Humble fields become abstracted artworks in thread paintings by Victoria Rose Richards. The artist uses a combination of tight, straight lines and lush French knots to emulate the rural patterning of closely-cropped fields divided by hedges and woods. Richards, who is 21 years old and based in South West Devon, U.K., draws inspiration from the natural beauty that surrounds her. “My art is influenced by my love of the environment and conservation, which I developed during my biology degree I completed this year,” Richards tells Colossal.
A lifelong artist who also manages chronic pain and Asperger’s syndrome, Richards landed on embroidery during college as a way to lift her spirits and engage her mind between classes and studying. “I pulled some nice blues and greens out of my grandmother’s old embroidery tin and had my first go at an embroidery landscape in October 2018,” Richards explains.
The artist is constantly learning new techniques to broaden her range of textures and patterns, finding community and inspiration through the global network of embroiderers who are connected through social media. You can follow along with Victoria Rose Richards’s thread paintings on Instagram.
Embroidery had a notable resurgence in the 2010s, largely driven by artists sharing their works on Instagram. Since then, we’ve seen people using its multimedia nature to make touchably three-dimensional pieces and take thread to unexpected objects. Others, like Richards, use embroidery as a medium of illustration as versatile as paint and paper.
Landscapes appear to be a popular topic for embroiderers. There must be something restorative about venturing out into nature for inspiration, then contemplating the natural beauty around you while doing meditative work like embroidering.
“I get inspiration from the agricultural and natural landscapes in Devon,” says the 21-year-old artist, “the endless fields, lush forests, winding rivers and country lanes, all of which I can see from my bedroom window”.
Richards turns to Google Earth for further inspiration, combining technology and her love of nature to hone the quality of her creations. “I can go on and check out the ways other landscapes are formed,” she says. “I can see if the fields are geometric or higgledy-piggledy and look out for bunches of forest and discover new lakes. Google Earth is really useful for me to create realistic scenes.”
Her artwork, she says, is a tribute to the English countryside, sometimes going far beyond quintessential Devonshire landscapes, and always with a positive spin. “I’m inspired by other areas of England like Cornish beaches and the Norfolk tulip fields,” she says. “My pieces represent the sunny, cheerful elements of the countryside in an idealized, nostalgic kind of way.”
Each piece represents “a simplified version of real life”, and colours are very important in achieving the desired effect. “The colours I use are brighter, more optimistic shades of real life. Instead of a pale blue for a lake and dull green for grass, I use deep azure and bright emerald. I like all my pieces to feel happy, and colour is vital in that.”
A recent biological science graduate, Richards completed her first landscape, “a simple green grass, blue stream piece”, in October 2018 while studying at Exeter University, and her first aerial view came a few months later. “It was an all-green scene with geometric fields, and, with that one, I fell in love,” she recalls.
Richards now sells her work in various sizes on Etsy – prices start at £90 for a 3-inch (7.6cm) piece – along with prints, stickers and coasters of her vibrant scenes. “My business has taken off since lockdown started. I’m doing my best to keep up with demand.”
Although she plans to work in ecology or environmental science in the future, Richards hopes to keep developing her craft. “My art links nicely to my studies and the environment,” she says. “It demonstrates the manmade and natural forms in the land and how they combine. I’m keen to create more details, textures and depth to my pieces and possibly even give them a 3D element by adding hills”.
On a personal level, there’s a therapeutic element to her work. “I find making the pieces very soothing,” she says. “It’s nice to get lost in the details, colours and textures, and I often listen to music or podcasts while I’m sewing.”
And does the artist have a favourite piece? “It’s so hard to choose – a lot of them have a special connection to me. I love doing beach pieces, but I must say I prefer land-based ones – they feel more homely to me somehow.”
Image courtesy of: Victoria Rose Richards