Thursday, June 2, 2016

Surface Design in Plein Air ~ Creating an Outdoor Work Space + Ice Cube PAINTING!

Hi – Carol R. Eaton here for the month of June! This is a fabulous month in New England with light baby rains alternating with full sunshine. Memorial Day signals me that it's time to get my outdoor studio space cleaned up and ready for a summer filled with surface design in plein air. How many of you work outside? I posed the question to some artist friends and found that many people take their work outside = love! I’ll spend this month providing tips on setting up your own outdoor creative space and I’ll also share techniques that work best outside. I’ve enlisted the help of fellow artists, Sue Reno, MaggieVanderweit Meredith and Lorie Hancock McCown – check back each week as they share their approach to working outside and the art they produce there. I’ll set a fat quarter aside each week and on June 30th a lucky reader will win the fabric! All you need to do is comment on the blog and you're entered into the drawing. 

Over time my outdoor space has evolved into a permanent area in the yard. Due to a losing battle with the deer I dug up a good sized garden. I covered the ground with landscaping fabric to keep the weeds down

My dear sweet hubby and Dad built oversize wooden sawhorses to use as table bases. I’m on the tall side so I had the saw horses built to accommodate my height saving my back from an ache. You can customize yours in the same way – it’s your creative space so make it perfect just for you! The table tops are insulation board wrapped in clear plastic. They are quite long so hopefully you have a friend with a truck or van who can help you bring the boards home! I chose the boards for their light weight making them very easy to maneuver. I have 4 boards I rotate; when I’ve filled up one board with wet fabric I can easily lift it off the table and set it on the driveway for curing. I lay the next board on the table top to keep the creations flowing! Each Memorial Day I tape a fresh clean layer of plastic over the boards to start the new season off. 


The boards will last many years unless you bend them causing a big crease or drive over them (yes – I’ve done this!).  In my defense the tire imprint makes an interesting design element!


Now that your space is set up let’s have some fun! Have you ever tried ice cube painting? This is perfect for a nice sunny day. You really just need a flat surface and a place to leave your fabric undisturbed for a while. If creating a large table is simply not an option you can scale it back to covering foam board with contact paper or plastic. You can get these items in a department store or office supply company.
Today I’ll use fabric previously dyed a robin’s egg blue. I have pins to keep the fabric from catching a breeze (HINT: even if there is no wind pin the fabric. There can be a sneaky little breeze that will flip your fabric over just at the wrong time!). The pins stick easily into the insulation board and won’t leave a hole big enough to cause any problems with the plastic. I use SetaColor transparent fabric paint diluted with water. Here I have 2 containers of blues, a paint brush, a pail of water for rinsing the brush and a spray bottle to mist the fabric.
Misting the fabric surface before painting allows the paint to immediately start spreading and meandering across the surface as soon as you start painting. Ready, Set, Go – slather on the paint. There is no reason to be neat… you’re outside so go wild! 
Once the fabric surface is covered scrunch it slightly. Drop ice cubes randomly across the surface. If you have coarse salt sprinkle that too for a fun effect.

I'm told that I never stop talking when I’m excited about a project! OK - it's true! 

Place the fabric somewhere it can be undisturbed until the ice is completely melted (like a hot driveway). I leave the fabric on the board for 24 hours to allow the paint to cure. The final step is to press with a warm dry iron. This step sets the paint so don’t forget to do it. Painted fabric can be washed delicately but the preferred method would be to spot clean as needed. Paint sits on the surface of the fabric so it can lose its brilliance if treated too harshly. With that being said I made a painted silk bandana for hiking that I washed all the time and it was fine but you should experiment and decide for yourself.


Here are some results using the ice cube painting technique. Give it a try and share your results on the blog! If you have any questions, please feel free to start a dialogue and we can all get in in the conversation… and don’t forget to comment on the blog for a chance to win a pack of fat quarters using all the techniques we’ll discuss over the month of June! The winner will be announced June 30th



Next week Sue Reno will be my guest sharing her approach to plein air surface design. Sue says her main processes for getting imagery onto fabric is directly tied to working outdoors. She makes cyanotype prints from natural objects like leaves and flowers that she either forages for or harvests in her yard. She is literally dependent on ultraviolet rays to create her designs… stay tuned for more detail! 

19 comments:

  1. Carol, Great post! Love your outdoor area and your ice cube dyeing. Beautiful results!

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  2. I love it! I have ice-dyed before with powdered dyes and ice on soda-soaked fabric, but I have never used paint and salt. I just have to try it. I love this blog!!!!

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    1. Yeah! Helen please let me know how your experiment turns out!

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  3. I am moving in a couple weeks so won't be doing much fabric dying for a while. I did a bunch at the lake last summer and had a blast. I will be trying the ice cubes. I use plastic bed risers under my plastic folding table to raise it to a comfortable level to stand at. It works great!

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    1. Sandra - great idea using the bed risers!

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  4. Great ideas. Must try this summer. Thanks.

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  5. What fun! I tried snow dyeing this past winter and was pleased with the results, but I haven't tried ice dyeing or painting, yet. I've been wanting to do some sun dyeing, too, so I can't wait to see what Sue posts.

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    1. It sounds like you've been having fun creating! Let me know if you try the paint and ice cubes... you'll be hooked :) Sue Reno is awesome and I hope you will find some inspiration in the next post!

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  6. I had no idea that ice dyeing would produce SUCH wonderful results!
    It looks texturally beautiful - thank you for the tute, must try this.
    And to think I thought ice cubes were just for my G&T lol

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    1. We like to share the G&T ice with the painting and dyeing - a great combination :)

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  7. I had the same problem...with the deer. I don't grow veggies any more. Love the fabrics you are creating here. I'm quite enamored with all those hanging in the first photo.

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    1. Thanks Terri - The fabrics are on the line are canvas. It was a little stiff when the paint cured but they was fun to create!

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  8. What a great idea! I'm going to set something like this up in my backyard. Thank you for sharing!

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  9. I love my outdoor studio. Not sure about neighbors but the horse in the
    Field like it..

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  10. Thanks for the fabulous photos. The way the ice cubes change the paint is very interesting. Thanks for telling us about it.

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  11. I haven't ever tried ice dyeing, but look forward to doing it when I pull my dyes out this summer.

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