Monday, April 7, 2014

Painting Silk Scarves Without Using a Resist Agent

     The two silk scarves pictured today are among several I made at "art camp". These two have been especially usable and fun to wear; they each coordinate with many outfits and brighten neutral-toned tops. Changing the corner that shows or tying the scarf in different ways features various colors according to whatever section of the scarf best complements an outfit.

     I did not use any resist agent to control the flow of dye in these two pieces. In other words, the dye was brushed straight onto the unpainted silk scarf and allowed to diffuse and spread naturally. Each stroke blends with other dye colors that have been brushed near them, often creating unplanned effects and varied edges (some jagged-looking, some smoother). These effects are delightful to watch and are both fun and challenging to work with in silk painting design. The rest of the post describes the painting process--including the use of salt and alcohol for special effects--for interested readers.

     The multi-colored scarf with yellows, oranges, and reds predominating evolved from my original plan to a somewhat different design. After blending each of the dye colors I wanted to use (in small cups), I began to brush the gorgeous colors in strips from the edge of the scarf toward the center. As you can see in the photo below, I did not bring the colors all the way to the center at first. To deepen the colors, I painted over some areas again once they were dry--sometimes with the same color, sometimes blending in another color. Then, as the final version of the strips of color dried, classmates began to comment on the design, calling it "like fire" or "fireworks". So, I went with that, rather than with the autumn theme in my mind (don't ask--it would be boring to try to explain). I completed the center with a burst of "fire", taking advantage of an interesting property of yellow dye. As our teacher, Donna Kassab, had shown us, yellow dye (who knows why) tends to "push" other colors back a bit in the silk. The yellow and yellow-orange blend in the center performed their magic and created an interesting jagged edge in the process. A bit of salt created some variation in the center (see next paragraph for more on using salt). Fun stuff!

     The green and blue scarf went even more quickly. I brushed the entire scarf with slightly varied green tones as a background. Once that was dry, I began in the center with ultramarine blue and brushed a large spiral shape (leaving a fair amount of open space). Then, I brushed shades of turquoise next to the blue, again leaving some space for the background green to show. Finally, for the "special effects"  of spots and mottling you see, I sprinkled the wet surface with table salt and some chunky sea salt here and there for variety. Lightly spraying alcohol from a couple of different angles completed the piece. Both the salt and alcohol continue to work until the silk is completely dry, either drawing the dye in (salt) or repelling it (alcohol drops). So again, the process took on a life of its own, partly unexpected, although--since I had some experience with the materials by that time--partly as I had hoped and expected.

Question of the day: Do you prefer creative processes over which you (at least mostly) exert some control, or do you enjoy using media which to some degree, drive the creation in unexpected directions?