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River Painting

A Dye Technique by Mel Kelly

Mel Kelly is an abstract map artist from Kansas City, Missouri and the creator of the River Painting Dye Method.


The dye is diluted and then painted or poured across the canvas. It looks like mini "streams and rivers".


As it travels, it soaks into the raw canvas to create vibrant, rich color in a wild, water-driven pattern.


Mel simply encourages the dye water to recreate designs it already makes in nature.


River Painting Dye Method

This dye method is a derivative of the watercolor dye technique. Dye is painted and poured on. It is then allowed to rest wet and pooling on the canvas.


The diluted dye remains resting on the canvas until the water evaporates and all that remains are the dried pigments of the dye.

In most cases, Mel then re-wets the dye two to three more times with water and her paintbrush, allowing the color to deepen. Every time the color becomes richer and bolder.

The Maps

The Process

Abstract Cartography

These maps are fictional. They tell a story. Mel calls this abstract cartography



The 100% cotton, archival quality canvas is hand-dyed using Mel's custom River Painting Dye Method.

Multiple Layers

The dyeing process takes multiple layers, heat, different color mixtures and ink to attain the final result.

Inked Shorelines

The shorelines and islands must be carefully drawn on by hand to create the final map.

The Process

Your Story

Thrill. Adventure. Exploration.
What will you discover?
The Story
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