Choosing a Scene

I remember starting out as an artist and not realizing how difficult it was to choose what to make.  Learning how to paint and how to draw is very different from painting and drawing on your own.  With the former, you're being encouraged or motivated to strengthen skills.  With the latter, you're forced to encourage yourself to make your own thoughts and ideas and actively pursue them.

They're two distinctly different energies, and when I started out as an artist, I don't think my mind even considered that to be a dilemma.


So what am I writing about today?  I'd like to just explain what goes into my thought process when I choose a photo to make an embroidery from.

I wish I could say the embroideries I make just pop out of my head, but I use photos, and truth is, they're usually from my iPhone.  Nothing fancy.

So how do I choose what photo I'm going to embroider today?

3 Major questions I ask myself before I start

  1. Is there a good ratio of open space vs elements?

  2. Do these colors feel visually pleasing?

  3. Do I like it?

If those question still don't quite make sense yet, I'll go into detail about each one below.


Question 1 : Is there a good ratio of open space vs elements?

Because embroidery using paint and thread is centered around the two different mediums, this is an important question.  What do I mean by this?  Well, here are more questions to think about.  Are there too many elements in the photo, i.e. too many buildings and objects and trees?  What's too much?  Can you see the sky?  How much of the sky can you see?  How much of the land can you see?  What is the focus of the photo, the objects or the land or the sky?

So how do you answer the question, is there a good ratio of open space vs elements? I hate to give this vague answer, but honestly it depends on you.  How much are you comfortable embroidering?  How much of the paint do you want to be seen?  I find a good balance in about 80/20.  80% paint, 20% thread.  The large spaces of paint balance out well with the tiny spots of thread.  Thread is inherently thin and lends itself to details while the paint can stay nice and thick.


Question 2 : Do these colors feel visually pleasing?

Since the embroidery is basically a mosh posh of colors and shapes, you want them to feel good together.  How do you know if they feel good together?  Well, stare at the photo for a while.  How is it making you feel?  Do you feel on edge because you wish that building was a different color?  Do you hate the way the light is hitting the trees?  Or do you feel calm because looking at it makes you feel at ease?  Is everything perfectly in its place and there's nothing you would change?

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Question 3 : Do I like it?

Well, do you like it?  If the answer is no, or there's something a little off about it, maybe take more photos or try again later.  There's no one way to make a perfect photo, I've learned that sometimes the lighting during the time of day is wonky and harsh and isn't the look I wanted.  Other days I am hanging out with my friends and a scene magically appears in front of my eyes and I just know I need to document it with a photo.

It's not a science, but I hope asking these questions help you to figure out what it is that you want to embroider.

Ending Note :

Sometimes things don't always work out the way we want them to.  As much as you want to, don't force it, and move on to the next one.  Also, don't give up if you can't find that perfect eye catching scene.  It'll come.

Words and photos by Jordan Harmon
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October 2017