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

Saturday, 27 December 2014

Problems with Water Soluble Outliner/Gutta in Silk Painting


Recently I have had a problem with Pebeo's gold outliner (shown above) coming off at the final washing stage. I have noticed too that other silk painters are posting about it on the internet.

I have used this product for years without a problem. I usually iron fix a silk painting as soon as it is finished then wash it before ironing again and framing. However recently I finished a painting that had taken a long time to do and was not happy to see some of the carefully applied gold lines floating off in the water. This had not happened before. Usually it is the reverse, if a bit of the gold gets on clothing or the wrong part of the work, it is practically impossible to remove.
I rescued the work and reapplied the lines.


On Pebeo's website there is a PDF about the product. It says leave for 2 days after iron fixing before washing. As I have not had this problem before I can only guess that maybe the product has changed. It would be helpful if Pebeo printed this on the tube.

For many years I have used water based outliners ('gutta') for resist lines when painting on silk.
 I have tried lots of different makes. I prefer them to spirit based gutta as they are odourless. The clear water based version can be removed with water whereas the spirit based one is removed by dry cleaning or solvent.

However the water based ones are not without other problems. They are more likely to leak especially when working very wet.
Sometimes there is a small gap in the gutta or the extra wetness starts to dissolve the line and allow colour to seep through.Often though it is just that the silk has become over saturated and over loaded so the colour spills over the line like when you try to carry an overfull teacup.

With some makes the metallic versions keep well in their tubes. Others don't they either become too thick and unusable or they separate in the tube so that when you come to use them a lot of clear liquid oozes out. They can't be stirred when in the tube,  you can try massaging the tube with the lid on but this doesn't usually help much.
I had one tube of Javanna metallic glitter that oozed clear liquid from the first time I used it leaving the metallic bits behind. It never worked properly and was probably past it when I bought it.
On the other hand I found a tube of  AV Vallejo black outliner which I bought about 25 years which is still working fine.

My recommendations

I am currently using Marabu contours and effects. Available from Silkcrafts
I have clear, gold, silver and a metallic glitter which has not separated. It is available in a squeezey bottle. The nozzle produces a fairly thick line so I attach a metal nib with a finer nozzle. The bottle is refillable from a larger container which makes it more economical.

Wax or solvent based gutta work best but both need an extra process to remove.
 I don't use solvent based gutta because of the smell.
I like using beeswax. It flows easily from a tjanting or kiska to give delicate lines or can be brushed, sponged or stamped on. I bought it from the local bee keepers group. Or you can get batik wax online.
Other silk painters speak well of Resistad which is only available mail order from New Zealand. I have some but haven't tried it yet.

Wednesday, 24 December 2014

Christmas Eve Cake

Christmas Eve Cake

I called it Christmas eve cake as I made it on Christmas Eve to start eating on Christmas eve. It's an experimental mix of various recipes I have used plus a Madeiran touch. Mel-de-Cana is a thick syrup from dark sugar cane molasses made from the sugar cane grown on the island of Madeira. pictures here
Bolo de mel is a cake made on the island that includes Mel-de-Cana.

8 oz mixed dried fruit soaked in 1 glass Madeira wine with
2 tsp dried mixed spice
2oz pecans chopped
4 oz butter
2 oz Mel-de-Cana or black treacle
2 large eggs beaten
8oz self raising flour

Melt the butter and treacle together for about 30 secs in the microwave.
Add the fruit mixture and pecans and stir well.
It should be cool enough to add the eggs then stir again.
Add the flour and gently stir it in.
Put the mixture in a 7in sq or 8in round greased tin and bake in a low oven, mine was ready after 1 hour.
When cool dust with icing sugar.
I used a buttered fluted tin and put flaked almonds in the bottom.

Merry Christmas.

Thursday, 11 December 2014

Poinsettias on Silk Greetings Cards

                                     Poinsettia on silk (c) Tessa Spanton

Silk Painted Greetings Cards Demonstration
I have written a step by step demo for Leisure Painter magazine Jan 2015 out Dec 6th on painting poinsettias on silk for greeting cards. The magazine is also available to buy online as a PDF from here

Silk Painting Starter Kit
I have also put together a kit with the basics needed for this project coming in at under £10.
The kit would be ideal for beginners, adults or children and would make a nice little gift or stocking filler.
 Update the kit is no longer available to buy from Silkcraft but the component parts are:  Silkcraft's own make ironfix paints, silk, gutta, and freezer paper. If you phone and explain I am sure Alison can help. 01246 290179
They are also available to buy at my classes.

The kit contains 3 mixable silk paints, some silk, backing paper for mounting the silk to for working on, gold outliner and a card mount. There is plenty of paint to make several cards or other projects.
You can add to the order for no extra postage, if you want more card mounts these are available to but or you could use plain card instead. Although not needed for this project a bottle of pink iron fix paint would be a useful addition for other projects.
There are full instructions in the article.

Tuesday, 2 December 2014

A Round the World Blog Hop

My latest work  Hand painted Silk Scarf Poppies steam fixed in the microwave and for sale on etsy here

Cath Stonard whose blog is stitchclothcolour invited me to follow on from her post.

It must be about 30 years ago that I met Cath. I was in awe of her watercolours and book illustrations. Years later we met up again at The Corner Gallery in Carshalton Beeches where we both show our work. Cath had moved on to working with textiles, quilting, embroidering, embellishing with the same creative energy and flair as I saw in her watercolours. I have just bought 2 of her works from the Corner Gallery.
We both started blogging at around the same time so I keep in touch with what she's making there and now through our Facebook pages too. As you will see if you hop on over to her blog she's full of new ideas and now working more in the direction of mixed media.

I have loved drawing and painting from an early age. I remember drawing on the wall paper behind the door when I was about 4 and then hoping my parents wouldn't notice, they did. From my teenage years I rummaged through the markets in the Midlands for dressmaking projects and have been a bit of a farbricaholic ever since. For years I have painted watercolours and then took up silk painting. It combines my love of painting and working with textiles.
Yesterday I painted 3 new silk scarves. One of them I sold online via my shop on  etsy, one of them is in the Corner Gallery and the other is shown at the top of this post.
I am also experimenting with marbling techniques on silk.

Much of the time I am dreaming up new ideas or collecting new art materials or techniques. I work on things in bursts and like to have a few juggling balls in the air, juggling between painting, writing and teaching watercolour and silk painting. When the classes are on holiday I might focus on creating a group of paintings for an exhibition and also have more time to go out collecting reference by looking, sketching, painting or taking photos.

This brings me on to the  bloggers that I would like to nominate, do hop on over to have a look at their blogs

I first met Helen when I went to her for lampwork lessons. I was fascinated by the process, admired her gorgeous beads and made some of my own which I wrote about here 
Her crafting began with tiara making and she now quilts, paper crafts and teaches these skills so do hop on over to her blog to find out more.

The next blogger to introduce is Stephanie Guy http://www.stephanieguy.co.uk/

I met Stephie online through Folksy, where we both have shops. Stephie paints and over the 2 or 3 years I have known her the paintings have got smaller and smaller. She is currently writing a series of articles for a magazine about how to paint little paintings for dolls' houses. Stephie's post will be in January.

I would also like to include Andrea Neidle whose blog is called My Life in Poems https://andreaneidle.wordpress.com/2014/11/24/my-favourite-blogs/

I met Andrea  on holiday a few years ago and we exchanged blog addresses. Her poems gently gather up into words some of the times in her life, sometimes celebratory, poignant or moving that resonate with some of the times in my life.
You may have heard her reading her poems on the radio.
Andrea nominated my blog for the Leibster Award.

Sunday, 30 November 2014

Steam Fixing Silk Dyes

'Roses'  long silk scarf was steamed using the following method.

This process can be done on your hob and is similar to steaming a Christmas pudding.

 IMPORTANT If you have used coloured waterbased outliners (guttas) dry iron first to fix the colour in the outliner. otherwise it will probably run. Dry iron on medium heat for several minutes.

To steam fix dyes into silk, lay the dry silk onto a piece of cotton that is larger than the piece of silk, tuck the extra in over the silk and loosely roll it up like a Swiss roll. If you don’t have cotton, use tissue paper instead. This is to ensure that no one part of the painted silk is touching another before the colours have been fixed.

Curl this round like a Danish pastry so that it will fit the steamer.

Some silk painters make a foil cap to cover the bundle, I prefer to wrap it in foil, a bit like a Cornish pasty, crimping the foil together at the top to keep water droplets out.

Place the parcel crimp side down in a steamer or on a trivet or upturned bowl in a pan. Add some water making sure that it doesn’t touch the parcel. 
How long you steam for depends on the size of the item. I would give a long scarf about an hour and deep colours or several scarves together longer, up to 3 hours. Some makes of dye eg Marabu need the full 3 hours.

Important, check the water level regularly and top up. I set a timer for 30 mins and then check. If it boils dry the silk might scorch.
When you remove the silk from the parcel take care as it will be very hot.

Rinse to remove any excess dye, blot between towels then iron while damp.
If you used salt for effects it is important to rinse the scarf well to remove any traces of salt as this can over time rot the silk.

Have fun!

Sunday, 26 October 2014

Painting Picture Frames

I am painting a few picture frames ready to frame some small works for The Corner Gallery's gifts for Christmas show.
I am using Farrow and Ball's emulsion paint. First I sand the surfaces to be painted and dust them down. I use an artist's flat brush. It takes up to 3 coats depending on the original colour of the frame. It gives a lovely velvety matt finish. The colour I am using this time is Teresa's green. It's a very soft grey green that goes well with lots of my paintings. This group will mostly be the local lavender fields painted on silk. I buy a sample pot which goes quite a long way on smallish frames.

Tuesday, 21 October 2014

Silk Scarf yellow and grey geometric pattern

I have used AV Vallejo black outliner and Marabu iron fix paints on a ponge 5 scarf. I worked on both ends in turn until the design met in the middle. It was not drawn out first but evolved as I worked on it.

A close up of one end

The ready hemmed blank silk scarf is attached to an Arty's Easyfix frame while being worked on.
Both are available to buy by mail order from Silkcraft click here for the frames and here for the scarves.

I find this type of frame is useful for painting scarves. I have a square frame and an extension kit. The system is flexible and can be set up for different sizes of scarf, oblong or square. The silk is held away from the frame rather than pinned onto a wooden frame which means that ready hemmed blank scarves can be painted right to the edge.
I find it a bit fiddly to set up and for work where the edges will not be seen prefer to use a wooden frame.

TIPS  Don't make the rolled edge too wet.  Be on the look out for moisture from the rolled edge moving into the drying scarf and making watermarks.
 I painted this scarf in small sections and dried them one at a time with a hair drier. This has to be watched too as one colour can spread along inside the rolled hem and get into the next section.

                                                       Finished scarf  135x35cm approx

Friday, 12 September 2014

Painting Outdoors Smart Tools

The second of my two articles about painting out of doors is in the October issue of the Leisure Painter magazine which is out today. 
I show how to scale up and how to make some simple tools, a viewfinder to help with finding a composition and an angle finder for measuring angles, useful when drawing buildings.
The magazine can be bought from larger newsagents or online here and is also available in digital form.

Sunday, 7 September 2014

florum 2014

There is a YouTube video of the exhibition made by Katherine Tyrrell with permission from florum
here and a review on her blog Making a Mark here

I have 7 paintings and some prints and cards
in florum's exhibition.It is on till Sept 13th 
more details click here

White Dahlia  an original silk painting by Tessa Spanton (c)

 Himalayan Poppy  an original silk painting by Tessa Spanton (c)

 Rose Burgundy Ice an original silk painting by Tessa Spanton (c)

Darwin tulip an original silk painting by Tessa Spanton (c)

Iris ensata  an original silk painting by Tessa Spanton (c)

Iris spuria an original silk painting by Tessa Spanton (c)

Hellebores an original silk painting by Tessa Spanton (c)

Saturday, 16 August 2014

Pack Smart

Torwards Godrevy    (c) Tessa Spanton
This little watercolour sketch was painted out of doors  on holiday
size 1 1/2 x 6 in
A little sketch done on a day out or on holiday holds  memories and a lasting reminder of the place.
I wrote two articles about painting out of doors. The first of these was in the September issue of the Leisure Painter magazine 2014. It has the title Pack Smart and offers ideas for getting started painting outdoors and how to travel light.

I put together several kits: The Micro, the Mini, The Essential and extras  are light enough not to put me off taking them out with me.
 The Micro kit weighs about the same as a banana. It includes a postcard sized watercolour pad, a water brush and various recycled things such as some blister packaging from pills or throat sweets, the lid from some food packaging and a small square plastic box that had Fererro Rocher chocolates in it. Well someone had to eat them!

The Micro Kit

The Mini Kit    1.Closed    2. Open
This includes two of my favourite items. A good quality folding brush made by Pro Arte and Winsor and Newton's amazing field box filled with my own choice of their Artist's colours. I have several of Pro arte's folding brushes. The one below is a round and the size is around 10. I also have a smaller size round, a flat and a filbert. I used the flat for the sketch above.
The field box has it's own built in water bottle, palette areas and water container that doubles up to keep the box closed when not in use. Remember to empty it if you take it through customs.


The Esssential 
Mini kit plus clip folder, tin for pencils, waterbrush etc and 1/8th imp cartridge and watercolour paper.

Plus sometimes a very lightweight fishing stool

The Full Works  (sometimes the fishing stool comes too.) I use this if I want to work larger and don't have to walk too far. I would only carry this with me if I am going out with the intention of painting. It holds 1/4 imp paper, a water bottle, a collapsing water pot and lots of brushes. There is room to stash the mini kit as well. The case is made by Mapac and has a comfortable shoulder strap.

My second article Smart Tools was in  October 2014 and the blogpost is here
To find out more Leisure Painter is available from some newsagents or online here as a hard copy or digital version

Monday, 26 May 2014

The Desert Collection in the Algarve

 Sandstone Cliffs Praia de Falesia, Algarve   1 and 2
     watercolours by Tessa Spanton (c)

Winsor and Newton Desert Collection limited edition professional watercolours.
Transparent  Phthalo sapphire,  Indian red deep, transparent orange,
Opaque  yellow titanate, gold brown with mixes shown above,
and dark brown ( shown below right)

I bought these paints to take to the Algarve with me as I thought they looked ideal for the reds and ochres of the sandstone cliffs.
Phthalo sapphire is a beautiful blue that is complementary to the transparent orange. They really sizzle next to each other. The transparent orange is an intense colour bordering on red,
I don't usually buy tubes of brown as I prefer to mix my own and the gold brown looks similar to gold ochre but I decided to buy them all. I wanted to explore the colour interactions when set next to one another and to see what mixes I could make from them.

I also made greens from this group. I used these for the pines growing on the cliffs. The greens produced are fairly muted.

above  View from Porto Bay Falesia watercolour Tessa Spanton (c) painted en plein air.

I have tested how the colours react with each other on wet watercolour paper,
 and made some comparisons with other colours I have, i will put these and my conclusions in another post.

Saturday, 3 May 2014

The Market in Funchal Madeira

Mercado dos Lavradores in Funchal, Madeira, Portugal

I did the under painting using FW inks on wet 200lb Bockingford paper. These are intense colours and I used then straight from the bottle. It comes with a handy dropper attached to the lid.
Onto this I collaged some paper torn from a magazine. I wanted some text in Portuguese and found some in a magazine I had brought back from Madeira. Even better there was an article about the market written in both Portuguese and English. I used pieces of this for the floor.

I worked on top of these using Atelier Interactive acrylics with plenty of flow medium. These are slower drying than acrylic paints usually are so I had plenty of time to blend colours. I spent several days on these paintings adjusting colours and tones, a luxury I don't usually have when painting on silk. I worked on them as a pair.
I mounted them like watercolours and framed them in light ash frames.
Here they are labelled and ready to be submitted to the Society of Women Artists exhibition at the Mall Galleries complete with paperwork.
Today 2 weeks later the letter arrived with the form with the result. As I opened it I am wondering 'would there be an A or a R written next to the titles?'  Good news this time, both have been accepted.

Friday, 18 April 2014

Business cards

Usually I make my own business cards using Publisher and printing them out.
Recently I tried the free sample pack of 10 cards offered by Moo.com  click here postage is also free.
There are various templates on offer, I chose to make my own. I put a cropped image of one of my oil pastel paintings with some text on one side and a whole image of a silk painting on the other side. The Moo logo appears on the side with the full image. When you place an order you can pay a bit more if you would prefer it to be logo free. It was all fairly easy to do. I had one or two queries and found the people at Moo very helpful over the phone.

I then tried another batch of Moo cards through Folksy, 50 cards for the cost of the postage only.
This time it is the Folksy logo that appears on the image side. As this logo is multi coloured I didn't want it on the main image. It is possible to avoid this, just a bit more complicated. I made up the text side in Publisher and converted it to a PDF file. I loaded this to the image side and zoomed out a bit so that the logo didn't cover my text. I much prefer the logo with the text  as this is where the web address of my Folksy shop is. I then put the full image on to Moo's text side.
The only drawback is that I couldn't use the Printfinity option doing it this way. Prinfinity means you can have a different image on each card.
I chose Moo Classic, 350gsm card with a silky finish from a sustainable source.
I am really pleased with the results.

Thursday, 3 April 2014

Dorking Group of Artists Spring Exhibition

This flier shows part images of some of the works that will be on show. One of mine is Lavender with ox eye daisies, centre left. It is watercolour with aquarelle sticks,

Sunday, 23 March 2014

Silk Scarf Painting Affordable Art Fair London and Tutorial

This scarf is back from the microwave and this is the first glimpse of how it turned out.

I tutored 2 groups sponsored by fashion house Gudrun Sjoden at the Affordable Art Fair in Battersea London. We used Arty's Quick Colour and ponge 5 silk scarves.
 Over 2 sessions of around 1 hour each about 34 damp silk scarves were folded, twisted or scrunched and painted using the dye direct from the little nozzles on the tubes of colour. This product though a bit pricey compared with some steam fix paints is very convenient and useful for groups where time and space is limited as you don't need paint brushes, pots or palettes.
 The colours were fixed in a squad of microwaves up on another level and ferried up, microwaved and brought back by a team of helpers. The damp scarves were wrapped in paper towels, placed in a plastic microwavable container and microwaved for about 3 minutes. I have put more info at the bottom of this post.

You will need
Silk scarf  Chinese silk Pongee 5 weight and Arty's Quick Colour steam fixable dye
disposable gloves
plastic sheet to work on
microwavable container eg plastic take away container or glass Pyrex bowl
kitchen paper or couch roll

Remove the label from the scarf.
Wet the scarf and blot off excess water. Then EITHER
1. Scrunch it into a loose ball
2.Twist it along it's length till it folds back on itself
3. Fold it in 4 lengthwise
Drip colours on straight from the bottle. They will spread and mix slowly.
For 1 or 2 do this in the microwavable container. For 1 squish the ball to help the colour spread. Open it up and apply more colour as needed then screw it up and squish it again.
For 3  Place flat on polythene and when you have applied the colour, sandwich carefully between sheets of kitchen paper, loosely roll it up then transfer to the container.

Fixing the colour
These dyes can be made permanent by fixing from damp in the microwave.
Place a sheet of kitchen roll in a microwavable container, put the damp scarf on that and cover with another piece of kitchen roll. Or for 1 and 2 wrap in cling film and secure loosely with a rubber band. Microwave on medium heat for around 3 minutes till dry. Open the package after about 2 min, take care because of the hot steam. If you used method 1 open the scarf out and re scrunch so that any damper parts are on the outside of the ball. Methods 2 and 3 just turn the package over. Now microwave in 30 sec bursts and check the silk. If it's still damp the colour won't be properly fixed. WARNING if you microwave for much time after the silk is dry the silk may become scorched or the plastic container may start to melt and leave bits of molten plastic on the silk. So keep checking till the silk is just dry.

If the work had already dried before it was fixed it can't be microwaved. Instead wrap it loosely in foil and steam it like a pudding for about 1 hour. Make sure the parcel is water tight and don't let the pot boil dry.
Rinse, blot in a towel and iron damp.

If you would like details of silk painting classes, my work and exhibitions or to contact me go to  www.saa.co.uk/art/tessaspanton or find me on facebook www.facebook.com/tessaspantonartist