Brushing with Word Paints

What fun! I had not been to this art class since February of 2020, and our March class had to be canceled. Guess why? No one has to say why because much of everything didn’t happen in 2020.

In May 2016 when I discovered the media of Alcohol Inks, I was severely intrigued. Never heard of it. I did a bit of research on the artist, Sharen AK Harris, and found out loads.   

During the Covid Conjuncture, I began painting and making bookmarks for the many book lovers I know and sold several. I have a huge cache of antique buttons and used some of those on the ribbons. Painting on a very small scale (sort of like writing flash fiction) induced the comfortability of trying various techniques and color combinations without covering a lot of ground.

On this past Monday morning, I woke in a very frumpy mood–no reason, I simply felt out of sorts. Perfect timing because a thoughtful friend, Jane, who we shared classes together prior to covid had made arrangements to go to Sharen’s in the afternoon now that she had opened up her studio again to smaller groups. Maybe this is what I needed. Jane reminded me to bring snacks. Oh yeah, I forgot about that. I whipped up some treats because this is also part of the fun. 

Later that Monday in the early afternoon, four of us met at Sharen’s quaint small studio set up in her home west of Tucson, very close, if not bumped up to, the Tucson Mountains. Natural desert beauty surrounds her home for miles and miles. No tall buildings, only jagged mountains, cacti and a few city lights to the northwest. This landscape showcases sunrise and sunsets, and an array of wildlife which can be found threaded throughout some of her artwork. Even though I have painted in watercolor since very young, learned oils and acrylics, and pastels in my thirties, this freestyle media is incredible.

Alcohol ink is typically made of a mixture of alcohol, pigment, and a binder to help the ink adhere to surfaces. It’s a clear colorless liquid and the pigment provides the color and the binder helps the ink stick to surfaces such as glass, tile, metal, and certain types of paper such as YUPO.

The ink colors move on their own, add more drops of the ink to allow them to drip, or you can blow through a straw to assist further movement to create a wispier and feathery affect. The weight, or lack of it, can easily be manipulated with a brush dipped in the alcohol inks to pat, tap, dot, swirl, and sometimes areas will form sort of a ‘crust’ edge. Powerful.

One of Sharen’s classes pre-covid

Sharen continues to reiterate, “There is no wrong way, if you don’t like it, smear over it and start again. Never throw anything away.” She says to ‘squint’ at your painting because this will help you see a greater definition of values and shapes. Got it, I learned to squint. At one class she grabbed a small white tile, you know the kind, used in bathrooms, backsplashes, and the like, and said, “I am going to show you how to paint a sunflower in sixty seconds.”  Amazing. I can do that…its so effortless. The next day (by now I had bought, ordered, and set up my little studio), I laid out a small white tile, paints, and forty minutes later I was still fussing. So much for my one-minute sunflower. Maybe I didn’t squint.

Back to Monday afternoon, the four of us who attended this class decided we wanted to try pumpkins and leaves since autumn is knocking. Sharen gave us each three different sizes of photo paper (we use the back side; ink will not adhere to the slick side) and all the tools necessary. “Pick one and we’ll do a warm-up.” She showed us one of her paintings and we began. Sharen picks up a blank piece and reminds us how to engage shadows, the look of petals bursting out of the center of the sunflower by pressing lightly and then pulling back the brush, the light and dark on a pumpkin, (lifting off color) and values to give dimension. Two hours later we were all about satisfied with our ‘warm-up’. Warm-up! What will a real painting take us…two non-stop days? We had a good laugh while eating our snacks. But we all had a finished piece and were pleased. 

Alcohol Ink by Sally

In paints, you live with color, make forms, movements, and swirls, to capture images from A to Z. This line of thought segues me into the realm of writing. You paint with words. You paint images, scenery, smells, and emotions with words filled with color using the five senses. (A good resource to learn more about this particular relationship is Rebecca McClanahan’s book, Word Painting) which describes how writing is much like art. Both stimulate and feed off one another to illustrate the vision you have in your mind to capture the eye, whether it be the media of paint or the words of a writer. (More on this topic in a future post.)

Meantime, rid yourself of any morning blues by finding something new to try or something you haven’t done in a very long time, to bring light to your sometimes chaotic moments. And as I am reminded, to find value, ‘squint’. 

(Alcohol Ink on white tile by Sally)

New in the Writing Corner

Please see this place to submit and my piece that was accepted.

Thank you for reading.

10 thoughts on “Brushing with Word Paints

  1. Wonderful creativity, Sally. So glad you reconnected with Sharen. She’s an amazing teacher and coach. You captured fall in the pumpkin painting perfectly.

Leave a Reply

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.