Staining with Tea

To begin work on the #Selfie project, I needed a medium to recreate the imagery from the digital photos. I've always enjoyed working with charcoal and pastel...the dirtiness of the drawing process and the individual mark of the artist's hand seemed appropriate to translate the stark, pixelated photos into works of "fine" art.

A couple of old canvases lying around the studio caught my eye. They were the perfect size and shape - extremely vertical and conducive to building a series of drawings. Additionally, the sheer cropped shape would make for an interesting perspective of the subject. I wanted the canvas background to feel old, used and aged, complimenting the smudges and strokes of the #Selfie drawings. Watercolor could work, but I revel much more in the use of unconventional techniques that produce unexpected (or expected) results. The thought of how tea stains teeth, mugs and saucers over time was interesting. Layered stains, red-brown, warm and fluid were just the perfect backdrop and technique for aging my blank canvases.

Plain old Lipton black tea is cheap and easy, and on hand. After a few experiments with brew intensity, I learned you couldn't go wrong with deep, dark, over-brewed tea. 

A few passes at pouring, tilting and guiding the liquid as it flowed over the canvas produced unique effects for each. After each pour, allowing the tea to dry on the fabric between staining also allowed for layering the stain shapes and intensifying the color. The most surprising result was the originality of each tea design...the flow and the contours of the stains mimicked the curves of the spine or the roundness of the stomach.

Tea has been a tradition in my family since I was very young. My aunt introduced me to tea and home-grown honey in steaming mugs. I came to look forward to the chill of Autumn in order to snuggle up, sip and take a moment to myself enjoying my tea. It seems the use of tea has come full circle, travelling from my childhood to adult life in very unexpected and artful way. Tea is comfort. Tea is warm. Tea is savory and sometimes sweet. Tea stains and leaves behind a mark of those moments, layered over time.