The Subtle Art of Suminagashi

With most of my art supplies still traveling back home, I tried something simple and satisfying this weekend: suminagashi. It is a Japanese-style marbling done in black ink. It’s subtle and beautiful. And I’ll be teaching it March 22 at Arizona Art Supply in Phoenix. (Details and registration)

sumi4Using black sumi ink and brushes, suminagashi is created with patience and care. It’s a meditative art work: slow, careful and fun.

What you’ll need:

  • A non-reactive pan. I used an enamel palette (formerly a meat tray)
  • Tap water, not distilled.
  • Black sumi ink in a small cup
  • Olive oil in a small cup
  • paint brushes, size 4 to 6
  • Watercolor paper, 90-lb weight

Fill the pan with about an inch of water.  Dip the smaller (size 4 ) brush in olive oil and hold it in your non-dominant hand. Dip the larger brush (size 6) into the black sumi ink and hold it in your dominant hand.

Sumi1Touch the tip of the brush vertically into the water. A large black circle will spread across the surface of the water, turning gray as it disperses.

sumi2Touch the tip of the oil-brush into the center of the circle. The surface tension of the oil will push the ink away.

Repeat the process at least five times in the same circle. Ink brush, oil brush. You will have a series of concentric circles that will move on the surface of the water.

Gently blow on or fan the surface of the water to create movement.

sumi3When the ink pattern is interesting, place a sheet of watercolor paper on the water by “rolling” it across the surface. Let the paper drop completely onto the surface of the water. Immediately pick it up by one edge, and place it, wet side up, on a sheet of newspaper to dry.

sumi5Once the papers are dry, use Tombow or Koi dye markers (not alcohol markers) to add subtle color to the page.

You can use the dried sheets as journal pages, backgrounds for photos or photo mats. The first print will be more dramatic. If you are going to write on the pages and want to have the patterns be lighter, take two or three impressions before adding more ink.

Join me at Arizona Art Supply in Phoenix to take the class on Saturday, March 22, 2014.

—Quinn McDonald is preparing looseleaf pages. She’s on the road to Texas.

Inner Hero Accordion Folder

Yesterday, I showed an accordion folder for one of my inner heroes, the Protector of Flight Feathers. Only part of it was visible. Here’s how it was made:

1. Cut a piece of heavy paper, about 8 inches long and 3 inches high. (This happens to be a page from a constellation atlas).

Book72. Paint the paper on both sides. I used a Gelli Plate to monoprint this paper, front and back. I used a texture plate from an architectural kit. The black side (constellation atlas, remember?) had some gold added.

3. Fold the piece of paper in half, to make a piece 4 inches by 3 inches. Fold each side to the center mark, to create a 2 inches x 3 inches high. Re-fold to create an accordion fold book.

Book54. Choose short pieces from your stash for additional pages. These will be folded and fit into a crease of the original book. They should be shorter and smaller than the original accordion fold.

5. Stack the pieces together to make sure the original accordion can still fold. Trim any sheets that create a problem.

Book86. Stitch the pieces in place to create a wild, multi-sheet accordion book.

Book2Now the fun begins. You could have written in the book first, and assembled it afterwards. I assembled it first, thinking about my inner hero. Until the book was complete, I didn’t have an Inner Hero at hand. Once I knew her name, I drew the feather images and added the words.

Book3It had been raining the day before, and I wondered where the birds go. I know they sit in trees and under eaves, but I rarely see them. What I do see a lot of is feathers. And I began to think that one of my strengths is thinking of details, and one of my weaknesses is that sometimes I forget how all those details piece together and make a glorious whole.

Book5The image of the birds’ feathers and how they serve different functions, but all come together, came back to me. If all I do is pay attention to details; I’ll forget the purpose of the whole.

book9So the last page (sort of) says, ” Don’t spend time wondering which feather lifts you–they all do. Practice flying instead of counting feathers.”  The Protector of Flight Feathers has a lot to teach me. The details are important, but so is the big picture, the goal. Without knowing how to see the goal, I can’t really grow toward it. And rather than thinking of the place of each feather, it makes a lot of sense to fly.

—Quinn McDonald is working on more Inner Heroes. A girl can never have enough of them.

 

Gold Sumi-e Color and a Giveaway

Note: Congratulations to Kimberly Santini, who won the Gold Sumi-e Watercolor in the cute ceramic dish! Can’t wait to see what she does with it!

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One of the items Niji gave me to play with when I became a designer for them is their dish of pale gold sumi-e watercolor paint. Rich with gold and possibility, I’ve found several ways to make the most of it.

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Ceramic dish of pale gold sumi-e watercolor paint by Yasutomo.

I can’t help it, I love the 2-3/4-inch ceramic dish it comes in. And I’m giving a dish of it away. (Details below.)

My new favorite way to apply it is with a brayer–the roller you use to apply ink to printing plates.

Using black paper and gold paint, I made a fantasy card.  For the background, choose a sturdy paper like Strathmore ArtAgain or Arches cover. Using a fat, fairly stiff brush (I use a glue brush), mix some water into the dish. Load the brush and then snap the brush to drip gold sumi-e paint on the paper.

GoldXImmediately, roll the brayer up over the paint. You can use a painted stripe if you want to include a horizon line.

Gold7I added a painted circle out of the acrylic paper for a moon and let it extend beyond the edge, trimming off the extra. You can read the entire instructions on the Niji blog page, here.

Gold6If fantasy cards aren’t your thing, you can use the gold sumi-e paint to color shipping tags, too. I had already painted several of them with acrylics (for my Tiny Journal class this weekend at Arizona Art Supply) I splashed some gold ink on them and rolled the brayer across to add bold patterns.

Last week, at the Craft and Hobby Association convention in Anaheim, California, I discovered that Yasutomo was introducing a new paper.  It’s made of  . . . minerals. Called Mineral White in the origami paper and All Media paper for artists, it is amazing to work with. Yes, it is made from very finely ground calcium carbonate in a soft binder. It feels like paper, but it has a huge benefit for watercolor artists–the paper doesn’t curl when wet. It stays flat no matter what you do with it. No buckling at all.

Gold4Here is a sheet of Mineral White with gold sumi-e watercolor brayered across it. It looks like a landscape of mountains. It’s great for art journaling or origami. You can also use it for origami or collage.

Gold9This is the Mineral White with a blue and green Splash Ink wash and a spritz of water to create the look of rain.

Then I brayered gold watercolor across it for another whole dimension of color and glitz.

Just because it’s watercolor doesn’t mean you have to use a brush to paint it on!

To win a 2-3/4-inch ceramic dish of Yasutomo pale gold sumi-e paint, you have to do two things:

  1. Leave a comment on this blog.
  2. Like the Yasutomo Facebook page.

The winner will be announced on January 27, on this blog post and on the Yasutomo Facebook page.

There’s another giveaway going on today: Photographer Bo Mackison (I altered a photograph she took in the Inner Hero book) is giving away a copy of my new book on her blog.

Quinn McDonald is the author of the newly-released Inner Hero Creative Art Journal. She is on the Niji Design Team and is an art journaler, writer, and certified creativity coach.

dtbutton1Yasutomo provided the materials to all design team members and will provide the paint to the winner.

The Slippery Surface of Yupo

Yupo® is a polypropylene synthetic paper. It has a smooth white surface, is semi-opaque, and makes a very interesting sheet for watercolor, ink and acrylics.

There are pros and cons. Because it is non-absorbent (read: waterproof), whatever you use on it has to dry by evaporation into the air (instead of absorbing into the fiber).

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In the photo above, you can see the light reflecting on a piece of wet Yupo®. Look closely, and you’ll see that only the top 2/3 of the page is wet. If you leave the page flat, the water doesn’t drift.

Color skates along the surface, and blending goes a long way. You’ll probably need less acrylic, ink, or watercolor.

Acrylic paint: sap green, blue, fine gold on Yupo.

Acrylic paint: sap green, blue, fine gold monoprinted on Yupo.

Because I’m a designer for Niji art products, I decided to give Splash Inks a try on Yupo®.

Splash Inks on Yupo®

Splash Inks on Yupo®

First, I tried simply putting the inks on the surface, spritzing it with water and tilting it. Interesting effect. When the inks dry, they cannot be scrubbed off with a paper towel and water. They will lift off with a paper towel and alcohol and some scrubbing, but a faint image will remain. Makes a nice ghost print.

niji9But I wanted to create an abstracted image, so I put down a blue wash on the top of the page, and an orange-brown wash on the bottom. I allowed it to dry thoroughly–about an hour in Phoenix. Then I dropped Splash black ink (two drops, about an inch apart) on the page, and used a straw to create a tree trunk. I blue the drops up until I had interesting lines, then used a coffee-stirrer-size straw to blow across the lines and create offshoots. (For more detailed instructions and photos, read the tutorial on Splash Inks on Yupo)

tree3I then mixed up some bright orange ink (I free-mix, but there are instructions for colors with the inks), and using a stiffer glue brush, pounced the brush on the surface, creating the illusion of autumn leaves. And the tree was done.

Full instructions for this tree and two more are on the Niji blog for January 3, 2014.

—Quinn McDonald is delighted to have been invited as a guest instructor at the Minneapolis Book Arts Center this April. She will be teaching Mind Over Chatter, a journaling class with Gelli plates.

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Acrylic Skins for Upcycling

First things first: Pia from ColourCottage won one of the new Inner Hero books! The other winner was Suzanne Ourths–congratulations to both winners! As soon as my shipment arrives, two books will be on the way to new owners!

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Show me a container and I’m in love–cardboard, plastic, wood–if it’s well designed, I will find a use for it. No clever container goes in the trash, it get upcycled.  In this case, I used a small drawer-shaped cardboard box, about 3 inches by 3 inches.

After painting it in cream and black, I decided to add an acrylic skin to dress up the box. It will hold small pieces of paper for journal or collage work. Some of the skins are made with Splash Inks and some with acrylic paint.

drip2Pour three or four puddles of tar gel directly onto a teflon craft sheet. About two tablespoons of tar gel makes a good size finished piece. I’ve tried glue and acrylic gloss medium for this project, but I find that clear-drying tar gel gives the best results.

drip3Using a plastic dropper, put three or four drops of different colors in each puddle of tar gel. Rinse the dropper well between each color to prevent further blending.

drip5Using the stirrer, blend the colors by dragging the stirrer through the tar medium and colors. I start at one edge and draw the stirrer through to the other side, then circle and cross through the colors like you would if you were incorporating beaten egg whites into a batter–always cutting through the middle.

The gold adds a dramatic effect, but add it last. Because it contains a lot of pigment, it likes to settle to the bottom. You can use the Niji gold sumi-e watercolor, or acrylic fine gold iridescent paint.

Now comes the hardest part of this project. You have to wait for the puddles to dry completely. It will take at least 24 hours. You can use a hair dryer, but be careful. You don’t want to push the shape around. Do not put this project in the stove or microwave to dry it. Patience produces the best results. If you live in a damp climate, it may take three days to dry.  Here in Phoenix, it takes 24 hours.

Find a piece that is attractive and matches what you plan to place into the box. paint the back with clear-drying glue. Do not use tar gel as glue.

box1It’s nice to have one edge wrap over the edge of the box. Place carefully. Don’t slide the gel skin because the glue will leave a mark on the box. Because the tar gel dries perfectly clear, the skin allows the color of the painted box to show through.

box2Here, I used a large one on the front of the box, and a smaller one on the back of the box. The upcycled box is now a handsome gift box, ready to hold the small journal sheets or other surprise!

Read the complete instructions (with more photos) on the Niji blog site.

–Quinn McDonald is a Niji Design Team member, a collage artist, blogger,and the author of Inner Hero Creative Art Journal, released this week from North Light books.

dtbutton1As a Niji Design Team member, I do not get paid to play with art materials. However, Niji sent me a box of materials to play with.

Monoprint Mug Mat (Tutorial)

Gelli Art plates are my latest obsession, and I’m discovering how much fun they can be. Today I’m demonstrating for Arizona Art Supply at the Phoenix Women’s Expo. I thought it would be smart to demonstrate something practical, so I made a mug mat, using a Gelli Arts printing plate, Studio Cloth, paints, and masks that I cut myself. I’ll be teaching a Gelli plate class at Arizona Art Supply on November 2, in Phoenix. If you are in Tucson, I’ll be there on November 17. (Mark the date, registration isn’t open yet.)

Mug mats protect your desk from spills and smears and provide a nice surface for a mug of coffee, tea, soup and perhaps a snack. They come in many sizes; this one is larger than most.

MugMat

Here’s what you will need:

  • A Gelli Arts plate, any size. Mine is 8 inches x 10 inches..
  • One piece Studio Cloth, the size of your mug mat. Mine is about 10 inches x 12 inches.
  • A fat quarter of batik fabric, in colors that coordinate with the colors on the mug mat.
  • Sewing machine and thread (optional).
  • Acrylic paints, several different colors
  • Brayer, 2-inch or 3-inch.
  • Paper mask, one in the shape of a tea bag, one in the shape of the tag.
  • Sturdy cardstock, to cut masks
  • Pen, pencil and tea bag (to create mask)
  • Baby wipes (to clean plate)
  • Decorative comb

Drip several dark colors of acrylic paint onto the Gelli plate. About a teaspoon will do. I used Quinadricone Dark Orange, Payne’s Gray, and a bit of Iridescent gold.

Brayer the colors over the plate to reach the corners. Take a print on either side of the Studio Cloth. Allow cloth to dry completely. Take another print off the plate to create a ghost print to use for another project.

While the cloth is drying, place he tea bag and the tag on cardstock, trace around the outline, and cut out.

Re-ink the plate with lighter colors. I used Titan Buff, Periwinkle blue. Brayer over the plate, which will pick up color from the last application.

Place the tea-bag mask and tag at differing angles on the plate. Using the non-bristle side of a brush, create a “string” connecting the tea bag and the tag with a curved line. This design will remove paint.

Using decorative combs or other household objects, create patterns around the tea bag. Take a print on the same side of the Studio Cloth as before. The mask and the scraping of the paint will allow the darker first coat to come though. Allow to dry.

LinerCut a piece of batik cloth a bit larger that the Studio Cloth. Fuse to the back of the cloth using Pellon fusible webbing. (Make sure it sticks on both sides). Create a fabric sandwich: Studio Cloth, painted side down; fusible webbing; batik fabric, right side facing you. Iron to fuse.

Trim away any extra fabric, then use a zig-zag stitch to edge the Studio Cloth. You can also use a decorative scissors to trim the edge. Studio Cloth will not fray.

Your mug mat is ready to use! You can seal it with acrylic paint sealer. I leave mine the way it is and surface clean it if it needs it.

You can also use canvas, but you will have to gesso it first.

Quinn McDonald is enjoying playing with Gelli plates.

Ink Art Forest (Tutorial)

Accidental art is a type of Raw Art–you deliberately give up control to create art. For perfectionists (or us recovering perfectionists), it’s hard to give up control voluntarily. The resulting joy is seeing accidental art develop in front of your eyes.

Niji9For years, I’ve been working with an ink technique based on a mix of control and complete lack of control. Here’s a short video of that technique:

A few days ago, I created a journal page for the Niji Design Team that was both simple and stark.  It does not require you to be an illustrator. Here’s how to do it.

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Materials

Here’s how you make the journal page

1. Spray a very fine mist of water on the front of the watercolor paper. It will curl slightly, with the middle higher than the edges (convex).

2. Wet the larger watercolor brush, blot, and load with ink. Very carefully, touch the tip of the brush to the drops of water. The ink will jump across the water droplets, forming interesting spidery shapes. These are pine branches.

Niji34. Work slowly and carefully up and down the page, creating these patterns. It takes a little practice–use less spray water than you think. The droplets should be separate to avoid a black wash of ink.

5. Repeat the process on the same side of the page, on the other edge. Allow to dry. Add an ink line down the vertical edge of the page. Rinse your brush.

Niji66.  When the paper is dry,  use the thin brush to draw a horizon line at the bottom third  of the page, between the trees. Use the waste water, it will still produce a light gray line.

7. Fill in some of the white areas with a very pale gray wash to indicate clouds and the ground. You have a journal page of contrast and visual interest. You can add hand-lettering if you’d like.

Niji8You can create different pages with creative use of different details.

For complete direction for this page, visit the Niji Design Team page.

Quinn McDonald is a Niji Design Team member. She was not paid to belong to the team, but did receive free products to experiment with from Yasutomo /Niji.

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