Fabric Painting on the Wild Side

When I think of fabric painting, Mickey Lawler's Skydyes and the wholecloth quilts of Hollis Chatelain and Judy Coates Perez come to mind.

mixed media fabric painting
Mixed-media fabric painting by Sue Pelletier.

But now that I work in the same office as the Cloth Paper Scissors magazine editors, I've been exposed to more mixed-media fabric art than ever before. And my definition of how paint and fabric can come together has broadened.

Some artists are positively fearless when it comes to painting on fabric. One who comes to mind immediately is Sue Pelletier. Sue will try just about anything. She uses chalkboard paint on doll dresses (an unusual way of putting writing on fabric, to say the least) and holds her fabric collages together with gesso or gel medium thinned with a little water, rather than with stitching.

Here's an example of one of her techniques.

1. Start with a piece of raw canvas or other heavy fabric. Coat the canvas with a wash of gel medium thinned a bit with water.

2. Place a piece of tissue paper, such as sewing pattern tissue, over the gel medium.

fabric painting
Sue applies stitched crinoline with gel medium
to layers of fabric, paint, and paper.

3. Lay on another wash of gel medium and apply a piece of painted and stitched crinoline on top. (Sue loves crinoline because it is cheap, paintable, stitchable, and adds interesting texture.)

4. Draw on top of this fabric and gel medium sandwich with water-soluble oil pastels. You can blend the colors by applying water with your finger or a paintbrush.

You could add more marks or paint to the piece or attach it as-is to a stretched canvas or background fabric.

I'm not saying I would necessarily use all of these techniques on a quilt; non-fabric paint, especially when mixed with gel medium, is definitely going to change the hand of the fabric. But I like the idea of experimenting with paint, mediums, and fabric collage techniques. You never know where it might lead.

If you're looking to experiment with paint, fabric, and texture in a free-wheeling, mixed-media kind of way, I recommend Sue's new WorkshopTM video, "Preparing to Paint: How to Add Texture, Depth, and Personality to your Art."

P.S. Do you mix fabric and paint or gel medium in your fabric art? Does gel medium have a place in the contemporary quilting world? Add to the discussion in the comments section below, or on our new Facebook page.

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Fabric Painting & Dyeing, Quilting Daily Blog

4 thoughts on “Fabric Painting on the Wild Side

  1. Vivika, So glad to see your embracing the Crazy Painting side of things. I just love the techniques.. I have been playing with mediums, glues, paints etc on fabrics for years now.. and for some reason it is a constant tool in my toolbox of things to go to. If it doesn’t have a gel medium or paint on it.. it just isn’t me. Let yourself free and embrace these wonderful techniques. Enjoy! Von

  2. Thanks for posting the link, but really I’m not that much the wiser after looking at the website, as it closely resembles a stiff tulle or net, and its not nylon but polypropylene. I presume its the little veil part that goes around hats, so regular netting or tulle could be substituted? Once its glued and gelled and painted, there would be very little difference in the look and the feel of the product.