Artist research – Colours in the Breizh

I came across the work of Valerie Gardiner through one of the many Facebook groups I spend too much time lurking looking at a wide variety of textile and artistic work and trying to pluck up occasional courage in which to post!

The post that brought Ms Gardiner to my attention was this stitched work in progress of fungi – the very subject of my current theme.  What really caught my eye was the colours used and the combination of long and short stitches to create the varying lines on the growing fungus.

Rather helpfully Ms Gardiner had also posted a copy of her initial pencil drawn sketch – with the greatest respect I like the fact that this is not a botanical painting but rather one that is a study and aims to get down the required details, colours and textures that have clearly appealed.  This is clearly a direct working method of Ms Gardiner and one that is simple and straightforward in that it allows for the transfer of her drawing to the fabric with relative simplicity.

The lesson I can take from this is that I have been trying to loosen up in my sketchbook work in recent months and develop a looser style which is expressive and conveys the colours, lines, textures, form and tones that I require along with any specific written notes and this is exactly what Ms Gardiner has done …. I am still fighting against working with very detailed sketches and maybe this is because I am interested in botanical art (who wouldn’t love to have the skill of a botanical artist?!).

Ms Gardiner’s background is as a watercolour painter and she clearly has a real eye for colour with skills built up over many years but after a move to Brittany and retiring she felt able to try other subjects and media hence her primary source of sketching being now with coloured pencils.

A further development of the stitched picture above was the addition of grass and blanket stitch used to convey the log on which the fungi was growing.  I love the relative basic stitches used – a combination of the aforesaid blanket stitch and long and short stitch and also straight stitches as there is no need for anything overlay complicated to convey the scene in all its beautiful colours.  The composition draws you in through the lines of the log and the different tones used for the fungi which contrast but harmonise with the different greens of the grass – the variations in tones and shades create depth and form throughout.   Maybe this lack of complication in terms of a limited stitch ‘palette’  is again something I can use within my own work … I do have a self-confessed habit of trying to be too complicated and am learning not to over egg the pudding!

One further piece of work of Ms Gardiner’s that really appealed to me is this second completed piece with the bright turquoise and blue hues which complement variations in the browns used for the logs – browns are part of the orange family on the colour wheel and complementary to blue and this creates a harmonious scene which is further enhance by the slightly citrus greens of the grass.  I particularly love the shapes of the fungi which have developed as they grow out from their host.

I have been given direct permission from Ms Gardiner to share her images and this is very much appreciated.  I feel I can take considerable inspiration from Ms Gardiner’s work and will be looking not just at my colour palette but looking now to work out a combination of stitch ‘palettes’ that enable me create textural marks along with the impression of line and form.


Gardiner, V.  (date unknown).  Colours in the Breizh [online].  [Date accessed:  July and August 2017].  Available from:

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