My Insights on Color Theory and Why CMYK Rules my Universe.

CMYK rules my art world. And, it should rule yours. I have known about and used both RGB (red, green, blue) and CMYK (Cyan, Magenta, Yellow, K (I’ll explain the K later) for years. But I really didn’t understand them until now. I thought CMYK just was something printers had to do because of the inks they used.. and I was kinda right, but mostly wrong. It had to so with the inks, the paper, the coatings, the …well.. the everything.

I’m taking a class is all about CMYK and why it is better than RGB for my art. RGB is what we learned in elementary school only because it is easy to show. RGB is for transmitted light. RGB is about adding colored light together to create. Starting from nothing, the absence of light, adding light of specific colors until you reach your desired outcome.

CMYK is about starting with white light and subtracting colors until you reach your desired outcome. CMYK is for light-absorbing color processes. Quilts, fabric, paints and inks are ‘colored’ by all reflected light. But it is light passed through light-absorbing pigments in the form of ink, paint, dyes, and more. A CMYK color wheel will really help you get the best results when using these mediums. C-Cyan, M-Magenta, Y-Yellow, K- key (the key or color plate is used in printing to determine the lightness or darkness of the CMY). They don’t mention the K part in the class specifically, but they do talk a lot about it. Every time they are talking about tint, shade, or tone.. they are teaching us about the K part of CMYK color theory.

We were all short-changed in K-12 when it came to color theory unless you had a really rocking art teacher who had lots of time. If you took drama classes you necessarily taught RGB. Theater uses light and lots of it. Theater uses light passed through gels (transparent colored films) to “color” the light. RGB is all about transmitted light. It’s really easy to show RGB color theory and limited budgets meant most schools taught RGB theory. A few colored gels, a source of white light and, wa-la, you had an easy quick demonstration on RGM. Lightness or darkness in RGB is controlled by the amount of light you allow to shine through. 

CMYK. Now that is the true beast we need to learn for doing art (that isn’t working directly with manipulating the light itself). In CMYK, the lightness or darkness is a result of two things. 1) the pigment itself and how a human perceives it. and 2) the amount of white or black mixed into the pigment). Number 2 is a very different animal than just dimming or turning up the electric current in a light. Human perception is obvious for those of us who can see. For example, Yellow is ‘lighter’ in perception than Purple. 

In CMYK color theory, color passes through the pigments/dye/ink on the paper (they absorb some color) then reflects off of whatever surface is under the pigments and back through the light absorbing pigments before going to your eye. So you can think of CMYK as subtractive. Color is subtracted (absorbed) or removed from the light bouncing off the background behind the pigments laying on the surface. It is also affected by the background surface. And, it is subtracted (absorbed) again when the light passes back up through the pigment back to your eye. The background plays a huge role in all this. Traditionally the background is white, white canvas, white fabric, white paper, white gesso, etc.

In CMYK you can create black by mixing all the colors together. In practice, this actually end up looking like a dark mess. That is because it is really hard in nature to find 100% pure colors, or to even create them out of things we find on earth. Everything we create is slightly tainted. So actually finding three pure CMY colors and mixing them exactly has astronomical odds against it happening. Also laying on enough pigment to absorb all the light is a requirement. This could end up looking like a thick scab. This can get really nasty if you ask me. So printers and artists for thousands of years have “cheated” by making black pigments. Actually they are just made of things that are really dense and absorb a lot of light like coal. Anyway, using black pigment with the three subtractive primary colors allows wonderful things to happen. It’s why your inkjet printer today uses at least four inks, Cyan, Magenta, Yellow and Black is used for the key). Black is used when the muddier combo color of the CMY isn’t desired. To get a really rich black, printers will often mix a layer of CMY with a layer of black over it. Newer printers often have a “Photo” black cartridge. This is actually CMY and Black inks together. No biggie.. it just works.

To get lighter ‘colors, you just use less pigment so less absorption of light occurs. This isn’t always practical either. Our eyes are super sensitive detectors. We would have to grind down the pigments to itsy bitsy teensy weensy bits and sometimes we can’t grind them down enough. We’d also have to evenly and at regular spacing spread the pigments out at just the right rate to get the color we want. All that is terribly hard. So again, artists have been “cheating” for years by using “white” pigments as a carrier substance to thin out the colors and spread them out. No biggie.. it just works.

Having the K factor is the Key… it allows us to take a pure color and thin it down to make lighter colors or thicken it up (and even add black) to make dark colors. 

You can even include the K factor as your substrate, using a grey or black back ground will allow you to achieve changes without having to even alter your pure color pigments.

All that is nice.. but how does it apply to quilts..

As well as making different color choices now, I think about the K factor (lightness/darkness/value) as much as the color itself. I realized I used to pick all the colors but they usually had the same K factor. So if I made a green and blue quilt (analogous color scheme) I had all light, or all medium colors in terms of  how light/dark they were. Because I am studying CMYK, I think about the K factor (lots of pros call it value or include it in their value definition). So now if I were to do an analogous color scheme quilt, I also make sure I have some light, some dark, some medium mixed up in the actual colors themselves.

Does it work? All I can say is that it does! Try it. If you are used to using a color wheel as a guide to help you choose fabrics for a quilt… Go pick fabrics using a CMYK color wheel, also known as an Ive’s Color Wheel, and watch your once drab color picking skills suddenly become professional. Remember the K factor part of CMYK and You’ll be quilting with the stars.. at least with your color choices. 

I know people are saying things about my art that they didn’t before.. they are saying things like wow, I love those colors, I didn’t think of putting those together but it really does work well, and more. They never commented about my choices before I made the switch. They do now. And more importantly I think so to. 

Happy students

John and I completed our freeform table runners this past Saturday. Carol had to leave before finishing and we will finish it up later this week. She picked out some amazing colors of yellow, pinks, oranges and green.

No two table runners ever come out the same because every strip you cut is curvy and done as you are inspired in the moment.

John and I went with colors we can use during the great Watermelon Month of June here in Luling, Texas. Some might say these are Christmas colors. But, here in Luling we know better.


I love darn good yarn

I love darn good yarn

This is a wonderful display of capitalism working at it’s best. A really fun group of girls building a business that helps artists find rare materials and that also helps women in poor countries get their goods to market. Also it’s green, keeping awesome stuff out of landfills. It’s genuinely helping everyone from the earth, to disadvantaged women, to the owners of the company and even the artists who use the materials they import to the U.S. YES!

I am so not the Queen of Organization, but this organizer rocks!

20130924-234448.jpgI used to, well I still do, keep scores of thread cones in baskets. I love thread almost as much as I love fabric. I always had a problem keeping tack of all the threads currently being used on the three or four projects that I seem to jump between. Until now –drum roll please–I have found the most awesome cone thread holder in the world. Yep! I think I have.

I use those 3000 meter spools from Isacord, Aurifil, Superior, Sulky, Floriani, and a few others, so the run of the mill thread holders for those dinky spools just wouldn’t do. ROM Woodworking of Modesto, California, is making some of the nicest oak thread holders I’ve ever seen and now am using. I bought the Ultimate Felicia Thread Holder. It is both free standing or wall hanging. So it is easily moved around your workspace Or put away on the wall. It can also hold your basic larger rulers and cutting matt in slots on the back of it. And, it holds 96 spools of thread. The thread holder rods are thicker than the ones on those mass produced things you buy in the crafty stores. It is made of furniture grade solid oak. The edges are all routed and finished. It’s sturdy without being ugly. It is simply fantastic.

A-plus! Thank you ROM.

By the way, in addition to thread holders, they make ruler holders, spinning notions holders, and all kinds of sizes too. They even make floor standing spinners that would be great for a longarmer or professional embroiderer. This is definitely something that anyone sewing would be interested in.

Hey, I’m not being paid to endorse these products… I just really like them and wanted to give a shout out about it.

New Iphone 5S may compromise your privacy big time

In this day and age of government overstepping their bounds, the new ‘convenience’ and security feature of the iphone 5S could be alarming. It has to read your fingerprint to let you enter your phone. That sounds good and might prevent theft. BUT does that mean that my fingerprint is able to be transmitted over the phone? Can my fingerprint be accessible to just anyone now, without a valid search warrant? Think about it. I was going to upgrade my shattered iphone 4. But now… maybe not.

What radiation treatment did to my eating

I think my family and friends thought I went cuckoo when I was undergoing radiation treatment. I’m normally having, as Jimmy Buffett put it, a carnivorous feeling. I like good meat, beef, pork, chicken, alligator, squirrel, frog legs and other savory delectable muscle type things. I’ve tried some pretty weird stuff and if it’s mammalian, avian or reptile, I pretty much like it. However, radiation treatment does some major mojo on your body and I have a theory about it. I’ll tell you frankly about both.

Seriously if you have ever undergone radiation treatment, you would know that certain foods just taste like rotten crap. The docs are glad if you just eat anything at all. My treatment team warned me that my tastes would change for a while. That I just needed to keep eating. They basically didn’t care what I ate so long as I got protein, fiber, carbs, etc. They didn’t want me to get weak from not eating at all. They said even if I couldn’t eat balanced to just eat if I found something that was palatable. Palatable meant that you could force yourself to swallow it.

Turns out I didn’t have that carnivorous feeling at all. I wanted green veggies and lots of them. Meat though… ewww… it tasted three weeks spoiled and smelled worse. I craved dark green vegetables. Spinach, broccoli, kale, green beans, that weird stuff decorating your plate in restaurant, you name it, if it was green, I salivated. Nuts I could eat ok sort of, but not too many at a time. Milk tasted days old and about to expire, yogurt was okay, meat was icky icky icky (three times to make sure you know how icky it really was). Ensure and Protein shakes could be forced down without the desire to vomit. Basically anything in a more natural form that was primarily protein didn’t taste good.

My theory… Radiation kills new growing tissue. What is cancer? Cancer is run away growth of tissue that isn’t supposed to be growing and replicating itself. Radiation therapy kills off these new growing cells. There is good and bad that comes from radiation therapy. You can’t just have dead stuff building up in your body as that is going to cause problems too. What happens to dead cells in your body? Your body has to break them up and process them and then excrete them. Basically your body has to go through the same process as if you’d eaten a huge steak dinner. You just get to skip the stomach and digestion part of the deal. All the tissue being destroyed by the radiation treatments was dumping all kinds of protein by-products and toxins in my blood, so basically my body via my taste buds and nose were telling my mouth, “Enough of that stuff! We got plenty to deal with, We don’t want anymore coming in”. While my stomach was empty and telling my mouth, “I’m hungry”.

I really did eat a lot of vegetables. I do like vegetables. But not as much as I did while I was undergoing radiation treatment. I developed cravings for things my body needed to help rid itself of the extra destroyed proteins floating around. I craved things with antioxidants like dark green leafy vegetables especially fresh ones. I even liked (drum roll please) baby vegetable food. Those snack jars are perfect quickie snacks on the go. I have to admit, the baby creamed peas that were disgusting and made me spit up when I was a baby are still damn disgusting. Fruit was great too, fresh fruit even better. I did learn that apple sauce and juice in large quantities are laxatives. So variety in moderation was the spice of life.

Have you ever eaten a Cherimoya? You should try it if you can, kinda a peachy pineapple flavor in a creamy fruit. Funky looking thing though. I haunted the Whole Foods and Central Market grocery stores looking for things that were palatable for me. I found stuff that I really like to this day. Cancer will give you gifts if you are open to seeing and experiencing them. Cherimoya is one of the gems.

I’ve got several PHD’s and have exterminated two UFO’s this week!

Wow, quilt jargon is so fun! Yes I really did finish off two UFO’s!* I put the binding on two quilts this week and that felt really good. The first quilt I’ve already posted a picture of with the pink minky back. The second was my ‘learning’ WOMBAT I put on the Innova and did all the crazy blocks and cross hatching on. They are done, completed, fini!

The Wombat was my first pieced top kit. It is the Starshine pattern from Creative Sewlutions. I didn’t think I did a good job on it, the points and blocks didn’t line up and many of the triangle pieces had blunt points on them making them into trapezoidal. In short, when I finished the top a couple of years ago, I felt it was not very good. However, my more experienced quilty friends told me to finish it, that I could look back on it in the future and realize how far I’d come. So I kept it. I was thinking that this wombat was so bad, anything else I make would look good in comparison and thus it would be an ego booster. That was the quilt top I decided to use to ‘learn’ all the quirks of the Autopilot Innova. And ya know what?! After it’s all said and done, it really isn’t so bad. It’s not fabulous. But it didnt’ come out butt ugly. It’s actually going to be useful. Since it’s not ‘perfect’ I”ll actually probably use the heck out of it. I wouldn’t hesitate to use it in my car, camping, watching tv, sitting on it for a picnic or at a football game. It will probably become my ‘car quilt’.

As far as the PHD’s:

I still have the red, black, and white blocks to assemble into a quilt top. I think I’m going to go with black sashing with red squares at the intersections, and a black and red double border.

Also I cut out a One Block Wonder earlier this year. I picked up Maxine Rosenthal’s One Block Wonder book at the Quilt Haus in New Braunfels, Texas. I used a Kaffe Fasset fabric that has fuchsia blossoms and cabbage like leaves in an olive green and turquoise color scheme. I wanted to find a bigger pattern with a 20 inch plus repeat. This fabric was the only thing I found with the big repeat, not too many colors and a pretty random looking but large pattern. It wasn’t my first choice for colors though. I think the coloration is why all the pieces are still in a box. I’ve got to get that out of the box and on a design wall. I’ll never get it laid out while it’s sitting in the dark unseen. I know it’s going to take six months of rearranging to get it right.

My mom is sending me a quilt top and back that she made for my Dad. I’m going to quilt it for him for either his birthday or christmas whichever it ends up being done in time for. It’s very patriotic. I”m thinking of doing the Air Force Strategic Air Command Shield in some squares and flying eagles in a repeating pattern all over the rest of it. But maybe in the border around it, I’ll put the preamble to the U.S. Constitution.

*Quilty Jargon I like:
UFO – Un-Finished Object
PHD – Projects Half Done
Wombat – Waste Of Money, Batting And Time
PFC – Professional Fabric Collector

Almost a one month romance w my Innova

It’s been about a month since the Innova long arm came to live with me. It’s been a romance of the worst sort. Wonderful from day one yet full of learning. Some of it frustrating. I’m sure a long armer with experience would know the things I have put upon myself by just jumping in and seeing what happens. I’ll have to take some pics of some awfulness that I self created.

The short list also known as the “slap myself in the head DUH!” List

Don’t move the sew head w the needle down.

It’s easiest to set tension if you have the same kind of thread in the top and in the bobbin.

Thin bobbin thread and thick top thread is very hard for a beginner to set the tension for.

Cheapi fabric is cheapi fabric. You get what you pay for.

It takes LOTS longer to quilt blocks than an all over edge to edge.

I hate ripping out stitches!

Husband likes peanut butter and jelly sandwiches for dinner!

You can’t practice destroying quilts if you are out of town.

The Learning List a.k.a. Stuff I Figured out but could probably have learned by reading a manual or paying better attention in class

When quilting crosshatching with the autopilot don’t do the whole outlined hollow diamond shape, do half of it at a time. If you do it all at once you will get a royal mess and dense run stitching that isn’t very pretty. It ends up stiff thick and butt ugly!

Change your needle when things look crappy. For example, if the tension is right, and everything is right but for some reason it just all looks lackluster as if the stitches have wilted. CHANGE the needle.

Did I say BASTE?

The crosshatching tool in ABM Autopilot is really neat. But it doesn’t do a good job on areas that are shaped kinda like a C. It makes insane amounts of run stitching around the edges. I ended up with 1/4 inch wide dense stitching around a shape. The shape was three side of a four sided diamond that was hollow in the middle.

I’ll add more as I think of things.

Words to live by…

When I diagnosed with Stage 4 Liposarcoma, my world literally turned upside down. My family completely freaked out. I don’t think a lot of people talk about their experiences as the person who has cancer. But I will if you ask. It isn’t easy. But the outcome on the other side can be better stronger relationships and a lot more respect for each other.

I think cancer is harder on the family than on the person hosting it. And their difficulties handling it make them want to lean on you, when all you are trying to do is survive and understand. My personal daily measure of “support” (I called it my bucket) got really empty at times.

When you are first diagnosed, everyone seems to know what you “should do” and they do not listen to what you want to do. It’s like you are either already dead or suddenly incapable of any thought or action. Let me tell you, that just because you have invading cells puddled up and hiding in your body, you are NOT dead yet. You are NOT incapable, You are YOU! You need to stand up and have a voice and take care of yourself EVEN IF you family disagrees with your choices, and ESPECIALLY IF they won’t listen to you. It’s your body, you are hosting the invader and you can feel it’s effect. They can’t. This is one time in your life when it really is ALL ABOUT YOU.

Some of the most horrible things to deal with for me were:

  1. Some family members treated me like I was already dead
  2. Some family members would speak for me like I wasn’t even in the room, even though the conversation didn’t include them
  3. Some family members were so wrapped up in the idea of creating memories with me for when I died, that they didn’t consider my wishes or limitations
  4. Some family members who didn’t do the research on my disease thought they were experts and knew better than myself and my doctors about how to cure me
  5. Finding out who my real friends were
  6. Finding out that non glamorous cancers do not get much research funding, while others glamour types are over funded

Some of the most awesome things to happen to me

  1. Building a stronger relationship with my family
  2. Gaining respect from my family
  3. Finding out who my real friends were
  4. Meeting some of the most awesome medical personal in the world
  5. Being able to use my knowledge learned during 14 years of undergrad work in my multiple majors (I did a lot of pre-med biology classes)
  6. Cancer got me out of my shell and now watch out world!
  7. Life is short, you don’t know what might happen tomorrow, so LIVE it, LIVE ALL OF IT!

I once heard a fabulous blues song in smokey little blues bar owned by a dentist in Oklahoma city. I  learned that it was by John Coltrane and the chorus goes like this.

Sing hard, laugh hard
Give love a try
Work hard, play hard
I’ll sleep when I die

Shortly after my diagnosis, that chorus came across my view again. It’s been my motto ever since. Through cancer treatment and ever since, they have been some of the words I live by.

Why Quilting?

I learned to sew as a kid. My mom was a sewist and made my new blue jeans. Okay not jeans, but she did make me some clothes and also those irritating frilly underpanties that they made little girls wear in the mid to late 60’s. I still detest those things. Made my butt itch and the thought of them still does. I think they are coming back in vogue, brought back by mommies who were not subjected to the discomfort and indignity of those horrid little ruffled torture devices.

Talk about getting off topic! Anyway Mom sewed, cub scouts sewed, brownies sewed, I sewed some in high school. I actually took metal shop and woodworking because it was fun and interesting. I took home economics because the cool boys took it (cause they were told the cool girls took it) and there were cookies.

I even made a –gasp– batwing hippie top out of bandanas. Lets just say my foray into clothes sewing was a spectacular failure. But my Mom wished I was less of a tomboy and more girlie so she gave me a sewing machine of my own anyway. I dragged it across 28 states from Nebraska to Maine and back to Texas. I think I used it maybe 5 times to fix a torn something or other. The last 10 years it spent in a box in the garage. I was just not a sewist. I was gonna say sew-er but just couldn’t due to the pun.

Then I joined a non profit group and one of their things was a quilt show. I learned a lot about quilts and saw a lot of quilts. Didn’t feel particularly drawn to them though. They looked like they would take forever to do. But the history and stories about them fascinated me. So, due to,that exposure I started to notice them a lot more. I noticed how completely different people seemed to come together when it involved quilts. I noticed that quilts didn’t have to made of billions of perfectly pointy similar shapes. Then I saw a Jenny Beyer quilt, the one made of hand dyed fabrics with a dancing flowing woman who looks like,her soul has been freed. I saw more artist interpretive quilts…I was fascinated by them. Now this was something I could dig my mind into. I decided it was time to try it out.

Here I am three years later, two new sewing machines, and on my second longarm later, with a fabric sluts anonymous membership.. A quilter.