The technique I use for my work is a hand embroidery technique named ‘needlepainting’, as it is literally painting with a needle. I use very fine silk threads that I split to create even finer threads-finer than a hair usually-and then I layer these stitch by stitch to create a realistic image, working from the back of the painting to the front in increasingly detailed layers, just as you would with an oil painting. I usually make a drawing first on rice paper, which I stitch to fabric(silk, cotton or linen). The fabric is mounted in a tight frame and then I start working. I don’t use magnifying glasses, just good lighting.
The technique of silk needle painting comes originally from China and the technique I use is closest to Suzhou style embroidery(from the city of Suzhou close to Shanghai)but I originally learned the technique through cotton needlepointing with books by Trish Burr and others. Like painting with paint, there are many different styles, techniques and materials, each with their own effects and painters choose whatever works best for them. I use flat silk(silk that comes straight off the cocoon and can be splitter to create finer threads), but embroiderers also use twisted silk, cotton and wool in their needle paintings.
Embroidery is a very slow and time consuming process, creating my miniature paintings slowly stitch by stitch with each color carefully chosen and each thread splitted to exactly the size I need. It’s skilled work I’ve been working at for years now and still have much to learn. I love how meditative it is, it fits the conceptual aspect of my work with it’s focus on nature and observing the nature of people and embroidery. I always strive to improve my craft but to keep it in balance with the concept of the works, one not overpowering the other.
Embroidery to me is a medium, just like sculpture and painting are media used by artists to convey their inner thoughts and fascinations. I don’t use embroidery as a political statement(in spite of being a man who embroiders)or contrast it with the subjects I embroider, I want it to compliment the concept. I also don’t see textile art as a ‘lower form of fine art’, as it’s sometimes said it is, not do I see it as a strictly feminine art. I want embroidery and textile art as a whole to be more than just it’s medium and appreciation for it’s skill but for it to be a full medium to be used for whatever an artist wants to say.
If you’d like to see more art embroiderers, I encourage you to look up Julie Sarloutte, Caye Zavaglia, VK Mathewson and the Society for Embroidery Work
If you’d like to learn needlepointing yourself, I can recommend the books and tutorials by Trish Burr, her books taught me the beginnings of the technique.
Below, you can see a few more in progress works to get an idea of the technique.