Creating a Character

This is a painting blog, so you might wonder what a sewing tutorial is doing here.  Part of the back story of my paintings, is creating reference photos that inspire me. And the back story to creating interesting reference, is crafting the settings which include the costumes.

When I say costume, it’s more about building a time and place instead of “playing dress-up”.

We don’t need access to the prop department at MGM Studios to come up with character pieces, after all we are creatives…right?

About a month ago a friend offered me this dress after it didn’t sell at her garage sale.dresss

At the time I saw the potential in it, but wasn’t sure what it was. One evening while scanning Pinterest for ideas an image sparked the direction to go.

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Pinterest image

A pair of scissors quickly severed the glittery top half from the voluptuous bottom half.

Examining the inside structure I saw there was a lining and, bonus, black netting I can expose as more texture! The lining will make a solid base for the tucks. I experimented with how much tuck to take by measuring down from the inside lining center front 8″ and marking with a pin. Going around the lining I placed pins at this same measure at the side seams and center back.

Than I measured down on the skirt center front outside, sides and center back 20″ down and marked with pins.

Next I brought the outside pins upward until they met up with the inside pins and joined the outer skirt with the lining at these points with pins. This measure gave some nice heavy tucks so I sewed skirt to lining where they were pinned with a 1″ join.sewtucks

I made a second layer of tucks doing the same thing, going down on the lining and marking, than going further with the outside fabric (so that tucks would form), and attached outer skirt to lining by sewing.

This whole process took about an hour. The last thing to deal with was the back closure. Since the original dress had a zipper going all the way up and partially down to the skirt section, my cutting off the top left the zipper inoperable. The answer here was sewing a simple fabric extension to the back with Velcro as a fastener. Velcro is the best solution because it’s easy to sew on and it enables the skirt to fit a variety of waist sizes.IMG_1973

Give reworking something a try, it doesn’t need to be perfect, it doesn’t even have to be wearable for more than 10 minutes.

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After

Next month I will be teaching  “The Costumed Figure Bootcamp”,  at Scottsdale Artists School, May 13-14. Sewing won’t be a part of it but creating scenes, posing models choosing themes and painting from inspiring reference photos will be the focus.

 

Simplify and Exaggerate

BalletcropblogThis is a image I’ve had for at least seven years, in fact it was painted once before.

It’s fun to come back and see how your eye for design has changed. The first time around I saw it as ; lacking color contrast (in the flesh tones) and having a weak composition.

The key is to simplify and exaggerate. Keying in on the simple shapes means grouping things together, even if they don’t look like anything, that might be alright or they may morph into something that is recognizable later.blog-shoe1

I chose a square format and starting with anchoring dark shapes to the top and bottom,  focusing on a triangular design. It’s always good to have the center of interest attached to  an edge so that it doesn’t appear to float in the space.blo-shoe2

At this point it’s more about deciphering the light condition. This took place in a large rehearsal room with lots of overhead lights plus more light coming in large windows. No wonder things appeared washed-out, but looking closer reveals how the light is showing the form, like on the top plane of her back.

All that clutter on the right is reduced to a violet patch of color. blog-shoe3

Here, all the areas have been generally massed in and decisions need to be made.

  • First, do I want to bring back some of the information in the background? Yes, it will help with the story to give some clues about her surroundings.
  • Is there anything that doesn’t help the story or composition? Yes, her distant arm bend is a tangent with the foreground hand and shoe she’s holding. Speaking of the shoe, it doesn’t read well as a shoe, could I edit the shape to make it more shoe like?blog-shoe4

I like that arm outstretched more, plus the shoe and distant ballet information simplified!