On the Swan

On the Swan

Recently, a local woman asked me to create a river view in felt for her. I created several watercolor sketches she could choose from so that we agreed on what the landscape would look like and what to include. The client lives on the Swan River here in Montana and decided she wanted a view similar to what she has behind her home.

After hand carding and blending colors, I started on the layout. I used a commercial prefelt background and mostly short fiber merino batts. Somehow, I wasn’t thinking correctly on shrinkage as I went with the idea that it would shrink 30%. But I forgot that I don’t normally full my wool paintings very hard as they don’t really need intense fulling.

I continued working down the picture laying out the distant trees, the river with the trees and mountains reflections and then into the foreground grass and lupines. At the same time I was laying out the big piece, I also laid out a smaller sample. That way I could try different options with final details and stitching. This shows the birch trees from silk paper that I was trying to decide upon. Luckily, I had made the birch tree silk paper several months ago at one of our local group meetings.

Here’s the small sample that I made. I tried the left tree trunk in prefelt and then used free motion machine stitching for the dark areas. The right tree trunk used silk paper which was painted for the dark areas. I also tried out some FME for the branches and the lupines. I didn’t feel that the FME was what I wanted for this piece and opted for the silk paper birch trunks. I had also used some brown/tan wool for the distant shoreline which was way too much if included in the original wet felting process. I ended up cutting out a portion of this sample so that the brown wool was showing much less. I then stitched the two pieces of the sample back together to give the feel of what I wanted in the large piece. This sample really saved me from making some big mistakes!

Here is what I had after wet felting. I had to full this piece very hard as the request was for a certain size. I don’t normally worry about size on my wet felted landscapes and I ended up cutting the edges because I had not figured the shrinkage correctly.

Next I started adding in needle felt details. I added more definition to the distant tress, added a shoreline and added some lines in the water to simulate movement.

Then I stitched some grass in the foreground and stitched down the silk paper tree trunks.

I continued on with details. I added some paint to the tree trunks, I couched down branches and added leaf details with needle felting. I added hand stitching in front of the trunks and some leaf details for the lupine.

Here’s a close up so you can see a bit of the detail in the foreground.

Then I found I already had enough green fabric that worked to finish the piece. My client is getting it framed with barn wood, so this is how I delivered the piece. And the wonderful thing is that she loved it. I’m so happy it worked out the way that she wanted.

33 thoughts on “On the Swan

  1. I really like this Ruth and I’m not surprised that your client loved it. It’s amazing how something so dry and fluffy as wool can make water look real in a picture. Your silk paper birches look good too.
    We have a Eucalyptus Alba in our garden and the trunk patterns revealed when the top surface peels off are really attractive, and would look great in a picture. One day perhaps I’ll get round to it.

  2. It’s beautifully dreamy. Love the way you’ve tied it all together with the (very realistic) tree trunks, and the way the leaves come down to greet the flowers. Your shadowing at the base of the mountains gives great perspective and leads the eye up to a pretty sky.

    No wonder your client loved it!

  3. This is a gorgeous piece and I loved reading about your process, especially the reminder that practice pieces are never a waste of time or materials.

  4. Oh, your piece is beautiful! Thank you for sharing your creative process. I learned a lot. I’d never thought to make a sample piece along side to test out different ideas. I have no idea what silk paper is but I am very drawn to your trees. I’ll be looking that technique up. Thank you!

  5. Such a lovely picture, Ruth. Love the way you’ve depicted the fore, mid and background so realistically and each area is really beautiful. The silk paper for the trees is particularly successful – lucky client!

  6. A fabulous piece Ruth . I am not surprised the woman loved it. the treas are great. I don’t think I would have thought to put the leaves in at the wet felting stage but it really makes them look like they are on the other side of the tree. You practice piece is pretty amazing too.

  7. That is so gorgeous Ruth, absolutely beautiful. I’m not surprised she loved it. Those trees are so realistic too. Wonderful. I could lose myself in that scene.

  8. Looks wonderful. Ruth. Can I just say you nearly gave me a heart attack when you mentioned not paying attention to shrinking and then showing the really narrow pic? I thought it had shrunk that much, haha! Glad it didn’t. Your client has an amazing piece of art.

    1. Thanks Leonor, sorry to give you a heart attack! I guess that not shrinking enough is better than shrinking too much.

  9. Ruth,
    That’s one gorgeous piece of art. I love the colors and especially the purple lupines. I’m learning so much from you. Is the silk paper what we created in our paper lamination class? Just curious. 🤔

    1. Thanks Capi, the silk paper is different from paper fabric lamination. Silk paper is silk fiber laid out and then “glued” together with fabric medium.

  10. Beautiful serene piece! Enjoyed seeing the difference in the prefelt with fme verses the silk paper trees in your sample piece and cutting out the part you didn’t like and pieced it back together in your sample.

  11. It’s a beautiful piece Ruth and I always love to see the various stages a piece of work goes through. Great tip to test out materials/methods on a sample alongside your actual picture.

We'd love to hear your thoughts!

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.

%d bloggers like this: