Aries again

I know I don’t normally do progress pics on these, but I took this one during the week

celtic swirls

aries in progress

I took it because as I was mapping out the areas for shading I was reminded of the celtic knotwork beasts in George Bains’ handbook, and then I was reminded of the book I’ve been slowly reading “medieval modern” by Alexander Nagel. It talks about the lasting influence of medeival art on people like Picasso, and although the book is a rather dry read (not quite on “prat with a thesaurus”* level, just dry) and I’ve been reading it in small doses, I’ve been seeing that more and more through the process of how I embroider pieces like this, rather than finding it in the finished product. I meant to talk about it while I was working on Sol, because I was struck by how Picasso-like the process of breaking a medieval face into its component, geometric, parts to embroider it is to the end result of a Picasso portrait. When I work in the opus anglicanum style, whether with silk or wool, the shading is the first step after outlining, and its about thinking about the flow of the lines as well as the geometric shapes that go together to make up the whole, kind of the reverse of Picasso.


I don’t think I find Picasso’s work any more aesthetically pleasing, but I think I’m starting to understand and appreciate it better through working in a medeival style. When I have finished reading and digesting, I will write a better post on the subject.


* I read a lot of non-fiction, not because I don’t like fiction, but because I like it too much and tend to neglect trivial things like eating, sleeping, and going to work in favour of reading just one more chapter. Mostly I read quite academic stuff, I have, for instance, a fanatical interest in the life of Ancient greek women that started when I read Pomeroy’s “godesses, whores, wives and slaves” in 6th form, I’m basically nerdy. However, there are several books unread beyond the first chapter sitting on my shelves because the author has tried to hard to make themsleves sound clever by using words so obscure that even an intelligent person can’t read them without constant resort to a very large dictionary. I call this style of writing “prat with a thesaurus” and have no patience for it at all.

~ by opusanglicanum on February 2, 2014.

6 Responses to “Aries again”

  1. Interesting food for thought. I guess that some of the discipline needed for egg-tempera painting influenced medieval embroidery design. Tonal areas do have to be planned in advance in tempera and there’s little of the sort of brushwork blending that is allowed by oil paint.

    • I could never get on with egg tempera, I found it too claggy, but maybe I mixed it wrong

      • I’ve never tried it. I’ve only read about it. But it made most of the images that the people doing the stitching would have seen. There’s no opportunity of changing your mind about shading areas without the paint equivalent of unpicking the wrong bit and re-doing it. So it goes with a methodology of very careful pre-planning, rather than the try-it-and-see methods that were possible later.

      • unpicking split stitch is well nigh impossible, because the sewing goes through the thread, the couple of times I’ve treid it it took aproximately three times what the stitching takes. I’m not sure I plan that well though – I used to draw out the shading lines with chalk, but I stopped doing that ages ago because I’m fundamentally lazy

  2. I agree about the styles of writing – the most fascinating subject can be made utterly unreadable by a writer keener to show off than inform!
    It can be interesting to learn of the influences on modern artists. Sometimes it makes them more appealing, sometimes it’s just interesting, but it helps to show that nothing creative happens in a vacuum!

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