Bird Watcher by Teresa Frank

2nd Place, Professional Non-Original With Instruction

This cute canvas has been in my stash for many a year; so long that I do not remember when or where I obtained it. Last year at NAN Assembly, I saw the Debbie Stiehler class, Interpreting the Painted Canvas, as the perfect opportunity to actually put it on stretcher bars and bring it to life.

Four days of class-time with Stiehler and her suggestions for stitches and threads put me well on my way to knowing how I wanted to move forward. However, as with any needleart project, ideas change as the piece evolves. Threads and stitches I originally thought would work did not, so there was a bit of reverse stitching done before Bird Watcher was finished.

The viewer will note early on there is not much color contrast between the kitty and the background. The painted canvas does have distinct black and gray stripes for the kitty, but the gray background is the same value of gray that is in the kitty’s fur. He is watching birds, or hiding among the leaves, one might think, so I did not want to make a dramatic color or value change from the original canvas. I chose, instead, to make textural changes using Rainbow Gallery Angora and five values of Burmilana for the kitty and then vigorously brushed out the fur on the body. I did not brush out the face as I wanted it to be well defined within the overall design. The background was then worked in a single strand of Soie Cristale silk in a step-down Bargello pattern to convey a subtle wind movement on the ground to support the illusion of leaves blowing across the kitty’s body.

The kitty’s eyes are worked in #12 Kreinik Braid 002L. This was one of Debbie’s really wonderful suggestions and during our first day in class. She asked me to stitch the eyes so we could both see if the thread was going to work. It did. If you look closely, though, the left eye is stitched in reverse basketweave. I wanted to be sure I attained correct light reflection in each eye.

One final deviation from the original canvas is the collar and birdhouse charm around the kitty’s neck. The original canvas has a large gray bell painted beneath the kitty’s chin. I stitched the bell and stood back to look. It was way too large in relation to the kitty’s head, so it all came out, along with most of the fur around it. I painted this canvas area with two coats of white paint, and then re-stitched.

Bird Watcher now hangs in our home and keeps an eye (or two) on our two other kitties Jack and GC. I hope you enjoy looking at this little fellow as much as I did stitching it.