Plein Air Stitching

Creating your artwork outdoors is both a wonderful and challenging experience. When we spend so much time creating from images on screens we lose the ability to translate the experience of life in three dimensions. I think that it's vital to an artist's skills. My drawing from life skills needs serious improvement but that's why I do things to stretch my abilities. 

 My view in Amy's Garden

My view in Amy's Garden

This year I worked in embroidery for Get Out! Paint Out! at McKendree University. Stitching is less exact than painting.; it's more about manipulating textures and direction of the threads to create space than about how well drawn out your work is. Because I was unable to fill in large patches of color in the back ground and then build up the details like I would in painting, I used the direction of the threads and softened the color choices in order to create space and atmosphere.

 Distracting myself with selfies that try and make stitching look cool

Distracting myself with selfies that try and make stitching look cool

The key challenge of plein air embroidery is time. It took me nine hours to stitch a 5" diameter circle and I'm a relatively quick stitcher and decision maker. The beauty of working outside is that your really begin to understand how light and the position of the sun affects the colors and the shapes within your composition. Because of the slowness of stitching I couldn't keep up with the light. I memorized colors and gave an approximation of what I saw when the light was at it's best.

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The first four hours are a meditative process and you are in the flow of the work. But then as the it gets closer to noon and the sun gets higher and hotter, the body starts to get cramped up from sitting on the ground, and your legs are on fire from all the bug bites. Plein air becomes an exercise in endurance. You start taking longer breaks to stretch, because you're cramped but also because you're just so sick of looking at it and the huge mental check list of stitches that should be fixed. You start to get lonely because you've chosen a spot where no other living human has been for the last five hours. Your fingers itch to be checking Facebook. "Should I post that progress photo to Instagram?" It's an act of supreme will to keep yourself focused on the task at hand, maybe get that cup of coffee about 2:30. It's after the shot of caffeine that you realize that you only have three hours left to get this inspiration looking like a finished work and not just a mess of stitches. Diligently  working as other artists set up for the supper party around you,  you've placed that last stitch. Relief and accomplishment allow  you to finally stretch out your cramped body on the ground and take a moment to relax.

 I had to bring a little crazy to my embroidery because it was looking a little too tidy and realistic.

I had to bring a little crazy to my embroidery because it was looking a little too tidy and realistic.

It's such a worthwhile experience; create art outdoors! 

 9 hours later and I'm finished.

9 hours later and I'm finished.