project – lava silk painting

holuhraun, or nornahar as they’re calling it in iceland, the new lava on top of holuhraun, which is actually old lava.  from bardarbunga, a volcano that erupted JUST AFTER i left iceland this summer.  waaah.  i’ve been watching it on the web, tracking its progress.  and one day i came upon this picture:

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and couldn’t wait to put it down on silk.  it’s going to be one of my icelandic series of silk paintings, and by far the most difficult of them all.  i had to make three test scarves before i could be sure of the process.  and the next thing to do is make a production run of four.  but here is a sample of the irritations involved in creating a scarf way out of your own league.

the big technical deal about this scarf is that the warmest, most glowing and purest colors are right next to the most murky black, and the texture is something i can only consider sugar syrup for.  fine water-soluble resist on most of the other details, fine.  but for lava, only a smear of syrup over color is going to work.  but how?

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the first thing is always a template, unless i’m feeling bold, and if it’s a successful first try i’ll still transfer it to paper for a proper template.  once a scarf design is down and proven to be good, i roll it up and use it over and over for as many scarves as i feel the need to make.  usually i go for multiples of two, because i steam them side by side in a tall steamer.  in this case i’m trying to make a bunch of scarves for the giftshop in olafsfjordur (ugla (owl) gallery), so i’ll try for 4 of them.  but first i have to get it right.

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this is the first step of the first test scarf – put on the boldest orange where the lava will go.  and while i was at it, i put in the flames of the lava fountain above the growing cinder ridge of new lava.  the dark, gummy stuff on top is sugar syrup, squeezed from a bottle in rings, and then mushed and spread with my finger.  you can see a fingerprint in the middle.  i have already drawn in the resist lines – you can see this in the white of the bottom of the scarf.  and i have put syrup on top of the resist line for the lava, but i still drew it.

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here’s a closeup.  the purple is one of the streams of water that the lava is encroaching upon, which accounts for much of the smoke.  you can see the lava’s upper resist line well in this photo, with the flames above.

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this is how the first scarf turned out.  the good part is to find that the dye formula i’m using is washfast.  the bad thing is that i got the lava too black, and the black washed right into the lava color when it was wet, and ruined the effect.  because i made everything run after painting it all in, as i usually do.  the runs look cool everywhere else but the lava.  so i’m on the right track.

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the second scarf should have turned out beautifully, except i was experimenting with the steaming method.  i want to switch to my little steamer for travelling, and i also want to use fabric to steam, rather than paper.  but fabric is way too absorbent, and paper is less so.  the fabric (an old sheet) got wet, the scarf got wet instead of steamed, and ran all over my fabric.  so very little of the dye was retained on the silk.  it’s cool looking, but not what i need.  but i can see i was on the right track with the lava.

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so, third try is the charm.  this time i put in a bunch of colors before bothering with the sugar syrup.

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then when i stuck the syrup on i used a palette knife to smear it, and put it on rather more thickly in spots where i wanted more lava to shine thru.

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the black only went on where i didn’t want to have burning lava, and i had to make sure i was seeing the negative space when i put it on.  i will be careful not to let this part get wet so it doesn’t bleed.  usually when i use sugar syrup i want it to bleed later, for that ferny mixing effect of the colors.  but in this case, i’m using syrup because of its resistive properties, and don’t want to mess with it and dilute the color balance.

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okay, here i’m getting a little dark for my tastes with the surrounding night and reflections on the river.  to tell the truth, the dyes i mixed up were very strong, and didn’t flow the way i’m used to, so they streaked and i had to scrub the colors in while the surface was wet.

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then lots of red and everything finished and ready for water.

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and this is what heppened.  the blue bled the red and everything but those awful red lines in the foreground blended right down to atmospheric.

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but, this is the finished test scarf, all washed out and ironed.  it turned out fine.  i want to make the lava more orange, rather than yellow, but the techniques are solid, and i can start into production with the assurance that i have a viable design.

i think it’s lovely.

scarves for sale

jim yarbrough
jim yarbrough

in order to help fund our upcoming trip to venice, and coincidently because i have come across a bunch of scarves i made and hadn’t sold, i’m going to put up about a dozen scarves for sale, here on this blog as well as in our new etsy shop.  both jim and i will be selling the things we make in venice.  in his case, he’ll be making a pastel painting a day, and in my case, i’ll be making watercolor paintings and silk scarves, all with venice as the theme.

so in order to tweak my settings, i’m trying to download a paypal thingie, and trying to mark all my scarves with their own paypal ID, and all that stuff.  i’m a newbie, so this is going to be ugly until i catch the hang of it.  so please pardon the rudeness of actually trying to make money off my art.  it’s crass, but i want to go to venice, so i’ll beg.  or something.

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ORANGE SUNLIGHT.
this is an abstract scarf. i did a whole series of them when i first discovered the use of sugar syrup.  i’m not sure, but i might well have soaked the scarf in sugar syrup and let it dry, then twisted it lengthwise and dashed yellow and red, and maybe a bit of black onto it, and let it sit forever until the dye finished spreading into the syrup.  it’s a wonderful way to put color on silk, and this is the only one i have left of a whole batch of scarves that have flown with the wind.

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NEBULA.
this is one of my nebula series.  this one’s the eye of god nebula.  you can see the stars of the galaxy in the darkness, and then a nebula, outshining all the suns in the sky.  the stars were made with dots of resist, and the features of the nebula were made with sugar syrup for the spots of white, painted around with blue, then bands of purple, black, and red.  the crenellations of black in these rings were probably made by running clear water along right beside the freshly laid black.  and the texture in the inky blackness was made by pitching salt onto the fresh black dye.

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DRAGON.
my dragon series.  actually, jim did the drawing for the dragons, as he does so much else of the scarf designs i use.  there are two or three dragon drawings that i base my scarves on, and i’m not sure which one this is.  i still have all the dragon design templates, and can pull them out and make another batch any time.  they’re very popular, and this is only one of two that i still have (the other one is in green).  for this one the outer lines of the dragon’s form are in water based resist (sodium alginate), while the crest and the scales are outlined in sugar syrup.  to color the scales i first take red, and put just a dab inside the round top of each scale.  then i put a dab of yellow inside each scale right in the middle.  finally, a drop of blue goes right at the sharp tip of each scale.  after i’ve laid in all the colors for the head, the tale, feet, and crest, i lay in the background, using salt for texture.  and then, with careful abandon, i run clear water over everything, one section at a time.  so the head becomes blended, also the feet.  and with clear water i violate all of the syrup lines, running water over each one of them and wetting the dye so it runs all over the place.  you can see this best along the crest, where it’s obvious where the sugar line was overwhelmed by water and dye, which emerged from the crest and turned the surrounding background red.

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SEA TURTLES.
this is one of my most complicated scarves.  jim designed it of course.  i asked him to draw this scarf after going off to south carolina’s beaches one summer and just missing a nestfull of loggerhead turtles on their run down to the water.  my sister has several of these scarves.  the sand was done using a resist paste and a sponge, dabbing the pebbly design down on the white scarf and then coming back in with light blue or light brown.  the turtles and shells were outlined with sodium alginate resist, and the waves and tracks, as well as the details on the turtles, were put in with sugar syrup.  everywhere the syrup was put, water was put afterwards in order to make the colors bleed.  a really wonderful scarf, and the last one i have. iIt was a labor of love, and has more details than most of my scarves, and it’s absolutely gorgeous. you’ll want to frame it, but I hope you wear it.

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RUSSIAN BLUES.
because a friend of mine had a pair of russian blue cats, i made this design from a photo i shot at her place one afternoon.  they’re sleeping on top of a stuffed dog figure on my friend’s couch.  i made a run of these and this is the last one.

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CRANES AND STREAM.
too bad i can’t show this right side up, but it would take up too much of the page.  when i designed a set of kimono for my sister’s wedding, i also made the designs into scarves that went along with the kimono.  this one was based on my sister’s kimono, and there’s a standing dragon for her husband’s, which i don’t have a sample of.  but for this one, taken from the idea of japanese scrollwork, cranes hang out along a meandering stream enjoying the irises and wiggly fish in the wiggly water.  this is one of the only scarves where i left a lot of white.  the water was done with sugar syrup, and some of the internal features of the birds.  everything else was put in with alginate resist, or painted on freehand.  you will notice some places where the water has escaped the banks of the river.  we call that a happy accident.  as with all these scarves, there aren’t any more left of this particular run of scarf designs.  but i still have the templates.

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ALLISON WONDERLAND.
this cheshire cat is significantly altered from the disney version, while still resembling it.  it’s actually a color chart that i developed to use in my silk painting classes.  one version, which isn’t for sale, is all marked up with color directions in resist, and runs the gamut of colors.  this one plays with a gradation of blue from full strength at the head to very light at the tip of the tail, and goes from blue purple thru red and all the way to yellow on the body.  the background texture was done with salt.  i’ve never done a production run of these scarves, only the class examples, such as this one.

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KELP FOREST.
this is a fish scarf of my own design, based on the vast seaweed and kelp forests just offshore of most stretches of coast i’m familiar with.  the fish were outlined with water based resist, the seaweed was put in with sugar syrup, and after the background was put in (an ombre of blue and black fading to light blue at the top), the seaweed was washed over with clear water to make things run.  you can see how the blue shifted in the lower middle of the scarf.

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JUPITER’S RINGS.
this is my only planet scarf.  mainly, i’ve done planets in encaustic, and some of them quite big, showing the curvature of the planet as well as the gunge layer of atmosphere and space junk (in our case), and maybe a couple of stars beyond.  many of my planet encaustic paintings are 3 or 4 feet wide.  these scarves are tiny by comparison, and don’t lend themselves to roundness, so i decided to make one showing the planet all stretched out, the way you’d map a sphere.  it was done mostly with sugar syrup resist; no, i’ll say it was all sugar syrup, and parts of it were probably painted with syrup and let dry before using dye.  and then washed with clear water to make everything run.  i only did one or two of these scarves, because of the amount of work that went into them.  they’re really beautiful up close.

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SEA FISH.
this fish painting was a mix of the sea turtle idea and the seaweed idea.  i made wavelike forms with sugar syrup and colored them with vegetable and ocean colors, and then soaked the background to make all the colors mix.  the fish were protected from this chaos by water based sodium alginate resist, and weren’t soaked, but gently blended inside the lines.  except one or two places where the resist line got wet and broke thru.

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FALL PLAID.
and this scarf, not the last one i have, but the last one i’ve photographed.  it’s a fall theme, with the outlines of a bunch of leaves i picked while on a dog walk, colored in maybe somewhat like the leaves were colored (i made a bunch of these scarves, and got all fanciful with the leaf colors, but it started out with portraits of the actual leaves in their fall colors.  i put in sugar syrup wind gusts, and then drew a plaid pattern in the background, with lines of red, yellow, and blue, running clear water over the whole background and making the sugar syrup lines run along with the lines of dyed plaid.

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as for the buy it now idea, funnily enough, i’ve got the wrong kind of wordpress blog.  i should be paying for my blog, and then i can install paypal and other plugins.  all i can do is put up a contact form.  but i can refer you to the etsy site, and link to each item from here, so i guess that’s what i’ll do.  not quite as crass as big BUY NOW buttons, but i guess that’s okay too.

i hope you enjoy the scarf designs.  they are all 11×60 inches, made of 10mm habotai silk bought as blanks from dharma trading.  these are all old scarves at this point, and their templates are rolled up in a largish box, ready to use for another batch, if the whim takes me.  however, at the moment i am making icelandic themed scarves, and working up a production batch of the three – no, four – designs i came up with based on my travels this past summer.  and during the next few months, i will be working up a whole mess of venice themed scarves.  so this will likely be the last of these scarves for some time, and once they’re gone i will have to be very whimsical indeed to run another batch of them.  except for the dragon scarves.  i always make them.