Today I am going to share with you my Yarrow and Cone Flower paintings! I am really excited about them for a couple of reasons. To start with, alcohol inks and Yupo Paper are kind of tricky to master because they refuse to have a master. Yupo paper is basically a thin sheet of recycled polypropylene plastic. The alcohol ink does not get absorbed by the paper so it runs in sunburst type directions unless you tilt the paper to encourage it to flow in a particular way. In short, this is not a medium for people who prefer to be in total control of the medium they are working in. Which, I have to admit can be my downfall. I am a bit of a control freak, perfectionist type, artist-mom-wanna-be so I struggled at first. I struggled a lot.
Then I started thinking more about how the ink works. I had to, seriously. With this medium it’s adapt or die and I was not about to give up because, well, because of those colors. I cannot get enough of this vibrant, glowing, gorgeous, alcohol ink color! I love it. Don’t you? Can you imagine walking past all of this color in your home and not stopping for a moment to soak it all in? Well, I can’t. I’ve probably been stopping to bask in the glory of color a little too often lately. There is a reason my sink is full of dishes and Tiny-Small is wearing mismatched socks, you guys.
The only way to paint with alcohol inks and Yupo paper is to think of it as a full-body sport. It also helps to work in stages. I use masking fluid to map out areas I want to keep white or might want to fill in with a lighter color later. Then I have to wait while that dries (sometimes I do multiple paintings at a time so I can shuffle through them all day long). Luckily it dries quickly in our hot, dry climate. Then I start on the background which means pouring ink onto the Yupo with one hand while tilting the paper in multiple directions with the other. I stand up, I sit down, I wish I had at least four arms. Did I mention I am wearing plastic hospital gloves the entire time? That adds a new layer of awkwardness. For someone who has no problem painting with her fingers this can be a strange experience and I have to be very careful unless I want to walk around with ink-stained hands for days and days. Once the ink is poured I have to let it dry again and then I use masking fluid over parts of the background, let that dry and add another layer of ink.
Then I have to remove all of the masking fluid (royal pain in the butt) and get my paintbrushes out. Once the masking fluid is removed the flowers are just white blotches. Painting the flowers is the tricky part because the ink runs wild. Some colors seem to spread across the Yupo faster and wider than other colors. That’s why I spent so much time experimenting before I started to have success. I really had to get to know each color before I could get even a little control over them. I use the term control loosely here because the inks still do what they want to. I mean, I can coax them a bit and be careful to use smaller ink amounts, or larger ink amounts, but there is always an element of surprise. Not to mention, the weather is a factor too. If it’s humid, the inks behave a little differently than they do when it is hot and dry. These alcohol inks have multiple personalities. Surprisingly, even though I have art medium control issues, I still enjoy the surprises. I mean, even when it goes all wrong there is still gorgeous color to mesmerize me with. There have been times when I didn’t achieve the look I was going for, but over all, I haven’t been able to make anything actually ugly using the alcohol inks, so in a way, it’s a good medium to work in if you can’t draw well or like abstracts and color.
I am really excited about my Yarrow and Cone Flower paintings for another reason. They feel like they are all mine. My style. They aren’t that different from my watercolor flowers, just more intense. When I start learning a new technique or art medium I often find myself imitating the work of my teachers. It’s how I learn I suppose. That’s how art has been taught over the years. You begin by copying the work of someone else. Students try to recreate the art master’s work. Once they can do that well, they start growing and experimenting. They develop their own style. Even though I have only taken a few formal, college level, art classes in my life I still work that way. If you are patient and stick with it and practice I am pretty sure you can teach yourself to do just about anything!