopping bags out of the best sections. After all the thread I put down, I could probably make bags out of paper towels and it wouldn’t matter. Nothing short of a bomb or maybe a rat on cocaine can dislodge my piles of stitching. Machine jams and makes a thread nest? Cool. Let’s stitch that sucker in. In fact, let’s start saving up floor sweepings and stale Cheerios and stitch those in, too.

This was going to be a shopping bag, then it turned into something else. I don’t know what it is. A loud wall hanging? A grotesque table runner? A dog house cover? Who knows. If you know what it is, leave me a comment.

Adventures in Fabric Printing

Wednesday, August 26th, 2015

You know that excited feeling you have when you open a much-anticipated shipment and look at your goodies? The “Oh boy, oh boy, this is great and I can’t wait to tear into it” feeling?

Yeah. I’m not there. The custom fabric for my next quilts arrived. Things aren’t so great.

This piece with the bear is okay. I can work with it. Some areas of saturated color have washed out a bit, but that’s to be expected when taking an RGB image and printing it with a limited number of ink colors. Some RGB colors can’t be reproduced in CMYK. There’s also some loss of sharpness, particularly in areas of low contrast; see the sides of the ice cubes and the bear’s face. However, I can touch these areas up with Tsukineko ink. Things will also change considerably when I begin quilting.

GameOverComp

Image file

 

GameOverFabric

Fabric printed from the image file

 

Alas, the other piece of fabric is a total loss.

Here’s the rendered file, the one submitted for printing onto fabric:

Gusher

Here’s the resulting printed fabric:

GusherFabric

Notice that much of the detail is lost, particularly in darker areas. If the fabric is not outside in bright sunlight, the conveyor belt and background blend together and the cups, balls, and even styrofoam containers aren’t particularly noticeable. The whole image disintegrates into a muddy mess. The photo above doesn’t capture how truly horrid the situation is.

Alright. I’m not pointing fingers of accusation at Spoonflower, by the way. I appreciate their service. Really, they just print whatever files one sends them. This situation is just stuff, the sort of stuff which occasionally occurs when one is taking RGB images and having them printed in CMYK. If one’s monitor isn’t well adjusted, if colors are too saturated, if one doesn’t take into account the quirks of printing onto fabric or the quirks of the printer itself, the end result can be less than desirable.

I’ve actually been very fortunate to encounter almost no problems of this nature during years of creating artwork for books and magazines. I’ve also had fabric printed a couple of other times with no difficulty.

Back to the drawing board. I’ll make some adjustments and get fabric printed for Gusher, the oil derrick piece, another time. Since I like to get two images at a time printed on a length of fabric, this unfortunately means waiting until I have another image ready to produce. Annoying, but not the end of the world. The ruined piece of fabric won’t go to waste, either; it’ll probably become base fabric for one of my shopping bags.

bag1

See? A shopping bag made from odds and ends.

Based on this experience, I have some takeaways. I hope my observations will be helpful to others, but of course, your mileage may vary.

  • The more forgiving the image file in terms of color saturation, contrast and detail, the more satisfactory the printed fabric is likely to be.
  • When dealing with any fabric printing service, thoroughly scour their help files. Also, find out what kind of printer they’re using, research its color space (CMYK, Hexachrome, etc.) and its quirks, and plan accordingly. Based on the images on this site I believe Spoonflower may use the HP DesignJet L26500 for some of its printing.
  • Get one of the company’s swatch printouts and compare to the colors in one’s file.
  • Don’t count on images or fine detail printing out as crisply on fabric as they would on paper.
  • Increase the contrast of one’s image. Visual elements with similar colors or similar intensity may simply muddy together. That’s particularly the case for darker colors.
  • Consider tweaking curves in Photoshop or some other program so as to lighten the mid and deep tones. These can always be deepened on the final piece of fabric with Tsukineko ink, but it is very difficult to lighten tones on a piece of muddy, dark fabric.

 

Midtones

Tweaking curves in Photoshop to lighten midtones. Click image to enlarge

Farewell to summer

Thursday, August 20th, 2015

butterfly

“Happy New Year … of SCHOOL!!!!” my husband bellowed at the boy this morning, thus jarring him out of a peaceful slumber.

Thus dawns the beginning of a new school year and my frantically trying to remember what I was doing back in early June when the boy’s school let out. There isn’t enough coffee in the world to make my brain work right now. I know this because I’ve drunk most of it and all I’ve accomplished is several trips to the bathroom.

Maybe I should start by shoveling out my work area, which is seriously trashed. That way it’ll be ready to go when the base fabric for my next two quilts arrives from Spoonflower. Spoonflower’s website assures me that the fabric is headed my way from Durham, NC via truck or plane or maybe muleback. The Donner Party sort of made it over the Sierras in their horse-drawn covered wagons, give or take a little starvation and cannibalism, so I’m sure the fabric will be here in no time.

I’m excited to start stitching on these new works. Their subject matter has been in the back of my mind for quite awhile, and I finally used 3D software (Blender) to help jell the imagery. As a side note, I’ve discovered that even though the quilts are barely started, they’re good for shutting down conversations.

A week or two ago, we headed out of town to a wedding. “Oh, what are you working on these days?” asked the lovely, glowing bride, hoping to start an innocuous discussion. I told her about one of the new quilts with its apocalyptic man/automaton figure wildly gobbling down oil and defecating out plastic goods. “Oh, um, that sounds dark,” she said diplomatically. Huh. I guess it is.

It was her wedding day and all, so I didn’t mention the second quilt. It features the red plastic polar bear figure from the children’s game “Don’t Break the Ice”. The ice has been broken and the hapless polar bear is clinging to a chunk in a large, featureless ocean, in danger of slipping away in exhaustion and drowning.

PolarBear

Here’s the latest incarnation of Mr. Bear now that he has eyes and skates and such.

I’m trying a new, smaller size with these quilts to see if I can get them done with good quality and out the door. It was pretty disheartening seeing submission dates blow by this summer. Good to spend time with the boy, though. In another couple of years I’ll have to handcuff him to me the moment he gets out of bed if I want to see him. Much as I hate blowing submission dates, there will be more.

In the meantime, farewell to the sights and sounds of summer.

Peacock

Rhino

water

Pagoda

lions

Flamingoes

Claude