Cloth pictures, if well planned and executed, make attractive wall decorations. Cloth comes in such a variety of textures, colors and values that it is admirably suited as a medium for expressing in picture form almost any subject, whether it be a landscape, seascape, floral composition or figure study. Although the project as described here is worked out in cloth, the same idea can be carried out in colored paper if cloth is not available.

The following equipment will be needed:

Scissors Crayons Picture frame

Waterless paste Plain white paper (unruled) Cloth of various colors

Pencil and eraser Cardboard, the size of the picture and textures

A landscape is the simplest form of cloth picture and therefore should be the first type attempted. The first essential is an underlying design structure.

* This project is taken from the May 1941 issue of the Recreation Bulletin published by the Division of Professional and Service Projects, Recreation Project, WPA, Northern California at San Francisco, and is reproduced by permission.

The design should be planned in pencil outline on the cardboard. The picture must have a focal point to which the eye is led and held; a house, for example, would serve this purpose. This part of the picture should be dominant, and it should be somewhat centrally located.

Cloth Pictures 19

Figure 14

The picture should not be divided into two equal or nearly equal parts either horizontally or vertically, for this gives a stiff, mechanical, uninteresting effect. The land should not cut against the sky at or near the center of the picture. The artist should strive for simplicity, because simplicity is the keynote of good art. He should not, however, neglect to introduce variety of size, shape and color, for this variety will give life to his design.

A fantastic house such as those seen in the Disney cartoons might serve as the center of interest.

Give a steep pitch to the roof, bringing the eaves almost to the ground. The number of doors and windows should be limited, for a small-scale house appears spotty if it contains too many windows and doors. The chimneys will stand out best if they are tall and slender (Figure 14).

For the sky, use one solid color or introduce a cloud that is large enough to be impressive. If mountains or clumps of trees are used in the background, keep them in large masses. Think of the general silhouette in order to avoid unnecessary detail.

When the design has been completed in outline, color it with crayons to get an idea of the finished color scheme. The center of interest or focal point should contain the strongest contrast of light and dark and the most brilliant colors. The house will predominate if it is dark against a white cloud or light against a dark blue sky, a dark green clump of trees or a deep purple mountain. If you are using a color of medium value for the roof, remember that something lighter or darker behind it will make the building predominant.

In working with colors, the result will be more satisfactory if you regard each hue as a value. For example, if you are making a red roof, it is light, medium or dark red. Think also of color intensity. Keep your center of interest brilliant. In the remainder of the picture spot the brilliant colors in the foreground, for this will give the scene a feeling of depth and distance. Another way to secure depth is to have the nearer objects light and the further objects darker as they recede into the picture toward a dark sky; or this order may be reversed by working from dark objects in the foreground to a light sky in the background. Contrast tends to set objects forward in space, while lack of contrast will make all the objects appear uniformly distant. Another method of making objects in the foreground appear closer to the viewer is to keep the base of each object in the background higher (with reference to the bottom of the picture) than that of the objects in the for-ground.

When design and color scheme have been worked out, examine the available cloth scraps and make your selection according to weaves, colors and values. For the most part, solid colors are best, but blue cloth with a fine white pattern admirably simulates falling snow and some floral prints are excellent for representing blooming shrubs and trees. Textures may be used advantageously; napped material such as outing flannel has just the right texture for soft clouds, and muslin is good for crisp clouds. Ribbed weaves such as poplin, pique and novelty materials look well for tiled roofs.

Press the cloth to take out all wrinkles. It is difficult to cut mosaics from unmounted cloth as it will pull out of shape, so paste each piece of cloth on a sheet of plain white paper. Let it dry under a weight to prevent buckling. (One advantage of backing translucent materials is that the white paper intensifies the color. ) As soon as the cloth is dry, trace the design and cut out.

Now take the most distant part-which will probably be the sky-and paste it on the cardboard. If you are using a cloud, it is best to superimpose it on the sky, rather than to cut the sky around the cloud. Then take the next nearest part and paste it down so that it overlaps the sky and cloud. Continue working from distant to nearer parts, always making the latter overlap the former so that no cardboard will show through. Paste all parts of the house together first and glue them in place as one unit.

When the picture is finished, it should be placed in a simple frame that harmonizes with the color tones used in the picture.