Layering Paint for Depth and Interest

This weekend I’m teaching my “How Do I Use This?” Meets the Art Journal Page class. Most of the first day is taken up with creating the backgrounds on pages we will bind into a custom art journal, and one of the first points I emphasize is the need to work in layers in order to create depth, texture and visual interest.

The same concept is utilized in my A View to My Heart class (coming again this September), and I realized I hadn’t yet shared photos of the most recent session.

The focal point of this class are the Relics & Artifacts matte resin castings designed by the talented Sandra Evertson. (FYI, we’re awaiting a shipment of new designs of this gorgeous line: if you aren’t already receiving our weekly enewsletter, subscribe so you will get first notice of their arrival!)

Using found papers to collage the bases for our shrines

One way to ensure a layered look with depth is to begin with a collaged background. In the example above, found papers such as book text, map pages, sheet music and more are torn and added to a wooden base with matte medium.

Adding the first layers of paint

While we used a variety of paint in this class, everyone loved using the Silks Acrylic Glazes. These smooth paints contain mica for iridescence and are available in a wide variety of colors.

Silks Acrylic Glazes are translucent for beautiful layering effects

Because the Silks are translucent, our collaged backgrounds peek through. Silks layer beautifully with extra coats; one of their selling points is that you never get “mud” when painting one color atop another, even if they are opposites.

All Supplies/Full Kit Provided for A View to My Heart, an Artistic Artifacts class led by  Judy Gula

We added complementary and contrasting colors to add another layer and visual interest.

Students create a lovely shrine/altar using the beautiful Relics and Artifacts line of craft blanks by Sandra Evertson

Metallic paints help add interest to the dark brown paint

Several chose to add metallic color for highlights and to lighten dark colors.

Silks Acrylic Glazes include mica, giving them a wonderful iridescence

One of the wood plaques available had the ‘flaw’ of a large, dark knotty grain running along the edge (below photo). This student made it a part of her design, to great effect!

Taking advantage of a large, dark knotty grain running along the edge of the plaque to add a natural look

The Relics and Artifacts pieces take paint beautifully. No matter what color theme the students chose to work with, the results were gorgeous!

Relics and Artifacts pieces are easy to paint or embellish

To add metallic color or to highlight edges and design elements, we also used Inka Gold metallic rubs. Don’t let the name fool you: these are available in more than 20 colors!

Using Inka Gold metallic rubs to add color and highlights

After starting with a blue base layer (seen in the second photo of this post), my student Kelsey Grandy worked her way up to beautiful purple/violet tones by layering and blending her colors (photo below).

A gorgeous shade of purple created by layering several colors of Silks Acrylic Glazes

Adding layers continues right to the end of a project. Below, my student Joan Grandy wanted to use the rusted, flattened bottle cap (a sentimental object) in her shrine, but was going to leave it out as she thought it didn’t fit with the color scheme. I taught her that by adding the complement of blue, orange, in the form of a rust effect the balance she wanted would be achieved… and it would distress her elegant assemblage a bit so that the look of the cap wouldn’t be out of place. We made the rust even more authentic by using Rusty for Paper by Viva.

Finished art by Joan Grandy from A View to My Heart, an Artistic Artifacts class led by Judy Gula using the beautiful Relics and Artifacts line of craft blanks by Sandra Evertson

More finished student work. All different, and all wonderful!

Finished student work from A View to My Heart, an Artistic Artifacts class led by Judy Gula using the beautiful Relics and Artifacts line of craft blanks by Sandra Evertson

The below steampunk-inspired art is by Sharon McDonagh, who had left room for the stamped inscription and added more embellishments at home after the class.

from A View to My Heart, an Artistic Artifacts class led by Judy Gula using the beautiful Relics and Artifacts line of craft blanks by Sandra Evertson

Below, Kelsey Grandy’s finished art.

Finished art by Kelsey Grandy from A View to My Heart, an Artistic Artifacts class led by Judy Gula using the beautiful Relics and Artifacts line of craft blanks by Sandra Evertson

As noted, I’m going to be teaching A View to My Heart again on September 10 so I hope some of you can join me!

Paper Piecing Aussie Blocks

Australian fabric string pieced quilt by Judy Gula

Click for a larger view of Judy Gula’s completed quilt above »

I can still remember when Bonnie K. Hunter spoke at my local quilt guild, the Burke chapter of Quilter’s Unlimited* of Northern Virginia. I loved her quilt samples, patterns and fabric choices. Are you surprised? I have a very eclectic task in fabrics, from vintage to contemporary to ethnic. Bonnie hit the upcycle/repurpose interest that I have by using fabric salvaged from old clothing in her quilts. We do a lot of repurposing of items at Artistic Artifacts, especially me!

After hearing Bonnie talk, the very next day I ordered her book: Scraps & Shirttails: Reuse, Re-purpose, Recycle! The Art of “Quilting Green.”

Virginia Strings block inspired by Bonnie Hunter, pieced by Judy Gula

Fast Forward several years, and I finally acquired enough scraps of Australian Aborigine designed fabric to try my hand at string/paper piecing. I wanted to illustrate the point that many traditional quilt patterns are perfect for our ethnic fabrics, including batiks and Australian.

Paper piecing? I had no clue how to do it… I just knew that needed I print out the template in Bonnie’s book. I chose her Virginia Strings block…her book notes that this is traditionally knows as the Rocky Road to Kansas but because she pieced her quilt while she was here in Northern Virginia for a week teaching, and backed it with a bargain purchase of University of Virgina fabric, she was inspired to name her quilt Virginia Bound.

I printed enough copies of the quarter block templates to create six blocks in total … I already knew that I would not be creating a full size quilt top. I pieced a couple of blocks and brought them, my book, tools and scraps (along with a couple other projects) to my chapter’s annual quilt retreat in order to get “in-person” training. Lucky for me, a fellow Burke member at the retreat had already used this block and offered some advice:

  1. Make your stitches short in order to make pulling the paper off easier. I can tell you that this step makes a big difference! Bonnie also offers this advice in her books and on her blog; she has a number of free patterns and tutorials available, such as this Flying Geese quilt.
  2. Create your block somewhat larger than you want it, and cut it down with a square template. I was creating 8" squares and used my 8½" square, my rotating cutting mat and jumbo Havel’s Rotary cutter to do the trimming.

So here we go. I think that Bonnie advises that you begin at the other end — for some reason I began with the smaller part of the kite shape. To help me while sewing, I did fold my template along the lines. Others will trace over the lines with a Sharpie to make them bolder, if they don’t show through to the back of the paper.

Judy Gula beginning to string piece

Keep piecing, by sewing right sides of fabric strips together, then flipping the last one added back down so that the right side of the fabric is facing up.

Judy Gula completed string piece center of quarter block template

Below, I am beginning to strip piece the sides of the quarter block, using lighter fabrics so that the final block design will show.

Judy Gula string piecing the sides of quarter block template

Using my 8½" square ruler to trim the block from the back.

Using a square ruler to trim the quarter block

The front of my trimmed square! Leaving aside the fact that my photo turned out a bit blurry, it looked pretty good to me, so I made a few more.

The front of a completed quarter block, Virginia Strings quilt

I decided to keep going…after all, it wasn’t like I was going to run out of fabric!

Judy Gula Aussie fabric string pieced quarter block templates

Edited: My original post ended: “Below, my quilt top as of now. I do have to say that I am happy with how this has turned out. Will I create additional blocks? I am not sure yet. I might just finish this up with a border and stitching.” As you can see from the image at the top of this edited post, yes, I DID finish it up! See my post Quilting with a Walking Foot for additional details.

Judy Gula string pieced Aussie fabric quilt top

My challenge to you is to take a favorite “traditional” quilt pattern and use non traditional fabrics! Send us your photographs, whether a completed quilt, top, or pieced blocks, and we will share them on our blog.

Australian fabric string pieced quilt by Judy Gula

* I’m proud to say I’m teaching at the upcoming 42nd Annual Quilter’s Unlimited Quilt Show in Chantilly, VA, May 28-31, joining Jane Dávila, Dominique Ehrmann, Gyleen Fitzgerald, and Cyndi Souder with an exciting lineup of classes suitable for all levels of expertise. Many people travel to our show every year, as it (rightfully) has a reputation as one of the best on the East Coast. Come join us!