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I don’t have a lot to show—stitching wise—from this past week (with the exception of 1 Year of Stitches). But I have been sketching and waiting for approvals from my clients to move forward with embroidering their pets. The sketching process is two-fold; first, I create a color sketch of what the embroidery will look like. Once given the go-ahead, I then turn the drawing into lines that become the pattern of what I’ll stitch.
To share a little bit about this process, I posted an Instagram reel that showed me finishing tracing and then revealing what it looks like when a design becomes outlines. Soon after posting, I received questions about it. Queries basically fell into two camps; the first was if I first vectorized a photo to aid me in drawing, or if I did it all freehand. The second question wanted to know how I decide on what shapes to make.
Those questions were interesting to me, as they are a bit like asking someone how they think. To begin, I don’t vectorize a photo or convert it to shapes in any way on the computer—everything I do is freehand. I grew up without Photoshop and Illustrator and didn’t use them until my freshman year of college (2004), so thinking about using a filter over a photo wasn’t something that entered my consciousness. Rather, I’ve cultivated this style since my freshman year ever since a professor told me I wasn’t good at realistic drawing. (Talk about a shot to the heart! That’s all I tried to do growing up!)
After the realization that realistic drawing wasn’t my forte, I had a creative crisis—experimentations that ultimately went nowhere—until my junior year of college when a visiting professor told me to try working in collage. It made sense; we don’t have the same expectations of reality when looking at collage, so it lends itself well to stylized artwork. The same goes for embroidery.
Learning to translate the world into simple shapes is integral to how I work—it’s something I’ve been practicing for nearly 15 years, first through collage and now through embroidery. I focus on abstracting planes (of an animal’s face, for instance) and draw the shapes I see in Procreate. In my head, I’m converting them into tones and colors in order to build some semblance of three-dimensional form.
If you’re interested in trying this too, check out one of the artists most influential to how I think about collage and abstraction, Henri Matisse. He’s known for his paintings, but later in life couldn’t paint anymore so he started “drawing with scissors” and created collages that celebrate shape and decorative forms.