Family Portrait

It was always understood that we would follow up in person, soon

Family Portrait, 2020
Hand embroidery on raw silk

My family is spread out over North America & Europe. I am used to our conversations being online in the form of video calls for casual conversations, important events, and everything in between. It was always understood that we would follow up in person, "soon". 

When the pandemic hit, we were confined to our houses like everyone else in the world. However, this time communication felt different. We didn't know when we would be able to see each other again. My parents were in Scotland, my niece and nephew in Alberta, and my nan and pop just half an hour away in Conception Bay South. Everyone felt equally distant and the thought of "soon" becoming non-existent filled me with anxiety. 

I decided to challenge our conversations and spend time with my family in a new way through our usual video calls.; I asked my family members if they would let me draw them in a blind contour style and in turn, they could draw me. Blind contour drawing is an exercise where an artist draws the contour of a subject without looking at their paper. This forces the artist to follow the outline of their subject quite intently, picking up on the nuances of line and shape. 

This exercise was pure hilarity; making faces at each other and being slightly ashamed of our messy drawings. It was so nice to laugh in such an uncertain time. But the exciting part was the discovery of what these drawings communicated back to me; the markings on my paper showed me a new perspective. 

For the first time I truly saw and appreciated the nuances of my family's feautures; my fathers Bermudian bone structure, the facial similarities I share with my mother, my grandmothers wild and curly hair, and my nieces bright eyes and playful smile under all that teengage angst. I then took these drawings and transferred them to cloth where I traced each line with needle and thread. 

One by one, stitch by stitch the drawings unfold. The puncturing of cloth with needle and thread is a different kind of permanency than pencil to paper; embroidery intersects with the cloth to make a tactile surface. The process of this family portrait allowed me to spend valuable time with each member in my own artistic way and also eased my longing for the time being. 

Using Format