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.


In this method, dye is very slightly diluted. It is then painted and poured across canvas in mini "streams and rivers".


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


Water carves and forms so many of Earth's forms and features. So using a paintbrush and cups of dye-water, Mel paints and encourages water to recreate designs it already makes in nature.


River Painting Dye Method

This dye method is a derivative of the watercolor dye technique. However, in this River Painting style the 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 Process

Abstract Cartography

These maps are fictional. They tell a story. Mel calls this abstract cartography -- the art of mapping out places unknown and unexplored. 



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.


Your Story

Thrill. Adventure. Exploration.
What will you discover?