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.
If you went to Festival of Quilts, I hope you had a lovely time. As usual there was lots of excellent work to see, old and new friends to meet, and a hint of controversy too.
My mum and I spent a great weekend together and came away with lots of ideas and a little bit of shopping too. One of our favourite galleries was that belonging to Russian artist Lyubov Lezhanina. (Click on her name for a link to her Facebook page). It was tucked away right in the back corner, so if you didn't get down there, here are some photographs of her wonderful work.
And now back to work....
On October 2nd I have a new 'Further Techniques' workshop coming up at Midsomer Quilting where we will be taking a more considered approach to some of the ideas used in the original 'Techniques 1' workshop. The aim of the new workshop is to add surface design to large pieces of fabric in order to create a co-ordinated collection that can be used to create a unique art quilt.
Not only is is an interesting little creature to look at, it is also a very simple shape with some interesting marks which will transfer nicely as a lino block.
To start the block I made a very simple drawing of the shapes I wanted to carve. You can see that there is no detail here - just the outlines of some vaguely moth shaped creatures and some lines giving the idea of movement. (Please ignore the faint beetle and ant shapes in pencil - this is a recylced piece of paper and they have nothing to do with the moths)
This is what I intend to carve into the piece of 'lino' (I like to use a soft plastic type material as a substitute for lino as it is much easier to cut into and doesn't crumble like lino can if it gets cold or dries out). The moth shapes will remain whole on the block and the lino material all around them will be carved away.
Using a very soft pencil I traced the outlines then transferred them onto the lino block, ready to carve.
You can see the smudgy pencil outlines of the moth shapes and also see where I have started to carve into the block, taking out the green plastic material with the cutting blade. However, it is already starting to get a little confusing as to what should be carved away and what should remain, so I took a black marker pen and coloured in all the areas I want to stay. That way I hope I wont make any mistakes and carve out a section that should stay. Once it is gone, it is gone and there isn't a lot that can be done!
I hope this photo makes it all clearer. The black sections will be left alone for the time being, and all the green areas need to be carved away with the cutting tool. All those little grooves that remain in the carved away section produce beautiful graphic marks on your prints, so don't try and make it all super smooth.
SAFETY FIRST: If you try this then you MUST only ever carve away from yourself. That blade is super sharp and not only does it really hurt when you slip and stick it into yourself, it goes in deeply too and there will be a lot of blood and maybe tears. You need quite a lot of pressure to carve into the lino so accidents, which do happen, are not nice.
Make sure the hand which is holding the lino block is never in front of the hand holding the carving tool. Although this sounds obvious, it is easy to forget and let that free hand hold the block in such a way as to almost guarantee you will get cut. Turn the lino block often to make sure you are always cutting away from yourself and your free hand.
It took about half an hour to carefully carve away all the green material around the black shapes, and the block was ready to have its first trial to see what else was needed to add interest. Using a roller and some printing ink I inked up the block and made a trial print onto a piece of scrap paper. Unfortunately I forgot to take a photo of this very first print, but once I could see how it looked I wiped the block clean with a tissue and carved a little more removing areas where I wanted more definition and where I wanted more detail. This is the print I made next.
You can see it is not a good print, but the purpose of this one was simply to see how the extra detail I added looked. The moth on the right was looking more like a wasp with the marks I carved into the wing sections - so I knew I needed to cut some more into that area to sort out that problem. But I do like the small straight lines I made in the body of the moth on the left.
After that I made a further trial print. The photo below shows this and the ink and roller I used to ink up the lino block. Again, it is a terrible print, but it showed me enough detail of the marks I had cut into the lino. I still don't like the waspy looking one though. Those lines on the wings are all wrong. I'll have to work on that some more.
Here is the finished block - still a bit wet after washing off the ink under the tap.
And here are two of the early prints in my sketchbook. I have added a little colour to the one on the left with Markal oilstick. I had intended working onto it with watercolour paint and pencils - but I have discovered that the new ink I have purchased is not permanent once dry and so is pretty useless for my purposes! Aagh!! The moment any water touches the print the black ink smears all over the place and not only ruins the print, but turns everything black. So choose your ink carefully, or use acrylic paint which also works well, and is permanent once dry.
I will work on this block some more, make some better prints and then print up some nice fabric to share in a few weeks time. If you decide to have a try at lino cutting, and it is great fun, please do take care. Put your work onto a non-slip mat or a whole newspaper (to protect your table in case of slips) and remember to keep your free hand behind the cutting tool!
Thanks for reading.