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Artists are continually striving to find innovative ways to showcase their talent. Some, like Jackson Pollock, produce masterpieces by flinging pigments across the canvas, while others, like Iris Scott, paint with their bare fingers. Turkish artist Garip Ay has gained worldwide fame by adopting Ebru, an ancient technique that allows him to create stunning paintings on water.
Believed to have originated in Central Asia in the 13th century, Ebru made its way to Turkey by the 16th century, where it was perfected. Also known as "paper marbling," the art form remains popular in Turkey, with many painters using the technique to create dazzling pieces, highly coveted by both collectors and tourists.
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.
To create the paintings, the artists first splash the paints on the water using brushes made with horsehair. They then use droppers to carefully shape the colors and create the desired designs. When complete, an absorbent surface, such as paper, is carefully placed on top to capture the painting. Once dry, the artwork is manually flattened and polished.
The water solution can be reused to create hundreds of paintings. When the water starts to look murky, Ebru artists splash additional, mostly blue, dyes that have been prepared with turbot bile rather than ox bile, to the center of the solution and let it spread. Once the entire water surface is covered, they paint one final "Sand Marbling," or "Fishbone Marbling," masterpiece, before tossing the solution.
The marbling technique was initially primarily used for book covers or to decorate the inside pages with wildly colorful papers. However, artists like Ay have added a modern twist by using absorbent fabrics, glass, and wood as solid surfaces and adding acrylic paints alongside traditional natural pigments.
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. Those seeking a more modern Ebru creation will be pleased to know that in 2017, the artist also painted characters from the popular Netflix series, Stranger Things.
Resources: boredpanda.com,curiositymag.com, garipay.blogspot.com, turkishculture.org