Painting on Silk: not as easy as it looks...
When the first silk fabric was woven they might have said - white, boring, impossible to keep clean. It's painting on silk time to get some colour into it... it'll definitely look better.
Fashion, colour, silky fabrics... I'd never questioned how the manufacturers or silk artists had such wonderful designs and motifs. Painting on silk would be best left to those in the know. I just loved the finished product, silk shirts, silk blouses, even silk scarves for Christmas. Whether you or I could do Silk Painting with both and just one hand?
The question had never arisen. The feel of the silk garments, luxurious when stroked was all important. All that concerned me, what what it felt like to have garments in silk, luxurious when stroked. Pretty little silk knick-knacks, silk bags and silk cushions, I'd given away as presents. In fashion magazines, luxurious silk kaftans, silk lingerie and more were being advertised.
Holidays to me are all about opening your mind to new ideas, colour, touch... it could be holidays to Mexico, Spain, Cuba, Hong Kong or Thailand. Of the last two, I have deliriously fond memories of being spoiled for choice with silk garments.
Especially Hong Kong and Thailand, you name it, they had it; you want one a-la-carte clothes and/or shoes, they make one. I like to holiday somewhere hot, generally; but I did also enjoy going to the snows on occasions. Bulgaria and Austria. Names like Ischgl and St.Anton, Krazy Kanguruh and Mooserwirt spring to mind. We made firm friends with some of the people on holiday - those were the days, when I enjoyed skiing and apres-skiing... but the stroke in 1995 was ... a bad one. I couldn't walk, talk, read or write, and my short-term memory was severely affected, in that I couldn't remember anything; my mind was a total blank, not one idea at all. Including all those holidays and the experiences I enjoyed.
Imagine Groundhog Hour, never mind Groundhog Day. When your short-term memory goes walkabout, the concept of 'future' can be quite frightening, considering you've forgotten the beginning of a sentence when you're halfway through it. At that time, whether long-term memory was affected was unknown since I had such a challenge with short-term. To say it was a low point in my life would be an understatement.
But, as I began to recover some little bits of who I really was, learning to read again and write with my left hand and draw and paint (I was a right hander before my stroke), my husband felt that it was very important to generate interest... any sort of interest. Chaining my short-term memory to the wall to avoid it wandering off again was a constant challenge. To think outside of myself, my ideas were too close. I was being blinkered, with just day to day living; it was time to broaden my horizons.
Maybe art was a good starting point. Any ideas? We started off by charcoal drawing. No colour.. I didn't like that at all, even though I could barely talk, my gestures conveyed my displeasure. My husband Murray got very good at charades after a while. Next we tried pastel drawing, a little bit better.
Though, I tired quite easily as my one and only hand had to compensate for the other. My right arm was just lying on the arm-rest on the wheelchair, and my left hand did all the work. After 10 minutes I would have this excruciating shoulder pain. Hmmm ... Onto the next few ideas...
Finally, I tried painting on silk. It was such a release. All that energy came out of nowhere, or somewhere locked deep inside. The colours of the paint were so beautiful and vivid; I could mix whatever shade I liked.... fabulous.
The ideas came pouring forth. It was good therapy I feel, and I was doing something I love. I love colour, so this medium of art was fantastic for me.
I started with quite small paintings, my control of the drawings (I had to draw free-hand in pencil first) was a bit shaky at first, as I was still getting used to writing, drawing, painting with my left hand.
And, because any two paintings will never be the same, drawing free-hand, mixing the colours, I have the option of changing the hue, to lighter and darker or alter it completely to get a kaleidoscope of complementary colours.
Gradually my designs grew, from being small and insignificant, to big and bold. My silk-paintings are quite large, so when they're completed, they can be worn as a scarf, can be framed as a picture and hang it up in your home, or an oversized silk-painting can be worn as a pareo.
It is so light, great for clothing capsule vacation ideas when packing clothes - great ideas!
:: Early efforts ::
As with most art, skill is required in dexterity as well as format, technique, perspective and balance... and a lot of patience. Silk painting is no different, perhaps leaning on the more annoying side as the medium is quite fickle because it appears to be as frictionless as herding cats - the silk paint can easily rocket off where you don't want it no matter how much you yell at it. Therefore resistance boundaries and other mechanisms are required to fashion the paint as required. Hence the title "not as easy as it looks".
I've since improved my techniques and gone for themes that are more vivid, as in intense, deep, searing, and perhaps even star-burst. These next two silk art paintings glint, glitter and dance. They have been inspired by the amazing silk art master Daniel Jean-Baptiste of St. Lucia.