Tuesday, February 28, 2017

How to Create a Waldorf Wool Seasons Painting

Children playing throughout the four seasons is a theme that speaks to our hearts. Childhood as it should be, outside in the fresh air.

four seasons painting

Waldorf Seasons by Claudia Marie Lenart


I originally created my Waldorf Four Seasons wool painting as a commission for a kindergarten class at Da Vinci Waldorf School. I have recreated the image numerous times for art patrons around the world. There are subtle differences in the recreations and some of them have been customized to include the customer's children.  The characters, trees, and animals are all created from needle felted wool. 
The images I created of children playing throughout the year have been so well received that they inspired me to write a book with 12 illustrations created from wool -- "Seasons of Joy: Everyday is for Outdoor Play." It will be released by Loving Healing Press in April 2017.

In this blog I will provide an explanation of how I make a wool painting. It is not a step by step tutorial, but I hope you will find it inspiring. 

blue felt

Newly dyed felt drying in the sun


The wool painting begins with a sheet of 100 percent wool felt fabric. I dye it blue, since a large part of the painting is blue sky. 
After dyeing, the wool gets a bit misshapen, so I measure and cut to the desired dimensions. 

Dyed wool felt ready to be measured.


I apply thin layers of Romney wool to the entire painting, blue in the sky portion and white over the ground. I needle felt along the edges of the painting, then place frame glass over the painting and gently rub the glass. This method is called pressed wool painting. The glass can be left on the wool for days.

blue wool sky

Layers of wool create the sky.


My trees are made of natural brown Corriedale wool. They are felted along the edges and then on the tree to look like grooves in the bark. I sometimes roll the branches so they look more solid and thinner. 

Three wool trees


I have used different types of wool for the grass. In this photo it is mostly merino wool. I usually apply a couple of layers of different shades of green. I lightly felt the wool in and then place the glass frame over the wool to enhance the felting process. 

merino green

Grass changing from Spring to Summer.


The tree leaves are fun to make. I usually use green locks for spring and white locks for winter. The summer and fall leaves are created from many different shades, built up in layers. 

Four seasons trees

Four Seasons Trees


To create the children, I study photos of children moving and then lay down a white wool outline. I create the heads separately and felt into the painting. They are dressed on the painting. 



girl running in spring

Children in Spring



I create the animals and flowers separately as well and then felt them into the painting.

needle felt cottontail

Cottontail running in Spring


felt robins eggs

Needle felted robins eggs



spring wool painting

Spring complete


The swing in summer is made from very thin yarn strung around the tree branch then attached with a sewing needle to the seat. The seat is very tightly felted wool that I cut into a rectangular shape.  The girl on the swing is a little doll which I attach to the swing. 


Girl on swing

Spring and Summer



Nuthatch in spring

Nuthatch


Fall characters in progress


Children playing in fall leaves

Autumn




tiny grey squirrel

Little squirrel


I spend a lot of time studying animals both in real life when possible and, more often, in photographic images. For the deer, I used a photo I shot while hiking last winter as my inspiration. The deer was created in layers directly on the painting.

Creating a deer






Winter sledding




Fall changing to winter




I hope that I inspired you to create your own wool painting. This image is copyrighted, so please do not create one to sell. 
If you would like me to create a wool painting for you or if you would like a print of my Seasons paintings, please visit Claudia Marie Felt on Etsy.


Tuesday, December 27, 2016

Wool Painting, Needle Felting Feature on Major Chicago News Station





An already busy holiday season became a bit more hectic, and a lot more exciting, when I was contacted by WGN news producer Pam Grimes, who was interested in doing a feature on my work. "Wool Painting: How a Love of Animals Led a Chicago Area Artist to a New Calling," was featured on the evening news, Dec. 21. I was pleasantly surprised that the feature was about 5 minutes.

Needle Felt artist
"Wool Painting: How a Love of Animals Led a Chicago Area Artist to a New Calling



Pam and photojournalist Steve Scheuer came to my home to talk to me about my work, photograph my winter woodland mantle display, some of my wool paintings and illustrations, and my needle felt animals. Prince Preemie also made the cut. He is from the most recent book I illustrated for the late disability advocate, Jewel Kats,  "Prince Preemie: A Tale of a Tiny Puppy Who Arrived Early." 



Dog fairy tale
"Prince Preemie: A Tale of a Tiny Puppy Who Arrived Early." 


Actually, it was interesting to see just how much of my story was portrayed in 5 minutes -- my summers working in national parks, my love of animals, my former career as a journalist.

My son's alma mater, Da Vinci Waldorf School was also featured in the segment. Very fitting, as my Waldorf connection was integral to my finding needle felting.  We drove over to the school where Pam talked to Kindergarten teacher Ieva Scoggin.  Ieva commissioned my Waldorf Seasons wool painting, which has become popular in my Etsy store and among Waldorf families. So many people have connected to the image, that it inspired my first picture book as author and illustrator, "Seasons of Joy: Everyday is for Outdoor Play," to be published in Spring 2017.

Waldorf school artist
The original Waldorf Seasons hangs at DaVinci Waldorf School. 



I was touched that the news segment captured my motivation for doing this work -- the joy that it brings me and the joy it brings to others.

Root children artist
My wool painting inspired by Sibylle von Olfers "The Story of the Root Children."

wool fiber artist
Claudia Marie Lenart of Claudia Marie Felt explaining and demonstrating needle felting on WGN.


A scene from my holiday woodland mantle display



Friday, July 1, 2016

Illustrating the Sad Picture Book: Jenny And Her Dog Both Fight Cancer


When Jewel Kats first approached me to illustrate her picture book "Jenny and Her Dog Both Fight Cancer," she told me she had written the book some time ago, but was looking for a distinct type of illustration for this project.
I read the book and cried; it touched me deeply. While I had little experience with pediatric cancer, I had lost three dogs to the disease.

Pediatric cancer picture book

Jenny and Her Dog Both Fight Cancer features a rainbow theme symbolic of the Rainbow Bridge.


A story about a little girl and her dog both fighting cancer is not your typical, light-hearted picture book fodder, but the story rings true. There is beauty in the bond between a child and her best friend; that bond is especially strong through difficult times. There is a beauty in death (sorry for the spoiler, but the dog does not survive cancer).
As a needle felt artist, my dolls and animals are noted for their character, their expressions. With Jenny and her dog, I wanted to convey the emotions of the characters as they struggled through cancer.

Jenny tells Dolly she will be by her side as she fights cancer. 


A subtle shift of the head can change the emotions of the characters.



There is a magic to characters with very subtle features. When posing Jenny and her parents, a slight shift of the head could change the expression from happy to sad. Photographing the scenes was quite the challenge as each character has to be carefully posed.
The illustration process starts with me imagining what is the most compelling aspect of the page. I create a story board, which generally depicts each scene. Then I create the characters out of wire and wool. Needle felting is like sculpting with wool. In Jenny and her dog most of the scenes were created by building props, like a sofa out of wool, a trail with twigs for trees, and an animal hospital with a number of needle felted pets.


Jenny is thrilled to be greeted by Dolly who recently returned from the animal hospital. 

Jenny takes Dolly on a walk and notices that she is slowing down.


Jenny waits at the animal hospital while Dolly undergoes cancer treatment.


Jenny wears a pink scarf throughout her journey, which she throws in Dolly's gravesite in the final scene. The pink scarf was a natural both for its symbolism in cancer awareness and for its connection to little girls.
Rainbows also run throughout the book as I hand dyed a series of pastel shades for Jenny's dresses, which she changes with the seasons. In the final scene she wears a rainbow dress. The Rainbow Bridge is known as a sort of path to dog heaven.

Jenny throws her pink scarf in Dolly's grave. 


Understated illustration conveys the bond between child and dog, both with cancer. 


When I create pet portraits or woodland animals, I tend to fall in love with the pet or the species. Jenny and Dolly were no exception. I fell for them too and I hope readers can feel the love as they turn the pages.
I think the soft and wooly illustrations are a nice balance to the the serious subject. Jewel, who passed away in January, was so thrilled every time I shared an illustration with her. She was such a positive supporter of my work.
This was the first book I illustrated and as I continue to blaze the trail for this type of fiber art illustration, I learn and continue to perfect my techniques. I create many more wool paintings for backgrounds now than I did with Jenny.  "Hansel & Gretel: A Fairy Tale with a Down Syndrome Twist," was the second book Jewel and I worked on. "Prince Preemie: Tale of a Tiny Puppy Who Arrived Early," was our final collaboration; it is due out in fall of this year.

Next year, I will embark on my journey as both author and illustrator. Stay tuned.



Tuesday, June 23, 2015

Thumbelina, Doorway to the Wee World


There is a reason Thumbelina, as well as Tom Thumb, are among the most loved of fairy tales. They take us into the wee world where we can explore what it is like to float on a leaf and fly on the back of a songbird. 
Thumbelina wool illustration
Thumbelina by Claudia Marie Felt

Life in the teeny, tiny world is fascinating, hence the trend of fairy gardens. Just walk into your garden and imagine life as Thumbelina -- a flower bed becomes a jungle, small rocks are boulders, and the butterflies . . . 

I think small children especially relate to Thumbelina, because they do live in a world where they feel little among adults. 

Thumbelina is a Hans Christian Anderson tale, published in Danish, as Tommelise, in 1835. Danny Kaye sang a song about Thumbelina for a 1952 movie about Hans Christian Anderson. And of course there have been animated movies. 


Vintage Thumbelina illustration
Thumbelina Father Tuck


I prefer the Thumbelina version in William Bennett's Book of Virtues. In this version Thumbelina goes for a stroll and enjoys a sailing ride with a fish, explores a field mouse's home and flies with a songbird. I like this version because Thumbelina is childish and in the end she is returned home to her mother. Bennett puts this tale in the Compassion section as Thumbelina's kindness toward the bird results in her happy ending. 


Elsa Beskow Thumbelina and toad
Elsa Beskow Thumbelina illustration

Of course in Anderson's original Thumbelina, she is abducted by creatures who want to marry her --first a toad, then a cockchafer, and a mole. This story is one of perseverence as Thumbelina survives, helps a sick bird who then takes her to a wonderful fairy land where she finds her true love, the elf prince. 


Maja Lindberg Thumbelina
Maja Lindberg Thumbelina illustration


The Thumbelina story can also be seen as a tale of being different; perhaps some people saw pretty little Thumbelina as disabled, but in fact, she could do things others could only dream of. In the end, she found the elf-prince who was her own kind. 

Thursday, May 21, 2015

Sleeping Beauty, Briar Rose: A Fairy Tale of Transformation


At the heart of each fairy tale lies a kernel of wisdom about man and this  wisdom nourishes the children. They are truly hungry for it.  -- Dorothy Harrer Educating as an Art: Essays on Waldorf Education


The tale of the sleeping princess is a tale of transformation. The earliest version of the story is French and dates back to the 1300s with Le Roman de Perceforest.  
Giambattista Basile wrote the first full collection of fairy tales, Il Pentamerone, in 1634, and included Sun, Moon and Talia, a sleeping beauty tale. The versions we are more familiar with are Charles Perrault's Sleeping Beauty in the Wood (1697) and the Brothers Grimm Briar Rose, 1812.

Briar Rose Waldorf Illustration
Briar Rose Illustration by Claudia Marie






In all varieties of this tale, there are magical women who attend the celebration of the child's birth, either goddesses or fairies, and bestow gifts upon the newborn child. One of the fairies is snubbed and puts a curse on the child.

“How wonderful it is to hold an infant and wonder about the new gifts that the child has brought to earth," wrote Waldorf Kindergrten teacher Joan Almon. "To be in the presence of the newborn is like stepping into the fairy tale of Sleeping Beauty and watching the twelve wise women come forward to bestow their special gifts . . . When we think of the child as animal-like or machine-like, we play the role of this thirteenth wise woman who wished death upon the child without the possibility of transformation or metamorphosis. Fortunately in the fairy tale, the twelfth wise woman had not yet made her wish and she now came forward. The story says she could not take away the evil sentence, but she could soften it, and she said, ‘There will be no death but a deep sleep of one hundred years.’ We are being asked to be the twelfth wise woman for today’s children, taking away the sting of materialism, the denial of the spirit, which so threatens the spirit of childhood. 


Warwick Goble Sleeping Beauty
Sleeping Beauty by Warwick Goble
Margaret Tarrant Sleeping Beauty
Sleeping Beauty by Margaret Tarrant

In the earliest tales of Sleeping Beauty, the princess is raped in her sleep and bears a child. The Perrault and Grimm versions clean up the tale to one that is more suitable for young children.

The essential transformation in the tale is puberty, according to Bruno Bettelheim, "The Uses of Enchantment: The Meaning and Importance of Fairy Tales." Sleeping Beauty pricking her finger on the spindle is a symbol for menstruation. Teenagers must go through a long sleep as they mature into adulthood.

However, young children will not understand the puberty symbolism. They will see it as a tale of transformation, a tale of triumph over death, a story that portrays the value of patience. There is a time for every season, no need to hurry. A nice long sleep is good for the flowers in the garden and good for the human spirit as well. 


Sleeping Beauty by fantasy artist Kinuko Y. Craft
Sleeping Beauty by C.M. Burd


Sleeping Beauty Martina Muller

Read more about Sleeping Beauty: