Sue Stone recently led another workshop through TextileArtist.org‘s Stitch Club in the style she is probably most well-known for, and similar to the portrait I made of my grandparents earlier this year. Our task was to take a single portrait image, and render it three ways using various techniques – whatever struck our fancy, really. It was titled “making imaginative choices in textile art”, but I find abstract art outside of my wheelhouse so I stuck to the more representative techniques. You’ll see I used a single image of a man in a hat, and because I barely gained permission to post about it, I am to also add that in the photo, he had just shoved a big bite of sandwich in his mouth, hence the “widened appearance”;)
I have arranged them as a wall hanging, starting with what I think is the most photo-like version, falling down into the most abstract representation. They are each framed by and strung together with linen trims. And hidden within the frames are my initials and year.
For this one (which happened to be the last one I created), I first coated the ground fabric with medium and then lightly colored with Derwent watercolor pencils, very similar to what I did with this small Culbertson Mansion piece. After coloring, I used a tiny wet brush to blend the colors together. The brown is a bit more reddish than I like, but I otherwise really like this one. For stitching, I used a grey quilting thread and practiced very small backstitching all around.
In this second piece (the second one I made), I used the appliqué method, cutting out the shapes for the hat, skin, hat trim/tshirt, and hoodie. The hair is made of a few different colors/thicknesses of thread in satin stitch while the eyes are made with both white and blue stitching to fill them in. Then I treated it all to somewhat sketchy backstitching with black floss, ranging from a single thread to four, I think. I wanted to knock back the white in the background print, so I simply added some cross stitching and slanted straight stitches.
This third one is actually the first one I made, following Sue’s idea to only use stitching to make the backdrop.
The black hat trim and hair are satin stitches, again, as well as the arms of the glasses and the eye irises and pupils. I used tiny stab stitches for the goatee and chest hair and tiny straight stitches for the eyebrows. All else of the subject is done in back stitching; the background used running stitches, cross stitching, and long crossed straight stitches.
This last one (the third attempt) was initially a failure, but I rescued it which is why I created four, not three portraits (but also, because I had fun making them!). I had used watercolors on the fabric, but without treating it first with the medium – combined with my lack of skill/patience – the colors all bled together. The only reason this one got saved is because my friend, who is new to textile art, was asking questions about needlepoint and cross stitching. In our conversation, I had mentioned waste canvas, and then recalled some images I’d seen online that cross-stitched directly onto photographs, transforming them into more abstract portraits. That was my answer!
I think it did a bang up job of hiding the painterly mistakes while checking off abstract on the challenge list. A few straight stitching to highlight the glasses, head, and zipper finished it off. But also at this point, I ran out of the green linen trim forcing me to use another color – which worked with the overall abstract theme anyway and I was able to connect it throughout the rest of the hanging all the way to the loop on top. What a win!
I think I enjoy the transforming-an-image idea a lot. In fact, I can point to my first of its kind, Keeley, nearly ten years ago. I have ideas to mix this with the “mood board” style from Mandy Pattullo that I fell in love with when making my fabric book. But, of course, that requires time, which I seem to have less of these days. For now, the imagination will simply have to percolate!