Today is Alpaca Day. On the Blue page of “Moyo’s Journey” we see a pair of inquisitive llamas – close relatives of the alpaca, but with a few differences. Here are some fun facts about these Friends of Moyo:
Alpacas have short spear-shaped ears and blunter shaped faces while the lengthier faced llama has longer, banana shaped ears. Llamas also have less hair on their heads and faces than alpacas. Alpacas are shorter at around 35″ high, weighing less than half of their taller cousins, who can tip the scales at as much as 400lb and stand at around 43”. For more than 5,000 years alpacas have been bred for their coats (and in Peru for meat as well), while llamas have traditionally been bred as pack animals and for their meat. Alpacas produce a finer and greater quantity of fleece than llamas, in a wider variety of colors. The alpaca also produces more fleece than its larger cousin and in a much greater variety of colors. Llamas also generally do not have as much hair on their head and face as alpacas do. While Alpacas are herd animals – I like to call the collective noun a spittoon – llamas are more independent creatures and are often used as guard animals for alpacas, sheep, and other small livestock. Oh and they all love sunbathing!
A bit of history… I found this story from Andean mythology and thought I would share it here: According to both the Aimara and Quechua-speaking peoples of South America, the ancient world was comprised two superimposed worlds, the upper and the lower. The lower world was populated by enormous herds of plump, sleek alpacas belonging to the Apu, or mountain god, and were tended to by his daughter. The alpacas of the upper world, by contrast, were far fewer in number and were inferior in quality, with only a short fleece Because the Apu’s daughter had difficulty in protecting her alpacas from the region’s numerous predators, her father arranged for her to marry a young herdsman from the upper world who could help her tend these herds. The Apu’s daughter and her husband lived contentedly in the lower world for a while until the young herdsman began to grow homesick. He told his wife that he wished to return to his own world, and to enrich it with the lower world’s herds of alpaca. The mountain god’s daughter agreed and, collecting her alpacas, began traveling via the springs and lakes to live with her husband in the upper world. Her father’s only condition to his daughter’s marriage was that her husband was always to take good care of the herds and especially of a tiny alpaca that always had to be carried. Sadly, the daughter’s husband proved to be lazy and one day dropped the tiny alpaca on the ground, leaving it to fend for itself. When his wife saw this she took fright and immediately ran to the nearest spring and began swimming towards the lower world. The alpacas followed her, although a few were prevented from doing so by the herdsman. Ever since, the alpacas of the upper world have remained near springs and lakes. There, they continue to yearn after their mistress who, as yet, has never returned. The myth of the origin of alpacas contains a basic lesson that is still understood by Andean herders today – in the beginning life was difficult, by the grace of the mountain gods, alpaca herds increased, the world became fertile and life for a time became leisurely. Mankind then disobeyed the gods’ wishes, causing the herds to decline so that now they must be tended to continually.”
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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