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.

Tutorial: Marbling With Splash Inks

Splash Inks are versatile fun in a bottle. I’m on the Yasutomo Design Team, and Splash Inks is one of the products I got to use. As soon as I found out you could marble paper with the inks, I had to try it. Here’s how it works:

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In addition to the Splash Inks, you’ll need a flat deep, non-reactive pan about 10 inches long and at least 2 inches deep (25 x 5 centimeters).  Shown  (above) is an enameled meat tray you can buy as a palette in most art supply stores.

Niji1A_StarchThe medium to float the inks is Sta-Flo liquid laundry starch. It comes in a blue half-gallon bottle.  A spray bottle with a fine, misting spray and a roll of paper towels come in handy, too.

Add an eye dropper, a big-tooth comb, a shower squeegee and a group of small containers to mix your favorite color inks and you are ready

Choose a sturdy paper to marble:  I like Strathmore and Canson Mixed Media papers. You can also use Arches Velin, or 90-pound watercolor paper by Bee.  Start by protecting your worktable with newspaper and wearing gloves if you want to keep your hands ink-free. Niji3_smalldotsShake the bottle of starch to blend the ingredients. Pour the starch into the dish so you have at least an inch of fluid in the dish. Stir gently with the comb or a gloved finger to remove the bubbles.

Using an ink dropper, add several drops of ink to the surface of the starch. The first time you do this, the drops will be small and sink. Expect one or two test sheets till the starch is tempered.

Niji_InkmixYou can use colors right out of the bottle, or you can mix inks into small containers. A color blending chart is included along with the four bottles of Splash Ink.

Niji4_stonemarbSave your test sheets  for collage work. When  the ink drops  get larger and float well enough so you can put drops within drops, you are ready for marbling.  The  pattern above, (called ‘stone’, is fine, or you can use the comb and gently drag the teeth through the liquid.

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Drag the wide teeth of the comb left to right.

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Drag the narrower teeth up and down. The more you comb the finer the pattern. Colors will blend with a lot of stirring.

marbledpaperWhen your surface has the appearance you like, you are ready to place the paper on the surface.

Niji7_paper

Place one end  of the paper onto the surface then “roll” the paper and drop the other end to keep air from getting trapped under the paper and leaving a white spot. You can see  (above), that the bottom, left-hand corner of the paper is picking up from the surface. That’s a sign to pick up the paper, the marbling is done. It takes about 10-15 seconds for the color to transfer.

Niji6_papermarbCarefully pick up the paper and put it on the newspaper. To get the starch to run off, tilt the paper slightly by putting it on a piece of crumpled newspaper. After about one minute, spray the paper with a mister to rinse off extra starch.  If you like a very crisp look with distinct lines, wipe the excess starch off the paper with the shower squeegee. It will take off some color with it.

Niji8_sinkTo make pastel shades of paper, drop the sheet on the surface, let it absorb color, then use a palette knife (or the comb) to push the paper under water. The back will become marbled in a pastel swirl of color.

Niji9_papers

Make many sheets at once to have choices. To clean the surface of the starch, float a paper towel on it to absorb the ink, then add more ink. Above, you can see several sheets–upper left is a sheet made with the four colors in the bottles; upper center, a pastel effect by sinking the paper; bottom left is a piece scraped with the shower squeegee.

The papers may curl while they are wet. To get them flat, put them between two sheets of parchment paper and iron them on a medium setting till they are flat.

You can also marble directly onto your looseleaf journal pages, then write on the front or back (or both). Here are three examples of that:

pagemarble This is part of a Robert Jeffers poem. It completes on the back, along with some comments I made about the poem.

WavesmarbleI found this a handy way to use those quotes I save for journaling. And “llustrating” them with abstract marbling poses an interesting challenging.

fishmarbleThis is one of my “fish out of water” pages. It’s an interesting theme I explore–what makes us feel uncomfortable, what gives us community? So the background is blended in blue (water) and green (land) and the fish is adapting.

On the Niji Design Blog, I used the marbled pages to make two different kinds of postcards. You can read about that project here.

dtbutton1Quinn McDonald is a member of the Yasutomo Design Team. She experiments and designs projects for Niji/Yasutomo. She receives free product from the company to complete the projects.

Fun With Splash Inks (Part 2)

Splash Inks are acrylic inks invented by Karen Elaine and made by Yasutomo. I’ve posted on Splash inks previously. Today, Arizona Art Supply had a class in learning how to use the inks. Kari Foteff

Senior Account Manager Kari Foteff, from Strathmore, and inventor Karen Elaine.

Senior Account Manager Kari Foteff (L) from Strathmore, and inventor Karen Elaine.

from Strathmore Papers (L) and Karen Elaine were there and they taught a wicked good class. Strathmore papers were the first papers I loved when I was a papermaker, and it was great meeting someone who gets to work with Strathmore papers much of the time.

It’s fun meeting an inventor, particularly one who is modest and never mentioned her time on the Carol Duvall show. ( A popular show on the DIY Network several years ago) or the process of invention, just what the inks can do.

There are four inks, and they follow the CMYK colors: Cyan (blue) Magenta, Yellow and Black. You can mix them into over a hundred different colors.

class1

We mixed several colors, and Kay, next to me, did a whole sampler of colors.

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We then masked off a card and, using a stencil, scraped Golden’s regular gel (gloss) over the stencil and allowed the gel to dry, creating a resist.  We then mixed colors and applied them over the card. Kay did an attractive multi-colored card:

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And I tried for a batik effect:

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I’ll be demonstrating the inks at Arizona Art Supply’s booth the Women’s Expo at the Phoenix Convention Center April 27 and 28, 2013.

Karen Elaine helped me learn how to do some paper marbling with the basic colors. I have some more work to do (mixing new colors), but I’m really pleased with the basic marbling which is super easy:

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And works with more complicated combing patterns, too.

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Even the second pick-up works well:

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I made these on cardstock, but you can also make them on sized watercolor paper. You can use them as art journal backgrounds, or just write in the lighter areas. You can use Golden’s regular gel as a resist and then write on it with a sharpie. Lots of experimentation still to go, but I’m having a lot of fun with Splash Inks.

–Quinn McDonald has inky fingers again.

Disclaimer: I purchased the inks myself. I am receiving no compensation to blog about them.