Saturday, September 13, 2008


(Click on image to enlarge.)
This is Buddhist in the Decision Portrait Series. She is also known as Jan Hodgman, a wonderful fiber artist from Washington who traded with me at CYBER FYBER. Her website includes the perfect introduction:

Hi! I'm Jan Hodgman. My "official" qualifications include ordination as a Soto Zen priest, an undergraduate degree in Psychology, a Master's in East Asian Studies, with studies in Zen Buddhism to augment my eight monastic years in Japan, certification as a Focusing Trainer by Reva Bernstein, and a unit of Clinical Pastoral Education, serving as a hospital chaplain. More importantly, though, I really love being a part of a person's journey toward self-awareness and a full life.

Jan and I worked via emails to achieve this portrait. The small image is her ordination day. I knew I wanted to use it...but didn't know how to best tie the two images together. I thought about enclosing the small picture in a heart shaped form. I wrote to Jan. Wisely, Jan suggested an Ensō circle. As soon as I understood the significance and saw the circle, I knew this was the solution. The Ensō circle is one of the most common symbols in Japanese calligraphy. It is associated with enlightenment, elegance, strength, the universe, and the "void". Sometimes it is a full circle; sometimes there is a slight opening. It is a sacred in Zen Buddhism. But, it is generally created in ink....something painted, fluid, wet.

(Click on image to enlarge.)
I mixed Golden acrylics micaceous iron oxide with clear tar gel. A ceramic bowl was placed upside down on a sheet of silicone coated paper (baking parchment would do!). I poured the solution down and round the sides of the bowl...allowing it to ooze onto the paper...and then pulled the bowl away. This left a circle of paint. It dried. The next day I peeled the "skin" away from the paper.

Because of the mica in the paint, it reflects light...retaining a "wet" look. I made two....used the one on the right. attach the "skin" of acrylic paint! I traced the "skin" onto heavy watercolor paper and cut it INSIDE THE LINES....smaller than the edge of the "skin". This was stitched to the piece ( to enlarge). The last thing I did was to carefully apply heavy gel medium to the watercolor paper and position the "skin". The heavy gel medium adhered the acrylic to the watercolor paper when it dried. Ta-da! An Ensō circle....looking like a brush stroke of wet paint on top of the fabric! Also....I used last week's TAST (Take a Stitch Tuesday) "stitch of the week"...the up and down buttonhole surrounds the ordination day photo....with a the slight opening in the Ensō circle. After all is said and done, I, too, feel at least a little ENLIGHTENED!


Dale Anne Potter said...

Another FABULOUS Portrait!

I'm just wondering why you just didn't paint the black right onto the fabric, is it because you wanted the thickness of the "skin". just wondering.....

Susan said...

Hi Dale!
I'll probably write you a personal note...but this is such a good question, I thought I'd address it here too!

Had I tried to paint directly onto the xylene transfer and messed up...or didn't like the result...or dribbled the paint...or done a dozen other things, I would have ruined the transfer. I was afraid that the spontaneity of a brushstroke might get lost if I went too slowly and avoided all the problems above (dribbling, etc.) I was afraid that the paint might soak into the fabric too much. If the paint shrunk a little while drying (another "issue" with heavy bodied acrylics on fabric), there might be puckering. Thus, I felt I could control the paint with a "calligraphy" like gesture best if not actually working on the finished piece! This meant I could make as many enso circles as I wanted and only use the one I liked the best!

Jacquelines blog said...

Gorgeous Susan!!!

Dale Anne Potter said...

I knew you had an answer and THANK YOU for telling us. And, YES, it would save the image transfer!
I will think of this the next time, I am just about to plunge into something......before ruining things! LOL!
Again, THANKS!


Thanks for enlightning me on the technique. This portrait series is really beautiful.

Wanda said...

great addition. You know, they are all similar ahd yet each holds its own treasure. I guess that's why it's a series. Hey...maybe I'm "getting" it!