Susan Helmer - Life As An Artist
As a child, I was introduced to art through classes at the Palace of the Legion of Honor in San Francisco. All I remember from those classes is an image of huge bottles of brightly colored tempera paint lined up on a window sill. I was hooked on color. I minored in art at San Jose State in the late 60's. Little did I know that some of the most innovative instructors in the nation were on that campus when I was there.
While on vacation in Washington years ago, I attended a silk painting class. WhenI saw the incredibly intense colors spread like magic on the silk; I switched to painting on silk Using watercolor techniques, I paint on stretched silk with liquid dyes. The finished piece is then steamed for three hours to set the dyes.
My subjects range from florals to abstracts. I find cacti most sensual and texturial and satisfy my need for green. Abstracts are all about the color and pattern. My paintings have been exhibited from Los Gatos to Walnut Creek and Mendocino and as far away as Portland.
Artists in China painted on silk years before they were painting on paper. Modern silk painters use either acrylic fabric paints or dyes on silk. I prefer to use French liquid dyes and heavy silk charmeuse for my paintings. After a drawing is sketched on tightly stretched silk, a resist or gutta is applied to stop the flow of the dyes. Using watercolor techniques, I paint on the silk with liquid acid dyes. The finished piece is then steamed for three hours to set the dyes. Finally the painted silk is stretched over archival foam core and then sent to the framer.