Sumac mid-winter.

Last fall I began taking photographs of images along the Friendship Trail: some close up, some mid-distance and others further away. I didn’t really know where I was heading at the time but knew that what I was seeing must be shared with others.

Almost a year later I have covered four seasons and accumulated enough work to present as a “work in progress.” I’m hoping you will enjoy what has evolved from the first of dozens of photographs above, to more than a dozen completed works. My fibre work has lent itself as a medium that creates the tapestry-like texture and colour that these images so closely align with.

I began this project as something “just for fun.” For a few years now, photos taken of the giant Iguanas on the island of Cayo Largo, off the southern coast of Cuba (Iguanas below), have been waiting for an opportunity to realize themselves. SAQA’s call for entry, “Fur, feathers, fangs and fins” seemed the perfect fit!

Here we go: I envisioned a wall mounted work to reflect the rock face with the Iguana basking on a rocky ledge. I had saved a silk fusion “skin” from a previous rock sculpture which was never completed. This I thought would give me a leg up on the project. I had also envisioned some very textured remnants of handwoven fabric from my weaving days, covering the rock face and in fact, the Iguana itself – a perfect camouflage fit.

That aside, I began with the construction of the creature. What to use as an armature? I could see some left over pool noodles as just the right size and nice an squishy to shape the body, but wire was also necessary to keep that shape and to fashion legs and toes – oh those toes! How many are there? I researched on line only to read that they could be anywhere from 3 – 5. I zoomed in on my own photos and determined in the end that the Cuban species had 5 and that was what I would go with.

I built a “cage” around the noodles to flesh out the body; however that would not be enough to support the outer skin. I filled the gaps between with leftover polyester stuffing. This all had to be covered to create a nice even and solid surface onto which I would “dress” the Iguana. I searched through my tape supplies to find a cloth tape that would both smooth and hold everything together quickly without having to wait for drying. When fashioning the rock, I had used both PVA and cellulose paste with strips of cotton and cheesecloth – hours of work and time to wait while it all dried.

This rudimentary Iguana shape took about 3-4 hours to construct and was about life size. Gee, I had looked over the prerequisites for SAQA’s call and recalled a very large window of sizing options, so dismissed that and became immersed in the creative process.

I’m starting to “see” an Iguana and it’s turned out life-size. All has been formed by looking over a selection of my own and some posted images of Cuban Iguanas from Cayo Largo and one of its outlying small islands. Apparently, you can take an excursion there to be among the creatures on the beach! you might like to check this video out. The face was certainly far from correct, but, understanding anatomy, there has to be an allowance for the eyeballs, so plenty of that space.

The head structure took a little problem solving: I had some silk fusion fabric left over from the “rock” structure, some toy animal eyes, lots of cheesecloth for a cloth version of papier mache and determination. The head was shaped by building up the structure of the skull, mouth and eyes temporarily inserted (they were blue which didn’t work, so that had to be sanded off and painted white – on the back). With a series of pleated silk fusion shapes, handstitched, the head slowly began to take shape.

Now for the actual “dressing” of the Iguana which I am separating in this blog, but during the actual process, both head and skin were developed simultaneously.

A new update on “WordPress” is allowing the descriptions to show on the actual image, so here in sequence, you can now “read” the process. With a combination of stitching by hand and machine, and using PVA glue to adhere the skin to the body structure, the Iguana is beginning to take on an almost “lifelike” form. It’s almost creepy to hold the life size creature. When our children were young, we had a “pet” Iguana. I don’t believe I ever held it!

Key concepts from 101

Linear perspective, atmospheric perspective, horizon line, vanishing point, organic lines, foreground, mid-ground and background.

This time we are going to apply these ideas/concepts to this architectural form of a modest country church. This is not my own photo.

You will need a regular sheet of letter size paper and a legal sheet (or 2 sheets of letter paper taped vertically) and soft, sharp pencil.

Please do not use a ruler and avoid an eraser until the end.  You could spend the entire exercise erasing and becoming frustrated.  Practice with your pencil until your lines are soft and easily corrected—without an eraser.  Curl your hand so that you can use the outer/baby finger side to slide across the paper as a guide.

In this exercise we are going to use 2 point perspective where previously we used just a single vanishing point.

1.To create markers:  Fold your larger sheet in half horizontally.  Make a visible dot on each end of the horizontal line.  These indicate the horizon and are your vanishing points.  In the picture, the trees obscure the horizon.

2. Take your smaller sheet and fold in half horizontally, then again horizontally to divide the sheet in quarters.  Do the same vertically to create a second set of quarter lines.  There should be 16 rectangles dividing your sheet.

3. Place the smaller sheet vertically on top of the horizontally oriented, larger sheet.  Centre vertically but align the bottom edges.  Tape to hold in place if you like.

4. To create the first pencil line indicating the line of the church where front and side walls align:

Step 1: From the right bottom edge count one and a half spaces in and mark with a dot in the centre of the space.  Step 2: Count 2  half spaces up and make a second mark. 

Step 3. Make a line to create the vertical wall abutment which is closest to the eye (between the window and door).

5. Getting the perspective of the walls:  Without using a ruler, draw a line from the bottom dot to the right hand vanishing point ( on the bottom layer of paper).  Again, the top dot to the same vanishing point—you should have a long, narrow triangle.  Do the same from the top and bottom dots to the left vanishing point. 

6. Create your outside verticals:  The left is about one and a half rectangles in and the right about 3/4 of that rectangle in.  You should now have a box with slightly diagonal lines top and bottom but should have true vertical walls.

7. Roof:  Make a dot in the centre of your page.  From this point join with a line to the left outer wall and a second line to the centre wall. You should have a triangle.  From the centre dot, extend your line to the right hand side vanishing point to determine the slope.  For the top of the roof, count one and a quarter squares in and make a mark to join the roof to the top of the right hand wall.  Join the 2 lower points to form the bottom edge of the roof.

Window and door:  determine the height with small dots .  Although they are actually centred on the building, the near wall portion should be slightly wider than the distant portion to allow for perspective. When adding any detail that requires perspective lines e.g. sills and lintels, use your vanishing points to determine the slope.  Guessing could give you a line that looks askew.

8. Bell tower:  Start with the vertical join which is slightly to the right of your centre line.  The top is slightly higher than your first fold at the top of the page.  Mark and joint with a vertical line.  Extend upwards for the cross.  The top of the cross should be on the same slope as the walls—use your left vanishing point.

9. Roof line slopes:  From the ball, make a diagonal about 1/2 inch out on either side and about half way down.  Notice that the tower is joined into the roof about 1/2 inch down and the top structure sits on a small “foundation.”  Use the vanishing point on the right to determine the angle.  Create the inner framework of the window openings and extend the roof seams  of the tower from the window peek to the tower peek at the ball.

At this point you can take out a ruler and eraser to neaten things up—but you may like the way it looks drawn freehand.  Be sure that all vertical lines are TRUE verticals and all lines that would be “horizontal” on the actual structure, go back to the vanishing points on a diagonal, even if they are just tiny window sill lines.  This drawing will serve as your pattern.

Now that you have your church drawn (congratulations, this was not an easy exercise), continue to add the background and any details that you would like to add in, although that can happen as you work on your textile or fibre piece.  Just remember the perspective rules:  Objects and details are larger in the foreground than in the distance and atmospherics can create more depth to your work. 

Steps outlined visually.

The SAQA pod has taken up the challenge to render this more difficult exercise.

Effie took the concept to re-imagine the traditional “log cabin” quilt. Here she has placed the structure within a forest with a path leading to the front door. The colours give us a “rustic” feel and even earthy smell of an evergreen forest.

Pam has interpreted the “grain elevator” icon from her connection with the “prairies” of mid western Canada. The beautiful perspective of the structure and linear rows of grain is enhanced by the addition of the foreground hay wagon. The eye is led into the scene and wanders through via the linear connections. Colours and fabrics are well-chosen to provide the illusion of light.

Comments: A little more angulation upwards of the cabin’s right side foundation line and windows would give a feeling of receding into the distance. Exaggeration of the path’s width as is leads forward would provide a foreground dynamic and work in conjunction with the larger tree forms.

The wagon in the prairie scene is beautifully rendered. A slight exaggeration of this form would also provide further dynamic to the feeling of foreground perspective.

Both wonderfully executed.