new post on trollagerdi project

hi there, i thought i would redirect interest to the project page, here, where there’s a new post about our project.  i just finished a funding application, and it was so helpful that i thought i’d let people see how ambitious it is a year and a half out…


wall mural 9

yesterday, or was it the day before, i took the pot of blue that i’ve been mixing things into, and put it on the wall straight.  it’s quite blue.  i was careful to blend it over the blue black to

obscure the edge, feathering it with the side of the brush both onto the previous color and onto the white wall, tho that doesn’t seem to make any difference, as the next color goes on and obscures whatever is underneath.  a sense of closure, i suppose.  the blue black layer now appears more like a shadow than anything else, and that’s okay with me.


today was nice when i started…i took the blue from the can and added white this time.  not a whole bunch of white, about half and half.  and of course it’s too light, so i’m thinking i’ll be going over it with the straight blue once i’m done, to tone down the line.  the feathering didn’t make much difference in this case.  there was too much contrast.


this afternoon i went out again, in a slight drizzle, and painted it an even lighter blue, made by taking half of what i had and adding more white.  i now have lots of different pots of blue, just in case i have to resort to them before i’m finished.  i think that’s wise.


i’m going to keep adding white to the blue until i run out of room.  i’m getting it on the wood surrounding the picture, and i’ll have to decide what to do with the ‘frame’ when i’m finished.  maybe white housepaint, maybe a color.  maybe black.  i am planning on putting a raven at the lower right corner, where my signature should go.  we’ll see about signing it, but i’m positive about the raven.  ravens and trolls go together.

here are the relevant time lapses, 14, 15, 16, 17, 18, 19, 20, 21.

silk painting class preparation

i’m gong to be teaching a class on silk painting when i go to iceland this summer, and here is the description and the list of things i need to organize and learn about before i go.

this class is important in its emphasis on starting from the basics. most silk painters use premixed bottles of dye, resist, and other materials, and i’m going with the starving artist philosophy and mixing up everything that i can. part of the reason for this is because import restrictions and weight restrictions are onerous, and if i ship the raw materials then i won’t have to be bringing heavy bottles of liquids with me. also, supplies for silk painting are thin on the ground in iceland, so it behooves everybody to learn how to work from raw materials. plus, i’m a cheap artist, and hate giving my money to companies that offer convenience at a price.

introduction to silk painting, 2 days

day 1, morning.

cheshire cat color chart

mixing up dyes, water-based resist, sugar syrup

make pattern

draw resist lines

day 1, afternoon

dye color chart

day 2, morning.

dragon scarf

steam color chart

make pattern

draw resist lines, sugar syrup resist

dye scarf, salt texture

day 2, afternoon

wash out color chart

steam dragon scarf


here’s the course description:

This is an introductory 2-day workshop on silk painting. We will cover the basics of silk painting, including direct painting with the watercolor technique, painting inside resist lines with the serti technique, painting an ombre (or gradation of colors), and the use of textures (salt and sugar).

On the first morning, we will work on making color chart scarves. We will learn how to mix up the necessary chemicals, including water based resist and sugar syrup, and we will copy a pattern and apply resist lines to our scarves.

On the first afternoon, we will color in our color chart scarves.

On the second morning, we will steam our color chart scarves. Then we will start on our second scarves, copying the pattern and resist lines for dragon scarves. Building on our skills, these scarves will used more advanced techniques, such as salt and sugar resists and textures.

In the afternoon, we will wash out our color chart scarves, and fix the dragon scarves using a variety of fixing techniques.

This class is open to everyone, and is appropriate for the absolute beginner as well as the professional artist who wants to learn a new skill.


here’s the supply list, coded

A is for items i will be bringing

B. is for items i hope to buy in iceland

C. is for items that need to be built or found

A. calgon water softener (chemical)

A. colored resist

A. dye powder, cmyk (chemical)

A. eye droppers

A. large and small sumi brushes

A. metal applicator tips

A. patterns

A. pins

A. plastic applicator bottles for resist and syrup (large and small)

A. plastic egg cartons

A. silk clips

A. silk scarves

A. soda ash (chemical)

A. sodium alginate (chemical)

A. sponge brushes

A. synthrapol detergent (chemical)

A. thiox fabric bleach (chemical)

A. urea (chemical)

B. blank newsprint

B. kraft paper

B. masking tape

B. measuring cups

B. measuring spoons

B. paper towels

B. plastic garbage bags

B. rubbing alcohol (chemical)

B. salt

B. sharpies

B. sugar

B. white vinegar (chemical)

B. wire coat hangers

C. light table

C. microwave

C. pressure cooker

C. rice steamer

C. stovepipe steamer

C. stretcher bars


i need to figure out if i can source items marked B and C locally, and intend to ship items marked A.


things i need to do before the class

figure out and test the use of mx dyes in liquid form

test dye handling (vinegar presoak, soda ash) and textures

figure out how to steam set the same day as the item is dyed

explore steaming alternatives



rice steamer

pressure cooker

soda ash

explore sodium alginate alternatives

wheat paste

rice paste

fish glue???

prepare blog posts and handouts

figure out how to make sodium alginate

see about local availability of items marked C

find out if we can get chemicals locally

i need to order at least 2 dozen scarves and brushes, more silk clips, more chemicals


so, if you’re interested in taking this course in july of 2014, please contact listhus i fjallabyggd for more information.

project – aurora scarves

i recently was asked to help edit the translations on a book about northern lights. and was very taken with one of the photos, so i decided to make a few scarves of the photo.


i ordered a dozen scarves from dharma trading company, mixed up a batch of sodium alginate resist, and began. after steaming the first batch of scarves i noticed that the yellow was very weak, and basically washed right out. so i started mixing my own yellow using the mx powdered dyes. i’ll be doing more experimentation with this process in the coming months, but for now i’ll just show you the process on the 5 scarves i managed to complete.


okay. the first thing i did was to put into grayscale and enlarge my reference photo many times, and tile it onto a bunch of sheets of paper until it was the size of my scarves, which i think are 72″ long. i taped them up, outlined it with a sharpie so i could see it thru the silk, and pinned the whole thing to the back of a scarf. then i slapped it onto my light box (thanks elizabeth) and used my resist to outline all the black marks.


you can see the pattern on the top, on many sheets of paper. on the bottom is one of the scarves that i have just finished putting hte resist on. it’s a scarf i’d already started painting that i didn’t like, so i washed it out and started over. so this is what a scarf looks like if you don’t steam set it. everything but some of the red and blue just wash right out.


for the details on the mountain i used several tints of black mixed with some red and yellow to make a nice brown color. and since i don’t care about things like that, i turned the frame vertically and let it drip off. adds texture, yeah.


here you can see my mixes of colors for the mountains. they go from kind of dark to watery clear, just by adding water. if it’s going to be t his watery, tho, you want to add a few drops of rubbing alcohol to aid in wetting the scarf, else it’ll just roll off and not take.


here’s the scarf with the beginnings of the sky put in. this one happens to be one of the silk and wool scarves i did first, as special presents for my friends in iceland, and they don’t take up the dye like regular habotai scarves, so i thought it was particularly ugly. the colors just didn’t run like they ‘should’.


so i sprayed the whole thing with water and added more color, and some salt, and it turned out much better.


this is the beginning of another scarf, this time on habotai, which is what i usually work on. i’m putting in the sea in roughly 12-inch lengths, pausing to sprinkle rough salt on it, and going on. you can see the watermark right in the middle where the second section starts, and you can start to see the dye being drawn by the salt. it’s still wet when i took the picture. above, on the white, you can see the resist.


i did the sky in a variety of colors, using lots of salt. i put in the acid green color (looks like yellow here) and hten some darker green on top of that, but it was still ugly, so i took lots of dark green dye on my brush and flicked it onto the scarf, trying to be accurate in my aim (haha). and more salt. you can see that it’s still wet because of the dark spots inside the green drops.


at this point i turned the frame vertically and sprayed the hell out of it to get everything wet and running. this is a delicate moment, and it’s really easy to make it run too much and spoil things, so it has to be watched. btw, when the scarf is wet like this, the salt will remain on it even when it’s vertical, so it can still draw the dye.


and this is what it looked like once it dried. i probably turned it upside down while it was still wet, too, and more than likely added even more dye.


but the whole thing turned out looking pretty good. unfortunately, something happened. read on.


however. once it was steam fixed and washed out, most of the yellow came right out. and by this time i was using an old bottle of yellow that was horribly weak, so i added some powdered dye to it, soaked the scarves in vinegar and let them dry, and then went over them with yellow, steamed them again, and was a lot happier with them. unfortunately i don’t have an after picture for it.


i’ve been experimenting with different ways of setting the scarves. for the ones i had to recoat with yellow, i put plastic over my ironing board, got a towel really wet, and put the scarf on top, put a piece of kraft paper on it, and steam the hell out of it. then i roll it up and wrap the towel around it, put it in a plastic garbage bag, and stuck it in the microwave. for 3 minutes. and 3 minutes. and then screw it, for 6 minutes. and when i took it out, there were scorch marks on the paper. and scorch marks on the silk. which means it’s ruined. i was so depressed. this is what happened to my scarf that turned out so well (second from the top).


here’s a closeup to torture myself with. the scorched parts are very ripe, meaning they are brittle and shred with the slightest pressure. i went ahead and poked holes into the scorch marks with my finger, just to make sure. but nope, they were ruined.


so, unwilling to throw anything away when i don’t have to, i cut them into pieces, cutting around hte scorch marks, and turned them into a bunch of snot rags, which only i use, everybody else being addicted to kleenex. and now i have a full drawer of snot rags (it being winter and my nose dripping constantly). so there.

and in all i have 5 scarves in this pattern, which i’m saving to use as fundraisers in iceland, else that or gifts. i am ordering another dozen scarves and will do some more, and these will be my experiments in using powdered dyes.

because i’m sick of using dyes somebody mixed up and won’t say what’s in them and sell them at a great profit. and these dyes you can’t ship to iceland without huge expenses, and since i’m going to be teaching a workshop, i might as well teach people how to do every part of this on the cheap. because that’s what kind of artist i am.

refining a pubic art project

this project will go thru several stages (see previous posts, below). when i do a public art project all by myself, i spend many hours working up ideas before i settle on one, refine it with several drawings, then submit one drawing, as finished as possible, to whoever gets to approve my project.

but this public art project is different for many reasons. nobody put out a call for artists with a preselected site and materials and budget. it’s my idea, and i’m bringing it forward hoping to get people interested. so i will encounter resistance simply because nobody but me is thinking this way and it’s my job to get them interested. but i don’t have a finished final drawing to show them. i just have an idea – hey, i’d like to do a public art project in north iceland! whoopee! but all anybody can say to that is, ‘okay, and…?’

another reason it’s different is that much of it has to be done from thousands of miles away. which means a lot of other people will be involved. a lot of the work i’ll be doing will be done right here, on my computer, in emails and blog posts and facebook messges. others will have to choose a site and prepare it, make local contacts and organize the participants. i hope to minimize the burden on others, but the work they put into the project will mean it becomes their project, rather than mine. which is great.

the reason for this update is because my contact on the ground, the wonderful director of my art residency, has been talking to people around town about the ideas she and i brainstormed together in some facebook messages. and one of the people she’s been talking to came up with a really good objection to one of my ideas, which is that wildflower gardens take maintenance. and my whole operating method is to bring my art to a certain stage of completion and then walk away. so, because i don’t want to cause a train wreck, i am rethinking my idea.

the suggestion was that we might make some use of all the rock that came out of the tunnel that now connects the two towns of fjallabyggd. it was just finished a couple of years ago, and i’ll just bet there are tons and tons of rocks of all sizes and shapes, just lying around collecting moss.

here is an example of the rocks from the tunnel, decorating Menntaskólinn á Tröllaskaga, the local junior college.

the suggestion was also made that we could take the fairies into account.

i am of two minds about this. i believe in fairies, and you don’t mess with them. they are a proud people and don’t like being dissed.  but when you talk about rocks, and rocks of a certain size, and rocks which aren’t a normal part of the landscape, then i think fairy houses. so, maybe, we could use some of the rocks blasted out of the mountain, and make a fairy city. if the fairies didn’t mind, and the townspeople didn’t mind.

google translate gives álfur uppgjör, i’m sure there are many other ways to say it in icelandic, but i like Huldufólkbyggd. fjallabyggd is the name of the conjoined towns, and olafsfjord has a lot of -byggd streetnames.  i assume they refer to the fact that these streets used to be swampy vacant land, and i assume they were built up in recent decades.  byggd sometimes translates to ‘built-up area.’

so, the idea i came back with, based on practical criticism of my plan and a good suggestion for an alternative, is this.

we can take a number of rocks, not large ones but too big for people to lift, from whatever pile they’re in, and move them to a suitable site (which we’re working on finding). then, we can build a tiny little town of fairy houses.  we could make a design of our own, or even a small version of olafsfjordur itself.  we can make streets of paving sized stones, and buildings of larger rocks set into or on top of the ground. then we can decorate them as fairy houses, and plant flowers and grasses around them.

this would require a whole lot of participation by the people who live there.  for instance, i would like to open the design of the elf city to people who live there. we could have a contest, all ages. then, the ground that is selected will need to be cleared and prepared. and then the rocks have to be selected, moved, and placed.  this is real work, and it would be great if there was some local funding to compensate the people who will do this.  perhaps that kickstarter campaign…

the fun part would come after all the grunt work. i want to get the children involved in decorating the buildings. kids are great at painting, and they could make really good doors and windows, roofs, other architectural details.  if it was decided to make a mini-olafs, then they would be really good at making small copies of all the buildings in the town.

we would put annual flowers in front of the houses, and make streetsigns, and have a big party to open the exhibit. while i’m in the town, i will make up special seed packages to give out, and then later, in the fall, people can plant them around the fairy houses, which will grow next year, and hopefully make a permanent garden around the stones.

that’s my idea at the moment.  i have sent it off to the people who are interested in it, in facebook messages, and when they have a chance to think about it, they will respond with their thoughts, and i will think about what they say and redesign the project again.

if anybody reading this has an opinion or suggestion, i welcome them.