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Painting on Silk, Rayon and Cotton

The 7th Sign
Silk Carvings
Quilt Art

The following is about painting on silk, rayon and cotton, silk scrolls and silk carvings (see here for various descriptions of painting and silk art techniques and how the work is packed for shipping). I am currently working alternately on several series but they all have one theme in common: magic. Our whole life is surrounded by magic and this is what I want to make the viewer see.
Ancient cultures inherit magic. Sometimes simply because we fail to interpret ancient pictograms and images but we feel a certain affinity and similarity in modern symbols. This is pure emotion that speaks to our secret wishes and hopes. There is magic in all living creatures but seldom enough we care to see it. And there is magic in each and every landscape on this planet - sometimes quite obvious and sometimes only after a second look.

I mainly paint on silk or rayon because of the smooth surface, taking advantage of two major techniques which can easily be combined: various silk painting techniques and classic acryl painting. Another reason is that the colour pigments in silk and textile paints seem to "glow" in artificial light on the silk surface, apparently entering a kind of symbiotic relationship with the fabric. This is very beneficial to me as I prefer to paint with artifical light rather than natural.

The art of ancient Japanese and Chinese paintings on silk and paper scrolls intrigued me to develop my own scroll mounting techniques - so the silk scrolls are not glued to paper but entirely made from silk and other fabric. Scrolls are easier to handle for big size formats other than mounts on stretcher frames.

Finally the silk carvings mimick sculptured wall art such as carved stone or wooden reliefs but additionally offer the viewer new impressions due to the subtle shimmer of the silk material and its glorious colour intensity. The silk carvings are silk reliefs, sculptured from one single piece of silk and painted as well.

The fascination for silk has survived until today. Many artists in the past have been inspired by silk and mastered a medium that was precious. Today silk is available to nearly anybody and any budget but nevertheless working with silk requires more attention and skills than with other materials especially when it comes to painting.

Painting on silk requires acceptance of unplanned results - paints cannot be removed and a silk painting cannot simply be overpainted. The colours which are applied to silk (if you use special silk paints) react like a dye and immediately merge with the fabric. Errors are normally "fatal" and cannot be corrected. Any technique on silk is rather unforgivable and thus requires a lot of practice. The final result of your painting may look completely different when dry. All colours tend to become much lighter when dry for example and colour intensity weakens slightly. This is something you cannot control at all but makes silk painting so exciting and unpredictable.

Experimenting with more than pure silk painting techniques, which are similar to watercolour painting techniques, I discovered that oil and acrylic painting techniques can also be applied to silk painting. Although the feel of the silk changes of course depending how thick paint is applied (if using impasto) from being that soft and smooth feel to rather a feel of a regular heavily painted canvas, it still can be quite intriguing to mix all those techniques. There is no rule where to stop other than not using oils on a piece of silk. That would simply destroy the silk fiber. Using acrylics on silk is to my knowledge no problem at all. On the contrary - I have realized that finishing silk paintings with one or two layers of acrylic clear finish and a final layer of matte fixative (sprayed) does not only protect the surface but gives it also that charming texture of very old oil paintings with a little crease here and there and tiny uneven patches. Still the surface is much smoother than that of acrylic or oil paintings. I just love this effect.

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