Pressing that SEND button is ridiculously heart stopping.

I mean I’m writing a blog to send but I have to curb my tendency to ‘wait until it’s perfect’. Do other artists feel like this I wonder? I’d love to hear your thoughts. This little voice is in my head saying ‘I can’t show this what will people think? I can’t send that – it sounds ridiculous’. We are forever harshly judging ourselves. Why can’t we just ‘be’. Wouldn’t it be interesting to have a show where NO corrections were allowed. EVERYTHING would have to be shown, warts and all.

I was in the studio today thinking about this and experimenting with watercolour, alcohol inks and fluid acrylics. My bag of mixed media bits and bobs was beside me and I was adding salt and stencils, bottle tops and medical gauze. I finished off the session using cotton swabs with hand sanitiser. It was such a change for me as painting recently has been quite controlled and classical. This was completely the opposite – it was splashy and runny, free and fun. I said to myself ‘I will share this whatever the outcome!’

Then a studio buddy (we’re in a shared space) stopped by and asked me what I was doing. ‘I’m PLAYING’ I said. ‘So it’s for submission to the exhibition then’ she replied.

So I guess I’ll be submitting something for the proposed exhibition at Tashkeel Art Hub where the theme is ‘PLAY’. Serendipity or what? I haven’t thought about it too much; I haven’t analysed it or worried about it. I was just PLAYING. It’s NOT perfect but that’s the point.

1. I used a variety of supports. The main ones were Yupo paper and Ampersand smooth board. For the inks it’s important to have a non-absorbent support as the inks especially will just sink through and look dull.

2. I used Winsor and Newton watercolours in Magenta and 2 blues (Cobalt and Cerulean). I found these looked a bit insipid when dry and so I reached for the Alcohol Inks in Magenta and Egyptian Blue by Pinata. I diluted these two colours with Iso-propyl (90%). Please note that you really should wear gloves and work in a well ventilated space.

3. The other materials I used were some Golden Fluid Acrylics (Ultramarine) for adding definition in places.

4. From my mixed media bag of tricks, I pulled out medical gauze, salt, string, a white acrylic pen, contact paper (for making stencils) and various bottle tops (stencils again), droppers, pipettes, masking tape, hand sanitiser and cotton buds and swabs. These are all the things that I use in watercolour mixed media and I figured that I could use them in this experiment too.

5. I worked on a tray that I found at home because it sometimes gets a bit messy and drippy -and it did.

The Method

1. First of all, I dropped some neat iso-propyl onto the Yupo paper. I tried to think a little of composition although you can’t get too hung up on it because the liquid is going to do its own thing anyway. Paths of light were going to be important so I was conscious of preserving some white of the paper. Alcohol dries quickly and so it’s important to have a plan and some mixing done before hand (I didn’t on both counts?). I succeeded at the second attempt by dropping some diluted colour (some diluted magenta and then some diluted blue) onto the wet-ish paper and just watched what happened. If anyone knows how watercolour reacts on watercolour paper, this is the same multiplied by 100.

2. let this layer dry. It would be handy to have a heat gun but I didn’t and a hair drier would be too strong and blow the liquid all over the place.

3. This is where the fun starts. I wet the paper again with the same colours but this time it was a less diluted mixture. I placed bottle caps in various places also string, and gauze to unify my clusters of caps. A little salt was added which had a ‘hydroscopic effect’ – I know! I love these technical terms. It means that the pigments were absorbed by the salt in tiny floret type clusters.

4. I let the pigments dry overnight. This is important because although the work may LOOK thoroughly dry, the paper underneath and some of the mixed media may not be and so it is best to leave it and not fiddle. This is the same with most media and as one tutor said to me ‘ If you want to fiddle join an orchestra’ ? The old ones are the best…

5. The following day it was the Big Reveal. Brushing off the salt and carefully pulling off the bottle caps, the gauze and stencils (made with contact paper) was thrilling. It was also evident where a little revision was needed. This is where the hand sanitiser and cotton buds came in. Here I was able to soften the edges. My students will recognise this mantra of mine. I’m sure they hear me in their sleep ‘soften the edges, soften the edges’. I was then able to accentuate any paths of light that I felt were needed. If I felt some darker accents were called for I used a little fluid acrylic with a tiny brush (an eyelash thickness).

And VOILA I loved my PLAY date and would encourage anyone to have a go too. The effects can be extraordinary and you really only need a couple of colours, some very smooth paper (Yupo) and some bits and pieces. If you do take the plunge – I’d love to see it.

Next time I will take you through how I went about submitting my work to an exhibition.