A Benediction From The Old World

This piece marks a shift in my work. When he started to appear, i had a visceral feeling of *something*, like art imitating life, Benedict, as I call him, blessed me.

My watercolour sketch was very important in bringing this portrait forth, and worked as a way to make colour decisions that I didn’t need to do over when I got my threads out.

In actual fact, DMC (my main brand of colours) are frustratingly short on good gradients of blues, so I battled with a stripey face for a bit.

I mean, a good long while.

Started to pull it back with some details once the main colours were in.

That’ll do.

I started to build the rest of the composition, with the face as an anchor point for scale. This would be my largest piece to date I think.

And for my next trick…

This was the moment, actually. I got excited. Something unlocked that I hadn’t felt before.

Now the real work begins.

I really questioned my choices many times over the following many, many hours.

Drowning in fluffs.

It looks like I might be getting close, but I really wasn’t. ugggggggh.

I was using pliers at this point to pull the needle through the density.

Finally, here he is, the sun king. The monkey in a lion costume.

Time for a trim.

But that’s just the head!

Compared to the face, the rest came together relatively quickly.

This process was one of trimming and shaking and adjusting and stitching and repeating.

Finally, his holy nimbus.

The golden snub-nosed monkey is a primate living high in the snowy forested mountains of China. They have experienced a 50% population decline in the last 40 years, mainly due to habitat degradation. Their preferred food is lichen, growing in abundance on dead trees, but these are being removed for logging and agriculture. If their habitat continues to be removed, it will face extinction.

I completed this piece back in May, and it’s useful for me to re-read the caption I wrote for the Instagram post accompanying it:

I believe this piece is my best work. I was in the zone with it. I had fun with it (ok maybe not so much near the end of all that had tufted face floof) and as it was coming together I had a feeling like I had made some sort of creative breakthrough and I’d never really felt quite that way before.

This year was the start of a new way of life for me, where I was finally able to say ‘i am a full time artist now’ (yes even though I still work a side job 3 days a week – I now call this my arts funding ;)) and for the first time I didn’t begin the year with a clear idea of what my new body of work would be. Instead I allowed myself to just respond to some personal creative goals – the shark and the flamingo pieces. However, this time spent following my creativity was so valuable because it allowed me to test out what I am most in love with now.

So this piece IS the first in a new series that I’m going to work on for a bit. If you’ve been following me for awhile you’ll know that story telling and meaning is very important to me. But you could argue that the last couple years my work has been darker, reflecting my response to the decline of our environments. I wanted to simplify my narrative with this new direction. I wanted to return to something in my 2015 series ‘Ugly Gods’ of colourful, magical portraits. I want these subjects to evoke emotion but most of all strong engagement. Yes they are all disappearing but I want to celebrate their beauty and wonder and magic and I want the work to be about that.

Today is Endangered Species Day and I will always be shining a light on these rare and special creatures, but I want their light to shine on you, too, and inspire personal loving and mindful relationships with all the creatures we share this home with.


I am happy to announce to you readers here first, that I have just 2 gorgeous signed archival giclee prints of this piece available in my shop now, worldwide shipping available.

The original will also be making his debut appearance at the Society For Embroidered Work’s inaugural exhibition in London this November.

2 thoughts on “A Benediction From The Old World

  1. I found this piece really moving especially describing your artistic epiphany and the motivation behind your work. I really love seeing your process it makes me appreciate all the work that goes into a piece. I think it is easy to feel impotent about what is happening to nature and animals in the world and it is up to people to try and make a difference in their own sphere and with their own talents and skills which is what you are doing, using your art to make people aware.

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