Tuesday, February 16, 2016

Painted Irises

I've been working on pieces for the upcoming exhibit at the NC Arboretum. Some of the work originated as samples for various workshops I've taught. One such workshop was silk painting which I taught for years at the Spruill Center for the Arts in Atlanta, GA. It was a basic, entry level of silk painting where students learned both the watercolor wash technique as well as using a resist.
The watercolor technique uses a wash of paint applied to the surface. Silk paint is very watery and knows no boundaries. Sprinkling salt on the surface while it is still wet creates a beautiful effect. The salt will pull the paint towards itself creating "traveling" lines. Using different size salt grains also affects the results. Table salt which has a fine granule, creates a more narrow line; kosher or sea salt which has larger granules will create the effect you see above.
The darker dots indicate where the salt was and the paint accumulated in that area. I love this technique as it creates such an interesting but not overwhelming background.
Several colors were used to create the background making it more interesting. The silk paint was watered down to make it more subtle.
Next came the painting of the design. Since the paint is so loose, you have to use a "resist" which creates a barrier and keeps the paint within the lines of the design. The design was lightly traced onto the silk. A water soluble silk paint resist was applied to all the lines. I used a little squirt bottle to create a thin line. After it dried, it was time to apply the paint. Silk paint can be a strange animal and tricky to use. You have to work with it quickly as it dries fast creating hard edges. This makes it difficult to blend with another color .
The piece was layered and quilted with a rayon decorative thread in a fairly simple design. The piece was mounted onto stretcher bars which is a favorite method for me as it looks very polished.
The back was also finished to cover all the staples etc. used to pull the piece to the back. I used picture frame wire and eye hooks for hanging.
And the finished piece  - "Painted Irises" which will work well for the arboretum as they really like nature themed pieces. 


  1. Yup…..background quilting was just the right way to complete the piece…..anxious to see it in person.

  2. Wow! I love what you were able to accomplish!

  3. Beautiful! The background is so soft and lovely, thanks for sharing!

  4. Beautifully made, and beautifully finished!

  5. You make silk painting look easy, despite your words to the contrary.

  6. Thank you all.....I was really seriously close to tossing this sample...just thought I've had it too long and maybe not worth the time....but am glad I finished it as I think it will fit well in the arboretum show...As always, thanks for the lovely thoughts and comments.

  7. Thanks for explaining the process. It is fascinating. The iris piece is beautiful.

  8. So beautiful! To paint an iris is a special time as they seem so vibrant and alive, i feel.
    The morea iris(walking stick iris) are starting to bloom here, my sign to photo and paint them, again!

  9. Beautiful job and thanks for explaining your technique in such detail!

  10. Hello Judy,

    Your irises are just too beautiful for words, and you have created an ideal picture for exhibiting at an arboretum. Thank you for linking up with Free Motion Mavericks - your work is this week's featured project!

    Love, Muv