Introduction: "Little Owl" Silkpainting

About: Hello my name is Jennifer Douglas and I have been a textile artist for the last 25 years since graduating from West Surrey College of Art and Design. I specialise in making and teaching silkpainting and batik …

Owls have been a popular image to use of late and I enjoyed painting this one and thought it would be fun to share the process.

It's a fairly simple design which can be painted in so many different ways, I've gone for the traditional tawny look with soft browns, greys and blacks with a warmer contrast in the background sunset.

I teach weekly workshops and this is one of the designs I have for students to use, most 9 years + and adults find this an easy, fun project. I hope you do too...

Step 1: Equipment Needed-

A wooden frame- mine is 18" sq. made from soft pine

18" sq. habotai silk sq.(8mm)

Range of Pebeo Setasilk paints used in this project-

Ebony, Cinnamon, Buttercup, Magenta and Plum (You can buy starter packs of these dyes on Amazon)

Clear Gutta Serti Resist Outliner, by Dupont

20ml plastic gutta bottle with 0.7 gutta nib

A small chinese brush

A small foam brush

Auto fade pen

3 point silk pins

Plastic droppers

Beaker for water

An ice cube tray for paint mixing

Fine and coarse sea salt

Step 2: Stretching Silk Onto a Frame.

I stretched the silk onto the frame using the 3 point silk pins, getting a good firm tension.

I usually start with 5/6 pins down the first side, same on the second, then apply a tension on sides 3 and 4 to get the firm tension needed.

Step 3: Tracing From the Owl Template.

Firstly I drew the owl design out on paper, outlining it with a permanent black outliner which will be easy to see through the silk.

Then I traced the design onto the silk by positioning the stretched silk on top of the template and traced the image using the autofade pen.

Step 4: Outlining With Gutta Serti Resist.

Next stage was to apply gutta serti on top of the traced areas.

Remember to turn the frame back over so there is a gap between it and the table or things can get smudged!

I'm using a clear gutta which dries quickly and creates a border which will prevent dye flow.

I filled a 20ml plastic gutta bottle and popped on the 0.7 gutta nib (that's a medium size nib). Then applied pressure with my thumb and index finger on the bottle, keeping the nib in contact with the silk and produced a continuous line of resist, carefully connecting lines together, to avoid any leaks later.

It's always a good idea to double check your gutta outlining for any gaps you might be able to fix at this point.

Dry with a hairdryer to quick dry the gutta or just leave for 15/20 minutes.

Step 5: Using Pebeo Setasilk Paints.

These paints are easy to use, achieving strong colours which can also be diluted for more pastel shades and intermixed for an extended range of shades.

They react well with salt and are very quick and easy to fix with an iron in 2 minutes!

I use these ice cube trays as they give me plenty of spaces to mix paints and are about the right depth for making larger quantities of paint, unlike some more expensive artist palettes which I find a bit too shallow.

If you want to get to know these dyes well it's a good idea to make your own simple colour wheel to record colours. I find it very helpful to refer to when selecting colours for a project.

Step 6: Painting With Black and Shades of Grey.

I started painting this owl on the tail, using the concentrate black on the end of the tail, then diluted the black to make the mid grey in the middle area and finally diluted this shade further to make the lightest grey shade.

The pattern in the wings got a similar treatment of these 3 shades. I painted the center of the owl's eye concentrate black.

Step 7: Feathery Special Effects With Salt.

Now for the warmer brown tones.

Firstly I painted water on the tummy area as I wanted to blend colours together and water helps this happen. Then I applied a concentrate mixture of black and cinnamon at the bottom of the tummy, working upwards with lighter shades of cinnamon, which became lighter with small amounts of buttercup added for the lighter areas under the neck.

The coarse sea salt was applied on the tummy area after painting and left to make the feathery patterns.

The top of the owl's head had a light grey base with a concentrate black stripe and fine salt added in a line.

Step 8: Painting the Sunset.

I started painting at the bottom behind the owl using all the warm colours, Buttercup, Magenta and Plum, working the lightest yellows to the deepest reds to give the sunset effect.

The salt effect is really developing well here, probably some 10 minutes since placed on the paint. The log and other parts of the owls face were brown/black and plum mixes, to give a reddy brown shade.

So many variations can be made by the tiniest drop of this and that, I particularly love mixing colours to find shades that look good together.

Step 9: Painting the Border.

Time for the foam brush!

I mixed a good amount of black and cinnamon with water, enough to paint the whole border. Using the foam brush I painted quickly to avoid hard lines appearing. Then I used concentrate black the width of the brush around the edge of the outer border, to give a darker shade. I applied coarse sea salt along this line where these two colours met. Given some time to develop, this will give an interesting decorative edge to the finished work.

When the salt looks like it has worked enough dry the whole project with a hairdryer and brush off any remaining salt

Step 10: Iron Fixing

To fix these paints you need to iron fix for 2 minutes. I used a cotton setting on my iron and worked on the back and front of the silk.

I then soaked the silk in warm water with a drop or two of washing up liquid for 5/10 minutes, then rinsed and towelled dry to get rid of any excess water.

I always iron silk damp with the same cotton setting, as it gives a creaseless finish.

Step 11: "Little Owl" Complete!

The "Little Owl" painting is now complete and ready to make into a framed picture, hanging on sticks or even made into a quilted cushion.

.For more help with how to do any of these projects, please go to my website- for more tutorials.

The inspiration for this project stems from a wonderful owl called "Mabel", who lives in a public park in Ipswich,Uk.

She sits in view of everyone passing by in the daytime and I've seen her during the last two years on family Christmas pre- Xmas dinner walks through the park.She is quite a celebrity in the area and has been living there for many years.

Mabel is a Marvel!