Splash Ink: New Product

This isn’t a review, because I haven’t had these inks long enough to do anything except make a few basic mixes. But with a weekend coming up, there is the possibility you may want to try them, too.

colorbottlesI went out to buy ink today, because most of my work is done with ink, watercolor paints and pencils. I had gotten a flyer from Arizona Art Supply mentioning that there would be a demo of the new Splash Inks, and it had piqued my interest.

Here’s the premise: Splash Inks come in only four colors–the same four colors that printers use to make hundreds of colors by mixing them in different amounts or different size dots. You may know the colors as CMYK–Cyan, Magenta, Yellow, Black. The K is used to prevent confusion with B for blue, which is called cyan. (Did you take notes? No matter. Read on!)

colorgreenThe inks are acrylics, and only slightly thicker than ink. They mix incredibly well, and can be used in waterbrushes and in calligraphy pens. (I haven’t tried that yet).  I played around with the yellow and blue to make various shades of green, turquoise, and jades. The more water you add, the more transparent the colors become.

Splash ink was developed by Karen Elaine Thomas  for Niji and is distributed by Yasutomo.

colorhowtoThe packaging comes with a mixing chart for landscapes, portraits and more. The colors are measured in drops (the bottle tops are designed for this) and water is added to lighten colors and make them transparent. It’s hard not to like the idea.

I’ve tried the most basic mixing with good results. While you are supposed to used these inks on watercolor paper, I think coated stock or Yupo will give a clearer color and less fast absorption, which made it a bit harder for me to mix. This is not a disappointment, it’s simply a new technique and needs some practice.  I have fallen in love with the colors you can make, though.


Karen Elaine was at the Mesa (AZ) stamp show, and demo’d an interesting technique using rubber stamps. There is something appealing about resists, and she used it in that way.

I’m eager to try working with these inks. They seem to be versatile and I want to explore them.

Disclosure: I paid for the inks and am not receiving any compensation from anyone to post this blog.

—Quinn McDonald uses ink to work on journal pages.

Exploring Ink

Ink is weird. When I started playing with it, I thought ink was made to put in fountain pens and stored in bottles. Well, it does come in bottles, but there is acrylic ink, watercolor inks, shellac inks,  alcohol inks, and sparkly inks. There are inks you can put in airbrushes but not in a technical pen, and inks you can put in a dip pen but not a fountain pen. It’s amazing, and my head is spinning. There are inks you thin with water and those made with shellac that don’t like water.

Because I’m experimenting with inks for a new class, I’m making a wonderful mess in the studio–different papers, gel medium, water, alcohol–and blends. Which ink likes what? I take notes and eventually I will create the Frankenstein monster in ink and every time I say “Frau Blücher!” a horse will snort ink over my desk.

Walnut ink crystals didn't dissolve on gel medium, and brown Higgins ink won't dry.

In this project, I was trying to eliminate warping in the paper substrate. The usual way to do that is to spray both sides of the paper with water before working on it. What would happen if I painted over an inked sheet with gel medium and continue to ink it. Would it quit warping? It does quit warping, but other odd things happen. I let the gel medium layer dry and sprinkled walnut ink crystals over two spots. The crystals can’t be scraped off the sheet once they dry.

Brown Higgins ink, which I thought was water-based, must be shellac based because it won’t dry on the gel medium. At least not in 12 hours. I stood the paper upright and left it alone, and the ink continued to spread. The red-orange dried in about 8 hours. When I went back to re-work it, I could see a figure in a red dress in the ink.

I began to work with the figure, but watercolor pencils and Pitt Pens both picked up the tacky brown ink. I finally used India Ink to get the effect. The piece may never dry, but it taught me some interesting facts:

–you can spray or drop ink on watercolor paper and get interesting effects.

India ink can be used on damp gel medium and shellac ink, but it's very difficult to work on wet ink.

—If you let the ink dry, you can add more ink without blurring the first coat.

–If you spray alcohol on ink, you get interesting effects, but it also doesn’t evaporate completely from the paper, and subsequent layers will behave differently, even if you let the paper dry.

–Spritzing on Tattered Angels Glimmer Mist on the first layer acts as a mild fixative. When you re-spray with water, the tiny mica particles shift and flow, even if the page was completely dry.

These experiments are teaching me a lot. It won’t be long till I’m ready to teach painting backgrounds with ink–if it turns out to be a bit more predictable.

Quinn McDonald loves experimenting in the studio. Both her hands are now heavily inked in brown and red. The checker at the grocery store asked her if she had been in an accident. “No,” she replied, “this was an on-purpose.”

Inks in Art Journaling

On my way home from JournalFest, I flew over the mountains North and East of Phoenix. For a moment, I thought I could see large petroglyph, or sand carving.

A new road being scraped into a mountainside. Taken through an airplane window.

It was neither. It was the beginning of a road, scraped into the earth, against a mountain. I looked at the wrinkles and color, as if ink had been applied on a paper bag, then scrunched up. Inks. . .so interesting. They can work like watercolors or dyes. They are so much more than just fluid to write with.

This weekend, I spent some time working with inks in the studio. Found some interesting techniques with ink. Here’s a wash done with ink:

Ink wash on watercolor paper

Once the wash is dry, you can continue to work on it. Below, I sprayed the wash and dropped ink on it, for a double-layer effect:

Ink on watercolor paper.

It would make a good background for a journal page. Here’s one I did in a different color, then wrote on it with Pitt pens and watercolor pencils.

Pitt pen and watercolor pencil on inked watercolor paper.

My favorite discovery was that some inks won’t bleed when re-wet, and you can add several different colors in layers:

The one above is done in browns and orange and indigo. I see seedheads and flowers in it, but that’s for later. Below is one done in Payne’s gray, black and orange.

Ink on watercolor paper.

Inks are also effective on black paper. Of course, irridescents work best for black paper.

Shimmer black and gold ink on Strathmore's Artagain black paper.

Taken one step further, you can use the inks to create figurative work. Here’s the first step:

And here is the same image re-imagined into a stormy wind cloud behind a tree scene, sort of Grimm-fairy tale-ish,  where someone just vanished.

"He Was Never Seen Again" Ink, watercolor pencil on watercolor paper.

It’s a wonderful medium, with both deep and pale color, and the opportunity to use washes as well as splashes of ink. There will certainly be more.

–Quinn McDonald is the author of Raw Art Journaling. She is spending time making meaning in new ways.

Sumi Ink, Big Brush

Just for a few days I have to quit working small. I like to work about 4 x 6. Lately I’ve been trying squares of 6 x 6. I love the square format because I’m fussing with grids. To break the spell of squares, I picked up a big Chinese calligraphy brush and an ink stone. Ink and brush are an ancient combination that create spare and simple art. The results make wonderful handmade cards.

Sumi ink and a big brush

With a little practice, the art of sumi-e yields wonderful results. You can leave them black and white or you can add a touch of color. You can buy the ink, or you can buy a stick of sumi-e ink and a grinding block.

The ink stick looks lacquered. It is. Rub the short end against a wet grinding block until you have a puddle of ink. If you live in a hard-water area, use distilled water in a spray bottle to create a deep black ink.

Good ink smells of incense, or at least soot. It’s made from plant charcoal, and some ink sticks smell better than others.

If you buy the fat brushes traditional for this art, soak and rinse the brushes. They are stiffened with fish glue to help them keep their shape in transit.

The basic strokes are simple: hold the brush upright, start with the tip of the

Leaves and stem in sumi-e style

brush, then push down, drag, then lift up as if it were an airplane taking off. That’s a leaf. A stem uses the tip of the brush pushed down and dragged, then pushed again.

The rest is practice. 15 minutes a day yields good results in about a week. The minimalism is soothing. The suggestion of the completed piece is all you need. Your mind does the rest. Creativity doesn’t have to use a lot to make itself known. Simple works, too.

–Quinn McDonald is keeping her excitement in check–the book launch is tomorrow night, 7 p.m. at Changing Hands bookstore in Tempe. She is spending half her time worrying that no one will show up and the other half that there won’t be enough food. She also believes this is normal.