in the last post, i did a lot of setup. washing, stretching, putting down thousands of sodium alginate dots to represent stars later on. then i took charcoal and outlines the shapes i could determine within the starfield. humans make patterns out of random collections of objects. i saw loads of figures in the milky way. and someday i might just go ahead and draw in the figures i see, rather than draw in vague abstract shapes that remind me of figures. today i’m starting the painting. this sequence actually lasted two or three days, i’m not sure at this point. but my feet hurt.
first down was some diluted yellow. you can barely see that. it dried, and then i put on some diluted magenta. it’s still wet, and you can see the water spreading out around the spots, while the dye is staying in place better. i’m putting on these colors with a toothbrush, thumbing tiny or large drops of color onto the silk. what i’m doing is putting on the lighter colors first, as you would for watercolor. you reserve the whites, which i did with the resist, then you put on the lightest colors of all, and work over them toward your darkest colors. this works exactly the same way in silk, but more in the beginning than the end. it’s really easy to get muddy colors in watercolor, and almost impossible to do in silk painting. that’s because pigments are ground up bits of rocks, and dyes are chemical mixtures (or maybe just way more ground up rocks, who knows at this point).
now comes the dilute cyan, and i’m seeing that i put it on over the still-wet magenta. putting a color down over wet silk gives a different effect, a different rate of spread, than putting it down over dry silk. and any silk treated with certain things won’t let the dye spread at all, or even catch into the threads. it might be a science, but i treat it like an art, and get a different result every time.
and here’s the first black, diluted. all the colors have been diluted so far, way diluted. because even when they blend all together, they’re going to be a light gray. if you look closely at all the preceding photos, and the following one, you’ll see the tiny dots of more resist being applied over the fresh dye. this way there’re going to be yellow stars, and blue ones, and red ones, and black ones, and purple ones, and brown ones and green ones. all over the place.
now this corner of the veil that i’m showing is not one of the light parts of the scarf. those are in the middle. this corner is a mid gray, sort of bluish. it’s a mid gray when you’re seeing it from a distance. it’s all colors when you look at it close up. that’s what makes this kind of painting so difficult. there’s no scale, so you don’t know how to judge it. if you look at it from one distance, it looks like the worst piece of crap. and if i’m lucky, looking at it from another distance conveys the exact image i had in my head when i decided to paint it.
that dark blotchy stuff near the top of the picture is sugar syrup. i use it as a resist, but it doesn’t behave like the alginate resist – it moves. it’s thick syrup, so it flows, and when you get it wet, it flows in really cool patterns. so it makes a totally different kind of resist, and looks particularly good in nebula paintings. i put it down over a red splotch and some almost white areas so they would stay the colors they are and not turn black as i continue dumping darker colors on it.
here is some more sugar syrup. this is to reserve some of these nice mid grays while the rest of the place gets splattered with stronger and stronger black. i’m still putting down dots even over these colors. that’s because not all the resist is going to stay. a lot of it is going to dissolve into the dye, and go away. so i have to keep putting it on just to hedge my bets.
at this point i have switched to brushes, and i’m using a large one to put in ever darker blacks. you can see the darkest part, to the right, is brushstrokes rather than drops and splatters. i’m trying to make the central band of clouds in the milky way as dark as i can. it’s not showing up very well in these photos. and it’ll wash out, no matter how good it looks when i’m thru painting it. that’s the bad part about silk painting. it washes out.
the shiny stuff on the right is sugar syrup twinkling. i’ve been flooding the place with blacks, and reds, and blues, in great amounts, hell even some yellow just dumped on there, running down the middle. not that bad, i’m exaggerating slightly. but it does get vigorous near the end.
and this is the last bit here, who knows what i’ve just put down, but it’s the last step but one.
here i’ve gone and gotten the whole surface wet, sprayed it with a mix of half vinegar and half water. the vinegar is there to try to help the dye set into the silk. i have so much trouble with my dyes fading, and i’m sure it’s because they’re old and i don’t keep them cool, and they’ve deteriorated. so i’m making the whole thing acidic, and when i steam it hopefully it will make the dyes set nicely. we’ll see.
what the spray does is to make everything blend and move. it might have looked nice if i had left it without spraying; see the picture before that for what this looks like. but by getting it wet i’m making the sugar syrup run, and this produces fluid motion in the dyes that i find fascinating and attractive. so i always tend to run water over the syrup, and i tend to use the syrup in order to then violate the resist.
you can’t control anything when you do art this way.
this is the finished veil hanging out to dry. the part you’ve been looking at is the lower left corner. right now it’s a completely different veil than it’s going to be once it’s set and washed out. the sugar syrup and the resisted dots don’t show up at this point, and a lot of the colors will fade out when i wash it. we’ll see. it’s got to rest for a couple of days, and then i’ll steam set it, and it’ll rest for a couple more days, and then i can wash it out.
next up: a much smaller milk way for a present, and after that a bunch of feraminafora! stay tuned.