Working in Ink
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News for August
Working in InkBehind the Art
by Melissa Acker
Of all the little experiments I did last summer to keep me from going stir crazy, my ink works pleasantly surprised me the most. Here I’ll walk you through how I went about creating ‘Routine’.
For this piece I used an 8- by 10-inch panel of white clayboard (it’s called ‘clayboard smooth’ now). This technique can also be used on illustration board, or even a thick watercolor paper with a little adaptation, so if you can’t spring for the expensive stuff, don’t despair.
The first step is to draw the subject in. I was mostly concerned with getting the silhouette correct, as I would be doing most of the detail work later on. I spent a lot of time measuring angles and double-checking all the proportions. Once I was satisfied, I got out my ink. I just use regular India ink. I have a little jar (like the size of a baby food jar), that I put a few drops of ink in. I also have a water container and a watercolor brush. The brush I use is reserved solely for my ink work, as I find the ink is not kind towards my brushes.
Time to lay in the silhouette! I used my brush to lay it in, using the ink with just enough water on my brush to keep it wet. The brushstrokes were done in the direction of the fur to start building texture. Again, the silhouette is still the most important thing.
And now, it’s time for the really fun part!
Using a lot more water, I started randomly making strokes on the panel, sometimes adding ink to a wet spot and sometimes attaching a line of water to an ink spot. I also used a small spray bottle to create yet more texture. Once the ink was mostly settled, I set it standing on its side vertically to dry. After it dried, I added more ink and let it dry standing vertically on a different edge. While I was painting I had a rough idea of creating the appearance of branches and foliage surrounding the wolf, but I tried to keep it suggestive.
And this is the reason I love clayboard. The next step is to scratch in the detail. I paid close attention to the fur patterns and structure of the face. Patience is the key here. If you aren’t using clayboard, you can scratch through the surface with a very sharp craft knife blade. Alternatively, you could paint white on top, using acrylic paint or ink. You could even use a white-out pen if you aren’t worried about fine detail. I could have left the image as it was here, but I decided to keep going.
Using some dark, neutral watercolor washes, I colored in the wolf’s fur and tongue in several layers, alternating washes with more scratching. When I felt I couldn’t take it any further, I stopped.
And there you have it: a relatively quick and easy way to work with ink! I love this technique and have been using it quite a bit lately. Hopefully you’ve all found something here that you can use at home!
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