Tessa Spanton SWA Artist, tutor, writer


Welcome to my blog.
This is where I write about some of the things that inspire my work,
news of exhibitions and works in progress

Wednesday, 4 December 2013

Painting Picture Frames

I sometimes paint picture frames to a colour that suits the painting. I usually use artists' acrylics or Dulux eco range. The frames for little group of lavender themed paintings above were transformed from various browns to a soft grey with a hint of aqua using Farrow and Ball's skylight.

Monday, 18 November 2013

Inktense on Silk Part 1

This lavender field was painted on damp silk using Inktense blocks, It is approx  4in square
The manufacturers say these can be used on silk and when dry are permanent. Silk paints are usually fixed by ironing. I ironed this. 
Below is my sample to test the colours to see if they are colour fast when washed. 
I will also test the colours to see how light fast they are but that takes time.
The sample on the left was cut in half and the right hand side washed. The right hand photo shows before and after washing. I didn't notice any colour running in to the water though the sample on the right has gone a little lighter.

I also tested some other aquarelle sticks on damp silk. I didn't cut these samples in half but just washed the right hand side of each.
D    Daler Rowney's Aquatone
CD Caran d'Ache Neocolour
L    Lyra

With these I could see the colour coming out into the water. The manufacturers of these makes don't claim that they are colour fast.

The Inktense blocks seem to have done the best on washability.
I am not sure that I would use any of them for silk scarves.
They would be good for making silk painted cards or small paintings and are more portable for working outside or on holiday. They would be ideal for groups of children to use.

Friday, 15 November 2013

Canna Durban silk painting

  Canna Durban    silk painting by Tessa Spanton (c)
I have several paintings in 'Art for Gifts at Christmas' until 24th Dec 2013
The one above is in the window. It is in a light hardwood frame size 23x27in
at The Corner Gallery, Carshalton Beeches, Surrey

I grow these cannas in my garden and draw them at different stages as they grow. I did a series of paintings from my drawings inspired by the way the colours glow in the sun.

I painted using successive layers of colour and clear outliner resist. No size or thickener was used.
I draw on the silk with a pencil and then wet the silk. It wouldn't work using a fade away marker as it would vanish when the silk was wet. The colours are brushed onto the wet silk and go beyond the pencilled shapes. I used iron fix paint for this but steam fix can also be used this way. Clear outliner is then applied to some of the pencil lines. Then paint is brushed to one side of the line to cut out the shape.
It needs some planning as to which colours will work over which. The outliner lines will not be visible if paint is only put on one side of the line when finished a sharp edge is created. If painted both side of the line then the line will be the colour of the first layer as in the pink edge of the stem of the central flower. Depending on the painting I might repeat this several times building up more layers and depth of colour.

Monday, 7 October 2013

Paintings from Tresco

 Island Dreams    oil pastel by Tessa Spanton (c)  2013

Scilly Blue  oil pastel by Tessa Spanton (c) 2013
Gimble Porth, Tresco, looking towards St Helen's Lighthouse

 Both paintings will be on show with the Dorking Group of Artists exhibition at Denbies, Dorking from 9th - 12th October.

 I have painted on the beaches of Tresco in different seasons and times of day. Although there is beauty on a misty day it is the incredible blues and turquoises of a sunny day when set against the whiteness of the sand that inspire.
Tresco is one of the Isles of Scilly, set in the Atlantic like little gems almost 30 miles SW of Lands End.

Sunday, 22 September 2013

Working with Silver and Copper

On Friday I had a taster lesson in silversmithing with Aileen Hamilton at her studio in Redhill
 (details here )
 I thoroughly enjoyed trying something new and it was a treat to learn with Aileen.
She showed me some techniques and we tried them out on copper first.
I tried embossing the copper with various hammers and stamp like tools
Photos below
Top and bottom right
Amazingly the embossing on the top and bottom left were done by a dried leaf and some lace. These would be too fragile to hammer so each was laid on a piece of copper and were passed through a roller mill.

 Some of the tools I used.

To emboss the copper I hit the top of this tool several times with a hammer.

Annealing  The copper is heated then cooled in water to make the metal softer to bend. 

 Here the ring has been shaped, soldered and cleaned ready to be filed and polished.

I then chose how to decorate the silver. I enjoyed this part the best.
I then went through the other processes as described above for the copper ring.

Here I am trimming the ring to my size.

 and here it is soldered, cleaned filed and polished. I am pleased with the result and most satisfying to try something new to me and have some insights into an age old craft that goes back millennia.

Wednesday, 11 September 2013

florum 2013 Exhibition of Botanical and Floral Works

' Daylilies' silk painting (c)  Tessa Spanton SWA

 florum's 10th anniversary exhibition runs until 5pm on Saturday so if you haven't already been there is still time. I have 7 paintings on show plus prints and cards.


Exhibition of botanical and floral works

7th – 14th SEPTEMBER

KWT Sevenoaks Wildlife Reserve, Bradbourne Vale Road, Sevenoaks TN13 3DH

more than 60 invited artists

all works for sale 
many different media
prints and cards
free admission and parking 
credit cards accepted

“It was certainly the best looking exhibition I’ve attended in terms of botanical artwork”  

(Katherine Tyrrell, one of the UK’s foremost art bloggers at http://www.makingamark.blogspot.com)

Our 2013 visitors said…

“It is so exciting to see something of this quality”
“This exhibition goes from strength to strength – every year better than the last!”
“An incredibly high standard – brilliant work”


Poppy in the Lavender watercolour (c) Tessa Spanton SWA

Friday, 9 August 2013

Marbling at Art in Action

In July I spent a day at Art in Action, one of my favourite events of the year. It is held over 4 days in the beautiful grounds of Waterperry House near Oxford. There are some truly superb works on display and as well as watching artists and crafts people at work there is a chance to ask questions and several opportunities to try something new.

This year I tried a taster a marbling taster with Hikmet Barutçugil from Istanbul. I wanted to do a tulip and the results are shown above. I have done a bit of marbling on silk as described in a previous post and would like to do tulips on silk.

Hikmet works on silk as well as paper and also does yardage.

The photos below show Hikmet's wife demonstrating some of the steps involved. 

1 For marbling on paper natural dyes are used. These are splashed or carefully dripped onto a soft gel  like layer made from water and gum arabic.

2 The dyes are manipulated in various ways. The second photo shows the pattern floating on the gel .

 3 a monoprint is made by lowering a sheet of paper onto the surface then carefully pulling it off.

Each artist /crafts person contributes what they consider their best piece for a display that fills a large marquee. Hikmet won the Best in the Best of the Best at Art in Action last year. Shown below.


Wednesday, 17 July 2013

Mosaics, Parc Guell, Barcelona

 Parc Guel was designed by the Catalan architect Antoni Gaudi and built between 1900 and 1914 and is part of a Unesco World Heritage Site.

Tip If you visit on a hot day and want a good work out first, go by tube and spend 20 min climbing  a steep hill, if you want to save your energy for the parc which is also on a hill with some steps go by cab or bus.

Gaudí's multicolored mosaic salamander fountain, popularly known as"el drac" the dragon shown above, is near the main entrance  

An enormous terrace is surrounded with curving seating like a giant 

sea serpent, with wonderful views over Barcelona to the sea.

This place was top of my list of places to see in Barcelona and was 

even more amazing than I imagined!  In this post I am just 

highlighting the mosaics. I found the scale of their use and the 

colours and patterns of them inspiring. Many of the mosaics here were the work of Gaudi's collaborator Josep Jujol. for more info click here

Trencandis is a type of mosaic done using broken pieces of tiles and dinnerware, waste products from potteries. Gaudi sourced these from Spanish manufacturers. This technique was used for the first time on the Guel Pavilions  The complex curving shapes could be covered by breaking the pieces even smaller. The colourful mosaics on the serpentine seating are said to be the work of Jujol who also included pieces of glass bottles, broken china from his own dinner services, pieces from a broken porcelain doll and tiles he specially commissioned.

I wrote a post earlier in the year that included mosaics from Kaffe Fassett's exhibition in London. I still have the pieces of a broken mug kept after seeing Kaffe talking about making mosaics from broken china, on TV back in the 80s.  here  
I am feeling inspired to find some other pieces and make something from it now!
I would also like to design a silk scarf with mosaic patterning.

Guell Pavillions

Details from the top of this building are shown below.

Monday, 17 June 2013

Strelitzias on Silk


This is an original silk painting of Strelitzia reginae, They are also known as Birds of Paradise. 
I first noticed and found out the name of these beautiful flowers in Madeira. I have seen them growing out of doors in the mild Winter climate there and have photographed, painted in watercolour and brought them back home on the plane. People are often surprised to hear this. It is allowed to take them to another EU country and the florists and airports are all prepared.
I have been trying to grow one in the UK but so far in about six years it has only produced leaves. it has to come inside in the Winter as it is tender here,
The painting was done in my studio and is mounted on a ph neutral backing board.
I have ear marked it for an exhibition in September unless it sells before then.

Details and contact  here

Notes about buying these flowers
 When I first bought them I was advised to get them from a florist. The next time I got them in the market from Botanica 17, both times beautifully packaged in a sturdy box and delivered to the hotel. For no extra charge BA would put them in a special area that didn't get cold like the area where the cases go. BA sold the line to Easyjet, they charge for this.
 I decided it wasn't worth bringing them on Easyjet. I had been originally advised by the rep not to buy the flowers from the market or airport. Having bought them from the market and found they were good I was tempted to try the airport ones which were much cheaper. The florist there said Easyjet don't charge if  you carry them on to the plane as a bouquet. wrapped. They are very robust flowers and were fine without the box though I think some flowers like orchids are better boxed. They lasted well.
 There are extra flowers in the beak of the flower that would come out if they were growing. As cut flowers you can give them a helping hand out of the beak when the first flowers start to fade and they will last a few days more.

Wednesday, 22 May 2013

Mounting Silk for Framing

Over the years I have tried lots of different methods for mounting silk for framing. I prefer to use a method which means that the silk could be removed later if necessary.

 Which methods have you tried and what worked best?

Mounting Small pieces

I sometimes use this method for small works. It works best for pieces of silk under about 10in or 25cm
Lay the silk onto a piece of mount board. Secure with small pieces of a good quality adhesive tape. eg Sekisui tape from Jacksons on Amazon click here Don't use ordinary sellotape or cheap masking tape. 
Start in the middle of one side. I have numbered the first 4 positions for taping. Then work out from each of these points gently stretching the silk till their are no wrinkles.

Wrap the silk around to the back of the mount card and tuck in the corners, secure in the same way with small pieces of tape or use a needle and thread to lace as described below.

Mounting larger pieces

This is the easiest way I have found. 
You will need
Mount card ph neutral or better still conservation grade mount board  for backing the silk painting and for making the mount from.  Antique white or ivory usually shows the colours off to their best.  Framers sometimes sell off cuts of mount board and even brightly coloured ones are usually white on the back.

Acid free double sided tape about 1/2-1in wide  click here for an example or even better get acid free conservation grade click here

fig 1 above  Silk stretched on a frame. The image comes within the central square. The rest is spare silk which will be under the picture mount. 
I once left so little border on a large painting which made it impossible to mount properly using any of these methods. I went to a framer who dry mounted  the entire image using  conservation grade materials. an expense I could have avoided with more border.

After you have fixed the work, re-damp it, stretch it back onto the frame and leave it to dry. The image would come up to within the central area.
If you have used iron fix paints and metallic gutta you can skip removing it from the frame to fix. Just turn the frame over and iron the work on the back.

Fig 2 above  For the backing cut a piece of mount board a little smaller than the inside measurement of the silk painting frame and stick double sided tape just inside each of the four edges. 

This can now be stuck to the back of your painting and the whole thing removed from the frame. Fold the spare silk round to the back of the board and fix with  more double sided tape. Fix the picture to the mount using double sided tape.
I wrote about this method for the Guild of Silk Painters Journal back in 2007. 

 Lacing the Back
I use this method occasionally, it works well but is time consuming.
 Stretch the silk over a piece of mount card, no double sided tape is needed so the picture can be brought to the edge of the backing and the spare silk turned to the back for stitching. 
Temporarily secure on the back with masking tape and tuck in the corner.

Start in the centre of one side securing a strong thread with several backstitches.  Take it   across to the opposite side, stitch through the silk then return to the other side again pulling the thread taut, repeat until you reach the corner. You will need to rethread your needle several times and tie the new thread in. When you reach the corner leave the thread loose.
Start again at the centre and work towards the opposite corner. Do the same with the other two sides. Adjust the tension till even, stitch the corners and finish the loose threads.

Or use acid free foam core,  lace with fishing line and reinforce each hole with PVA glue

'Fall Out Method'  aka Newberry Method
I learnt about this from Stephie,  a friend with a Folksy shop, click here to see one of her silk paintings mounted in this way. She has just started silk painting. I have just tried it and it worked well.
I used 5mm acid free white foam core cut larger than the mount aperture. I cut an aperture a little larger than that of the mount. I placed the silk on the fall out piece and put it back into the aperture. I found it needed some tape to hold it. I cut the aperture on an angle but it could be done with  a straight edge. A layer of polyester wadding could be placed on the fall out first under the silk. The whole thing then goes under the mount.

Other methods
Neither of these methods will give such long lasting results.
1. Silk paintings can be mounted on adhesive mount board. This is usually used for posters.
2. Small pieces can be ironed onto freezer paper.

When mounted the work can be put into a picture frame. It is better to have a small space between the glass and the silk otherwise small amounts of condensation could encourage mould to grow on the silk. A picture mount will do this job.
  Make the border width 2-3in.  For a larger picture ( eg over 20x24in ) make it 3- 4in.  The lower border can be made a little wider by adding another 1/4  -1/2 in. This is more important on larger pictures as without it the lower border can appear smaller than on the other sides

If you prefer to frame without a mount, glue small strips of mount card under the rebate of the frame to create the gap between the silk and the glass. It is a bit fiddly but should be invisible from the front.

Wednesday, 8 May 2013

Flowery Ebru

Above beaded detail and below mounted and framed
I wrote more about this in this post and here it is finished. I used pearl beads for the centres and deep metallic blue tiny glass tube beads for the stamens.

Now on show at the Corner Gallery

Friday, 19 April 2013

Kaffe Fassett – A Life in Colour

Exhibition Dates: 22 March – 29 June 2013

at the Fashion and Textile Museum 83, Bermondsey Street, London

  Click on the first picture to see it larger.

This exhibition is a feast of colour, texture and pattern and brilliantly staged. I visited on a very cold grey day and was pleased to swap the icy winds that whipped past the bottom of the Shard for the warm and colourful interior of the Fashion and Textile Museum. 
I was delighted to find that photography is permitted although  I only had an iphone with me.
 I found the exhibition very inspiring and will let the pictures speak for themselves.
Kaffe Fassett was originally a painter before he worked with textiles. The early part of the exhibition shows some of his paintings.
Paintings, knitwear, needlepoint, tapestry and patchwork quilts are arranged in different spaces making the effect of ever changing stage sets as you move around the exhibition and see different combinations from various angles.
 In the first 2 photos  I am looking through archways back at area showing paintings and forwards to a rich and opulent area clothed with brightly coloured and patterned textile pieces. 

Back in the 80s I remember seeing Kaffe on TV. He was making mosaics from broken china. I was inspired to keep a favourite mug that got broken, I still have the pieces somewhere waiting to be turned into a mosaic sometime!
I like the way the bottom of the mug or jug have been incorporated into this mosaic.

I love these hats patterned with buttons.

PS We had a lovely lunch at Jose's just over the road. It is an authentic Spanish Tapas bar. I have written  a review over on my food blog. click here