Musings from Moyo: The Disappearing Art of Letter Writing

Cards from silk painting originals by Miranda Roberts Cards from silk painting originals by Miranda Roberts
“To send a letter is a good way to go somewhere without moving anything but your heart.”

Phyllis Theroux

If you’ve been following by latest adventures since publishing my first book “Moyo’s Journey”, you will know that I am currently living aboard a 48 foot catamaran sailboat in Chesapeake Bay, with my humans. Maintenance is an ongoing requirement of boat life and so “Sarabi” is currently out of the water being painted. As a result, my humans decided to take a land expedition to New York City. Someone had to oversee things at the boat yard so I stayed alone “at the helm”. I think possibly I should be promoted to Rear Admiral after this responsibility (little steps Moyo, little steps).

With them away, things were a little quiet on board and while I followed their Instagram and Facebook posts to stay in touch, it got me thinking about the lost art of letter writing – and that includes sending postcards, greetings cards of all sorts and thank you cards. Not those (irritating) electronic versions with the cheesy music but rather, ones involving real paper stock, envelopes, stamps – the works. Words on paper that last until the ink fades, tucked tenderly inside keep sake boxes to be revisited often. Tangible evidence of connection and affection. Letters on cards do not have to be lengthy – the joy comes in the unexpected arrival of mail aside from bills, business and advertising; the knowledge that someone cares enough to choose a card just for you, then write a message, address and mail it. A postcard from New York or simply just an “I Love You” to a friend.

A pet peeve on our boat is the unacknowledged: the unrecognized gift; the unappreciated dinner party; the unvalued time. Healthy relationships work two ways so silence following table laden feasts; birthdays that warrant no more than a Facebook one liner; and the roaring hush of distant friendships are a puzzle. We are a technology centered boat in a technology driven world but that disappearing tradition of the real written communication is something the three of us still try to embrace.

The advent of online stores like Redbubble, Zazzle and Etsy make miniature artworks available to everyone. Make sure you have a good supply of unique cards for the Holidays and lets hold on to this fast disappearing tradition!

“The act of writing itself is like an act of love. There is contact. There is exchange too. We no longer know whether the words come out of the ink onto the page, or whether they emerge from the page itself where they were sleeping, the ink merely giving them color.”
Georges Rodenbach: The Bells of Bruges

Cards from my silk paintings are available at www.redbubble.com/people/MirandaRoberts

An Inspirational Story Time with Moyo


Thank you to Chrissy Brackett from Woodinville, WA for this inspirational story time with Moyo.. Copies available here, from MirandaRobertsArt, Etsy and Amazon.com. Where will YOU take Moyo?

“Once a month I run a Children’s StoryTime at the bookstore where I work. At the last event, I chose to share “Moyo’s Journey”. It was amazing to see children as young as 3 entranced by the vibrant artwork, the 8 & up kids enjoying the different places that Moyo travels to and the adults listening closely to the message being delivered through the words. The kids then did a hands-on project of painting with watercolors a place that they thought Moyo should visit – most were imaginary places of wonder – and they placed their own “Moyo” polar bear in their special place. It was a wonderful story time that everyone enjoyed for a variety of reasons.
Afterwards, my two helpers (a 9 and 11 year old), who have attended StoryTime for several years, were looking through the back pages and reading through the facts (with their mom). I surprised them by gifting this very special book to them. They were so excited to take the book home and share it with their dad, who is from New Zealand! A family treasure is what I’ve been told by their mom.
Thank you, Miranda Roberts, for writing and illustrating a children’s book that entertains all ages! I highly recommend “Moyo’s Journey” for families, librarians and teachers!!!”

 

Silk Painting 101: #3 From Start to Finish

How to do silk painting How to do silk painting
While you are practicing the very basic techniques I outlined in the last blog post (Silk Painting 101: #2 Practice Piece), start considering what it is you are going to paint and how it will be displayed.

Drawing
Draw your design in pencil and keep it as simple as possible. Because I will be showing the gutta technique, you need to consider the simplicity of the design while you work on your drawing. I decided to paint a pangolin because the symmetry of their scales seems to lend itself well to my drawing style.
Silk Painting with MirandaRobertsArt
Transferring the design onto the silk
Once you are happy with handling the gutta applicator, and with your pencil design, you will need to transfer it to the silk. Now – its perfectly fine to draw the outlines in gutta directly onto the silk, as you did with the practice piece, but (did I mention I was a control freak?) I want to keep my final product pretty similar to my original drawing.

To trace your illustration onto the silk, it will need to be flush up against the silk. For this part, I use a very (non) hi-tech pile of books to attain the right height, with the illustration on the top, directly on the silk. Trace the picture in pencil onto the silk. You can also use one of those disappearing embroidery pencils if you want to be all fancy. You don’t need to trace ALL of the details of the design – as long as you have the bold outlines, you can add the finer points directly onto the silk, if you feel confident. It’s actually a lot harder to apply gutta over the pencil than it appears!

You might want to apply the gutta in stages allowing it time to dry. If your picture is complex, its hard to do the outline without leaning on the silk and smudging wet gutta, so take it slowly and be patient. Once the entire outline is complete and dry, you’ll be ready to start the painting.

Adding the color
Remembering the spread and flow of the silk paint from your practice piece, start applying the color to your design. Because you can’t really erase the paint once you have applied it, I suggest that you begin with your lightest color, that way, if you DO make an “error” then you can paint over it with a darker color once it is dry. I don’t really think anything is ever “wrong” or erroneous in art, it’s just an opportunity to see how creatively you can rescue a situation!
For small areas remember to only put a little paint on your brush. You’ll see that it spreads to the gutta and stops – hence the term “resist technique”.

That’s really all there is to it. I made a cheeky little video for you to enjoy. Next week I’ll try and troubleshoot any questions you have sent me. I’m pretty responsive to email so feel free to contact me or Facebook message me through my MirandaRobertsArt page and I’ll get back to you asap. Kind of unofficial “online help”!

Oh and be sure head on over and pre-order your copy of “Moyo’s Journey” today!

 

Silk Painting 101: #2 Practice Piece

Silk Painting 101 with MirandaRobertsArt Practice Piece Silk Painting 101 with MirandaRobertsArt finished piece
Applying the gutta is technically the most challenging part of silk painting. You need to make sure that you have strong solid outlines, with no gaps or breaks in them. To this end, I thought we would start with a practice piece first with a free form design. We are going to apply the paint FIRST for this project and then add the gutta on top of it as a decoration. This will give you a good idea of how the paint flows on the fabric, and how to control the gutta applicator.

The finished piece could be used for a card or a multimedia piece at a later stage.
HINT: When I crop painted silk fabric from a painting, I always hang on to it for future embellishments

Stretching the Silk
To begin the process, you will need to stretch the silk so that it is taut over the frame, attaching it at close intervals with the three prong silk thumb tacks. Begin with one tack in each corner of the frame. Then pin it down one side of the frame, and then pin the opposite side. Do the same with the other two sides until the silk is snug on the frame with no wrinkles. Cut the silk on the outside of the frame so that you have no pieces left flapping in the wind! Here is a short video on how to do this.

Freeflow painting for the practice piece – click here for video.
As your paint will not be restricted by gutta for this process, remember that the colors will flow into one another. Get a feel for how quickly the paint does dry – and you will see that it leaves a water mark when this happens. Also consider which colors you juxtapose with others to avoid an all over muddy brown! I am assuming that you are familiar with primary and secondary colors of the color wheel. If you aren’t then take a refresher look online to remind yourself of which colors together create other colors. I use nylon brushes in various sizes to apply the silk paint. Experiment with blending colors without washing your brush and with adding a little bit of water. Don’t try and paint anything specific, instead just work on getting the feel of the paint and how it flows on the silk.

When the silk is dry, try doodling with the gutta to get a feel for the pressure you need to apply to both the applicator bottle and the silk, the kind of bold lines you need to use, and how to avoid blobs!

Once your abstract test piece is finished and completely dry, remove it from the frame and on a low setting, with no steam, gently iron the entire piece. You can then cut out the pieces you wish to use. If you are making cards, then a light application of spray mount on the back of the piece you plan to use will work well. I will cover other gluing options in a later post. The most important thing to remember is that in order for the colors to “pop” you will need to attach the finished piece to a white background. Try it out against other colors and you will see what I mean.

This is a fun and easy way to start silk painting. Please send me any related questions – I’ll be happy to answer them!

If you are interested in receiving occasional informational newsletters from MirandaRobertsArt and Moyo’s Journey, please click here. I will never share your information with a third party and will not fill your inbox with spam mail! 

Silk Painting 101 with Miranda Roberts : Getting Started

SIlk Painting materials
You asked – so here it is – the first in a series of blog posts on “How to”… I guess you could call the collection “Silk Painting 101”, which seems a lot more polite than “Silk Painting for Dummies”!
There are various silk painting techniques. I like to describe them as Controlled Gutta Styling, Loose Gutta Accenting and Free Flow. As I am (admittedly) a bit of a control freak, I prefer the Controlled Gutta Style which some say is reminiscent of stained glass. This method best suits the bold outlines of my drawing style and is the technique I will be discussing in the next few blogs.

Materials:
I purchase most of my materials online from Dharma Trading*.
1: Habotei 8 White Silk
I prefer this weight as it works well with a range of different matting and mounting choices.
2: Adjustable stretcher frame
I have had mine for years and it is known as batik style – I haven’t found an identical style here in the US however. The most important thing is that it needs to be adjustable so that you have flexibility in your choice of painting sizes. A cheap alternative to try initially is a circular embroidery frame. As long as the silk can be stretched taut for painting, this will work.
3: Pins
Three prong silk thumb tacks to hold the silk in place. I require these for my particular frame – make sure you purchase the ones that work with best with the frame you choose.
4: Gutta
This is a latex based outliner/resist and is available in many colors. I prefer black, and occasionally use clear which will result in white outlines or accents. On the red illustration page in “Moyo’s Journey” I used this to create the aboriginal dot style effect.
5: Gutta applicator nozzle
These come in two sizes – #4 and #6. I prefer #6 as it allows the gutta to flow a little more freely.
6: Gutta applicator bottle
The gutta comes in larger bottles and needs to be decanted into these smaller applicator bottles. A messy business if you aren’t patient!
7: Marabu Silk Paints
There are many different brands of silk paint available but I prefer this range as it does not need to be steam set – just ironed. I also prefer to purchase from the wide selection of colors available instead of mixing. A little goes an incredibly long way. I have white in my palette but I have never used it – probably something I should experiment with down the line, to mix some pastels. The paint is extremely liquid – like ink – and is water soluble. This is good for creating tonal variation in your art AND for cleaning up afterwards.
8′ Paintbrushes in 3 sizes – your preference. I like the nylon bristle size 7 as my go-to brush for finer work.

Decisions, decisions!
You will also need to decide whether you are going to have your silk painting professional dry mounted and matted (expensive), whether you are going to stretch it over a blank canvas (pretty simple), or whether you are going to glue it with ModgePodge directly to the canvas (not without its own issues!). This choice will probably determine the size of your original painting.

So – get online and get shopping. I DO prefer to shop locally but where I live, its difficult to find the materials. I like to I support Dharma Trading, who are doing a lot of good in the global community, have been in business for 49 years and work hard to have a green environmental scorecard. Check them out

*Disclaimer – I did not receive payment from Dharma for this post, I am just a long standing customer who is happy with the products and service they provide.

If you are interested in receiving occasional informational newsletters from MirandaRobertsArt and Moyo’s Journey, please click here. I will never share your information with a third party and will not fill your inbox with spam mail!