Friday, January 14, 2011

Moon River - Nellie

 Moon River - 13"x 17"

fabric, netting, yarn,
oil stick pastels, paints,
machine stitching

There were a couple of events that led me to the idea of interpreting Barbara's photo of weeds along the Mullet River in Plymouth, Wisconsin under moonlight.  One was the winter solstice in mid-December and the other was this piece that was the result of "just playing" (read about it here) earlier that same month.
Moonlit - 11"x 16"
To get started I played with the picture in Photoshop Elements.  I flipped the photo to change the direction of the angled lines and position of the blossoms.  I prefer the focal point to be in the upper right quadrant of a composition.  Also, I like to guide the viewing path from right to left within a picture.  These changes help to keep the viewer's eye circling within the composition rather than allowing them to sweep out that lower right corner.  Also, the "hue/saturation" was adjusted in PE to see more the effects of low light conditions.
Then I went online looking for photos of "moonlit scenes".  Here are three of the many, many pictures that I scrolled through to help me decide how to present this landscape on a moonlit night.
I very much liked my bright and fanciful "Moonlit" landscape.  I chose background fabrics that have pure, but watered down hues (left).  Bits of wool roving were applied to add softened light as well as to soften shapes (right).
Instead of my usual choice of tulle to trap the roving, I chose this netting with a camouflage design printed on it.  My thought was that it would add random shadows and spots of light to the composition.
It's pinned onto the piece in the picture on the left and you can see the camouflage patterns scattering pools of shadows and light across the piece.
As you can see in the picture on the right, the machine quilting diluted those effects.  They're still there, but much more subtle than I had anticipated.
On this IT piece I decided to stick closer to realism than the fantasy exhibited in "Moonlit".  So I got out my oil stick pastels to darken many shadowy areas as well as to highlight a few areas reflecting the moonlight.  At one point, I was dismayed at having lost/buried the wonderful colors and patterns that I had at the beginning.  However, I was on a quest to achieve night time effect so I kept going.  Silk flowers and leaves were cut to shape and arranged over the background (left).  A yellow-orange tulle holds all of them in place.  It was cut away from the background areas after the machine quilting around the plants was done (right).
And then more ... much more ... work was done with the pastels and paints to get the effect of seeing colors and shapes on a moonlit night.  All along the way through this creative adventure photos were taken.  Converting them to black and white let me see whether I maintained a contrast as well as a balance of lights and darks.
I wish you could see this piece in person.  There's a softness to this dark piece that doesn't come across in the photos.  The few who have seen this in person react with an intake of breath and say, "It's moonlight!"


  1. As I scrolled down to see your Interpretation I too gasped. Wow! It is fantastic how you captured the moonlight exactly on these flowers and grasses as well as the sparkle on the river. The background fabric may have been compromised but the result is
    perfect and no one can mistake the fact that the moon is shining above somewhere.

    I love it and once again a triumphant success.

  2. Oh and I forgot to mention, "Moon River" was the theme for my Junior Prom! :)

  3. What a magnificent quilt! And not to belittle it in anyway, I LOVE that you gave us a detailed overview of the process. Now I feel like if I wanted to achieve this effect I would have a clue how to do it (or avoid the painstaking hours it takes!) Thanks!

  4. Very elegant interpretation--another winner through the use of technology.

  5. Lovely, Nellie! Your techniques are so versatile in the effects they can produce. The moonlight idea is unexpected and beautiful.

  6. Great interpretation and your values seem right on.

  7. I love the subtlety of this piece. Your artistry and technical precision has produced another wonderful piece. Brilliant idea to have the scene set in the moonlight - it has an ethereal quality.

    (Clearly, I have to visit a fabric store... I had no idea there was camouflage netting!)

  8. Ah, Nellie, what can I say that hasn't already been said? Breathtaking, elegant- your work is just amazing.

  9. And 'Moonlit' is over the top too- love the colors in that piece!

  10. This has such depth to it! Once again you have made a wonderful work and it is so you!


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