a couple of silk scarves

i need to make a present for the woman who administers the residency.  she’s been so kind to me, and put up with all my fool questions, and she deserves something for herself.  and since i have no money – duh – i must make her some art.

jim designed me a couple of scarf patterns with puffins, and a couple with fairies, and they’re so complex that i’ve never made scarves of them.  the puffin scarf is simpler than the fairies, so i started on it first.

you can’t see much in the photo above, but it shows the setup.  80″ stretchers and 18″ stretchers, fabric clips and rubber bands.  i’ve already inked in the lines with the resist.  this was difficult because jim’s lines are delicate, and you’ve got to have very dark lines to see thru the silk.  in fact, i couldn’t see thru the silk, and had to keep lifting the scarf off the pattern in order to see it.  consequently my drawing isn’t the best.  i’ll use a different technique with the fairies.

here’s a closeup.  you can see two birds, with an island behind their heads, and the top of a rocky hill at their feet.  there’s the line of the ocean, an another line for the cloud base.

since i’m practicing for my art residency in cill rialaig, i’m using all the same materials i’ll be using out in the back of beyond, so the resist is made of sodium alginate, mixed up by hand and squeezed out thru a plastic bottle.

the moment i started on this scarf i decided to take all my silk supplies.  i had decided against it because silk is kind of equipment-heavy.  namely, you need a steamer pot at the very least.  but if i keep my silks dry and wrapped in paper i should be able to keep them until i bring them home at the end of my residency and steam them once i’m back.  i can do it.

so that’s more i have to pack into an already stuffed bag.  not the steamer, fine, but 4 little bottles of fabric dye, and i’d sure as shit better wrap them up tightly in case they burst in the luggage.

here’s the first stage.  i’ve taken three shots of the scarf at each stage, and overlapped them to make a single image.  you can see the acid green base i put down over all the land features, the first of many applications of black on the birds, a blue-black on the sea and in the clouds, and a nice sunset orange for the bit of sky you can see in the distance.  the same red adds texture in the hillside.  it looks pretty bad at this stage.  unfortunately, it continued to look bad all the way up to the end.

altho it doesn’t look like i did much, i worked on the landscape a bit, indicating the landforms.  and deepened the ocean and sky colors some, too.

here’s where you can see some changes.  i haven’t been happy with the dirt/rock part of the landscape yet.  it’s too unformed, too stiff.  the birds suck, too, because of the awkwardness drawing them in.  the island in the background isn’t looking too bad, but that green is really awful.  american tourist green.  this is the place where i complained to jim that i was struggling constantly with it, and his recommendation was that i start on the fairy scarf instead.

which whipped up my desire to finish it.  so i darkened everything even more.  blue went over the green until it stopped glowing.  black went over the sea until it had some movement.  black and more blue went over the clouds, and i muddied the area above and below the sunset band of light.

this is the place, where if it were a watercolor, i would start splashing paint everywhere in an attempt to hit the end point by an overwhelming margin.  it works much the same way in silk, except that you can’t make mud.  if you add too much color, it simply gets richer.

so this is where i took it off the stretchers and let it hang over the back of a door to cure for a day or two while i start on the fairy scarf.  we’ll see which of the two of them i’m not ashamed of.  because it’s really difficult to know what to give an irish arts professional.  the subjects i’ve chosen – puffins, fairies – are cliches, irish tourist themes, and it could be considered insulting to try to make a picture of something thousands of miles away and then pass it off as serious art and not just a kitchy picture postcard ripoff.


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