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  • Suzanne Munroe

Explorations: Journeys in Creativity, The Quilt Artist’s Studio

I am very exited to announce I am one of 24 chosen artists who will be creating a piece of art

(30" x 50") in the upcoming months which will be exhibited along with materials explaining our particular techniques and creative process. The concept is to bring the viewer into the quilt artist’s studio to give them a feel for the creative process as expressed in art quilts.

The Artists considered for inclusion in this exhibit were judged based on a portfolio which showed development of originality, design, technique and craftsmanship.

The exhibit will debut at the New England Quilt Museum, 18 Shattuck St in Lowell, MA and will take place in two parts, from Oct - Dec 2018 and from April - June 2019.


The technique that I will be featuring is painted portraits. The inspiration I have chosen is from photos of my twin aunts, Edith and Eleanor. I decided to go with the twins at the lake in their bathing suits. Its not the best photo, but gives me enough to work with.

My Artist Statement:

The inspiration for my work usually comes from a photo or portrait of a person that captures, to me, a strong emotion that evokes a feeling or memory I want to express. I have to be attached to what I am creating in an emotional way to really be invested in what I am creating. I favor drawing portraits in my work, either drawn directly on the fabric, or created in mixed media and then printed onto fabric. Incorporating my painted portraits into my fiber art is an exciting challenge for me. It forces me to look at design, color, and tell more of a story with my paintings as I add fabric, quilting, and finishing design elements. Each layer of medium adds something new to the piece, sometimes wanted, sometimes unexpected results - both good and bad! - I start with a basic idea of what I want the piece to be, but it seems I abandon my plan, and work with what I feel like it needs at that moment. If I get stuck, or am undecided what to do next, I let it sit on my design wall and as I catch glimpses of it as I work on something else, eventually an idea will surface, and I’ll continue on. I rarely end up with the beginning sketch I had in mind. I love the process of creating in the moment - much more satisfying to me than even the end result. I love the freedom I give myself to make a mess, to pull out fabric choices and toss in a pile on the table, not worry about the many scraps of fabric and thread that fall to the floor. The chaos in someway helps with possibilities – I change my mind often with color choices, and finishing touches.

As I create I listen to what the piece is telling me. Yes, I will admit that I will often talk to my work – at that moment it is real and alive. – and that’s what stirs excitement in me to push forward. It is always an added delight if the viewer seeing my piece has a strong emotional reaction or connection, and takes a moment to lean in and see more!

I incorporate my portrait s into my fiber art work in 3 ways:

I will either paint directly on fabric,

photograph and then print one of my painted portraits onto fabric,

or create the portrait out of pieces of fabric.

When I paint my portraits directly on fabric I will either start with a light pencil sketch or I will free-motion quilt the outline into the fabric, and then paint with inktense pencils and intense blocks. With the use of aloe vera gel, I can usually get a nice blended tone. I like to start with the eyes in my paintings, or a facial expression in my work, and If I can capture that, and make it work for me, then I continue. I will sometimes add acrylic paint if I cant get the look i want with the intense pencils. Once the portrait is done, I begin to add the background, often adding fabric but sometimes I will add paint and then free-motion quilt the piece. I tend not to heavily quilt over the portrait. I like how the fabric moves and puckers giving the portrait added character. I say, as in real life, you can only control things to a point, then you have to let it go, and let it be itself –


Now, I have the photo I'd like to work with. To jump right in and work on a 30" x 50" piece seemed so overwhelming to me, so I decided to first create a smaller piece (13" x 13") to build my confidence with painting the faces, and fabric choices. The first step: I drew a rough sketch of the girls

Second Step: I then used the sketch to lightly draw onto muslin fabric. I taped the fabric onto my drawing board, and began painting. I use inktense pencils and blocks with aloe gel mixed in to activate the pigments. I will also use a little white fluid acrylic to lighten the pigments. The pigments are permanent once dry. I do not pre-wash my fabric.

Here I have painted the faces. I've had to use my imagination for color, as the photo is in black and white, but the black and white photo does show enough value to get the shadows, lights and darks.

I start with the dark values, not worrying about the specific features. Once the values are in, I start to concentrate more on the details. The eyes are always my favorite feature of any portrait.

Now to choose the fabric! This takes a while for me - I have to audition several prints and colors before determining what I want to use. I fuse the back of the fabric I'll be using with misty fuse.

The next step is to cut out the fabric and fuse to the piece. I first trace (using the sketch I drew) the sections onto freezer paper and then Iron onto the fabric prepped with misty fuse on the back, and cut out. YES -- I do need to remember to use a heat mat, or goddess mat when ironing the freezer paper onto the top of the fabric, as it has the misty fuse on the back, and that would be a disaster to unintentionally fuse the fabric to my ironing board!

More Progress .. Here I am auditioning material for the swim suits and trim on the bathing caps.

The next two photos are the twins with ready for quilting and then the finished piece

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