In August 2019, I will hold my first solo-exhibition in the Pfannerhaus in Roßhaupten. As the exhibition area consists of two large rooms, I am going to 'split' my exhibition in two. In the first room, I am going to present a series of goldwork pieces inspired by current world affairs and my Catholic Bavarian surroundings. More on that project in a further blog post. The second room will present an overview of my work till date. It will therefore showcase many different embroidery techniques and styles. It is for this second room that I intend this new project.
Ever since my mum dragged us along (that's definitely how it felt to me and my younger sister on the day!) to a Franz Marc exhibition as a kid, I am an admirer of his work. Franz Marc was born in 1880 and died as a soldier, aged just 36, in World War I in Verdun, 1916. His most productive years, in which he developed his distinctive style, were between 1911 and 1914. Franz Marc lived and worked in the area where I now live. He is best-known for his brightly coloured animal studies. When I needed a design for my canvaswork piece for the RSN Certificate, I choose his Tiger.
For years I have wanted to turn another one of his pictures into a canvaswork embroidery: Foxes painted in 1914. I love foxes and I am always thrilled when I see one strolling though a field from my car. A couple of years ago, a fox crossed the footpath just in front of me when I was hiking through the woods between Bad Bayersoien and Bad Kohlgrub. Such a magical moment! It was neither afraid of me, nor did it take much notice of me. For a few seconds, we just shared a footpath through the woods.
Although I have wanted to stitch the design for years, I wasn't quite sure how to tackle it. Every so often, I would look at the picture and ponder my options, but I never got the feeling that I 'understood' what I was looking at enough to start stitching. Until today! I viewed the picture under an angle and in an instant it made total sense. I now know what is the front, what the back and what's in between. This is very important with any embroidery design. The thinking process before you can actually start to stitch can take quite a while; in this case a couple of years. And this is how I now view the picture:
There are two main tricks the embroiderer can apply in canvaswork to create depth. Firstly, bigger patterns come forward, smaller patterns retreat. Secondly, bright and shiny materials and colours come forward, dark and dull retreat. Applying this logic to Franz Marc's foxes, I will use mainly silks (shiny!) for the face of the 'top' fox. As this is the most detailed part of the painting, I have no choice but to choose smaller patterns. However, the very shininess of the silk should still make it standout clearly. The rest of both foxes will use semi-shiny threads like cotton perle. And the background will be stitched using wool, as it is dullest in appearance.
To further 'clarify' the picture for the viewer, I will also 'group' my stitches. There are three main types of stitches one can use in canvaswork: diagonal, straight and cross. I am not sure yet what goes where, but these will be assigned to fox 1, fox 2 and the background. Now it is time to pick colours and work on my stitch-plan some more.
If you like pre-stitching musings and discussions on design choices whilst a stitching project is underway, you might want to check out Rachel's blog VirtuoSew Adventures. Not only is Rachel a very accomplished embroiderer, she also puts a lot of thought into the designs of her textile art!
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Jessica M. Grimm
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