Friday, December 7, 2012

Painting on Fabric ... T-Shirt Art

Acrylic paint on a cotton substrate ... it took sixty hours since its inception to get the shirt to this stage, and although it's tempting to add more forms and figures, I think this is enough – it's time to move on to something else.

The paintings have been through the wash and retouched where necessary. It proved difficult to work on a grey background, which tends to adulterate the purity of the colors. In order to allow for fading when the fabric is washed the contrast is deliberately made much stronger and the hues more vivid than they would appear in real life, and borders of the illustrations are boldly outlined.

The Spring Peepers and the Showy Tick Trefoil they are perching on have been through a couple of wash cycles, and this is about how much the other colors will soften when the shirt is washed again.

T-shirt #2 ... the three sphinx moths are modeled after specimens in my insect collection. The fabric has been through a good long wash cycle and the colors and details retouched where necessary. Adding textile medium makes the pigments semi-transparent and permits the colors to be layered rather than mixed, but I'm not sure how the shirts will look after a few months of wear and tear. The underpainting – the painting done prior to washing – took about fifteen hours.

The back of T-shirt #2 – the acrylics were allowed to cure for a few days before washing and adding the final touches. The second layer of semi-transparent paint and detail involved twenty hours of work. Like the front, most of the art is themed around sphinx moths and based on a combination of photos and specimens.

Underpaintings on the front of Nature T-shirt #3.

After washing and adding some more highlights, shadows and colors, Nature T-shirt #3 is ready to wash and wear. But before I continue adding any more designs to the back ...

... I've been trying to think of what might be used as a protective clear coat to minimize wear and tear of the fabric and keep the colors vibrant. So – it's time to try an experiment.

After this painting of a Luna Moth is washed, repainted/retouched and washed again I'm going to try a layer of white glue, which is transparent when cured. I have clear acrylic but I don't feel I'm gaining anything using it for a final covering as the paints themselves are acrylics. And I think an epoxy or enamel will crackle. So I'll see what happens with the glue, and if this test is successful I'm also going to add another painting, this time employing the white glue as a transparetizing medium ... nothing ventured, nothing gained ...

Nature T-shirt #4 ... the experiment using white glue as a surface finish failed. The glue washed out, but there was no harm done. I've added a Polyphemus Moth but I'm going to leave the rest of the fabric blank so I have room to test new paints, materials and techniques.

Back to work on Nature T-shirt #3. Another experiment ... I'm using toothpicks and diaper pins to make a color sketch of the subject before doing the underpainting. The first layer of paint has been applied to the sketch of the Small Yellow Lady's Slipper (meaning it's not finished yet – as usual, there will be another coat of colors with transparetizing medium applied after washing). The drawing below is a preliminary colored sketch of a Small White Lady's Slipper.

The finished painting, themed around my favourite orchids, Lady's Slippers. Two layers of paint, the fine linework traced three times with a toothpick, and a final coat of clear acrylic.

The shirts below are twenty years old so the artwork is a little worse for wear. The tropical fish shirt fabric is acrylic. As I recall the paintings are based on the drawings in The Dell Encyclopedia of Tropical Fish.

Ruby-throated Hummingird nectaring at a Cardinal Flower ... I had no photos or drawings to reference, so this one was perforce done from memory.