Silk painting is one of the most beautiful and delicate ways of expressing our emotions since the fabric used for creating our work of art is smooth, vaporous and shiny but at the same time quite resistant.
I learned silk painting techniques from Ms. Adrienne Varga in Budapest. I instantly felt fascinated by and attracted to the silk, but I was also somewhat afraid because of the fineness and transparency of the fabric. I was immediately drawn to this craft, feeling that I had discovered a creative way of expressing myself.
Silk painting offers endless possibilities of expressing emotions as the fabric reacts differently to different painting techniques:
1. Contouring – first the contours are painted then the drawing is filled.
2. Dripping – especially used for scarves and certain types of paintings, when ink is applied with a pipette.
3. The water technique – dark colours are used and then lines are drawn with a brush allowing the ink to “flow” and discolour; this may be an interesting process as we no longer have control over the design and relinquish this task to the water.
4. Watercolours – a special base colour is applied onto the silk which will keep the ink from dissipating and then contouring is used. This technique however cannot create details on the fabric and the drawing may not be as spectacular as on a more firm material like for instance cardboard.
5. 3D – a relief image is created in the silk after which the ink is applied. This is one of my favorite techniques since the painting created is both dynamic and suave.
6. Mandalas – the silk is fit on a circular frame.
The word “mandala” means circle. Mandalas can be found in all ancient cultures. In Christianity for instance there are the frescos depicting animals and the apostles (and the zodiac). The basic shape for most Buddhist and Hindu mandalas is a square with four gates containing a circle with a center point. Mandalas are a graphic representation of the center point; they are a complex “design” built around a dot or center. The image organizes the energy and inner strength of the person who is drawing it and correlates these with the person’s inner self. A mandala can be a geometric pattern - a square or a circle, abstract and static or a live image formed by objects or living things.
In silk painting water plays an important role. Harmony needs to exist between the materials used: the water, the silk and the ink. One constantly needs to monitor the dampness of the silk. The applied ink still works after the painting is finished and if too much water has been used the colours are runny and will disperse. If the silk is too dry, “dry spots” which cannot be repaired afterwards will start to show. Errors cannot be “fixed” in silk painting. Even a drop of water that accidentally lands on the material will leave a visible permanent spot.
Natural silk originated in China where silk items dating back 4600-4700 years have been discovered. Legend says that a Chinese princess discovered the silkworm as she was lying under a mulberry tree. Hearing noises in the tree and looking up she noticed a grey worm that was eating leaves. Later she discovered that by dipping the pupae into boiling water the whole cocoon unraveled as one continuous thread. Silk manufacturing was sacred for the ancient Chinese and it was a heavily guarded secret. Whoever revealed it was punished with death. The Romans and the Greeks were familiar with natural silk. In those times its value was worth its weight in gold and it was used to make clothes for the emperors. After some 3000 years the secret of growing silkworms spread first to Asia, to countries like Japan, India and Persia and later to the Roman Empire.