What Will We Do With a Drunken Sailor?

All right, yes. You’re right. Drunken sailors have nothing to do with art, and we all know that. But, you know me. Always hearing bits of pieces of music or having mysterious, unknown voices putting words in my head, and today I’m nodding, bobbing, and singing along to a favorite old sea chanty.

Why is this such a favorite? Well, I fell in love with it years ago when Patrick Neas used to play this every morning on KXTR — Kansas City’s once-beloved classical station which is no longer on the air. It’s such a fun song to sing-along with! And since it’s a good old Irish tune, I thought it might be appropriate for a Saint Patrick’s Day post.

But what about art?

Well, the connection is that just as we might not know what to do with a drunken sailor, I’m still a bit bewildered by what to do with my alcohol ink art. In all honesty, I’m bewildered with much of my art, but that’s a little beside the point today.

Today it’s all about alcohol ink art, another ink technique, and another ink abstract. Here it is:

Drunken Sailor – Alcohol Ink Art by Judith Kraus

I titled it “Drunken Sailor” because as soon as I looked at it this morning I asked, “What will I do with this?” and my old favorite chanty began playing in my head.

You’ll probably notice a few differences between this piece and previous examples of alcohol ink abstracts I’ve shared. The most noticeable difference is that the color is much paler. You’ll also see an unusual graininess in this abstract. I was a bit surprised by that, but I do find it interesting.

Obviously this abstract was not done in a typical “puddle drop” fashion. It is an example of what’s called an “alcohol ink pour”, in some respects quite similar to acrylic pouring, although as you can see, the results are a bit different.

I used a full sheet of Yupo paper for this abstract, so setting it out on a work surface was the first step. I used the back of a large canvas panel — one that I’ve painted and more or less discarded — as my work surface, placing it on the floor. I had a feeling what I was about to do might get a little messy.

Next, I chose my colors: magenta, black, white, and gold. I thought these might lead to interesting color variations, and I wanted a touch of metallic sheen. Using small cups — one for each color — I poured isopropyl alcohol into each, then added a few drops of ink.

Then, one by one, I poured the colors onto the page. I used the magenta first, then black, then white, and finally added the gold. What I had was colored alcohol running all over the page. My colors blended together for the most part. I tilted the page a bit in different directions until the ink covered the entire page. I wasn’t thrilled with the result, but, oh, well. I left it to dry.

A short time later I looked at it, and I saw the design changing a bit as it dried. Some places were still very wet; other places had nearly dried. Again, I picked the canvas panel up, tilted the page, and let the ink run across different areas again. Once more, I walked away.

Later, I looked, saw the same uneven drying process, and I repeated the tilting process. This was when I really began noticing the grainy textures in the ink. Although I had mixed the ink and the alcohol, they seemed to separate a little, especially with the gold. Unfortunately the gold ink doesn’t really show up in the photo. It does add a bit of interest to what — to me — is a rather dull-looking design.

Now, the question remains. What do I do with this? I’ve thought about cutting it up for bookmarks, but since Yupo paper is thin, that would be impractical. I might use it as a background for an art journal page, or maybe even use it as a cover for a journal.

Will I try this technique again? Probably so, but I’ll do a few things differently. I’ll probably mix the ink and alcohol more, and I might try allowing each color to dry completely before I pour on another. As with everything I’ve done using alcohol ink, I can see lots of possibilities even if I don’t yet see much practicality.

And, yes, it was fun.

One other thing I’ll add here that might be of interest. I’ve learned that it is possible to make your own alcohol inks. Allison Murray offers a tutorial at Dream a Little Bigger. I’ll admit I was curious and interested, but after going through the tutorial I’ve decided I’d rather buy my own alcohol inks. Making inks looks very, very messy. But maybe you’d like to give it a try.

Good quality alcohol inks are a bit pricey. The least expensive set I’ve found on Amazon is a set which includes 16 colors — less than 1/2 ounce each — for $20.00. That’s a reasonable price for a starter set if you’re just wanting to play around.

I started with a “Pinata” Exciter set. It has nine 1/2-ounce bottles — including a beautiful gold metallic — and sells for about $45.00

Top quality alcohol inks — such as those by Ranger — will cost between $75.00 and $175.00, depending on the number of colors in the set. Of course, you can also purchase individual ink colors or small sets for much less. I have 2 different Ranger inks in my supplies, and I do like them.

For me, however, the mid-range quality is good enough. In time, should I somehow become an alcohol ink artist capable of creating stunning works of art, I might purchase more of the Ranger inks. More likely, though, I’ll opt for the least expensive brands when I’m ready to buy more inks.

Alcohol ink art is fun. I enjoy it. I look forward to each project I do. But it is just for fun for me. I do plan to make a few sets of coasters — just for the fun of it.  I might try using cardstock for bookmarks — just for the fun of it.

But that’s all. So, I don’t yet know for sure what I’ll do with my “drunken sailor” art, but it doesn’t matter. I had fun creating it, and that’s what it’s all about.



  1. “Put him in bed with the cap’ain’s daughter
    [you haven’t seen the cap’ain’s daughter] Earl-eye in the mornin'”

    The version we used to play was probably more bawdy than yours, although I think I heard it was sourced from more authentic, uncensored material. 😉 Of course, we nicked it from one of the local acts that may have added more than a few of their own lines — so it’s hard to reckon.

    I like it.

    Liked by 1 person

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