Friday, January 13, 2017

Portrait of the Kids Part 2

Last time I showed how I painted the flowers and kids in my new portrait quilt, and today I wanted to talk about how I finished it.  Unfortunately, my in-process picture taking really slacked off after the painting steps.

The bottom half of the background started with a piece of fabric that was some sort of cotton poly blend thing with light brown specks that was masquerading as linen.  I drew the porch lines with brown sharpie, heat set, and then mixed up some watery grey paint and painted over them, so the cracks wouldn't look so much like harsh lines.

The shadows are all done using layer after layer of painted and cut organza.  The organza was really shifty (of course) and it was really a mess trying to line everything up enough to get it all lightly glued down.  The top half background started with a yellow piece of cotton over which I layered several pieces of light blue organza to give a bit of depth.  I wasn't sure what I wanted in the background, the original picture was completely full of bushes all the way around the whole picture, and I knew I didn't want that.  I started with some light green tree shapes cut out of organza which helped but still was fairly boring.

Next I cut out a bunch of leaves and stems out of organza and tulle and layered them on along with another layer of light blue to cover it all up.  I liked that quite a bit better, but the transition from the top to the bottom half still felt a bit abrupt.  I finally decided to insert a piece of brown organza and quilt a little wall right at the edge of the porch.  I don't have a picture of that, but you can see it in the final pictures.  One of the interesting things you may notice about the above and below pictures is that the dark sides of the flowerpot switched.  In the original images the profusion of bushes made light and shadows come from all over the place.  But I realized once I had this assembled that in the pared down version the light was mainly coming from the left, so the dark/light sides of the flower pots needed to be flipped. I couldn't just turn them over, but I did wind up just painting some light and dark paint over each one.

After quilting the whole thing I had to decide how much to crop it.  My mom and I discussed it back and forth for a while but finally decided to crop a fair amount so that the kids were really front and center.  There was no need for so much empty sky and porch.  But after that was done, it felt a little small so I decided to do a portrait finish.  I've done this with several of my pieces now and I like the framing effect it gives without feeling like a traditional border on a contemporary piece.  Of course it does mean quilting a whole second quilt, but for something small like this it goes pretty quickly.  I auditioned several colors, but decided I liked the plain red best, so I quilted it to echo whatever was going on in the nearby parts of the main quilt.  As a final step I put a bit of white paint on the bubble wrap to give it some extra dimension.

And here it is all finished.  I gave it my sister for Christmas.  She really liked it and was very surprised, so I think my mission was accomplished.  It was so wonderful to be able to surprise her!

4th of July 2015, c. 2016 Shannon Conley, 31" x 35"

Have you ever done portrait quilts?  I think this one turned out pretty well, especially since I didn't have to do faces!  Thanks to Mike for taking all the final pictures.


  1. Wow! That is beautiful, I'm not into portrait quilts at all but love how you did this.

  2. So special! Your sister must have been thrilled. I know that I would have been. Thanks for taking us through the process.

  3. I've only done one portrait quilt. The process didn't grab me. It is a fabulous way to learn to really see highlights, shadow and shape, though. Stunning work. What a wonderful gift for your sister - a treasured memory made into a treasured piece of art.

  4. This is so cool Shannon. It is really eye catching, everyone who sees it can't stop looking at it, and of course it means sooo much to me.

  5. That is just amazing! I really loved the up close shots. I am blown away by how you can use fabric and thread as if it were paint!