Silk Painting Workshop

What is silk painting?

Silk painting is the application of paints or dyes directly onto silk fabric using an exciting array of watercolour techniques. The colours are brilliant, vibrant and translucent and merge on the fabric which remains soft and to touch.

Today I had a workshop on silk painting, which is something that I have never done before, with Steve Murray.

The first thing we did was stretch our silk across a frame and pin it down tight, ready to paint onto.

Dupion silk, stretched across frame

I used a different type of silk for each piece, the first of which was just normal silk and the second was dupion silk which is more textured then the perfectly smooth, silky normal silk. Next we applies gutta to the silk. We drew our design on to the silk using the gutta which would act as a resistant/barrier when it comes to applying paint. The paint will not be applied to wherever the gutta is – the gutta is waterproof. Gutta can come in a variety of styles, whether it be pearly white (as in my first design – the paisley pattern), black, or transparent (as in my second design – the floral pattern). We used a hairdryer to speed up the drying process. We could choose to either leave or remove the gutta later in the process.

Once dry, it was time to start painting. We used thin watercolour-like coloured paints to add colour to our designs on the silk. On touching the brush into the desired area on my silk, the ink ran out and spread itself to the lines of gutta (the resist lines). I discovered that when there were gaps in my lines of gutta, no matter how small, the ink escaped and leaked out – although I had not wanted this to happen, fortunately it did not cause too much of an issue as my design was just a basic pattern. If I had wanted to, I could have used the hairdryer to stop it before it had a chance to run. When I was working on my paisley pattern design, I had to paint the yellow background quickly so that it did not dry too fast – I had to keep it wet as I painted in order to avoid any annoying, awkward and unwanted drying lines. I had to do the same for my second design too, although it was less of a worry as I just used an extra large paint brush to cover the silk quickly and efficiently.

On my paisley design, as I had used the pearly white coloured gutta, I decided that I liked it and it looked quite elegant with the style of pattern design, so I chose not to remove it and instead left it on – the pearly effect is really beautiful and glistens gracefully. However, on my second, floral design, as I had used transparent gutta, I decided to remove it – I had to do this using a hot iron. By putting the silk between newspaper and then ironing over it, the paper absorbed and lifted out the majority of the gutta so that the white silk beneath was more clear.

The transparent gutta on the dupion silk has not yet shown through as much as I would like it to, so I may iron it some more to attempt to improve the pattern’s visibility.

How did I find the workshop?

Overall, I found the workshop really interesting – perhaps many would consider it quite odd that I chose such a workshop that at first would not be considered very relevant to the own course of study, Graphic Communication, but I have grown up with a love of textiles, sewing in particular – I ran a business from the age of about 15 of making and selling ‘sock monkey’ toys/teddies, which was all textile-based. I would love to be able to somehow get back into it – maybe I could mix it into my own projects in some such way so that I am using multimedia; a mix of both textiles and graphics.

Visual Storytelling Project

So, what is visual storytelling? Although it appears to be the obvious answer, it seems that the best and most straightforward way to describe visual storytelling is that, it is literally the act of telling a story or narrative, visually! In more detail, visual storytelling is, conveying information with both clarity and creativity, while speaking with remarkable aesthetic expressiveness about the things that matter in the world today.

Today, after showing our own and looking at everyone’s work for the beautiful systems project, we were set a workshop on visual storytelling. In group’s of three, we were given a recent news article which we had to pull apart and tell through the use of our own visuals, rather than through just words and text – the brief was to develop a visual piece that tells the overarching narrative of our given article and highlights sections that you see as the most significant within the piece of writing.

Wanting to be ambitious again, rather than simply doing a 2D sketch or illustration, we wanted to make the piece 3D somehow. Obviously, we did not have a huge amount of time – only a couple of hours – so we set out to do as much as we could within our time constraints.

The article that we were given was about the wealth of the population on Earth – it focused on how a very small number of the richest people in the world (for example just 80 in 2014), have an equal amount of money to 50% of the poorest population. From the article, we highlighted and made note of the most important information from the text, which in this case were, we felt, four key statistics:

  • “In 2010, the 388 richest people owned the same wealth as the poorest 50%.”
  • “In 2014, the 80 richest people owned the same wealth as the poorest 50%.”
  • “In 2015, the 62 richest people owned the same wealth as the poorest 50%.”
  • “1% of people own more wealth than the other 99% combined.”

We also found a great metaphor embedded in the article which we felt would fit perfectly, so decided to base and create our visual story around it. It was:

  • “We cannot afford to carry on giving the richest an even bigger slice of the cake.”

Our initial ideas was that we could create a tiered cake and show each piece of data on each tier, however we felt that it was too wedding-related – we wanted something that suggested more ‘greed‘. David mentioned that it reminded him of the phrase, ‘Who ate all the pies?‘ so we decided to take this and use it as inspiration for our visual. We decided to create a paper pop-up cake shop, as if the cakes were up on cake stands. We made half-eaten pies to show the 50% of the poorest population ‘slice‘ compared to the small number of richest people, shown by the other half of the pie which has been ‘eaten‘.

We used a thick card for the base of the piece because this allowed us to cut into it and fold up sections to act as the cake stands – this is what made our piece three-dimensional. We drew, coloured in and then cut out three ‘half-pies‘ which we then stuck onto round blue plates. As well as the pies, we did a cake as well to represent the fourth and slightly different statistic that we pulled from the article – the cake had a tiny slice removed from it which represented the 1% and the rest of the cake represented the 99%. We tried to consider even the smaller details in order to keep it in-theme of the cake shop. For example, we went to the effort of printing out our data onto little pink labels and drawing out percentages onto pink ‘price’ tags, just like ones you may find in a cake or patisserie shop on the high street. The only issue we had when making the piece was the plates were quite floppy on the stands, so we stuck some thick card across the bottom of each of the plates in a ‘x‘ pattern in order to add support – this worked and they were then sturdy.

Once finished, we presented our outcomes to the rest of the class – we were all very pleased with the outcome of our visual story. As a whole, the piece is a visual metaphor so works brilliantly – the cakes and pies represent perfectly the greed of the rich and how the poor are left with nothing compared to them. The only problem we found when presenting our piece was that the cake and pies were not stuck onto their stands so when it came to picking up and holding the piece up so our audience could see it, everything fell off. Perhaps if we were to do the project again, we could stick the cakes down, although this would ruin the potential of viewer and user interaction.

Improved Image Piece

As stated in my previous blog post on my image project final piece, there were a few minor changes that I wanted to make to improve the piece overall.

I decided to remake the entire piece in Illustrator rather than Photoshop to ensure that the piece was not pixelated at all – I used still used Photoshop to layer the eye and the map images, but then recreated the hand-drawn illustrations on Illustrator. In the beginning of the year when we first began this project, I was unfamiliar with Adobe Illustrator and had not used it much, however, my confidence on it has grown hugely since then and I knew that by using it for the silhouette and baby outline it would avoid any pixelation that occurred when I did the project back in the beginning of the academic year.

As mentioned in my previous blog post on the project, I wanted to simplify the silhouette. To do this, I removed the unnecessary outline it had and feel that it looks better without it, because you can still tell exactly what it is without it. I also adjusted the opacity slightly so that it was more hidden. The second change I wanted to make was to make the baby outline bolder in order to make it more visible. I have done this only very slightly by adjusting the stroke by about 1pt. Now you can see the baby on looking closely at the piece – it is just what I originally wanted: you have to look closely, but it’s not so faint that you are unable to see it at all.

On top of these minor changes, I also experimented a bit more with the filters on Photoshop before transferring it into Illustrator. I adjusted the vibrancy of the eye, making the colour, particularly the blue-green in the iris pop out, enhancing it greatly. I also played around with the contrast, to get the bright and beautiful colours that the finished piece now has. To get the effect of the map layered over the eye like I have, I used ‘colour burn’, which is one of my favourite effects on Photoshop and it worked perfectly in this situation.


Image Project

For this project, I chose to create my own interpretation of the word ‘lost’ through image and wanted the end piece to tell some sort of a story. I started by  gathering a range of different ideas for my final piece – my main thoughts when I thought of the word ‘lost’ was emotion, particularly sadness and loneliness. I decided to focus on this. I chose to look at the eye in particular as I feel that the eye can tell a lot about a persons’ feelings this way and you often hear the phrase, “I could see it in their eyes.” Eyes are extremely good at portraying emotion. I captured a photograph of my own eye using macro settings that I felt portrayed deep emotion and decided to use this.

my eye.jpg

Other images that I developed included a simple drawing of a slouched figure, looking lost and depressed; a skull to suggest loss through death; and even a child to suggest loss of a child, or anyone at all for that matter. In my tutorials both with Ray and then Suzanne, it was suggested to me that I think about loss of direction, as a contrast to emotional loss, but still consistent to the original word, ‘lost’. After taking on these suggestions, I developed my piece by adding a busy-looking street map which I layered over the eye using Adobe Photoshop and an overlay tool. I also added the figure illustration and skull to my new piece.


After adding these elements, although I loved the effect of the street map layered over the eye, I felt as if the piece was now much too over-crowded and that not all of the elements were needed.

Below is my final piece that I submitted on Friday for the deadline. I remade all of the illustrations in Illustrator, rather than in Photoshop to avoid any pixelation and also completely got rid of the skull and instead used the outline of a fetus baby in the pupil of the eye. This alongside the faded silhouette of a human figure, suggests that the story behind the image is that it is a mother who has lost her child, or because the silhouette is not clear who it is, it could be just anyone who has lost someone close to them. Both illustrations also have their opacity reduced to around 20-40%, making the viewer have to look closer to spot them, drawing them in. Overall, I really enjoyed creating this final piece and was delighted with my all positive feedback.

2016-05-20 10.57.16

Personally, I feel that when my piece was printed and put up on display, the printed version did not to the on-screen version justice because the colours are so much more vibrant when looking at the piece on a computer screen. I feel that there are still a few minor changes that I could do to improve the piece – I think that the outline around the silhouetted figure is probably not needed as it clear enough without it. Also, after printing the baby in the eye did not show up clearly at all and one had to look extremely hard just to be able to see it faintly – I believe it could do with being made just a little bit clearer – I want it to be faint so that you have to look close, but not this faint.