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Silk Painting Oriental Flowers For Charity

islamic art design silk
Many an epoch ago, when floppy disks were in vogue and chocolate was priced under a pound (£1), I sat in a room no longer than 6 feet wide to paint a deliciously beautiful flower.

Oriental flowers are my 'thing', lotuses, orchids, liliums and bird of paradise. For some time now I have picked or bought fresh flowers to bring God's reminders to our home. I did this often when I was younger and pressed the remains for long-lasting dried flowers. Yesterday I grabbed a bargain of two bunches of carnations from a local supplier. One pale pink and the other a pomegranate red, I was instantly taken back to this silk painting.

Measuring around 3 feet (36 inches) in height, the design was also inspired by a bouquet of carnation flowers. Not normally a fan of 'pink' things, I was in love with the multiple depths of colour that seeped in each petal. A carnation is made up of a trumpet shaped bud which half opens to burst into frilly petals. The flower looks like a dress turned inside out. A scientist will argue the flower survived through natural selection and has an arbitrary design. I know God constructed this purposeful creation which sings mathematical genius in layer and number.

In my creative youth I made a decision that my work would benefit other people. I was not in the health profession so I couldn't heal people, but I had to validate art by allowing it to create something better than the existing gloom. For me, colour, images, senses, and the links between combining these is what proves that an All-Powerful, Majestic Designer created the simple and frilly carnation flower.

How I Silk Painted This Panel

GUTTA: Gutta is the 'pen' for silk painting. Gutta is the tube of paint with which I draw my design, either freehand or by going over the outlines created with a fading pen. Gutta acts as a barrier to stop the inks bleeding into different areas. In the carnation panel, gold gutta by Dupont was used.

SILK & FRAMES: Silk is the most expensive ingredient for this art. A meter of pongee silk would typically cost anything from £8 upwards. I buy silk from wholesalers and on a humongous roll (cost effective for about 2 weeks!). Silk needs to kept meticulously clean and any creases can be ironed out. To silk paint, cut the required amount (think about where it's going, seam allowances, etc), and secure to a silk frame with masking tape. Keep it taut, check by poking the surface, any "give" and it's not taut enough. The painting surface needs to be flat, crease free and large enough for your design. Otherwise you'll find yourself painting over and around the frame which just spoils the end result (been there, done that).

SILK INKS: After the gutta has dried, taking up to 1.5 hours (the thicker the gutta, the longer the drying time), I prepare the silk inks. Fabric paints are different to inks, and tend to be more paste-like, as is used for gouache or acrylic painting. Silk inks are similar to calligraphy inks and are very liquid. They can be mixed using a pipette a drop at a time, and diluted with thinner or water. They don't easily wash out so wear an apron! (she says). Once the silk painting has dried, ironing on medium heat fixes the inks which is useful if the silk will be worn or used, for example scarves and interior textiles, cushion.

silk painting flower design
BLEEDING: Mixing various amounts of ink from one pink and purple ink jars, I'm able to control and create a wide range of hot shades. Using traditional nylon or ink brushes, the brush is dipped in the jar and saturated with ink. A basic rule for consistency is to hold the brush up, if it doesn't drip, you have enough ink. Keep the brush wet or streaks will muss up the neat colours. Painting quickly and carefully is vital because the ink dries pretty fast upon contact with the silk fabric. Again, the more loaded the brush, the more uniform the end colour.

Working with one brush per colour, I'm able to deepen the edges of petals by applying a darker shade over a lighter one. I 'spot' the brush tips to slowly bleed another colour into the silk, staying inside the lines at all times and layering while wet. Instead of simple one-coloured parts, several colours mix together for a 3-dimensional look.

MAKING MISTAKES: Often, I can get away with accidental spills or bleeding because it just works well with the design. However, when a gigantic black spot lands on a green patch, PANIC! Always keep cotton swabs and wet tissue nearby to quickly sponge the wrong colour out and dab with water to dilute the damage. Immediately cover with the correct colour ink. But, usually the attempt to fix is too late and the new shade looks washed out. Too bad. Go back to blending it in.

THE SALT EFFECT: I didn't use any salts for my panel but the salt technique is a popular method for adding amazing texture. Watch the sugar and salt technique on YouTube. After applying the inks, you literally chuck on coarse grain sea salt (kitchen salt also works with finer detail) and leave it to dry. Carefully sprinkling salt in selected areas creates an outerspace night sky scene while casually throwing salts from one angle produces more 'shooting stars' with tails. The salt is simply shaken off to leave the speckled pattern behind. I didn't think that would work for the humble carnation flower.

That's it. The design is fully painted in, given a border (straight lines are HARD but practice and a taut frame helps) and left to dry. My panel was sold for charity so it needed a backing of vilene (buckram) and was stapled onto a wooden board to be hung on the wall.




  1. PLEASE someone tell me where and what kind of silk ink i need to get started!!!
    my email is westexhart@yahoo.com.....thank you

  2. Wow..Its really a wonderful painting. I really like this painting. I really like to buy this painting.


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