Thursday, September 29, 2016

Ocean-Inspired Aqua, Blue, and Purple Hand-painted Silk Scarf

An 11" x 60" one-of-a-kind, hand-painted silk scarf
     This ocean-inspired aqua, blue, and purple hand-painted silk scarf, 11" x 60", was a delight to paint. I used French-
style silk dyes and began with diluted blue and aqua to paint the large middle area in pale shades, blending well. Just as a clear sky shades slightly from a truer blue appearance overhead to a more aqua look nearer the horizon, I used blue in the very center and shaded to aqua further from center. 

     Of course, I was not trying to make a realistic ocean and sky picture, but hoped to suggest them. In the second stage, I used stronger (much less diluted) hues and began to work on the very ends. The mottled areas result from liberal doses of kosher salt--salt draws wet dye up to create random jagged patterns. What is the area meant to represent? you may ask. I had some thoughts, but mostly wanted some variety in the look of the ends of the scarf. People who have seen it each have their own ideas: currents deep down, the ocean bottom, coral, the movement of sea creatures. Take your pick; it's fun to imagine what shape and texture could represent.

Seen from another angle 

     Working up from the ends, I laid in wavy strips of various shades of blue, aqua, and purple, along with some deep rose. I had some of these shades premixed and ready; others resulted from the colors overlapping and mixing on their own or from adding subsequent tones over the first layer of color. 

     When I approached the "sky" area, I used gutta as a resist (more information here) to draw wiggly outlines for a suggestion of currents and waves (click on any photo to enlarge). Once the gutta had dried, I could continue to create undulating watery tones--using gradually lighted versions of the colors. Since French silk dyes are transparent up to seven layers of color, I could add and modify any of the hues until the result felt right.
The earlier silk scarf, made in my class

     When I originally learned the art of silk painting from Donna Kassab at the John C. Campbell Folk School (see posts about the class here), one of my first silk scarf creations (and still a favorite) was a 22" square ocean-inspired piece. That design sparked the long scarf shown in this post. The square piece looks odd in the photo because it had just come off the stretcher on which we paint on silks (it doesn't actually have a scalloped hem). My favorite aspects of French-style silk painting are the intense colors and the element of unpredictability in the process. Every creation feels like a discovery.

Question of the day: What colors and color combinations are your favorites?


  1. Wow! These are gorgeous. Colors are amazing, good for you!

  2. Thanks a bunch, Jo. The French silk dyes require steam-setting, so are more trouble than others, but I think the intensity of the colors is worth it.

  3. Mary, they are certainly intense colors that I love. Beautiful.

  4. I love the blues and how they change going down the scarf! My favorites are tones of blues or aquas, or some combination of purples with those colors.

  5. I appreciate your response, Joan, and also love the palette of aqua, blue, and purple. Since this particular scarf became a gift, I may make something similar for my own wardrobe sometime. Of course, every scarf is one-of-a-kind; the painting process I use is not like screen printing that can turn out multiples of the same design.