Ohhhh...this was TOO much fun! I spent a couple of hours getting familiar with Inktense water soluble colored pencils that I bought for the art journaling exercises, knowing that they could also be used on fabric. Unlike other water soluble pencils, these become permanent once dry. You can blend while they are wet, but once dry, the pigment stays put if you paint over it. But I get ahead of myself.
I started my experiment on watercolor paper, laying down a block of each color in my 12-color set. Some of the names were unusual and many did not look like one would expect. The magic happens when they are "activated", in this case with a wet brush. Suddenly the colors become quite bright and some change quite a bit. For my sample, I worked from left to right, pulling pigment to the right and under the drawn block with a wet brush, playing with changing the intensity. The final pull of paint went to the left over the previous diluted color to see how they would interact. I've not done much with watercolors, but my impression was, these really can be worked like watercolor paint.
Now on to fabric. I'd referenced an article in the August/September 2013 issue of Quilting Arts after seeing the demo on one of their tv episodes, having forgotten that textile medium was suggested for the wetting process. These instructions suggested wetting the fabric before adding the color, although trying it the other way around was encouraged. Water was suggested for an ink-like effect. Hmmm. I did a quick google and found a fabric specific video demo on the Derwent website (there's also one for silk) - aha! Confirmation that this product is for use on textiles. And in this case, the pigment was laid down first, then activated and blended with water. I grabbed this small scrap of muslin and tried all different methods. The "flower" is done with the textile medium, which I liked the least. It does give more control in keeping the color where you want it, but I really struggled with blending and getting lighter values. I did the leaves by wetting that area first with water, then applying the pencil. I preferred this, but as with other methods using water, there was bleeding and wicking. As for getting lighter values and blending for a third color, I found I could rub the color onto parchment paper, then dip in a wet brush to blend and pick up the color to be painted onto the dry fabric. I tried one other method which I liked perhaps the best, which I will mention later.
With these brief trials out of the way, I started working with this linocut sample printing from last year. The squares around the outside of the oak leaf square were play areas while the leaf itself would be practice in applying several colors to dry fabric, then wetting to blend. In this picture I laid down a very light layer of Baked Earth followed by shadings of Poppy Red and highlights of yellow. Not very exciting at this point.
But just add water...and the colors start coming out and blending.
I soon found you can overwork the blending by working with a brush that is too wet. I kept going back in, adding some darker areas with Bark, only to see them fade away. I should have been more patient and waited for the first go round to dry, or use a hair dryer to speed things up, I think. This picture is taken while still wet, and I swear the leaf was lighter when it dried (although I perceived no lightening of the green in the smaller squares). When I flipped it over, I could see where the paint had wicked out about an inch or more underneath the black paint of the stamping. That made me wonder if some of the pigment had actually migrated. You can definitely see the problem with too much water on those center circles.
As for my favorite method, I have to thank Margaret Cooter, who has been playing with water soluble graphite pencil, another supply I'll be learning to use in my art journaling. She steered me to this video showing not the typical laying down of graphite followed by a wet brush, but using the wet brush to pick up the graphite directly off the tip of the pencil. Surely this would work with colored pencil too? Yes it does! That is mostly what I used to paint in the green lines. I had more control adding and blending, much less problem with wicking.
I can see that this is not quite as easy as the demos would lead you to believe, that I need to work with this some more to master it, try the textile medium thinned out a bit as suggested. But oh, what an enjoyable couple of hours this was. How will I use it in my art quilts? Not sure, although with resists was the first thing that came to mind. I'll be keeping this latest tool in the back of my mind...