Thursday, November 5, 2015


Have you ever made a self-portrait?  Sue's art quilt group issued a challenge to make a self-portrait as one of their bi-monthly challenges.  It could be an actual portrait, or alternate interpretation of the term.  Some chose to interpret personality traits or likes/dislikes, one even used the results of Facebook quizzes as the basis for her self-portrait.  Sue decided to be literal in creating a portrait based on a photo, since she had never tried it before.

About the same time she was getting starting making a freezer paper pattern, an email arrived from Quilting Arts advertising some $5 videos, one of which was called "Making Faces" by Maria Elkins.  How could she go wrong for $5??  So after purchase and instant download, she was ready to watch the video to see how her method worked.  It seemed pretty foolproof, starting with a photo, changing it to black & white with 4 values from light to dark, and then using a product called Steam a Seam II Lite to build the layers, using the printed photo as a pattern.  This was the most basic method in the video; there are 3 others that are progressively more challenging, up to drawing a portrait freehand.  But the basic method was perfect for this first attempt.  Maria also offers tips on fabric selection and how to quilt the finished portrait.  Very much worth the $5!
This is the original photo, which was cropped down to just a head shot, and the background removed in Photoshop Elements.  Then it was changed to black and white and the posterize filter applied, with levels set to 4 so there would be 4 light to dark values.
Black & white photo
Posterized photo; you might notice this version is a mirror image of the previous one.  This is necessary for the final product to have the same orientation as the original photo.

[Normally, Sue hates photos of herself - don't we all?  Well, maybe not the selfie experts!  But Sue says spending so much time looking at herself does make it a little easier to accept what she sees!]

The posterized version is printed out and then the different value shapes are drawn with a red pen.  This will be the pattern for the portrait.  Three additional color copies are needed - one for each of the 4 layers.  Actually, 2 additional copies is enough but Sue wanted to keep one copy intact (the others get cut).  Each 8.5x11 sheet of paper is then adhered to a sheet of Steam a Seam II Lite.  This product comes with paper on both side and feels tacky when you peel the paper off.  The tackiness allows you to stick things together and still be able to reposition them until you are ready to fuse with an iron.  The lightest value goes down first, uncut. The 2nd lightest value has the paper pattern attached and you cut out all the "1" areas, which is the lightest value.  Then it is place on top of the first layer, so that the light value shows through.  This is repeated with the other 2 values, layering each one on top of the previous. Some parts, such as eyes, are completely cut out and so must be placed, but the cut-away pattern serves as a guide for placement.
Here are the 4 values layered on top of each other, before the background and clothing areas are cut away.  (The lines are marked with chalk to get an idea of the overall appearance.)  The brown (dark value) was cut away, other fabrics added for the jacket, and then the layers were ironed to permanently fuse them. Then it was time to find a background.  Many choices were auditioned before settling on the orange batik, which was embellished with stitching and beads.  The portrait was quilted mostly with invisible thread; brown was used to add texture to the hair.
Sue says this was a great learning experience!  She tried a technique she'd never done before, made her first portrait, used a new product (Steam a Seam II Lite), and tried some different embellishments.  In fact, she had so much fun with this, that she did a second self portrait as well!  More on that in another post.

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