Tuesday, March 22, 2011

Pastel painted fabric

As I said in my earlier blog on crayon, I much prefer to use pastel for this sort of work.  Probably because I have thousands and am familiar with them from painting.
Below, I have got some fabric laid out on top of parchment.  I would not use newspaper for this process, because the process involves wetting and the newsprint might transfer, or even wors, stick to the fabric when drying. (ask me how I know)  The box of pastels at the top is a pack of windsor and newton and is there as a reminder to me to explain a few things.
Firstly, the more you pay for the pastels, the better result, or more vibrant colours you will get.  This is because dry pastels are made of mostly pure pigment, and a filler or binder, which allows them to be shaped.  However, with just chalk, or student grade pastels, the amount of filler is greater and the pigment therefore is less.  Student grade will work, but not as well as artist quality from a reputable brand.  There is a positive side and that is that dry pastels can be bought individually at most art supply stores (not department stores, real art stores) They will cost 3 to 5 dollars each and for this sort of work will last a reasonable amount of time.
My second point is that I usually add pastels as a powder and because they are mostly pigment, they are very  bright even if only a little is added.  When colouring fabric, the less you have to add, the less it will alter the hand of the fabric and unless you add a lot of pastel, the hand is pretty much the same.
Above you can see my tools for this project.  All that is required is a knife or blade to scrape the side of the pastel and create powder.  Even a sharp paring knife will do, so long as it can scrape.  You can also use a nail file or sand paper, but it will get clogged with powder and you will end up wasting a fair bit.
Here you can see I have put some powder on the fabric.  It doesn't look like much does it?
But when I spray it with water, the colour starts to develop.  I actually use a solution of Alum instead of water, and this serves the purpose of fixing the pigment into the fabric (You can get Alum crystals from the pharmacist, you may have to order it because it is not an everyday item) Alum is the mordant used in most printer fabric.
In the above sample I have smudged the pastel with my fingers after letting it soak for a while.  You need to make sure all the pastel dust is wet.  Any that is not wet will not enter the fabric and will fall off when you are finished.  And you definitely do not want this stuff around when you are finished as it will stain.
In this one I used a small paint brush to smudge the pastel a bit.
In this one i used a large flat ended stencil brush and rotated it on the dust to make  whorls, or whirpools of colour.
And this one was not altered in any way, the pastel simply soaked in.
I couldn't wait to finish, so I ironed the fabric dry.  Because there is little other than pigment, ironing doesn't really alter the effect like it does with some fabric paints.
And here are some high res pictures of the finished fabric.
No brushing
rotating stencil brush
small strokes with brush
smearing with fingers
As you see it is very easy to get very vibrant colours with this technique.  And there are more ways than these to use them.  
That is for another lesson.
The fabric above was treated twice,  the first layer was pale green and i used the stencil brush, then I put the dark green on top as a sprinkling and allowed it to soak.  If you want the pigment to spread more, you need more fluid.
The sample above was using the smearing technique (Fingerpainting I call it).  If you have been following this blog, you would know that I have a fascination with tree bark textures and this was another experiment in creating bark.  I simply scraped lines of a handful of browns and ochres, sprayed then smeared.  It took all of 30 seconds and I was very pleased with the result.
It really is worth experimenting with this technique.  I would love to see some of your results.

In Art, there is no such thing as a failed experiment, only experiments with interesting results.