My name is Janine Heschl and I create photorealistic wildlife portraits with a regular sewing machine.
Having struggled with sewing in a straight line for a couple of years, I wanted to explore different ways to use a sewing machine and experimented with thread as my medium of colour. Over the past 10 years, I have developed my own technique in using a regular household sewing machine to translate photos of wildlife realistically into fabric and thread and at the same time, teach about the importance of conservation and raising awareness and funds for endangered species.
All my portraits start out as a sketch on my background fabric, which I turn into a full fabric collage out of batik fabric scraps. The collage helps me to navigate through my portrait, tells me where a tiger stripe starts and where it ends for example. Although the entire collage will end up being entirely covered in thread, I spend quite a bit of time working on details. In this way, I get to study my subject in greater detail and familiarize myself with fur growth, highlights and shadows, details I want to focus on later during the embroidery process and so on. It is a good way to prepare for the photorealistic effects I want to achieve.
Once the collage is fully done, I start adding layers upon layers of thread, starting with my darkest tone of the area and working my way towards the highlights. I work on small areas at the time, zoom into the reference photo and try to identify the different colours my eyes pick up. It is a trusting game too, as I pick up colours that you would not generally associate with that animal, such as purple in the fur of a tiger or bright blue in the iris of a Great Horned Owl. In the end, it is the big picture that counts and the tiny details that create it.
As my focus lies on highlighting the plight of endangered species, I have started to add a dramatic black background to my portraits. It creates the right mood and also makes a lot of the colours pop out and enhances the realism for me. Last year I have also started to focus on just eyes of endangered wild cats, creating a series called ‘An eye on extinction’, which is meant to make eye contact with the viewer and to evoke empathy for wildlife. I am a firm believer, that you need to truly connect to something, in order to be able to protect it and take action for it. My aim is to maintain the focus on empathy in my future work and to learn about human psychology regarding this topic and implement it into my embroidery.
My career highlight so far has been meeting Dr. Jane Goodall, my childhood hero, on several occasions and having been commissioned by the Jane Goodall Institut – Austria to create two chimpanzee portraits for her, one of which we auctioned off together on stage to raise funds for her lifetime mission to protect all wildlife on our planet. Meeting Jane has changed my life and influenced my artistic mission, and she keeps empowering me to continue to raise both awareness and my voice for those who cannot speak. We all have a unique gift to work with, to develop and to grow – and we all have the choice to use it to create change and to make a difference.
Dr. Jane Goodall and textile portrait of Wounda 2018
A Lioness eye. 20x20cm
A Snowleopard eye. 20x20cm
A Sri Lankan leopard eye. 20x20cm
Textile Wildlife Art African lion. 80x60cm. Credit Matin Wacht
African Tree Pangolin. 50x50cm. Credit Martin Wacht
Dr. Jane Goodall commission. 40x40cm
Fabric portrait Mandrill. 50x50cm
Wildlife Textile Art Orangutan. 90x70cm. Credit Martin Wacht
The making of an Orangutan portrait. Embroidery process
Photo vs. Embroidery
Textile Portrait Wounda. 40x40cm. Credit Martin Wacht