Alcohol inks are messy. Anyone who has ever played with alcohol inks know that they are one of those mediums where it is just hard to keep everything neat. And, it is really difficult to stay within the lines! But, I tell my students. Why would you want to?
When I hear another student comment about great control….I kind of cringe a little. Control? Why do we want to control this beautiful, fluid, and magical medium?
Oh sure...don’t get me wrong. Every now and then you will see that I like to create more “controlled” floral pieces or blooms, but I’d say at least 90 percent of my art is about going with the flow.
And I work with many students about how to let go and have fun with the inks. Many. They all want to control the inks, the outcomes, the masterpieces that they have in their minds.
Learning To Let Go
How do you learn to let go? First of all, do not try to create a realistic landscape when first starting out with the inks. Part of the creative process in learning to let go comes from PLAY.
Many students actually sign up for my class to learn to go with the flow and I feel their struggles from the beginning of the class. They have such a hard time just allowing the inks to let go and being comfortable to wherever the inks may lead. They are perfectionists and want to stay within the lines.
But alcohol ink AND life is messy and I think one of the best metaphors about the inks is that they translate to life. Life isn’t perfect. It is messy. And, try as we might, we cannot just always stay within the lines.
But How Do We Learn to Play?
Go back to when you were a child and you just enjoyed playing outside and were in a state of constant curiosity. Or, think about how you created with absolutely no expectation in mind. I wish I could go back to every child that learned to draw in coloring books and stayed within the pretty lines and tell him or her to DRAW OUTSIDE OF THE LINES!!!
One of the first things to do to guide on on this journey would be to take one color of ink, some Yupo or whatever paper where the inks will glide, and just start to watch the inks and their magic. Add a little blending solution. Throw in some air (whatever kind you like - use a straw for fun), and just play. That’s it. Have no expectation in mind at all. None. Just watch how the inks flow and create joyfully. Do this again and again. See how they move and watch their energy and flow.
Above all - GET MESSY but trust that this mess is part of the process. When you feel your perfectionism come into play, just invite that gremlin in, welcome him, but keep doing what you are doing. Letting go is a process. Give yourself permission to play and enjoy the fun of letting go.
One of the biggest frustrations for ink artists is the fact that they come to the paper with an idea and the inks sort of laugh at them. Idea? "Let me tell you exactly where we are going to today, my friend", the inks tell you. Let go of your preconceived notions of what this artwork is going to look like and learn to just trust.
That’s it. Trust.
It’s About Process NOT Product
Why do we often feel that at the end of every creative process we must achieve some work of art? Like we failed if that time spent did not produce something wonderful? How about we are just learning? We are joyfully playing? We are not concerned with doing something wrong for we know that this is a process. We are not going to create a masterpiece each time, but we are certainly going to have fun with the process. I don’t think enough of us really appreciate the fact that just learning is really, really important.
Normally, I will begin my paintings with nothing in mind. I have some colors that I may or may not use, but I will start to drop the inks and blending solution on the paper, add some canned air, and the look and feel start to appear and then I either go with it or not. Sometimes I know exactly when to stop and I step back and thank my muse for visiting and I am grateful that this one time the inks and me played together beautifully. Then, there are the times that I overwork a piece. I keep adding and adding until I don’t like it and I throw it out. There was a valuable learning process when overworking a piece. Often, when that overworking happens, it is because I lost the joy of the experience. I was going for something. I wanted to control the inks a little more. I wasn’t celebrating each step along the way. The inks know this and they refuse to cooperative. Good for them!
A Grand Adventure Is About to Begin - Winnie the Pooh
Don’t you just love this quote? Think of all of your art as a grand adventure. A wonderful journey where you are just holding on and going with the flow. We don’t always need to create something. Sometimes the simplest drops of ink on a page can be stunningly beautiful. Keep more white space in your art. Practice joyfully.
Playing with alcohol inks, by its very nature, forces us to let go of perfection. Think of the inks as Inks for the Soul, a really cheap form of therapy that will move you out of rigidity and a narrow way of thinking.I find when I am playing with the inks...a little music playing….I am in a total sense of zen and just enjoying the process without any expectation for how it is going to look. If I create a terrific piece, I am thrilled. If not, it is a learning experience and there is always next time.
How do I create joyfully and celebrate the movement of the inks? Below is a wonderful 11 minute demonstration watching me Learn to Go With the Flow. I enjoy the process from start to finish. It is my sincere desire to take on this wonderful journey with me, too. Join me in Energy.Motion.Flow: The Beauty of Alcohol Inks and Beyond on July 17th and truly learn to let go of perfectionism and enjoy the beauty of the inks.