A portrait of David

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I took several photos of David to work from. Lots of reference photographs are vital, good photos are key to embroidering detail in the later stages. I then drew his portrait onto spot and cross pattern cutting paper to the same size as the final textile (135 x 120cm).The rug and background were invented to bring more colour and pattern into the piece. The plant behind David represents his imagination whispering in his ear about the novel that he was writing, which sits on a table beside him.

In the next step, I transferred his outline portrait onto silk, forming a base for the textile. I used stretchers that were half the size of the final piece. This allowed me to paint the silk in two more manageable pieces. I traced my drawing onto silk (stretched on the frame) and brought the colours to life using a combination of silk and textile paints before sewing the two pieces together. The silk was then backed with felt to give the work more body.

Using a hoop I began with David’s face. I hand embroidered his eyes, eyebrows, mouth outline, nose, directional and character lines before thread painting his skin and hair with free machine embroidery.

Finally, I added grey hairs and softer colours by hand to provide a natural look.\r\nI inserted felt beneath David’s face, creating a soft skull structure for a three dimensional effect. Then I embroidered the background around his head, allowing individual hairs to stick out. The background design uses a scribble effect with different shades of turquoise thread; this was done a bit at a time as it is tedious and covers a large part of the overall piece.

In David’s shirt each stripe (including the white) is made up of five shades of that colour. It was challenging as I needed to change thread every thirty seconds but well worth it to create the waves. Button details were finished by hand.

To create the effect of denim his jeans are a combination of blues woven across each other. I paid particular attention to the detail on his jeans, hands and shoes, reinforcing machine embroidery with hand work for a realistic look.

Once I had completed David, I added the chair around him, first using light and dark shades then building in the colours between them. I had great difficulty keeping chair legs straight as the fabric warped and was forced to redo them:

To create a wood effect, I used various shades of brown, gradually building it up bit by bit over time.

The organic imagination plant was my play area for colour and design with fun hand embroidered gold highlights. The book replicates my husband’s cover design for his novel apart from the spine, which was a useful place to sign the piece.

I found it challenging to make a wooden table stand out against a wooden floor. The rug was another place I gave myself freedom to play with the colours and design. I particularly enjoyed hand cording in gold thread to provide an opulent outline to my pattern.

I added further padding behind focal points to enhance three-dimensionality before backing the piece with sheeting. Finally, I framed David’s portrait with a white satin stitch border.

This textile portrait took me about 11 months to complete, this was faster than the 18 months to finish the portrait of my daughters as my husband was much more easy going and didn’t ask for any changes

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