Silk Painting Process

Linda Marcille ~ Silk Painting Process

This was a photo sent to me by a customer for a commissioned house portrait

First I create a sketch on paper to get a feel for the composition before I do any actual drawing on the silk

I pin the silk to blue-board and transfer my original sketch onto the silk with water-soluble pencil which will wash out later.

I stretch the silk tightly onto a wooden stretcher frame. Using a tiny air compressor, called an Air Pen Pro, to apply the thick, glue-like resist to the entire drawing.

Once the black resist lines have been applied it is allowed to dry overnight

The next day the silk is layered between sheets of brown paper and wrapped around a metal pipe

Once the silk has been steamed, rinsed and ironed it regains its luminosity and silky sheen.

Painting on silk is an incredibly time consuming and unforgiving medium, just one drop of misplaced dye or a smudged resist line and days of painstaking work are ruined. As challenging as painting on silk is however, it is also one of the most rewarding art forms.

The resist is colored by mixing it with dye and then it is applied to the silk. The resist is dried over night and then steamed in a large stainless steel steamer for 2 hours to activate its holding properties and to set the dye it was colored with. After the first steaming process is completed layers of dye are carefully applied to the silk, allowing each layer to dry before the next layer is added. Once all of the dye has been applied the silk is allowed to rest overnight. The following day it is wrapped in a paper roll and placed in a stainless steel silk steamer for three hours to set the layers of dye.

After steaming the French dyes join molecularly with the silk so the dyes take on the silks iridescent sheen. Instead of being oil on canvas or pigment on paper, the dye and the silk are now joined.  It is because of this union that silk paintings are able to produce an awe inspiring range of reflective color that no other medium is capable of creating.

When the painting is finished it is either hand sewn onto 100% cotton rag matt so that the hand rolled hems show or it is mounted and over matted. When no over mat is used, clear “Frame Space” spacers are applied to the glass to give the silk an air space because silk is a protein fiber like hair and must breathe or it will deteriorate. Linda’s husband Don cuts her mats and builds her frames as well as doing all of her framing work.

This roll is then placed into a stainless steel silk steamer that has been pre heated to 212 degrees and steamed for 1-1/2 hours to set the resist and black dye

The silk is then hand washed to remove any excess surface dye and hung on the line to dry.

After the dyes have dried the silk is wrapped in paper and steamed a second time to set the dyes. The second steaming lasts for 2 to 3 hours depending on the size and number of paintings being steamed.

Dye colors are mixed and poured into small cups in preparation for painting.

Dyes are layered onto the silk starting with the lightest colors and then adding the darker colors. Some areas are painted “wet on wet” and some are painted “wet on dry” to produce different effects