(un)finished on time
This was a comissioned piece for heritage learning for the English Heritage site at Conisburgh Castle
It’s deliberately unfinished as it’s meant to be a work in progress belonging to the lady of the castle. The patron wanted a knight because this is a handling artefact for children and knights are exciting. I think it works because it will also allow discussion about the role of women in chivalric culture, and you could also use it as a springboard to discuss troubadours in Norman society.
It was actaully quite challenging to set out upon a piece I knew was to be left unfinished, for many reasons. Firstly, with this technique I would normally block all of the colour before working on the outlines. Instead with this I had to decide which bits to colour in and which to leave, and I decided that rather than leaving a line drawn upon the canvas to indicate those areas yet to be filled I would outline those areas in stitch (normally I advocate doing the outline afterwards as it’s much easier). So some of the horse’s mane is coloured in, but all of it is outlined, half the shield is filled, etc.
Leaving large areas of laid work uncouched wasn’t an option if children are to be allowed to handle the piece, as they would be too quickly pulled out of focus, but I did leave one tiny portion of the horse’s hind leg uncouched, which should be enough to illuminate the technique to those who are interested, but hopefully I’ve not left enough that is will get shredded!
I liked leaving his armour unfinished. At the Weald and Downland course one of the ladies (I am terrible with names) was working on a knight from the Bayeux, and we were talking about how the armour is shown using little circles of stitches on the canvas background. It wasn’t until I came to flick through and decided which knight to use for this that I even noticed they’re not all circles. Some are cross-hatched like this little chap, and yet others have an upright grid. I quite like the way this looks unfinished.
And yes, I deliberately chose a blue horse, because if this is used for children to talk about art in the medeival era it shows that realistic colours weren’t always used. To be fair though, I think the blue horses in the Bayeux are meant to be greys, after all we still call grey cats “blue” and proper grey is a devilishly hard colour to achieve with natural dyes.
Anyway, he’s off in the post now!