Updated November 11, 2022.
Sometimes we’re lucky as needlepointers. Our canvas is like this Lee Needle Arts kimono with a clear focal point, the mask, on a white or colored background.
There are no hard decisions here. But, all too often, it isn’t clear what’s background because there is pattern there as well. Today we’ll use several Lee kimonos to illustrate ways to figure out what is in the background.
Background Is a Scene
Another common type of background is a scene, either outside or inside. The ground and sky, or floor and wall are clearly backgrounds and serve to put the focal point in a particular place.
Here, the camellias are blooming in the snow.
This setting is so clearly a background, you can even make one easily yourself when a canvas has no background.
Even so, some canvases in a setting are ambiguous, as we see in this kimono. As painted, either the cherry blossoms or Mount Fuji could be the focal point and the other part of the background. Your choice, demonstrated by more complex stitching, should be clear on the finished canvas. Because the only complex stitching in the kimono is the snow, I have made the mountain the focal point.
Patterned Backgrounds and Layers
This kimono is typical of many designs from Lee Needle Arts and others. The background is divided into sections, some of which include patterns. That makes some parts of the background patterned.
It’s important to recognize this early on because otherwise you might put stitching on those patterned background areas that will make them too important, competing with the focal point and confusing the viewer.
The best clue to this is to look for overlaps. The background will be behind other areas, so parts of its pattern will be missing. Here the gold lines on the blue are interrupted by the leaves, so we know it is behind the leaves. The veins on the leaves are not interrupted so we know they are in front.
By looking for overlaps, we discover that the white and blue are in the background with the leaves as the focal point. Knowing this we can chose more complex colors and stitches for the leaves, making this distinction clear.
Very complex backgrounds can be found even in small canvases. Look at this kimono.There are two patterned areas, left and center, that are pretty clearly behind the complete camellia near the bottom. We know them to be background, even though their colors are bright.
But what about the right side of the kimono? there is another partial camellia there, so the camellia in the center is not unique.
There is overlap of a leaf in the partial camellia.
This entire area is the same color.
All this combines to make the choice of a focal point confusing.
Rather than try to distinguish the entire flower from the surrounding fabric, I chose to pick a smaller part of the complete camellia to be the focal point – its center. It is the unique element in the design. I emphasized it slightly by using French Knots in the center. They pull it and the flower that surrounds it forward slightly from the adjoining pink area and the partial camellia. Just enough to say “Look at me first!”
And that’s what a focal point should always say.