Imagine a piece of shimmering, white, silk stretched on a frame. You dip your brush into some liquid dye and touch it to the silk. Instantly there’s an explosion of brilliant color as the dye spreads over the silk. Add another color and the dyes dance together on the silk, moving and blending as they go. Add water or salt, and spontaneous organic textures develop and take on a life of their own.
I love that painting on silk is such an interactive process - it’s a dance between the artist, the liquid, transparent colors spreading across the surface, and the silk itself, which influences how the dyes react with it. I love the way the already luminescent silk develops extra sparkle when it is dyed. As the dyes move and merge on the silk, the result is a creation that can never be reproduced exactly, so that each piece is truly one-of-a-kind.
While my fascination with silk painting lies in the dance of the liquid dyes on the silk fabric, another fiber technique has caught my fancy in recent years – the ancient art of felting. Felting for me is all about tactile pleasure... the creation of dimensional texture and design… it’s like painting with fiber.
In Felting, loose wool and other fibers are layered together and saturated with soapy water. Physical agitation causes the loose fibers to interlock with each other. The process causes shrinkage of the wool fibers, which pull the other fibers along with them, creating sinuous, organic textures. This is what excites me about felting! Glossy embellishment fibers like silk and bamboo make these textures even make alluring.
In a twist on traditional felting, Nuno felting incorporates fabric into the process, creating even more dimension as the wool fibers migrate through the fabric and make it fold and wrinkle during felting. I often use my painted silk in nuno felted pieces. Soft wool and shimmering silk... what's not to love?
I've recently started exploring acrylics and have fallen in love with the pouring method. This means that the paint - which is usually like a gel - is made more fluid and pourable by the addition of water and fluid acrylic mediums. Instead of using a brush, the paint is poured and dripped onto the support (canvas or sealed panel), then the support is tilted and turned to make the paint move around the canvas. Fingers, a palette knife, and air blown onto the wet paint, creates further movement. This technique is about 3 parts "going with the flow" and 1 part (or less) "control"!
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