Friday, October 31, 2008

Painted Skies tutorial - whole-cloth painting for art quilts

I love to create art quilts using my own painted fabric - so I thought it would be fun to share one of my methods with you all :-)

As always, just a gentle reminder - this is an original tutorial, designed and written by myself. It's copyright and may not be copied or transferred without my direct permission.

For this project, you’ll need plain, tightly-woven white cotton fabric (pre-washed, please), a work surface that can get paint-y, a selection of fabric paints and paint brushes. I’d also recommend a spray bottle, clips or tape to attach your fabric to your work surface, and as an option - coarse salt:

Let’s get painting!

To begin, iron your cotton fabric (it’s pre-washed right??) and secure it to your work surface. I prefer to paint on fabric that’s anchored to my work table - I find it’s a lot easier. I’m using big clips to hold my sample fabric down.

Before you start painting, it’s important to have everything prepared and ready to go - you don’t want to go running around your studio trying to find something while your paint is drying on the fabric! I recommend having a good size water container handy to wash your brushes too.

I’m using a combination of Dye-Na-Flo and Lumiere fabric paints for this project. You can use your favorite paints, but these are my preference - I don’t have any commercial interest in them, they just work the way I want :-)

To begin, take your spray bottle and mist the fabric all over - it doesn’t need to be soaked through, but it’s got to be evenly damp for the paint to move the way we want.

I’ve dipped my large, round paint brush (I like Winsor & Newton University synthetic bristle brushes - the white bristle ones) into my water and then into “azure” Dye-Na-Flo. I’m using really light, loose strokes all over the fabric. Don’t try and make obvious cloud shapes, just use light strokes of paint. I’m using heavier strokes at the bottom, moving to lighter ones at the top. That will help give the illusion of depth to the sky.
I’ve mixed a 50/50 blend of azure Dye-Na-Flo and pearlescent turquoise Lumiere, thinned it with water and lightly painted over parts of the blue paint. I like the sheer sparkle of pearl paints, but you’ve got to use them sparingly in this project or they’ll overwhelm it.
I’ve added some light touches of “violet” Dye-Na-Flo. I’ve dipped my paintbrush into water first, and then into the paint - it helps to keep things really light and fluid.

The dark patches you can see in this photo is the worktable surface showing through the white fabric.

It’s important to keep your fabric evenly damp during painting. I photographed this project outside on a hot and windy afternoon, so I needed to spray the fabric down again at this point.

I’m trying to paint a sky at the beginning of sunset, so I’ve a really light layer of yellow streaks, just at the top of the fabric. I’ve used “sun yellow” Dye-Na-Flo. I decided to punch up the metallics a little, so I used a thinned out mixture of Lumiere’s “true gold” to add high lights to the yellow.

I decided that the bottom of the fabric needed a little more color, so I’ve brushed on a second layer of violet. The dark line across the bottom is actually a shadow from my house - not paint.

Spray the fabric again lightly and let it dry thorougly. You could also lightly sprinkle with rock salt at this point. Rock salt will add an interesting texture, just make sure to wash the fabric after you’ve heat set it to remove the salt. It’s not good for fabric to leave it sit for too long!

The fabric has now had a chance to dry overnight, so you can see how much the paint softens as it dries. That’s half of the fun with painting on wet fabric - you never quite now how it will dry! You can now heat-set it according to the instructions on the paint - that will ensure the paint is fully permanent and can be washed safely.

Just to let you know, the finished piece of fabric is over six feet long and approximately eighteen inches wide…

This is why I should remember to wear gloves when I paint - I don’t seem to be able to paint without wearing it :-)
Here's how the fabric looks if you salt it with rock salt when it's still wet:
I love the mottled effect and the added dimension it gives.

tutorial & all images are copyright C Findlay-Harder