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Returning to paint, and Paris!

Updated: Jun 7, 2022

"Rooftops of Paris"

Acrylic gouache, embroidery thread

8 inches


There's a lot to love about embroidery thread as a material. This is so boring, but my favorite part is how clean it is! After spending the past fifteen years with my fingernails, clothes and basically everything I own covered in oil paint, its a welcome change! I also love that I can easily work in any room of the house or even bring it along when I travel! Its also light weight and easy to ship. It's the perfect material! But in spite of all these glowing benefits, and probably the result of artist Stockholm Syndrome, I found myself missing paint...

The winds of change

I think all artists can point to certain pieces that represent a significant change in their work. For some the shift is subtle, for others it can be quite dramatic. In graduate school I made large abstract oil paintings and now, a few years later, I find myself working on intimate embroidered landscapes. Since making this drastic shift, the evolution of my work has become much more nuanced. This embroidery, "Rooftops in Paris," represents an exciting change in my embroideries because its the first time I combined paint with thread!

Planning Ahead

I think the hardest part of this shift was the additional level of planning involved to decide which parts of the composition would be painted and which would be embroidered. I consider myself to be more of an "improvisational" painter and, typically, I like to jump into a new piece without much thought and respond to my own decisions as I work. The necessary planning involved in these new pieces has definitely taken a bit to get used to.

After sketching out the composition directly onto the fabric, I coated the intended painted areas with a few coats of Golden Absorbent Ground before eventually painting on it with Holbein Acrylic Gouache. I love this paint because it goes on like watercolor but feels more like acrylic paint.

Creating visual pressure

Because who doesn't need a little more pressure in their life, right?

I always love it when a composition offers some kind of interesting visual contradiction. In this piece, I was interested in the contrast between the highly geometric structure of the rooftops against the swirling, organic clouds. I made the decision to give the clouds more "real estate" in the composition because they don't have as much visual weight as the buildings. Doing so created tension of clouds pushing down on the rooftops, as well as visual pressure between the two newly combined materials.

Sneaky space

In addition to the pressure created between the two halves of the composition, I also loved how the Eiffel Tower and buildings in the distance allowed me to sneak in some extremely distance space into this otherwise compact and frontal composition. I love it when space gets sneaky!

Classic Paris

The view from the 6th floor of Centre Pompidou has always been one of my favorites in Paris. I love the row of classic Parisian architecture combined with the sprawling expanse of the city. And it doesn't hurt that once you turn around you get to tour the special exhibition, which is always incredible.

On my last visit to Paris we got to see the works of Andre Derain at Centre Pompidou. Color + landscape + abstraction. What more could you want?!

What am I working on now? Follow me on Instagram to find out! @libbywilliams


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