Some new portrait ideas

I’m always on the look out for something to try in my portrait sketching. A course on Domestika has been capturing my attention lately. Experimental Portraiture with Ink, Tea, and Alcohol by Carne Griffiths. 

Materials required for the course are inks that are not waterproof. I bought these Ostrich brand inks, the Flower Series. There are no color names on the boxes, except maybe in Chinese/Japanese. I made a sample chart so I could identify them.

The inks are highly transparent and the colors mix beautifully with each other as well as the brewed tea. My results do not very closely resemble the teacher’s, but I am having so much fun with them, using my fountain pens to dip into the color and draw, working in layers to paint wet shapes onto the drawing, drop some tea and more ink and occasionally alcohol. It’s definitely my kind of fun to watch what happens! 


images source, courtesy of the Sktchy Museum app

Start with a pencil drawing, add some ink line. Dissolve it a bit with water, add tea, add alcohol to push ink around. Be satisfied with what you have done, knowing it is experimental. Keep working with layers of the above.


Number two attempt here. Can you see how I’m getting bolder? Just keep trying things out, I kept telling myself.

Number 3. Should I have stopped here?  I took a picture just in case. . .but then didn’t


I’m thinking I should have stopped somewhere in between this one and the previous one. What do you think? Or maybe it’s still not done?


as requested. . .

student1By Muse Student:  CitraSolv papers, cloth, cheesecloth, feathers

As requested I’m re-posting the student images so you can see the detail.  Since I have forgotten who did all these pieces, I must post them without attribution (to my great chagrin).  I guess this will teach me to keep better track.    Thanks to the students who allow their pieces to be photographed, often even without having finished them!


by Muse Student, inks, textureed papers, stamping, dried plants

student3by Muse Student, inks, stamping

Art Camp for Adults


Three Muse Students do the Wabi-Sabi with inks, textures, Citra solv collage. . .wow!

(My husband Bob just gave me a new lesson in Photoshop Elements, so now that I know how to put jpegs together, you’ll probably be seeing more of this!)

When I turned 50 my husband Bob asked me what kind of party I would like to celebrate.  My choice was to have my friends over and play art together with loads of paper, paint, collage, pens and more.  Their gift to me was the artwork they did together around our dining room table.  A perfect way to celebrate my mid century mark by being kids together again.  The art pieces hung around the top of the walls of my little studio for a long time, until we moved.  Now they’re stored reverently in a box.  Little did I know that my birthday would serve as a model for later Muse Groups, which always seem like a kind of celebration when we get together to explore art and end up getting to know ourselves and each other better.

I teach the Muse Groups now, with loads of mixed media fun to share.  But invariably it’s the discoveries of the individual students which get us all so turned on.  Our credo is that it’s OK and even encouraged to steal ideas, techniques from each other. The artistic ego gets checked at the door so we can relax and let the creative juices flow.

If you’re in the San Francisco Bay Area you may want to come and try out a Muse session this summer and call it summer camp.  A new weekly Monday afternoon group is starting up June 3.  Or you can sign up for one or more Saturday (or one Sunday) classes:  June 1, July 14, August 10, September 7. For more information and to register visit Imagine With Art.

Moonbeam Concerto

moonrisewalnut ink antiquing spray, inks, gesso texture, collage on w/c paper

It is a certain that the moon will rise, bringing with it the dark recesses and somber doings of night.  Each window curtain will absorb the moon glow and breathe out a new movement; a duet, a regal march, a spritely polka.  But most of us will never hear the music of moon time.

You ask “Are you asleep? Or are you willing to keep watch with me some night, to gaze up at the moon and listen, to wear your feather hat band and billowy skirt,  but keep your feet bare.  Run out to the dew laden grasses, cast down your sparkling shawl and lie gazing up at heaven.  You will hear the moonbeam concert and never be the same.”

The Muse Groups’ lesson this weekend was “decalcomanie”, the texturing technique using thick gesso pressed between two paper surfaces, then pulled apart to create ridges which resemble patterns of coral or sometimes bird wings!  Here you see it used in collage pieces cut from a larger piece, along with some rubber stamp patterns, lace, feathers, ink drawing and walnut ink spray in two shades.

We also conjured up the Dangerous Old Woman archetype, borrowed from Clarissa Pinkola Estes’ wonderful audio book of the same name. The D. O.W. is the one who protects that spark of goodness in us.  Danger is meant here in its old form meaning “you stand in my danger” or under my protection.  She is the champion of our eccentricity because it points to the gifts of originality we have to offer.  It’s not particularly comfortable to be with her though, because she is wild, unpredictable, and full of paradox.  Her teaching is that “normalcy is the enemy of giftedness” and we must be willing to horrify the few in order to inspire the many.  A tall order, but what else can we do on this path of art?

In the Zone

Inks, gesso, collage (clear contact paper masking) on w/c paper, 10 X 11″

he’s jammin’
spiraling out behind
glasses where there’s
no need to hide

he’s groovin’ back into those animal places
wild and mindless
where the moves are in the DNA
in the sharp scent on the wind
and the air stripes the senses
with the impact of colors brightly spiced

they feel their way through spaces
through time zones
through time
in the zone

Here’s where imagination comes in big time.  I mean you won’t see me doing the high jump and there’s no electric guitar in my future, but I think I know something about “the Zone”.  So when those colors started vibrating, I could relate. . . This was another Muse Group demo of the “mask and drip” lesson, which you can read more about and try for yourself in the Oct. Newsletter.

And if you want to try out some “in the Zone” painting like this, you can join me in the next workshop “Painting With Hands” Nov. 17, 18.


inks on crinkled masa paper with masa collage mounted on w/c paper, 10X12″

flying feathers round the fire
a summer’s dance by the bay
where windsurfers jibe and tack
sky splashes into ocean
as waters accept colors from above

the hopi pipes and rattles on
about heaven and earth
blending all that is below with all above

do we need another horizon line
to tie it all down
or shall we float off into an alternate scape

an es-cape
an es-capade?

Wet the Masa paper with water.  Crinkle it up into a ball to break the sizing.  Spread it out and paint on it with watercolor, inks, fluid acrylics.  Sumi ink is good.  Use your pen nibs.  Let it bleed into the fibers of the paper.  Drag your flattened brush over the surface of the wrinkles so it skips and leaves spots of white.  What could be more fun?!  Finally mount it on a sturdy surface like watercolor paper, illustration board or canvas.

Now let it talk to you.

I am tough.

powdered graphite, acrylic inks, collage on w/c paper, 10 X 11″

i am tough
i can handle this
confused cocktail
of wild creatures
insanity on a timer

click clock, tick tock
what is the absolute
you can always count on?

click clock, tick tock
wish upon a star
and there you are

sweet bananas and
a friend to enjoy them with

back in the tumbler
what emerges next?
an absolute rock of ages

More powdered graphite play here, along with some word play.  Cut some words out of magazine ads. . .just because. . .tumble them up and insert them into the picture for no reason you could honestly defend at the moment. . .when you’re done, string the words with others and see what comes of it!  Meaning? Absurdity? no more than every day life. . .

So do I really think I’m tough?   Well, tough enough to still be here!