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Tuesday, March 25, 2014

Discovering the Joys of Adirondack Alcohol Inks

...and painting everything in sight :)
Actually that is not quite true...the cats won't sit still long enough heheheh

Here is my latest batch of eggs painted with alcohol ink, permanent marker and gold and silver leaf pen
What a variety! 
 
I was especially pleased to learn that you can thin alcohol ink with.....alcohol! When you do this you can achieve softer pastel colors like in this little bumblebee egg
First I drew the bumblebees on the egg with gold leaf pen. Then I waited (forever) until the gold leaf paint was dry. Next, I diluted blue ink with alcohol and began painting it on the egg. The gold metallic paint acted as a barrier (as I had hoped it would...whew!) so that my little bumblebees didn't turn blue. I love it when an experiment works! (just be careful not to put too much ink down at a time of it will run all over you design and you will not be happy!) Although I only used one color, I varied the amount of alcohol that I used to thin it down and still got a wonderful soft mottled surface.
 
Below are some step by step photos to show how I painted this egg:
 
 
Steps 1 to 4
I decided to forgo the messy wax process. This was a previous experiment where I used drips of candle wax as a mask. It worked but it was messy to clean the wax off the egg and left an oily residue. This time I decided to try using a clear acrylic floor finish to see if it worked to mask off parts of the egg. 
 
In the top left photo, I painted on polka dots of the clear acrylic finish (Future brand to be exact) :D 
It took a while for the little polka dots to dry so I had to paint on a section of dots, wait for them to dry and work on another section until the egg was covered.
In the top right photo I dipped a paper towel in butterscotch colored alcohol ink and began dabbing it on the egg hoping that little polka dots of the egg shell would show though. 
In the bottom right photo you see that, not only did the acrylic finish NOT repel the ink....it ATTRACTED it. 
Well durn it. 
Okay, well at least you can see them and it wasn't a total wash. My plan was to paint on polka dots of acrylic finish after each color was added so that I would have a rainbow of dots when I was done. It didn't work out like planned but I moved on. (I have another idea that I will try later heheheh)
In the bottom right photo, the polka dots show up even more when I add the next color. I'm kind of liking them more now. 
 
Steps 5 to 8
Now these photos show what I really love about alcohol ink. They react with one another! I dip my paint brush in sunshine yellow ink and dab tiny bits on the painted surface of the egg and these drops spread and do wonderful things. I love the mottled  texture this creates! The inks react differently depending on the colors and whether the surface ink is dry, damp or wet when you add the tiny dots of color. It's fun to experiment! (I really am a mad scientist!). I think I added dots of butterscotch, sunshine yellow and a green to my egg. You may be able to tell in these photos that I also dabbed blue on the top and a bit of green on the bottom of the egg. Dripping on color gives you awesome effects too.
The bottom right photo shows a little quail egg I was working on at the same time.

Steps 9 to 12
When the ink was completely dry I began drawing shapes on the egg with a Sharpie permanent marker. I am partial to leaves for some reason....and circles. Don't know what's up with that but I digress. I draw leaf shapes all over the egg and fill in the wider gaps with circles. I want as much of my beautiful painted egg to show as possible.
Then I take a very fine black Sharpie and fill in the spaces until the only painted surface that shows are my shapes. You can choose any shapes you wish of course. In the very top photo you see I also made some eggs with....circles....go figure. In the future, I am sure you will see that I have also painted some eggs with swirls. It's just my thing. ^^
 
Swirls and circles and leaves...oh my!

The finishing touches
On a previous egg, I drew in some detail on some of the leaf shapes and I really liked how that turned out so I repeated that on this egg. You can see that I left some without any detail too. I like variety!

Now shame on me but I forgot to take photos of the next few steps. What I did was spray on a matte sealer (mainly because it was all I had available at the time). I had to do this in sections of course and let each dry before moving on. Once completely dry it looked too drab so I grabbed the acrylic floor finish and painted the leaf and circle shapes leaving the black borders matte. This really makes the leaves and circles pop. They almost look like they are floating on the surface of the egg. Cool! 
In hindsight, the acrylic dots I first applied weren't worth the trouble as you don't even see them anymore. So, if you were going to attempt this yourself, you might want to skip that first part. :)
The finishing touch was to take my gold leaf pen and stipple tiny dots of gold outlining each leaf.
 
Here is a closeup of another similar egg that I painted the same way. The only difference is that I did not spray the matte finish on this one but left the whole egg with the satin gloss created by the ink
Here is another view of this egg
The tiny bit of gold chain you see is what I used to keep this naughty egg still while I photographed him. He kept wandering all over the table.

Well, there you have it. A glimpse into my creative process. XD I hope you enjoyed it!

Until next time!

Sunday, March 16, 2014


Experiments of a Mad Scientist

....err, Artist that is...

I am taking a short break from clay and I decided to paint some eggs! Here is the first egg I worked on. 
I started out by dripping candle wax on the surface. (note to self: take pics as you go...this step in the process was funny :)) 
Then I stained the egg in strong black coffee. I dried it off, popped all the wax off the surface and dripped more wax on in different areas then stained it some more.
I popped the wax off, dripped more on and began sponging on ink in various colors.
Enough of the wax I decided. (my work table was covered in wax flakes as was I and possibly even the cat!)
I removed all of the wax from the surface and sponged on more ink.
I still didn't like it so I doodled on the surface with gold leaf pen and india ink.

Still didn't like it.
Hmmm.....

It needed something...something...
Aha! Maybe if I break up the surface with a design and only let portions of the dyed surface show it will be better. So I began drawing leaf shapes on the surface (and some "bubbles") and filled in the spaces with black ink. Ah...much better.

The whole wax thing was a pain and no matter how much I scraped with my craft knife I couldn't remove all off the wax so drawing on it was tricky.

I really liked the effect of sponging the ink on the surface so I decided to forgo the wax and just ink the next egg and here is the second egg.

Yes! Just as pretty (actually prettier in my opinion) without the painstaking and messy wax steps. Alcohol ink is so fun to work with.
The egg is different depending on which side you are looking at so, instead of posting photos of each angle I went to Ribbet an online photo editing program and created this collage
Isn't it fun and spring-y?

I had a new idea and I am painting more eggs. Photos coming soon. Ooh, step by step photos! 
(this time I will wear gloves when inking the eggs...sheesh, I have to go to work tomorrow with rainbow fingers)

Bye for now!

Monday, March 10, 2014

Lesson Learned!

Don't try this at Home

Leave the bungling to the professionals!

Okay, so I'm no professional and I am learning as I go by trial and error. Perhaps (I say to myself trying to justify my ignorance) this is the most effective way of learning because, if you just ruined something you spent many hours on, you are not likely to make THAT mistake again. No, no. you just forge on to make new ones!
At least that is what I seem to do. :)

A few of the lessons I have learned over the years:

Do not bake a clay journal cover decoration directly on the journal cover if the pages are secured to the binding with glue. 
Why? Well, the heated glue softens and all of the pages fall out. Not a good thing if anyone wants to actually write in the journal.

When covering a hollow egg, or any form where air will be trapped inside when completely covered, leave a hole to allow the heated air inside a way to escape during the curing process.
I didn't and the result was odd bumpy tumor like swellings in the most inconvenient places. 

Be sure that the material you intend to include in your clay piece will withstand the heat of the curing process.
Resin is a sinister impostor. I have mistaken it for metal, glass and even ceramic. Generally it does not do well in very hot conditions. It softens and collapses in on itself, shrivels and puckers and even becomes a bubbling goo.
In rare cases it has actually been a happy accident. One where my reaction when I pull if from the oven (where it has morphed into something totally unexpected) isn't a groan of despair but a wondrous cry of "Oh cool!"
This is exceedingly rare.

Check to be sure whatever you plain to paint or spray on it is compatible with polymer clay BEFORE using it.
Sealants and Adhesives.....shudder. 
I have ruined quite a few things because of these two. They are the bane of my existence.
I have had so many catastrophes due to using the wrong adhesive or sealant.  Some "Super" glues will form hazy crystals on glass or acrylic. Some sealants will turn your finished masterpiece into a sticky mess that will never dry......trust me...I know. 
Most of the time it will not tell you on the product's package but there are plenty of polymer clay artists out there that can guide you in the right direction.

Condition your clay well and cure it properly
It was quite a while before I realized that cured clay can be very brittle if not conditioned well. By this I mean kneading it or rolling it out, folding it and rolling it out again over and over until it is soft, supple and pliable.
I cringe to think of all the times that I used it practically straight from the package. Once I made this really unique journal cover that included a little cave. Later, this became a cave-in when it crumbled to bits.
The other equally important step is to cure it properly. By this I mean the proper temperature for the proper amount of time. The thicker the clay, the longer the curing time. I had this really lovely piece begin cracking later because it had not been cured long enough. Cracking is usually not a good thing.

This brings me to my newest lesson. Exhibit A:

Here you see an egg I just recently finished. What is wrong with it you may ask? We'll get to that in a minute.
It is a gift for my Dad. I worked well over 6 hours on this little guy. As a result of all of my previous "lessons learned" I conditioned the clay well, made sure I left a small hole to let the heated air inside escape and cured it properly. It was perfectly shaped and as hard as stone.
No paints or other surface treatments such as Rub'n Buff or PearlEx pigments were used so I did not have to seal it. 
There were no loose items on the surface that needed to be better affixed with adhesive so I didn't have to mess with that thank heavens.
All is well and good. I was happy with the result and was going to take some photos then wrap it up when I took another look at it and wondered if I shouldn't polish it up a bit. Give it a bit of a shine.

This brings us to my current lesson...

I had heard that denim is a wonderful material to use to buff cured clay to a nice glossy finish. I remembered that I had a pair of jeans I bought a few years ago that were too short so they had never been worn. For some reason, I never returned them and I thought "ah good, I can finally put them to good use!"
Foreshadowing: They were never worn, never washed and brand new.

I pulled them out all happy with myself and had visions of presenting my Dad this beautifully polished gift.
I laid them across my leg and began burnishing the egg vigorously stopping to check to see if it was working. Ah yes! I could see the beginnings of a glossy shine on the surface. Back to the vigorous scrubbing of my tiny "masterpiece". Visions of every one's cooing and awing over it's perfect polished surface spurred me on.

Mind you, my eyesight is not so great in dim lighting.

Once I was satisfied with the result I took a few photos before wrapping it up. I uploaded them to my computer and viewed them up close. What? What was that dirty film on the upper surfaces? I thought I had wiped it off well when I was applying the acrylic paint I use to accent the crevices! I zoomed in on the photos and this dirty film and a blue-ish tint to it.  Denim blue-ish to be exact.

Good grief

I was able to rub a good deal of it off with considerable effort so it wasn't completely ruined. Crisis averted! I guess I should have used old worn denim where most of the dye is washed out. Lesson learned. I won't make THAT mistake again!

I forge on bravely, to boldly go where I'm sure other clayers have gone (but am completely unaware), to make mistakes others have already made because I (apparently) like to learn everything the hard way!

Maybe I should actually read all of the polymer clay books that I buy. Right now I just gaze in awe at the pretty pictures. 

Stay tuned for more from this hard headed goof ball from the "Show Me" state. :)