Up in Crescent City, there's a place where you can rent a room and have access to a beachfront artist's studio. The owner, Rande Rothman, uses the space herself to create her silk paintings, and she loves her craft so much, she just can't keep it to herself. She says that after discovering the medium of silk painting, "My excitement in creating silk was so exhilarating that I wanted to share the process with everyone; family, friends, the community all participated, even those who declared themselves 'non-artists.'"
Until recently, Rande worked full-time as a school psychologist. She has some training in art therapy, but her own therapy is her silk painting. She says she is drawn to silk because of the variety of ways in which it can be used. As she explained, "You put two different colors on fabric and there's so much creativity that can go on, from putting wet on wet, or wet on dry or diluting it with water or alcohol to create a lighter color."
Like many silk painters, Rande is a "colorist." In other words, her work emphasizes the use of colors, mixing them boldly and using them to create a mood. The luminous quality of color on the gossamer cloth makes silk painting a perfect fit for those who can't get their hues rich enough.
Rande favors large designs of flowers or insects, but has also dabbled with abstract painting. She has studied with artist Judith Hale, who says, "I begin a painting with no definite preconceptions, but simply an impulse, a subliminal thought about color or space or form, an unarticulated desire."
Silk painting has a history that goes back to 2nd century India, and its soft but powerful qualities have attracted patrons ever since. The real magic of silk painting comes principally from the substrate. A painting on canvas or paper is a window into a scene. The scene can have a lot of movement, but the window is static. With silk, however, the surface itself flows like water, and the design drifts like a cloud. Even the slightest breath of air creates movement.
This movement is an element in the creation of the painting as well as the finished product. "The movement and color -- it's exciting," says Rande about the process. Although the fabric is stretched, there are no perfectly straight lines with fabric, and the painter must accept and work with the fluidity. The dyes as well go on wet and weave themselves together. Various techniques are employed to maintain some control on how the colors are applied, including salts to draw the liquid, alcohol to dilute them and wax resists to repel them.
If you're looking for an excuse to make the short journey to Riverbend Cellars in Myers Flat for some wine tasting, Rande will be exhibiting her silk paintings there through the month of February, and you just have to go and see them. Riverbend is located at 12900 Avenue of the Giants; their website is riverbendcellars.com. They are open seven days a week from 11 a.m. to 5 p.m. (note that the dining room is closed until March).
You can also find out more about Rande's work and her studio at her website, beachfrontstudio.net. As I mentioned, the studio is available for use, and Rande also teaches classes in silk painting. She finds that people who express some interest in the craft usually are very interested, once they get over their inhibitions about doing it. "It's fun to be the nudge in people's creativity," she says.
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