This One Was Not So Much Fun

Every time I write about alcohol ink, I say, “Oh, it’s really fun.” Most of the time, it is. My alcohol ink project today, however, was anything but fun. In the end, I came away from the session with an abstract ink expression that I really do like, even though it’s not at all what I set out to do.

Before I go on, let me share the painting:


I haven’t given any title to this piece. Maybe I should call it “Unexpected”, because that’s truly what it was. I won’t go so far as to call it accidental or even unintentional, for I definitely put some thought into this design. But, what I got was a far cry from what I set out to create.

I’m still following along with Richard Cheadle’s book on Alcohol Ink MasteryBefore writing this, I took a look at some of the reviews at Amazon. In an earlier post I said I wouldn’t recommend the book because it’s all photographs, or nearly so. There are few written instructions. For most readers — those who took time to leave a review — this wasn’t a problem. Slightly more than half gave the book a 5-star rating.

About a quarter of the readers/reviewers, however, rated it at only 1 or 2 stars, citing the lack of more direct instruction, the difficulty in seeing the photographs, and problems reading the book on Kindle. I agree there should be more written information, and yes, the photographs are hard to see, but for the record I haven’t had any problems reading with my Kindle program. Maybe that’s because I’m going into the book on my computer, not with a tablet or phone.

I am on the verge of changing my mind about the book because I have been enjoying the different ink techniques Cheadle has presented. It’s been fun following along, even when it came to hand sanitizer! I’ve come to look forward to my alcohol ink playtime. I’m always wondering, hmmm… what will he come up with next?

So, I was excited to open the book today. When I turned the page, though, my excitement dimmed. The project was about “brushing”. Cheadle presents the following information:

  • Drip ink on surface and spread with a paintbrush.
  • Use a paint tray for ink brushing. Mix 1 drop of ink with 1 drop of alcohol.

In past playtimes — when I first bought these inks — I did try “brushing” them across Yupo paper. It’s a difficult technique. The ink dries quickly. The brushstrokes leave marks. The results were not good.

But I had never tried putting inks on a paint tray — a palette — and mixing them with alcohol. Would it be possible to actually paint with these inks once mixed with alcohol? Now, you might recall that I tried something similar last fall. I did complete a painting, but it was extremely challenging, and I wasn’t really happy with the result.

For that painting, I was working with ink straight from the bottles. Surely if I mixed ink with alcohol and had all my colors prepared on a palette, it would be easier, wouldn’t it? Maybe so, but I mixed much too much alcohol with the colors. I still expected to come out with a small little landscape.

I kept my drawing very simple. A horizon line. A row of hills. A distant range of mountains. Lots of sky. What could possibly go wrong? It would be almost like watercolor painting, right?

It was nothing like watercolor, trust me. My inks were too, too thin, color mixing was difficult, and I just had a vague, indistinct image with very dull colors. I rolled my eyes and wondered why I’d even bothered, and then — from sheer frustration — I picked up my palette and deliberately poured the entire contents over the page.

You know, of course, what happens when red and yellow and blue and green all mix together! I had a sheet covered with a muddy-colored ink, but why not make an even bigger mess? I took tissues and pressed against the surface. Interesting, but dull. I lifted the sheet up, turned it over and pressed it against my easel — where puddles of ink were still sitting. Again, interesting, but stil dull.

The background faintly resembled marble, and I did like that effect. Or perhaps it could be more accurately compared to parchment paper. Either way, I liked that… but it was all so dull!

It definitely needed a bit of color to liven it up. I used my blue, added in yellow, and I allowed the inks to begin blending, all the while blowing the colors around, coaxing them into shapes I liked. Then I decided to drop in pure white for contrast.

Talk about contrast! Yikes. It was much too jarring. I quickly grabbed gold ink and dropped it over the white. And then I smiled. I liked what I was looking at.

It wasn’t at all what I’d expected. Certainly not a landscape painted in inks, but definitely something I liked — a lot. I wouldn’t have liked an alcohol ink landscape. Being too deliberate with alcohol ink spoils the fun, for sure.

So, count me out for any “brushing” techniques with alcohol ink. If you’re curious about it, go ahead and give it a try. Maybe you’ll be successful with the technique. I wasn’t successful, but being unsuccessful led to something quite unexpected. It was a challenge to my creativity, and while it wasn’t fun, it was rewarding in its own way.



      1. I like the outcome though. I think that we have to try different aspects so that we can discover what we prefer and will focus more on. You tried, you know you don’t really care for this style and now can move on to more fun projects.


      1. What I’m learning is that it’s mostly about trying different things. Some will work, others won’t! But it is fun, and even the mistakes we make teach us a lot.


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