Tools of the Trade
I paint on silk, an ancient Asian art. I order my supplies from Dharma Trading Co. The dye is vibrant and liquid, like easter egg dye. Depending on the amount of water, it spreads quickly, allowing the blending of colors directly on the silk. Value is controlled with water, and white areas need to be left. All marks are permanent. When painting, the silk must be suspended some how. I use frames, vices, or looms - depending on the size of the piece. Gutta is a liquid resist that comes in a tube with a tip that comes in various sizes. The artist learns to draw with this. Learning to apply the right amount of pressure with an even flow and control can be a daunting task. The blow dryer is used to dry the gutta and wet material. Regular paint brushes can be used. If the piece needs to be touchable or washable, then I chemically treat it. An older method is steaming, which I tried once and decided it belonged in the past.
Here is the gutta, which comes in several colors like black, gold, clear, and white.
Portrait of "Poopsie" Progression
"Filly in Repose" Progression
"Noble Threat" Progression
Portrait of "Jax" Progression
My patterns are minimal and gesture. I mostly draw directly on the silk with the gutta. The effect is like a pen and ink, but sticky and not consistent. Once dry, the gutta is ironed, and the piece is stretched. I must make sure all lines are enclosed so the dye does not escape and bleed, or embrace the "happy accident." Next, I work back to front - the background, moving from light to dark, the oppositie of traditional oil painting. I can use a "No Flow" product to slow the spread in delicate areas like the eye, but it does not stop the spread completely. The process can be very unforgiving.
This is the beginning of "Undaunted by Hail." This is a 10 foot silk kite for the Lewis and Clark traveling kite exhibit.
Here I have finished the gutta process and have ironed it and have painted the sky. The sky can be difficult because I need to plan white areas. Dye will continue to spread for several minutes, depending on the amount of water on the silk. Also, I need to work very quickly, for once the dye dries on the silk, trying to go over an area again will only create water marks. Sometimes the artist may want water spots. Salt can also be used for interesting texturing.
I always like to work back to front, cool to warm. Here I have layered the dye to create the foreground. I need to be extremely careful not to drop water on what is completed, or I will have to re work the entire area and risk losing highlighted areas.
After many hours of stress, the painting is done. Next, I allowed it to dry and cure for several days. Since this piece would not be behind glass and needed to be touchable, I treated it. This can be frightening because if the dye has not cured, it can move slightly. Also, some vibrancy can be lost in the treatment, although generally not much. I mix the chemical in a bucket and soak scarves and other items, but since this was so large, I just used a large foam brush to saturate it as fast as possible. Then I allowed it to dry well. The final step was to wash it with clear water. Then the dye should be set.
Normally, I just paint on a scarf or a piece of silk. However, for this project I was given the kite pre made. No mistake could be made since I would not have another kite to use. I collaborated with Drake pictured here with his wife. He is an amazing artist who sews and designs all the kites for the Lewis and Clark kite exhibit. He travelled to Great Falls for the reveal and kite flying celebration.
At the celebration many of my students came to fly the kite, which would travel the country for the year representing Montana. Here is Jacob and Jared, both now young men. Jean Price, who introduced me to silk painting, is also pictured here.
We were blessed with a beautiful day to fly the kites.