Approach to Painting
I start by stretching the white silk tightly between two sawhorses. I then choose a subject, an intention or a color direction. I love the surprise and mystery of just grabbing a brush and a cup of dye – without knowing its exact color — and jumping in. This element of risk and playfulness is something I value – I don’t quite know how the color and design will emerge. This sets the tone for everything that unfolds.
Beyond brushes, dye and silk, the blow-dryer is my most often-used tool. It helps to slow or stop the dye from spreading, although never quite as I envision. I make spontaneous decisions and move quickly. There are always multiple layers. By avoiding the traditional methods of using wax ‘resist’ to create forms and outlines, I both challenge and inspire myself to let go, especially when dealing with more identifiable subject matter.
My approach is experimental. Acrylics, salt, alcohol, water and various kinds of silk lead gestures and surprise, or add drama, depth and focus. Each piece is steamed for several hours and then rinsed, ironed and transformed into its final art form. It may be artwork for the wall or ceiling; it may be used in home decor; it may be converted into apparel and accessories or printed onto final silk fabrics for my limited edition collections.
My approach to transforming fabric into clothing or ‘designs’ involves the same playful exploration of possibilities as the painting– from layering colors and textures in unexpected ways to re-purposing pieces to achieve a contemporary, fresh and sophisticated look.
1. What color is the silk when you start?
It’s completely white.
2. What kind of dye do you use?
I use a French dye that is specifically formulated for silk and wool. After painting, I must steam the silk for several hours to permanently set or “fix” the colors–this dye bonds to the silk proteins during the steaming process.
3. Is this art form like batik?
No, I paint while batik is a method of dying. While “dye” is used in both methods, I paint the dye onto the silk using a brush rather than dipping the material into vats of dye as in batik or tie dye.
4. Is painting on silk similar to working in any other medium?
It’s similar to watercolor, where layers of color are built up and where the artist must work to preserve the white or lightest colors as layers are added. After painting multiple layers, I steam the artwork, then rinse it and then iron it….sometimes I repeat the entire process so the piece maintains certain underlayers while becoming even richer and more complex.
5. Is painting on silk difficult – how do you control the dye from moving or bleeding?
It’s a very challenging medium because the silk is so absorbent and the dye moves rapidly and unpredictably. This leads to the distinct possibility of ‘losing’ the painting at any point. I can never go back or undo what I’ve done. “Letting go’ is a key principle in my work — I proceed with what is happening in the moment, which can lead to either happy accidents, or alternatively, it can result in a piece that no longer works. I prefer to push pieces to their limits and take the risk of losing the piece in order to obtain the right feeling, effect and color story. I am always playing with that balance.