If you have been following along with my Sunday & Seurat posts, this black dog will look familiar. I decided to print him as a postcard too. These are mailable size, professionally printed on heavy weight card stock with a nice matte finish so they are easy to write on. They are available now in my Etsy shop as sets of 4 cards.
Another detail I noticed in the Sunday on the Isle painting was the sailboats in the distance. Since Minnesota is nicknamed the “Land of 10,000 Lakes”, I knew that a print with boats would probably be something people here would love.
I started this print by creating the water. I collected about 15 different patterned and colored papers, everything from newsprint to sheet music to scrapbooking paper. I laid them all out on my table and gave them all a wash of blue paint. I wanted to obscure some of the patterns a little bit, but I also wanted to give it a cohesive color palette. By giving everything a wash of the same blue, they suddenly all become variations on a theme, rather than 15 separate colors.
I tore the papers into long strips and started layering them together to look like waves. I deliberately tore them a little unevenly to get the “foam” of white paper showing on the tops of some. I glued this all together as a paper collage. My scanner can only scan a piece 9×12, so I needed to carefully adjust and mask the edges of that rectangle so that I could make a seamlessly repeating pattern that could fill any amount of fabric. There is no magic formula to making something like this appear seamless, just lots of time zoomed in and manipulating pixels one by one to disguise the edges of the tile. Totally tedious; totally worth it. Many hours later, I had made a seamless water pattern out of it, which I saved as is, because I reuse patterns like this all the time once I have the hard work done.
Next I created a cut paper illustration of the sailboats and scanned it. One of the things I loved about the sailboats in the painting was the reflection in the water. I thought that was such a lovely detail. So my illustration had a reflection as well.
I made several different sailboats and added those in a layer on top of the water. I was careful to place them on the waves so they looked like they were sailing along and not just plopped down. Finally, I added a flock of birds. I originally had made a set of water lilies as well (my favorite flower) to go in among the boats, but the scale just didn’t work out. If they were small enough to make sense with the sailboats, you couldn’t tell what they were. So those got scrapped.
You’ll notice that the color of my water and the color that it is on the finished fabric aren’t the same thing. When I looked at my finished design, I realized that it looked a little somber. Although the colors matched the painting pretty well, it didn’t have that summer sailing kind of feeling that I wanted. So I went back in and brightened up the water and shifted it to look a little more turquoise, a color that made me think more of sunshine on the water. I also tweaked the tiny flag at the top of the mast so there were pink and yellow flags just for a little sparkle of color.
The final layer, of course, was my Seurat-inspired pointillism texture added in layers. You can still see a tiny bit of the polkadots in some of the patterned papers, but I love the complexity that gives to the design. I love this one and I hope lots of you love it too.
Another iconic shape in the Sunday on the Isle painting is parasols. There are many people sitting and standing in the scene holding a parasol. I liked this one where you could see the contrasting color on the inside, so I decided to make one like that. My original paper design for this one was very much larger than the finished design. Making it larger was just an easy way to make sure that it had all of the detail I wanted with shapes and shadows added with colored pencil. It’s much easier to cut something out with scissors than it is to have to make tiny things with an exacto knife. It was easy to re-scale it after I had scanned it. I was designing this specifically for bow ties, so I wanted something simple that would make sense when it was scaled down to bow tie size.
I kept the bright turquoise blue of the original and recolored another one to be almost the same deeper blue as the one in the painting. Lots of people wear blue, black or grey and I thought this made a print that would look nice with any of those. I created a geometric pattern by alternating them, which I also thought for a bow tie would give a print that was super wearable, while still being a little fun and quirky when you looked at it closely. This design was also built up of layers of pointillist-style dots and transparent colors.
If you look closely at the Sunday on the Isle painting, you will find a black dog whuffling in the grass. Those of you that know me know that I have a fondness for black dogs.
So, I had to use the black dog as the inspiration for a design. When we were talking about what kinds of pieces we wanted for this collection, I felt like there should be something that wasn’t necessarily a kids item, but something that would appeal to kids. And there are a lot of people who love dogs. So this one seemed like it would be pretty popular. (Turns out we were right, but more about that in a minute.)
I made two versions of the dog from cut paper and I added a little colored pencil shading to them. I scanned the cut paper designs and layered together with a painted background that was just a swirl of different colors. And I added the paintbrush from the Red Yellow Blue design as if the dog is holding up his paw to be painted.
That turned in to this, which I call Brush to Paw. I printed it on eco-canvas. The hidden “easter egg” in this print is that the dogs have a different colored collar on each side of the bag, which match my dogs (red for Chester and turquoise for Leo).
And when you sew it together, it makes a little bag that looks like this. I use these as travel bags and keep my phone charger, jewelry, bandaids and those kinds of odds & ends.
We quickly realized that this little guy was going to be a hit, so we added a piece to the collection and I gave him a place on a tea towel as well. I just got this fabric yesterday and I am going to spend the rest of the afternoon hemming and making some linen/cotton tea towels which should be in the Guthrie shop very soon.
It always catches me off-guard but one question I get asked all the time is “Who does your sewing? Or where do you get them made?” The answer is: Me at my dining room table.
That part is just as important to me as the design is. I have no interest in designing things to send off and have mass produced overseas.
The fabric for all of these is printed by my friends at Spoonflower in Durham NC. They are friends and I have been to Spoonflower HQ and have seen my fabric coming off of their printers. I can’t own the kinds of machines that they have (They cost more than my first house did.) so I am thrilled I am able to work with them to make my designs happen.
Part of the cost of making these is paying myself a fair wage for the time spent sewing them. I work hard to make that part as efficient as I can because I don’t want to spend 24 hours a day sewing, but I can be confident that they are the quality that I want and that the person sewing them isn’t working in a sweatshop. This week I have been drinking tea and watching the Great British Baking Show as I sew. I can’t complain about my job this week.
I am so excited to finally be able to talk about my collaboration with the Guthrie Theater Store. In February, I was approached by the manager of the gift shop for the Guthrie Theater. Their summer musical was Sunday in the Park with George and she wondered if I would like to work with them to make some exclusive pieces for the shop that were inspired by the show.
Sunday in the Park with George is loosely based on the life of Georges Seurat and his painting Sunday on the Isle of la Grande Jatte. I first saw the show about 15 years ago and soon after that we visited the Art Institute in Chicago and were able to see the painting. It was the first time that I can remember seeing a painting and literally gasping. I came around a corner and there it was. Part of the beautiful visual story of the show is that the actors recreate the painting on stage and the characters move in and out of that scene.
The show is a love note to artists. Seurat struggles with getting the image that he sees in his head on to the page and the struggle filling up the blank canvas. He is famous for the pointillist style, where the image is made up of dots of colors that your eye blends together. When I thought about what to design, I thought of the song “Color and Light” from the show, where Georges repeats the names of colors in a rhythmic pattern like his dots on the page. So that was one of the first designs I created.
Making the design Red Yellow Blue
I started many of the designs in this collection from paper. The grid (representing a paint palette) and the paint brush are both illustrations made from cut paper; the paint splatters were watercolor. The paintbrush was shaded with colored pencils to add some texture. I scanned all of those pieces so that I could manipulate them digitally but preserve the texture and hand-cut or hand-painted quality of them.
There is a filter in Photoshop called “pointillism”, which seemed like a logical choice to make the design look Seurat-like, but it didn’t give me the effect I wanted at all. So I read a little more about Seurat’s painting and that gave me some ideas.
The artist worked on the painting in several campaigns, beginning in 1884 with a layer of small horizontal brushstrokes of complementary colors. He later added small dots, also in complementary colors, that appear as solid and luminous forms when seen from a distance.
I built up my design the same way with transparent and opaque layers, some with dots and some without and I digitally played with the luminosity in different ways. It took a lot of experimenting to get something that felt just right. It ended up being about four or five layers in total.
This design was intended to be a zipper bag, so I created the design to scale and not as a repeating pattern, which is more typical for fabric designs. It is printed on eco-canvas, which is made from 45% recycled polyester. The finished bag is about 5×8″, which is just the right size for your favorite pencils and art supplies.
This is the first in a series of posts about the making of these Sunday & Seurat designs. I wanted to have the chance to talk a little more about the inspiration and process of making each one. They can be found for sale at the Guthrie Theater Store and you can see the whole collection in this virtual gallery.