Painting On Fabric

I have been developing my technique of painting on good quality fabric, instead of canvas for over ten years. The story of the fabric weaves its way into the story of the painting, transforming a 'blank canvas' into something dyed, patterned or textured.

From preparing the surfaces, to making the paint by hand, every step is considered in a way that gives my work the strong visual identity that ties each piece together. 

I am fascinated by the domestic quality of textiles and how this lends itself to my paintings, which often feature domestic objects, scenes and moments from every day life.

Painting on fabric allows me to achieve a surface texture that is more dynamic than traditional canvas, without compromising on the quality and longevity offered by cotton and linen.

Degree Show, Ambika P3, Baker Street (2009)

I first began exploring alternatives to traditional surfaces (cotton, linen and wooden board) at art school in London, 2006. My first experiment with a patterned surface was a vintage floral curtain, which I partially painted over with a portrait of a friend, leaving some of the pattern showing. It was a practical decision at first, as I had run out of canvas. However the curtain had sentimental value to me, so I found myself investing much more emotion and thought into the process of painting. In hindsight, I was perhaps scared the curtain would be a wasted sacrifice, but it was also because I felt I was in dialogue with something that already existed - instead of simply bringing forth something from nothing. Three years of further experimentation lead to my degree show; a series of eight large, dark and looming portraits painted on velvet.

The velvet intensified the mood of the paintings and became more than just a surface to be built upon. Using this process, the fabric is visible throughout the painting, as well as when viewing the painting from the side. A benefit of this is there is no need to frame the painting.

By using fabric as the base of my painting, I am able to integrate the story of the fabric into the story of the painting. This has become a source of inspiration for the way I work in layers, but it also creates a quite unusual finish to painting. It almost creates an illusion of depth in the way the light reflects differently off the charcoal, fabric and oil paint.


Handmade Oil Paints

Process is such a huge part of my work. As well as painting on fabric, I also make my own oil paints using the centuries-old technique of grinding pigment into linseed oil.

This started as way of exploring historical approaches to oil painting, but has since become a way for me to discover more about the way colour is built. As well as increasing my overall knowledge of colours and their characteristic, the process allows me to incorprate contemporary materials, such as ground aluminum, into my paintings. Since moving to Scotland, making paint has become a larger part of my practice. It is both a reliable way of accessing the best quality oil paint and a meditative ritual that feeds itself into the work.

I am lucky to have been taught the benefits of using quality oil paints. The intense colour has become a central feature of my paintings. Using high-pigment paints made by hand, such as those by Michael Harding and Vasari, led me research the process. I am now able to make oil paint that is the perfect texture for what I need and bursting with colour.

Using Format