Sunday, July 8, 2012

Mucking about...

...with dyes. Because I hope to produce enough work to enter in four shows this fall, I need to have a stock of interesting colours to work with, and this leads me to "overdyeing".

The photos above show cotton that has been dyed in two complementary colours, blue-violet and mustard, and in five intensities from pale to deep. These colours would be perfect to represent flowers, but I'm after "dirtier" colour for my cityscapes, so I took some of the blue-violet cotton and over-dyed it with mustard dye. The palest blue-violet got the strongest hit of mustard, and the strongest blue-violet got the weakest hit, using five intensities of mustard dye on five intensities of blue-violet cotton.

You can see the always-surprising results in the next photo, above. The theory is that by mixing complementary colours (ones that are opposite each other on the colour wheel) you get mud, or at least a muddied colour. Which I find more interesting, especially for my urban landscapes. Remember too that when you're dyeing, you can't really know what you've got until it's been washed and dried.

I did the same with another set of fabric. What is shown below are the original ranges of boysenberry and olive, two complementary colours.

Again, I overdyed the boysenberry with five strengths of olive dye, using the strongest dye on the palest fabric and the weakest dye on the darkest fabric. The results are shown below. 

I am pleased with the complexity of the colours achieved, and may overdye some of the other colours I have produced in the last few days. The actual colours are more intense and more rich than the photos show. All of this could also be achieved in one set of dye baths, instead of two, by mixing the original dyes together in various proportions, but that wouldn't produce a range of the "un-muddied" colours, which are also lovely.

If you study painting, you may have an instructor who advises you to "use a little of that red from the rose in the leaves, and use a little of that green from the leaf in the flower". Overdyeing is a way of achieving something like this effect in cloth.

What's always amusing is when viewers of my work ask, "How long did it take you to make this?" No estimate could possibly account for time spent looking for just the right palette, or the right photo for inspiration, or time spent studying wonderful work done by others, or learning about colour theory. The best answer to this question is, "It took a lifetime".

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