Silk Paintings





Introduction: Silk Paintings

A few years ago, the Van Gogh estate contacted me to do a piece for a villa remodel.  I don't know how they got my information, but I was intrigued.  They said they'd been particularly impressed with one of Vince's lesser known pieces called "Starry Night," and did I know it?  A quick google search on my phone turned up the results.  The estate representative felt the piece was great, but lacked a certain something - size, perhaps - and would I be interested in a re-imagination of the original?  I'm not one for imagination, but I am one for big, big art.  How do I know it's art if it's not big, right?  So I set about my own vision of this humble piece.  I chose silk as my canvas, and used a wax resist to keep the lighter colors in tact while painting in the darker dyes.  To get the most brilliant colors, I steam-set the piece in a home-made chimney set-up.  It was crazy.

Anyway, they were so thrilled with the outcome, that during their annual Koninginnedag celebration, they made a special point in the villa tour to stop and admire the painting.  The Japanese Imperial family was so impressed, I guess, that they called me the next day.  Sure, I could put something together for the birthday of the new Prince, no problem.  So I got to work on a new piece, using a water-based resist this time instead of wax.  I like to mix it up, you know?  I chose a 16"x60" piece of silk and outlined the details with my resist, so that they would maintain a white outline.  Sharp. I finished the piece with a black wash, since I thought that seemed regal and masculine.  I also steam-set the finished painting, since other methods I'd tried out since the Dutch commission created lack-luster results.  Well, they were happy, and the Prince is said to have spoken his first words upon seeing it.  Unfortunately, I don't speak Japanese so I'll never know what they were.



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    33 Discussions

    I adore this. What was the second resist called that you used? With the wax for the first piece, how did you remove it when done or did you remove it? Fantastic work!

    4 replies

    Thank you! I ironed out the wax from the first resist, and I used a traditional water-based silk paint resist for the second.

    When you ironed the wax out, did you do it onto news print? Sorry to keep hounding you with questions! I've always admired silk paintings and would love to try one out.

    No problem! Yes, I covered both sides of the silk with many layers of newsprint. The only drawback to using a wax resist is being sure to get the right mix of waxes. While I think most any will work, beeswax is not so awesome for you to breathe once it reaches a certain temperature. I can't remember now what the blend I used was, I'm afraid. Wax is great for blocking out large areas of silk for painting, but for details, the other resist (called Gutta) can be much easier. You don't need to remove it!

    If you want to give silk painting a try, I suggest getting a kit from Dharma Trading Co that will give you everything you need, including instructions!  It's where I get all of my dyeing and painting supplies.

    VERY nice!...and I'm a great admirer of Van Gogh's work.
    Really cool about the Japanese too...Hey, you're awsome...
    and make some pretty darn good cookies too (Samoas...yummm).

    Like Art? Like art contest? Well, if you want to just join a contest then please visit the link:


    If scooch can say Koninginnedag as well as she writes it I doubt she is anglophone.
    A big domo arigato for this stunning piece. Vincent would be proud! Now cut off an ear.....

    Wow! Awesome stuff. Amazed to see that "Starry Night" is considered a "lesser known piece" though! Especially by his estate! It's my favourite painting of all time, and Wikipedia even goes so far as to claim that it's his Magnum Opus.

    Don McClean - Vincent

    4 replies

    i like your last name it is cool i have a teacher and his last name is Mcgill cool huh i thought i'd just put that out there.

    Hah, no, that's not my last name. :) Don McClean's a famous singer/songwriter. He's probably most famous for the song "American Pie" but "Vincent" is a beautiful song about Vincent Van Gogh.

    I know, right? I still remember being introduced to Van Gogh in my fifth grade art class with that painting. More than any other, it is what I associate with him.

    Oh wait, are we missing your sarcasm, scooch? Btw, love it, like pretty much everything else you do!