When you’re starting out with silk painting it’s hard to know which materials to go for. Yes, there are many books and sites out there telling you which brands to go for but often they have a vested interest in promoting one over the other. So this post is just going to take a look at the pro’s and con’s of gutta for silk painting and leave the choice up to you.
I was just wondering how many of you actually know where the word gutta comes from. Well, it’s from the gutta percha tree which grows in Indonesia. The latex-like gutta from this tree was used in all sorts of industrial and medical applications
including the lining of golf balls. One of the types of gutta available to silk painters is solvent based and seemingly contains this gutta, which has a rubbery feel to it.
Serti or resist technique is a method used in silk painting to create boundaries which limit the free flow of silk. Gutta is applied in small bottles with nozzles on them to the silk so that it pentrates the fabric. As it dries, it hardens to form a barrier which gives form to your painting. This is my preferred method of silk painting and indeed, I wouldn’t be able to create these detailed mandalas without the resist technique.
So back to the different types of gutta for silk painting. Basically you can choose between solvent-based gutta and water-based resist. And what is the difference? Okay, let’s start with the solvent-based type. You always have to remember that when working with solvent, it’s really important to keep your working space well-ventilated. This type of gutta needs to be removed after your artwork is complete and the only way to do it is by dry-cleaning which some of you might find impractical. One big advantage is that you can paint your dyes on very quickly after applying this gutta.
The other type is water-based and technically isn’t called gutta, but resist. However, I still refer to it as gutta. What you need to watch out for is that it needs a bit longer to dry because the dyes can dissolve it a little if it is still too wet. One great way to speed up this process is to give your painting a blast with the hairdryer. I do that in my workshops so that we can get on with the colours. As to the question of dry-cleaning, this doesn’t apply to the water-based version.After you’ve fixed the dyes into your silk either by steaming or heat treatment (ironing), your can wash any clear gutta out by hand. One of the big advantages of the water-based version is that there are no fumes to contend with.
Now my preference is to use gold metallic gutta. The bad news is that you can’t dry-clean the solvent-based version. But I choose the water-based type because I want the lines to be a major feature of my finished work anyway.
However, I have had situations where I have tried to wash out gutta after I have changed my mind about the composition of my artwork. If you leave it too long, you might have a pretty hard job on your hands.
Now I wanted to address one particular point here. It is one which crops up again and again and I must admit that I have never had any difficulties with it. Many artists maintain that when they have completed their silk painting and then subsequently steam it, they never know how the finished work is going to end up because the lines tend to move and smear, letting the dyes blur at the edges.
I have never experienced this, either with iron-fixing or with steam-fixing but this appears to depend on the chosen brand.
In case you are interested in which brand I use, it is by Marabu Silk. I have used gold and silver gutta, as well as the clear version. All of these are the water-soluble types as I’m not keen on fumes and dry-cleaning.
I hope this helps. I am intending to post something on the art of resist technique itself so watch out for that soon. If you have any questions, please post them here and I’ll do my best to help out. Enjoy.