Saturday, July 16, 2011

Portrait Quilt--Part Six--Shadows and Shading

The last couple of days have been spent finishing up the background painting and experimenting with various ways to put shadows and shading on my figures.  On the original quilt, I shaded with tulle fused onto the little boys' figures and made shadows beneath them, on the sand.  This is effective, but very tedious!

I wanted an easier method, so I tried three, and I was happy with none!  First I tried using water color pencils, but that to me didn't look natural.

A "posterized" gray scale version
of the original.  This helps
me to see where the shadows
should be placed.  They can
clearly be seen, both on the sand and
on the boys' bodies.
Next I tried painting with acrylic paints, using the methods and suggested colors discussed in the book PORTRAIT QUILTS, PAINTED FACES YOU CAN DO by Bonnie Lyn McCaffery.  I am sure McCaffery's methods and very clear directions work wonderfully well on most front-view portraits, where the highlights and shading appear just here and there on a face.  But when an entire face is in shadow, as is Locke's on the far right in my picture--well, it just didn't seem to work for me!

Finally I tried tea-dyeing my fabric, planning then to cut the shadows from this darker shade.  Again, I used McCaffery's directions, but despite leaving the swatches in the tea longer than she suggests, it had absolutely NO effect on this fabric!  Perhaps had I washed the fabric first, it would have taken to the tea dye better.

Because of my experiments with both the colored pencils and the paint, I had then to start from scratch with Locke.  I cut out a new cloth "paper doll" for him, though of course I could re-use his hair and his shorts.  (This time, I remembered to adhere the Misty Fuse first, on the back of the flesh-colored fabric, before cutting out the pattern.)

And so now I am back to using brown tulle, fused on with Misty Fuse.  This method, after all, is the best.  Yes, tedious, but also effective!

And so here is a picture of the in-progress quilt.  In it you can see that I have begun the shadowing on Locke--on his face, arms, and torso.  Also you can see the final decision about the background.  I am using the painted sky, water, and some of the beach fabric.  But to achieve the look of the beach that I wanted, I used two commercial fabrics as well.  The fabric on the bottom is the commercial one called "sand", and then the one just behind Locke is a fabric that just seemed to coordinate well with both the painted fabric and the bottom one.

If you compare this photo of the quilt with
the posterized version above, you
can tell how I get the shape and the
placement of the shadows.


  1. Wow Alice, I do believe you've got it! I know it will look great!

  2. You are going to be a world authority on sand and sea and sky w all your experiments.

  3. Yesterday and today I watched the sky and thought, "This looks like Alice's sky." The water is beautiful. I love the sand and the shadows. Very impressive.

  4. I too THINK YOU'VE GOT IT! Congratulations ! Susan will love it - ss