higgins inks

Look Who Crashed My Party!

I went to a friend’s birthday party last weekend. The four of us sat at the four corners of an 8 foot square table outside in the garden. It was a party without some of the usual trimmings but nevertheless it did us all a world of good. . .safely. Not at all like the party that came onto my paper on Monday, a kind of no holds barred bacchanalian feast.

It started innocently enough when I got out some inks I haven’t used in a while: the highly fluid, gorgeously pigmented, transparent and permanent Higgins inks. The black granulates when it mixes with enough water. I used a big flat brush to make some random wet marks on the watercolor paper, then started dropping inks on and moved the wet pigment puddles into each other and out in skinny fingers by zapping them with Air-In-A-Can pressurized gas (my husband’s, he used it to remove dust from film). Blowing through a straw also works. I just kept going until the party was going pretty well and then found the ideas for the visitors in a National Geographic issue.


Look who just crashed my party!

Might as well make friends with them

the biotics team, pro- and anti-

the bacterias and the god-help-us viruses

the microscopic streps and ebolas and covids 

that rival the colorful characters in children’s books.

To my child self I say,

Don’t let them scare you!

Give them names and offer them a piece of cake.


On consideration however, I might have gotten it wrong. At the moment it looks more like a July 4th party!


The Ease of Masa

treesacrylic inks on Masa paper mounted on w/c paper

Crinkled Masa paper makes it ridiculously easy to paint foliage.  These two pieces were quick demos done at  local art stores – Rileystreet Art Supply in Santa Rosa, and last weekend in San Rafael.  If you drag the brush flat way over this damp crinkled Japanese paper you get  marvelous texture, and if you press down with your brush and layer on the colors you see the suggestion of foliage.  Here I’ve used Daler Rowney acrylic inks and Higgins Black India. Come in with a Sumi or other fine pointed brush loaded with black ink and you’ve got the suggestion of tree trunks and branches and brambles and such.

I haven’t done much realistic painting for a while now, but this technique can tend to draw me back into it.


We’re past the apple blossom time now, but that’s what inspired this little painting, begun as a Masa paper demo and finished with some collaging of more Masa pieces on top.  I went for bouncing color shapes around in a more impressionistic way here. There’s something so satisfying about gluing paper pieces.  It’s restful (once you’ve decided where they should g0) and you can do it to most any music. Maybe it has to do with moving the color around until you get it “right” and not having to make the commitment until you glue it down.  I think it helps one develop composition skills. With paint it’s always more of a commitment, or risk.

Somehow we have to stay in that state of mind where it’s OK to mess up or we can’t ever do anything original in our art.  I just heard Eric Maisel speak at Copperfield’s Book store last week. He really hit the nail on the head when he said that we spend our day trying to get things right.  (You know, think of all the things you “accomplish” each day in your life.) But when we do our creative work we must shift gears and give ourselves permission to make glorious messes, which may or may not turn out successfully. He says you actually have to tell yourself “OK, now I’m completely stopping my need to get things right”. Not an easy task, but absolutely necessary.  Strewn in among the messes are some absolute jewels we would not have gotten any other way. After a day of painting or mess making I leave everything out and come in the next day hoping to find those unvarnished jewels.  The more messes I’ve made, the more likely I’ll find one!

If you think you’re up for making some glorious creative “messes” this weekend, there is one space in the Saturday mini-workshop in my studio.  For more information and to register, visit my website. You can also sign up for the one in July, August and/or September. By the way, you’ll also find video demos on my website.