Sunday, November 15, 2015

Pelican progress is at a standstill

Being not exact might just be a good thing.

I'll elaborate on that...
I've been at a standstill working on the Pelicans. That darn background (again). If you've been following the progress you'll remember that I ditched my original plan of appliqué on the water background as it was distracting and would overpower the pelicans. I ordered more silk in a slightly different shade and did some freehand water and waves. It was okay, better than the appliqué but still not perfect. Anyway, I dropped the background and went to work on the pelicans themselves -- which turned out awesome. Time came for me to get back to work on the background. As I still wasn't thrilled with the background I decided to try a different approach. I created a stencil of the actual waves from my master copy and painted according to the stencil. This was an exact replica of the photo. Well guess what... I didn't like it. I felt it was entirely too much, it pulled your eye to the background instead of to the pelicans. That was totally not my intention, why would I spend so much time and effort to create these beautiful pelicans only to have them fall second to the background?!!

Here is the original photo:

Here is the freehand background:

Here is the stenciled background:

I asked my two best friends opinions and they liked the stenciled background. When I questioned if it distracted from the pelicans they replied that it didn't, without the movement of the water the piece became flat. I asked another good friend and she choose the freehand background saying the stenciled background was too much and did cause distraction. Ahhh!  So, I put the two pictures out on Facebook and asked for opinions.  It was a landslide -- the freehand background, and for all the reasons I thought initially. While the stenciled background showed waves and water movement it was entirely too distracting. Your eye went immediately to the water background as opposed to seeing the beautiful pelicans. A few people mentioned the stenciled background looked as if it was rough seas. Well, me being the photographer, it was. It was a crappy day, which explains the rough-looking waves and why the pelicans were hanging at the boat ramp just waiting for fisherman to clean their catch and drop some scraps. Another person mentioned that something has obviously caught the attention of the one pelican which is why he stood up and that perhaps I should place something in the water. Well, it was me who caught his attention when I walked up to photograph them.

The majority of Facebook land agreed with me and thought the freehand background worked better for this project.  I do appreciate every opinion and comment!  They helped me to get over my must-be-exactly-like-the-photo mentality.  Because all this being said I am kind of a nut when I create these pieces -- my brain tells me it must be exact. And no, I don't like the exact in this piece. So I guess it is okay to take some creative license and soften the background, staying with the freehand painting. I want the pelicans to be the focus, not the water - that must remain a background as opposed to a focal point. The eye needs a place to rest. And, I also have to remember that thread will be added to this when it gets quilted -- thread which will also create additional shading, highlighting, and movement.

So back I go to finish the freehand background (no, neither background is completed in the photos). Wish me luck -- I want this piece to be perfection!


  1. It already IS perfection, but I get that you need to see it that way, too. Someone commented to me last week that she just cannot stand photorealistic quilts because they look like a computer generated them. She said it is much more interesting to see the artistic licensing and the humanness of the less-than-exact additions. Some of my favorite modern quilts come from Bill Kerr and Weeks Ringle (Modern Quilt Studio), who piece with precision and then longarm with an imperfect design. I think that I agree with my friend's observation -- a little bit of imperfection really makes the quilt so much more delightful! In any case, Quilt ON! You are a Quilt STAR and I'm loving these two birds! Karen Larsen

  2. I like both. The stenciled one is my favorite but just a bit too much wave over the second Pelicans head. I'm sure it'll be fabulous no matter which one you finish.

  3. So glad you're sharing this project and its process. It's so interesting to both see your artwork, and the how and why of your choices along the way. ☺

  4. So glad you're sharing this project and its process. It's so interesting to both see your artwork, and the how and why of your choices along the way. ☺

  5. I was going to say what Soapstone Quilts did :)