The Inkblot Journal: A Variation

A guest post by Margaret Peot

What Do You See?

What do you see?

Have you ever looked up at the clouds and seen something other than white water vapor against a blue sky? Did you see a panda, dragon, dancer? A sleigh, faces, or a cumulonimbus colossus looming upon the horizon?


A giant elephant-fish giving my son’s school a kiss…when you see things in the clouds, they don’t have to be sensible, of course. I printed the picture of the cloud onto paper, and drew into it with an acid free gel pen.


When I take a picture of clouds, I will sometimes email or text it to myself right away with a note about what I saw. Otherwise, I have had the experience of seeing something so neat, print out the clouds and look at them days later, and not see what I saw when I took the picture!

The same “muscles” that see into inkblots see things in clouds, and for that matter, into stained wallpaper, marble walls, cracks in the sidewalk, peeling paint.

Lumpy layers of paint make this strange picture on the walls of the 181st street A Train station in New York. What do you see?

Leonardo da Vinci says, in his Treatise on Painting,  “By looking attentively at old and smeared walls, or stones and veined marble of various colors, you may fancy that you see in them several compositions, landscapes, battles, figures in quick motion, strange countenances, and dresses, with an infinity of other objects. By these confused lines, the inventive genius is excited to new exertions.”

This is what I saw…
This isn’t drawn onto the wall! I took a picture, printed it onto Rives BFK that I cut to 8.5 x 11 inches and ran it through my inkjet printer.

In my inkblot journal that I am working into now, my “palace of ideas,” I want to include some of these found pictures alongside the inkblots. As I prepare for the Creative Aging workshop at the Creative Center in March (hosted by The Creative Center at University Settlement, which offers free art classes for people battling cancer and other chronic illnesses, it seems to be that creative looking and seeing could be something that happens everywhere–to and from work or appointments, from a wheelchair, a car window–and that actively looking is a way for people of all ages and in any circumstance to be fully, happily, creatively engaged. Our minds can be refreshed and jazzed up by what we see and how we feel about it, even if we are not working in a studio.

A sidewalk in my upper Manhattan neighborhood–I took a picture, and printed it out to draw on. I hardly had to make a mark, though, as this big guy was so very clear already!

Since we can’t draw into the sky except in our minds, or on wallpaper or sidewalks, except as vandals, I have been taking pictures of these found images with my iPhone. I also made the wonderful discovery that many art papers with a medium weight and smooth surface can be cut to size and sent through my inkjet printer (an HP Photosmart 8150, but I bet it would work on yours, too). I like to print onto paper that hasn’t been treated to accept printer’s ink, as I don’t have to fight with a too-absorbent and color altering coating. I print the things I find, cracks in the sidewalk, peeling paint in the subway and clouds in the sky, and tip them into my inkblot sketchbook to respond to when I please.

There is lovely slate laid at the entrance to the park in our neighborhood, and early in the morning especially, when the sun is glancing at the edges of the raised texture, all kinds of pictures leap out. Not to belabor the point, but I didn’t draw on the slate! I drew on a picture of slate that I printed onto delicious, buttery drawing paper with my inkjet printer…

The big slate rectangles are often perfectly organized, composed images without too much help from me–these otters were right there, and this was one approximately 3×4 foot tile.

Pretty soon, everything will start to look pretty wonderful. You will find that it takes a lot longer to get to where you are going, as you have to stop and photograph everything. My son gets pretty impatient with me if I stop more than, say, fifteen times on the way to walk him to a friend’s house. And, happily, you will find yourself pretty glad that your neighborhood hasn’t been kept up so well!

This was a big blob of tar or paint or something in the subway–doesn’t bear thinking about too long–but on my way home from work one day, that blob wasn’t just a blob anymore, but this little guy. I will be sad when they finally scrape him off the concrete…

This coming new year, take yourself on an art walk with your camera. You will be surprised at all that you see. If you don’t find yourself able to see anything, then take a whole bunch of pictures, and bring them home to print out. Consider them over a couple of days, especially looking at them before you go to bed, turning them this way and that.  Soon, all will be revealed! Happy looking, and Happy New Year!


Margaret Peot is a painter, printmaker and writer who has made her living as a freelance artist for more than 20 years in New York City. Margaret lives in New York City. Visit her website at  and at Margaret is the author of Alternative Art Journals, and the host of two North Light Instructional DVDs, Alternative Art Journals with Margaret Peot and Alternative Art Cards with Margaret Peot.



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