Unraveling the Enigma of Chuck Close

by Sandra Bruce

All my students signed up thus far for the Zephyr workshop have sent me their photos to grid and I’m sure they are happily selecting fabrics to use. I do have a couple of spaces left, anyone who is a procrastinator and contemplating coming to Zephyr in September! We 4 welcome latecomers.

I wrote a blog post months ago about Chuck Close: his influence upon my Matrix technique and the 2 quilts I made of his image taken from a photograph by the photographer Gianfranco Gorgoni. The story of these quilts, “Chuck Close One” and “Chuck Close Two” (both 60″ by 70″) is a fragmented and ultimately puzzling one which I have not written much about, in part to protect the information I received about Chuck and his health. Suffice it to say, “Chuck Close One” is in the hands of Chuck Close himself, and “Chuck Close Two” I recently sent to Houston for the show in November. I entered it in the “Hands All Around” exhibit, which will travel internationally for a year and be seen by many people. The tops of these 2 quilts were made at the same time and look very much alike. I am thankful to Gorgoni for being the go-between to help me get the quilt to Chuck. I am glad he has it. Here they are side by side.

Screen Shot 2016-07-14 at 7.48.46 PMDuring the first week of July I took a road trip with my son Matteo. His bike went in the back seat of my car. His emphasis was riding skate parks on his BMX, and I enjoyed being with him and occasionally hitting a fabric store or two, and visiting friends along the way. I knew there was an exhibit in Everett, WA of Chuck’s work and I wanted to be sure to catch it. Chuck grew up in Everett, and attended the junior college there before going onto University of Washington and eventually Yale. My friend Kathy, Matteo and I drove up to Everett to see the show at the Schack Art Center. The emphasis on the show was about his collaborations with other artists, and there were examples of the many techniques Chuck has used. I will say here that I apologize for the quality of these photos, taken with my aging cell phone. But you get the idea. I like this first picture, badly taken as it is, as you can see my reflection taking the photo and also Matteo’s silhouette on the other side of the room. It’s a piece of a lithograph, one process that Close has done repeatedly.


Here’s another lithograph, an older one as you can see by how young Chuck looks. Each square has little hatch lines drawn in diagonally to create the “values”.IMG_0889

This one I had not seen before. It’s a portrait of his daughter done in many values of paper pulp “blobs”, that were made from a form that he had someone make for him. The form looked like a giant cookie cutter, and took the artist over 2 months to make. Here is the portrait and the form for the pulp.IMG_0903IMG_0905

So, check this out….his image of “Lucas”, which was a painting, made into a silk rug that was on the floor of the gallery. The sign next to it begged the question, “Is this fine art, and should it be on the floor or on the wall?”IMG_0890

There were a few pieces like this. The squares are filled with color, and the corners are left so you can see the paper beneath.IMG_0892IMG_0900

I wish I had taken more care to read the information on this one so I could share it with you. I had seen this before in another gallery. He painted his face, which you see at the base…..viewing it in the silver cylinder allows you to view it as he intended. I seem to recall from Art history classes years ago that there were artists during the Renaissance doing this technique. Amazing, isn’t it?IMG_0898

And yet another way of applying the paint in a grid. These round shapes were created by applying a felt circle to a stick and applying the paint with the felt. You can really see the texture and it’s easy to imagine him plopping those little circles on.IMG_0896

Phillip Glass, the musician, has been Chuck’s most repeated subject. Chuck really likes his features. It was interesting to see the same image both in tapestry form, and as a painting that Chuck created using his thumbprint to fill each square with a value of grey. Wonderful!IMG_0907IMG_0909




One more tapestry, reproduced from one of his self-portrait photographs.IMG_0899

Wednesday, while stuck in a horrible traffic situation on my way to Meet the Teachers in Pleasant Hill (Heidi, Christine and I were presenters and we made it, finally), I was checking emails on my phone and noticed that several friends had sent me a link to an article about Chuck Close written by Will S Hylton in the NYTimes. Having literally hours to wait going nowhere, to pass the time I read the article out loud to Heidi and Christine. This article (link below), is a beautifully written and tender while at the same time probing piece about Chuck and his work in the latter part of his life. In reading it things came to light about where Chuck has been, literally and figuratively, during the last year or so while I was working on the quilts and trying to get the one to him. I hope you will read the article, which, while quite long, is so worth the time.


Chuck, such an enigma, is fascinated by faces, which he paints and calls “heads”. I am fascinated by them too. And I am fascinated by Chuck Close.

Judy Coates-Perez Inspiration

by Sandra Bruce

A couple of days ago all 4 of us AA-ers were fortunate to be together taking a workshop by Judy Coats-Perez. My head is still reeling with all the fabulous techniques we learned and spending the day with Judy.

But first, Judy came to the Pine Tree Quilt Guild the night before to give us her very interesting presentation. She had a few of her quilts hanging, which I photographed with my phone, not doing them justice! I encourage you to look her up and view then online. Here is my favorite, “Primordial Sea”. I love the sea creatures and flora of the ocean! It is painted on silk and very expertly quilted. Here’s a photo and closeup:



Wow! And here’s another one, “Moon Garden”, which I remember seeing at PIQF a few years ago. It is black paint on white fabric, with some doosey quilting, which shows up on the back almost like another quilt altogether.IMG_0762 IMG_0763Yowza! We knew after her presentation that we were in for a fun-filled and informative day, and we were not disappointed.

Next morning, we 4 shared a table and our supplies with each other. I started out with this simple piece of fabric.IMG_0766The first technique was Thermofax images screened onto the fabric with fabric-friendly paint. Then, images either hand-drawn or copied from a printer onto tea-bag paper….yes, you read correctly! IMG_0767

The collage-ish part started here. Finding what Judy calls “ephemera”, bits of paper to add in, using all kinds of paper including cocktail napkins, ticket stubs, pattern paper, to name a few.


Here’s Judy doing a demo on how to paint on top of the teabag images, that have been affixed to the fabric with medium.


Here’s my finished piece, ready for quilting, can’t wait!


Here’s Christine, working on her piece.


Heidi, photographing hers.


Mary, with her finished piece, she’s happy! I think I need to give her my “paint splatter” rubber stamp!


Here’s 2 of Judy’s pieces. Love them! The second one was made from pieces she cut out of samples from classes, that she assembled, stitched together, and painted over again, with the bird image.


At the end of the day we laid them out on the floor to look at each other’s work. Every one was different and filled with wonderful images and such a variety of creative ideas. Happy day for us, indeed!DSC_0040

Hard to believe it’s June already…….the spaces for Zephyr signups are filling up! Please consider coming to take a workshop from one of us, we guarantee a very creative-filled week with others who will inspire you. It is one of the highlights of my year. I have 2 spots left, and will be teaching polymer next year so now is the time for a Matrix experience. I would be truly happy for you to sign up for any of the workshops….Mary’s, Heidi’s, Christine’s, or mine. Check out the workshop descriptions in this blog for more info! Whether you are interested in color, wearable art, fabric manipulation/painting or my Matrix technique, there is something for you. We also welcome Independent Study ladies who want to work on their own projects in a beautiful, peaceful location with other like-minded sewists and artists.

For now, I’m signing off, time to work on my latest Matrix quilt. I hope you enjoyed looking at Judy’s work and our endeavors in her workshop.

Artistic Alchemy Retreat, and on to Snohomish

by Sandra Bruce


Christine and Heidi have written posts about our wonderful 2015 Artistic Alchemy Retreat from last month, my turn to share photos! I had a 2-day break after the retreat, and after unpacking and packing again I headed up to Snohomish, WA to visit the Busy Bees Quilt Guild to do my presentation and workshop. I have friends along the way so decided to make a road trip out of it, visiting friends and hitting quilt shops, of course.

Here are some of my favorite pictures….first from the Zephyr Retreat, then from my trip north. At the very end is a surprise photo!

I hope these pictures will inspire you to join us next year! We already have several signups and can’t wait to start planning the 2016 retreat.

Waking up with coffee and this view of Lake Tahoe is a great way to start any day!


Our assistant, Debbie, helped make things run smoothly.



IMG_9612Here’s Mary Boalt, our Artist-In-Residence, in Heidi’s class project, the “Off the Grid Vest”. So cute!!!


IMG_9606Heidi, in her Whisper Blouse, giving her trunk show!


IMG_9635Christine’s trunk show, including quilts and vests!



Jennifer, all the way from Ontario, Canada, working on her Matrix piece in my class, from a picture of her dog, Soda. I had 10 students and I enjoyed them all! Such a diversity of quilt subjects!


IMG_9576Joey working on her Matrix quilt, an industrious undertaking of the “world”, from a map.



Ellen, with a beautiful image of a succulent plant, working across the width of her piece.



Jan tackled the hardest parts of her image first, the eyes, in black and white.



Debi worked on an image from her past, a Volkswagen Bug.



Liz returned from last year to work on Jimmy, her dog. It was a pleasure to have her and Cheri back this year! Liz’s koi, coming along:





Gina also did a face for her Matrix project, her daughter.



Caryn’s kitty cat has 2 different colored eyes! Fun to piece!



Rosemary’s bear…he came to life before our eyes!


IMG_9725During my evening presentation Trish showed her Matrix Self-portrait, inspired by mine. This is a fun picture of her, and the quilt.


IMG_9714A big thanks to everyone who came and helped make the 2015 retreat such a success! THANK YOU!

Moving north….


A very quick stop at the Portland Art Museum…my favorite from all the exhibits was a collection of woodblock prints by Tsukioka Yoshitoshi from 1887. I loved them.



Breakfast in Portland, at the Milk Glass Market. Look at this array of bread….



Snohomish is a very sweet little town, northeast of Seattle. This quilt shop was a must see!



Darlene, my very gracious hostess there, took my workshop and made sure everything went smoothly. She took very good care of me, and I very much enjoyed being with her book group one evening!



Darlene and I took the ferry over to this charming town, Poulsbo, which boasted 2 quilt shops.



At the end of my visit in Washington I visited another friend near Seattle, and we dined one special night in this restaurant in downtown Seattle, “Purple”. Check out the tower of wine being displayed!



Nearby is Puyallup, WA, (which I can never pronounce correctly!) where this amazing quilt shop is. Thousands of bolts of batiks! Unbelievable!

Thanks to Kathy (both Kathys!), Darlene, and the ladies of Snohmish, WA for giving me a wonderful experience. Once home, I returned to the project that has consumed me all summer. Below is a photo of “Chuck Close One” which I have just completed. I will be showing more photos of it on this blog in the future, in addition to my Sandra Bruce Creative Facebook page, and my Flickr and Instagram accounts. But I wanted to show him here first, here he is! (60″ by 70″)

Chuck Close 1 full crop

I have many customer quilts in the queue to do, better get busy! Happy Fall!

🙂 Sandra


Look What My Students Made! September 2015 at the Artistic Alchemy Retreat!

by  Heidi Emmett


Artistic Alchemy Retreat #2, HUGE SUCCESS! My workshop was “Art to Wear, Art on The Wall,” with all emphasis on the wearing part. All of them decided  to make my “Off The Grid Vest” (above) Please visit my past post about Off The Grid vest from 3/27/15!  Here are my students: meet Pat K. who hails from Susanville. DSC_0841

Below is Pat S. She comes all the way from the Benicia, near San Francisco.


Below, meet Sylvia, she is from Napa.Her vest is in the deep navy to the right.


Below is Trish. She is from Nevada City. This picture shows Trish well on her way into the making of her “Off The Grid Vest.”


We needed to lightly stiffen some of our fabrics first. We used Terial Magic I was able to find a place that had an o.k. view (kidding of course!) for the pieces to dry. We walked about 5 steps from our classroom. Ahhh, love this view.


We had Fabric Chicks store from Minden, Nevada come and entice us to buy luscious fabrics. Beth’s fabric selection wound way behind this shot and practically out the door. What fun.


I need to say that I had the most amazing students! Not only do they first have to create the pattern pieces themselves (created them on paper for a permanent pattern) , they were totally focused on getting their vests finished before the week at Tahoe was done. We were a synergistic group indeed, that included much laughter, and fun. At the beginning I told them it was a miracle vest in it’s sizing and after trying one of mine on, they all had to agree. I am so proud of my group and 3 of them went home with their vests 90-95% finished. I will show more pictures of finished vests next time we meet (you three ladies, you know who you are, a gentle reminder, send me pictures).

Below is Trish wearing her FINISHED, yes, FINISHED Off the Grid vest! We all love it and you look fabulous in it too! Trish’s background ombre’ fabric is the same  ombre’ fabric as my vest (shown at the beginning).I love how she used “Tahoe Sunset” colors in hers (Pat K. said Sunset, I added Tahoe, because it fits). See below.

DSC_1045Sunset shot outside of our Dining area, Thursday evening, 6:45 p.m., Sept. 10th. And below is Trish wearing “Tahoe Sunset.” DSC_1037


You go girl! A finished “Ready To Wear,” smashing vest made during our Artistic Alchemy Retreat! Not many can claim that title! And there are three others right behind you!

Newsflash!!!! My 3 other students finished theirs within 3 days of coming home. Can’t wait to show you their pics next time.

Thank you again to Pat K, Sylvia, Pat S., and Trish, for making it a most FUN and CREATIVE time here at Zephyr Point, on Lake Tahoe. Maybe some of YOU will want to join this creative endeavor next time. Hugs, Heidi




Are You Ready? September 7th-11th, Artistic Alchemy Retreat #2

by Heidi Emmett

Last week my husband and I did our last volunteering for the summer at The Bear Necessities Gift Shop at Zephyr. And even though the paddle wheel boat makes three trips everyday from Zephyr Cove to Emerald Bay and back, I have to stop what I am doing and take a look. I never get tired of the views of beautiful Lake Tahoe. But, back home now and it’s time to get everything ready for Artistic Alchemy Retreat #2, on September 7th. DSC_0025

I was able to finish a new Whisper Blouse ahead of time for some shots at the waters’ edge. I am sooo excited! The tissue patterns are on the way!! No more taping all the pieces together (unless you want to). So in honor of those tissues (here’s hoping they come before the retreat), I had to make a new Whisper Blouse.


Do I dare say, it’s my wildest one yet? Oh yes it is! I can’t wait to show you all what I have done to make it extra special.

As the day at Zephyr and picture taking of new designs winds down, this is the last sunset shot you will have to look at until you too are up at Zephyr Point and can experience them for yourself!!


Sandra, Christine, and I are working hard these last days before the retreat, to make each of our workshops something special. We can’t wait to meet you all in person.No more posts until September 18th. Please visit my blog: designsbyheidi.wordpress.com for information on a NEW pattern. Rafiki! (it means “friend” in Swahili).

We’ll see you soon for, creativity,fun, and friendships. Hugs, Heidi

“Kreative Kaleidoscope Kravings”

by Heidi Emmett

Happy 2015!  We will have all the news for the 2015 Artistic Alchemy Retreat within 2 weeks. So start planning to join us at our 2nd annual Artistic Alchemy Retreat at Zephyr Point Conference Center in early September.


A Sunset on Lake Tahoe from “The Bear Necessities Gift Shop” deck. Zephyr Point is such a relaxing,and kreative kind of place. Come see for yourself.


Helper cat, Rex, keeping warm on a chilly morning. Scarf knitted by Ginger Leuters.


Helper cat #2, Rubix, surveying his domain atop the armoire where I am now typing this post.

DSC_0512Begin your new “Kreative” year by putting the words “Kreate for 15 Minutes” on post it notes around your house. Little, motivating messages to get you going.

The “Kaleidoscope” quilt above was created by Jan Soules. Being the speaker chair for Pine Tree Quilt Guild (in Grass Valley, CA)for 2015, Jan was my first speaker for this year. I thought her workshop of the Kaleidoscope quilt above would be a great motivation for everyone. It was! DSC_0511A close up of one of her squares. We had a FULL workshop on Jan. 7th. What fun to walk around and see what others were doing. Check out some of the student’s work below.







DSC_0537I forgot to take a picture of my square. So I put it over a pillow. Hmm…that gives me an idea, I might make a pillow or two out of my practice squares.I am truly kraving to make more of these squares or work on another project. Why do I have to clean house and make meals?

It was so good to get together as a group and feel the collective creative juices flowing.It was a big party!  The Artistic Alchemy retreat in September will be the perfect way to fulfill your Kreative  Kravings for 2015.

I can’t wait to show you the projects I have in mind for our time together.Watch for them here as the months roll along. Yes, we will have MORE time to actually create or get well under way some projects from all the techniques you will learn in my workshop. Past students, not to worry. I will send each of you paper work on them but not for awhile (I have to write them up first).

May you get all your Kreative Kravings done this month. Hugs, Heidi