This short three-minute video clip will give you the general idea of how a silk painting is created from start to finish:
Silk painting is a colorful, fun and multi-stepped process of putting resist and dyes onto silk. The resist is usually applied in lines with an applicator bottle, like squeezing puffy paint onto a t-shirt. Dyes are then painted onto the silk with a brush. The resist creates barriers for the dyes and keeps them contained within the outlined areas.
Dyes can also be painted onto silk without using resist. They will run and create soft effects as they absorb into the silk, similar to watercolors on damp paper. The dyes travel on the silk and can be manipulated with various techniques to get many beautiful effects.
Alternatively, you can treat silk with some type of sizing to prevent the dyes from flowing as you paint. There are many ways you can size silk for this purpose. In the photo above, the silk has been sprayed with Magic Sizing (a technique developed by Master Silk Painter, Karen Sistek). The lines you see in the picture are not resist lines, but merely pencil lines to guide me on painting the design. You can see some examples of paintings created on sized silk under the heading “Pamela’s Work”, then click “No-Flow Techniques”.
Finished silk paintings must be steam-set in order for the dyes to bond permanently to the fabric. To accomplish this, the silk paintings are wrapped in paper or cloth and placed over a steam source on a stove-top or in a professional silk steamer for two to three hours.
After steaming, the silk paintings are hand washed, hung up to dry, and ironed. Hand-dyed silk has many uses; it can be displayed as wall art, made into a wall hangings, sewn into clothing, worn as scarves, incorporated into mixed media sculpture, and more.
One of my favorite ways to create silk art is to make what I call “double silk paintings.” I create two paintings that complement one another when layered together. The base painting is done on plain-weave habotai (China) silk, and the top layer is done on a sheer silk like chiffon or organza. The goal is to create a sense of movement and a rich depth of color. I explain it further in one of my older blog posts here on this website:
To see some examples, go to the tab “Pamela’s Work” and select “Double-layered silk paintings”.