The Secret Art of Painting on Water by Garip Ay

Turkish artist gained worldwide fame by an ancient technique that allows him to create stunning paintings on water.

Many artists strive to find inventive new ways to produce paintings. Whether employing their fingers or tiny food, they creatively prove that the practice is so much more than bristled brushes and conventional canvases.

Garip Ay’s paintings come to life in the most extraordinary way. The Turkish artist uses an ancient technique called ebru, or paper marbling.

He drops and flicks dyes onto water treated with a wetting agent that keeps the pigment from sinking. Then he swirls and shapes the vibrant colors into images that spring from his imagination. It takes a deft hand and special handmade tools to paint this way. Ay invites us into his studio in Istanbul to watch him create.

While this may seem like a novel approach to the practice, Ebru painting—a form of art that utilizes water, dye, and an awl—has showcased this interest in experimentation for centuries.

Ebru, also known as paper marbling, is a Turkish art from Central Asia that dates back to the Ottoman Empire at the beginning of the 16th century.

Though Ay has created several amazing paintings since he began using Ebru in 2007, the most famous is his 2016 recreation of Vincent Van Gogh’s Starry Night.

Paper marbling is a method of aqueous surface design, which can produce patterns similar to smooth marble or other kinds of stone.

Ebru artists begin by adding tragacanth gum or carrageenan to water. This helps increase the water’s viscosity and prevents it from mixing with the paint. The solution is then poured into a wooden trough with the same dimensions as the solid surface on which the painting will finally rest. To keep the pigments afloat, and control, or enhance, their ability to spread across the water’s surface, a few drops of ox bile are mixed in with each color.

The most popularly used colors in Ebru are light green, red and yellow. The designs or motifs indicate their common pattern. The most frequently seen designs are flowers, foliage, the ornamental, and the first quarter of the moon.

Garip Ay was born in Siirt in 1984. He is an ebru artist from Turkey. He studied at Diyarbakır Fine Arts High School, followed by a specialization in Traditional Turkish Art at Mimar Sinan Fine Arts University.

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