As well as making quilts for specific projects, I believe that it is also important to spend time just messing about about with different materials - exploring just what can be achieved when using them and to see what happens. After all, how will any of us ever find out the different effects that can be achieved unless we do?
A few weeks ago I saw a tin of Derwent Art Bars at a reduced price - and knowing I like Derwent's other products I decided to try buy them and try them out.
Like all Derwent products, the Art bars come in different sized sets, packed in a sturdy tin. Rather than being round, (like the pencils) these have a triangular cross section, which makes them not only attractively 'different' but stops them from rolling around and falling onto the floor! It also means you can break off a little chunk and use the flat side to to make larger marks.
The Art bars have a soft, slightly waxy texture, a little like an oil pastel, and are easy to apply. A few were a little crumbly, but not so as to cause any major problems. On the tin it states that they are made from water soluble wax, but can be used on both wet and dry surfaces. I had a look around on the internet to see how other people are using them, but there doesn't seem to be all that much information about them out there - so I just made some marks and saw how it went.
I used both Inktense pencils and the art bars on a piece of white cotton fabric. What I quickly realised was that, unlike Inktense pencils and blocks the art bars give opaque colour and are not permanent. When you lay colours or layers over each other they blend - and if you go too far they turn into a muddy mess, so perhaps have limited scope for use on fabric. Nevertheless, they do give a different look to the Inktense products, so may be useful for some projects, so long as permanence isn't important.
Here is what I did
Using the Inktense pencil on dry fabric, I first drew some very simple fish shapes. The outline is in dark brown and the cross hatching is in purple. As you can see in the first picture above, whilst dry the colours are very dull. It is only when the pencil lines are moistened (in the second picture above I painted over the lines with a fine paintbrush and aloe vera gel) that the colour becomes vibrant.
Below you can see what happened when I added some pale green and grey to the bodies of the fish and painted over them with more aloe vera gel.
As this has all been done with Derwent Inktense pencil then once the fabric is dry the colours are fast. They will not blend or move any further, even if more colour is applied over the top.
I added a little more colour with the Inktense pencils to the head, then coloured in the eye. So far I think they look quite funny!
To try out the Art bars I decided to use them to create a watery background. I took all 5 of the blues and 2 greens and gently coloured over the remaining surface of the fabric. You can still see some of the scribbly lines I made using the pointed corner of the bar. To grade the background I applied more of the waxy Art bar to the bottom section of the fabric than at the top.
Finally, I used a small spray bottle and sprayed the whole surface of the fabric with water until it was fairly wet (but not saturated). I was expecting the water soluble wax colours to blend instantly, but they didn't. They did dissolve, but I needed to use a large paintbrush to get the colours to merge and mix. I think if I had scrubbed further with the brush I may have lost some of those linear marks you can see at the top from my scribbles. It is interesting to note that the colours in the fish did not change at all (except for that one near the top on the right, whose tail has bled a bit - obviously not enough aloe vera gel was applied there!) since I had given plenty of time for them to dry - and they were therefore now permanent.
Summary: The art bars were nice to use on fabric and dissolved easily with a spritz of cold water. The different colours did not intermingle very much, even though there were many different blues on top of each other, until I used a paintbrush to 'scrub' them a little.
The thicker application of waxy Art bar at the bottom of the fabric gave a more opaque result than at the top, where only a thin layer had been applied.
Once dry I ironed the fabric then resprayed with water to find out what would happen. Unlike the Inktense pencils, which were completely permanent the blue background became workable once again - and when I laid a clean piece of white fabric on top the pigment transferred onto it. This would obviously have important issues for any work that might get damp or wet in the future - so keep this in mind if you do use Art bars.
For this reason, although successful as a method to colour fabric, I think I will be keeping the art bars to use mostly in my sketchbooks - the risk of transferring pigment to another quilt is too great. However, I am going to paint over this small sample piece with some textile medium to see if that will fix the pigment. I will let you know.
If you have any experience of using this, or any other product, i'd love to hear from you. Thanks for reading.