Sunday, August 23, 2015

Peony and Lily Painted on Fabric

Hand painted 'Peony' on textile
by Eileen Gidman
Working with Someone Else's Vision: Creating something for someone else, usually isn't not too hard when you are giving a gift, however when you are doing commissioned work the process becomes a little more involved I find. Some artists avoid commissioned work but I find I like the challenge of it. Every time I learn something from it as I am often engaged to create something I wouldn't think of on my own. Such was the case with a recent commission of flowers to be painted onto textile.
The purchaser, an accomplished quilter asked for two fabric pieces with specific flowers on them that were meaningful for her. She provided me with her own photographs as noted below. She asked for the background to be a mottled medium green and a 14 X 15" size.

Then my work begins:

  1. New dyes and soda ash solutions are mixed
  2. Mercerized cotton fabric is soda ash soaked and air dried 
  3. The composition of the images are considered and adjusted as need. I felt the peony sketch required the full peony to be showing, so that was added in
  4. The images are sketched on the fabric using a black thickened dye that I applied using a squeeze bottle with a very fine metal nib on it. (I purchase them at the Dharma Trading Co). The fabric is then placed in plastic overnight at a warm temperature. Temperature is a big consideration when setting the dyes.
  5. The colours are mixed and painted on. I generally start with the darkest colours first. This is where one of my challenges came. I had never before worked such fine detail as would be required for the peony petals. Painting with thickened dyes requires that the dyes have to be a bit thick in order to not have the dye just bleed everywhere and because of that thickening, it does not brush easily into small areas. What to do??? Well I was very careful with the mixing of the thickener into the dye. Not too thick and not too thin and I used a very small brush.
  6. Unlike the photo where the flower and leaves were lighter than the background, I knew I would have to adjust things in order to have the background a mottled medium green as requested. For there to be contrast, the leaves were painted with some very dark coloured dyes. Darks are the most difficult to achieve when painting with thickened dyes and you must put your colours much darker than they will be in the final product. I have learnt that the dark green must look black when you apply it. The darks of the lily were also a challenge to consider. The photo didn't show much change in the dark burgundy colour but I wanted give the impression of the lily petals bending over so I varied the colour slightly to show highlights.
  7. Painting the fine dots as the petal turned to white on the lily was fun, being sure to make the pattern irregular. Can you see there is a fine white line on the edge of the petals where they overlap each other? More fine brush work was required there.
  8. It was a big session of painting both pieces at the same time but this was done to ensure the colours in the two pieces were cohesive.
  9. Before covering them in plastic, I let the pieces air dry just a little as the darks were especially saturated having had two or three layers applied. I didn't want the colours to run into each other when covered. However moisture is needed to complete the process of the dye molecules adhering to the fabric so timing was everything.
  10. After 24 hours, well actually 22 hours in this case, I quickly rinsed each piece under the cold water tap. Both fabric pieces were placed separately in it's own bucket of cold water to allow any un adhered dye molecules to rinse out overnight.
  11. The next day the pieces were washed in hot water with a textile detergent and rinsed until the water was clear.
  12. As the pieces were not large, I pressed them until they were dry. This is an anxious part of the process for me as I am never sure until this point if I will be happy with the set of the dyes.
  13. I know the night after I painted these pieces, I dreamt of the darks all washing out. Fortunately they did not and the resulting colours were just as I planned.

 I couldn't be more pleased with the results on the petals of the peony.  The detail showed and the darks of the leaves are just what I wanted.
Hand painted lily on textile.
by Eileen Gidman
 The depth of colour on the lily makes me so happy. The customer's words were "They are beautiful. I love them" That response makes a commissioned piece all worthwhile. 

I am so looking forward to seeing what the customer (quilter) does with these pieces which are to become gifts for Christmas.

It looks like I have some time in my schedule in November, so email me at if you would like me to create something for you.

I am busy preparing for a very special Sept. Check back for more information about where I will be painting for a month!


Win Dinn, Artist said...

These are really beautiful, Eileen; I'm particularly enamoured with the depth of the colour in the lily. Like many artists, I avoid commissions, and applaud you for your courage and execution. Well done!

Laura Leeder said...

They are both delightful Eileen. Your love of what you do shines through.