Dynamic and Dramatic Backgrounds 101

For many rug hookers, the background is an afterthought when planning on how to hook a new piece. The focus is oftentimes on how to approach color planning and hooking techniques for the main motif featured in the pattern. However, the background can have a huge impact on the overall visual and emotional impact of your finished project. The background supports and enhances the subject of your rug.

When I hook rugs, there are four key aspects that I consider when I plan the background: edges, deliberate absence (less is more), color, and color accents. With careful consideration, your rug background can provide a beautiful frame for your central motif. There’s a lot to cover related to these four aspects, and so we’re breaking this topic out into two blog posts. This month, we’re focusing on two aspects in particular: edges and deliberate absence.  

Ania’s “Notre Dame Gargoyle” rug.

My “Notre Dame Gargoyle” rug uses both deliberate absence and edges in the background. The rug is inspired by a postcard featuring a gargoyle set among a backdrop of the buildings of Paris. When I designed the pattern, I wanted to portray the gargoyle as pondering the landscape, and I imagined him in a dense fog in the early hours of the morning. Using deliberate absence was central to creating that effect. I minimized the architecture featured in the background of the postcard, so that all that was included was a partially visible tower and a hint of the buildings below.

The postcard that served as the inspiration for “Notre Dame Gargoyle”

The fog that makes up the majority of the remainder of the background is a good example of “edges” – the edges of the partial tower are deliberately soft to create the impression that the structure is hazy in the distance. The fog is also given a 3D effect through directional hooking, both in the fog itself and in the remaining structures at the bottom of the rug. The directional hooking creates the edges needed to provide a full atmosphere and “set the scene” of the gargoyle’s home perch.

Ania’s “Jack in the Green” rug.

My “Jack in the Green” rug also combined deliberate absence and edges to create a dynamic background. I have seen images of the Green Man throughout my life, and have always imagined him set against a canopy of oak trees. When I planned this project, I decided to create that impression by continuing the motif of leaves surrounding the face in the background of the pattern. I traced oak leaves in a pattern radiating outwards, and the continuation of the pattern complements the face at the center.

A close-up of the leaves in the “Jack in the Green” rug – both in the face and in the background.

The leaves in the background are hooked with very soft edges and a deliberate lack of detail, to ensure that they do not draw the gaze away from the central focus, the face of the Green Man. The soft outline of the leaves is enough to give the viewer the impression he is surrounded by oak leaves, which is the goal. This is also use of deliberate absence – a case where less is more. You don’t need to hook every detail of the leaves to give the viewer the knowledge that they are there. You’re able to create the effect needed to add additional depth to the whole project, without taking away from what should be the central focus.   

Both of these rugs also utilize another key aspect of backgrounds, color. Achromaticity is a major part of my “Notre Dame Gargoyle” rug, and for my “Jack in the Green” rug I deliberately offset my Green Man with the complementary color red. In next month’s post, I will delve into that aspect in much closer detail, along with color accents.

If you have any questions about deliberate absence and edges in backgrounds, feel free to leave them in the comments below!

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