Ice-dying on Paper

Yes, I remember that I promised a column on black and clear gesso today. Our humidity is high and nothing dried enough to scan it. So instead, I got tempted by art instigator Diane Becka, who sent me a link on snow dying fabric. I decided to adapt the technique to dying paper. In July. In Phoenix. Instead of snow, I used my blender to crush ice.

Here’s the step-by-step if you want to try it. It includes the mistakes I made, which you can now avoid.

In an aluminum or glass pan, place racks to keep the paper out of the melting ice/ink mixture.  I used two sheets of watercolor paper and two sheets of Arches Text Wove (now called Arches Velin). They were dry when I put them on the rack.

Use snow in winter, but lacking that, I crushed ice in my blender and heaped it on the dry paper in uneven piles.

I put blue, purple and teal inks on the Arches Velin. The blue was a dye ink, the teal and purple were pigment inks.

I sprinkled walnut ink (dry crystals) on one of the watercolor papers. On the other one, I dripped brown and black pigment and dye inks.

This looked promising. But you don’t know until all the ice is melted and runs off the paper.

The only thing interesting about this result is that the lines of the rack showed as colors. (It looks like ridges, but it was color). The brown was not any more interesting.

I decided to use the existing papers and do it differently.

I crumpled the papers, dripped ink directly on it, crushed more ice and wrapped the paper around the ice. Then I let it all melt.

The watercolor paper was too stiff to bend or crumple, so I dripped ink on the paper and placed an ice cube on each drip spot.

Results of the brown ink. Interesting effect, with some nice detail work. The other sheet simply rinsed off the ink. Unlike fabric, the pigment ink is the one to use here, rather than the dye.

Blue/purple ink and crumpling gave interesting results, as well.

If I were to do this again, I’d ink the papers fully first in one color, then drop ink in another color on it and use the ice wrapped in paper. I’d also try some different dyes and pigment inks, and write down which colors were used where, so I’d know which ink brand works with this technique.

Quinn McDonald is the author of Raw Art Journaling, a book for experimenters and explorers. No drawing ability necessary.