At last years Creative Aging Conference hosted by the Creative Center at University Settlement on the Bowery in New York, I focused my presentation on black and white inkblots. The hands-on workshop included making inkblots, playing a looking game with them and drawing into them. The artists, geriatricians and gerontologists attending made a river of inkblots, and seemed jazzed about taking the ideas back to their seniors and trying them out.
At this year’s presentation, I am doing another inkblot workshop. As I will have some repeat attendees, I hope to make inkblots as we did last year, but this time in color. And we are going to use colored tempera rather than India ink, as we decided that seniors would be more likely to succeed with a paint that was washable, especially if they were doing artwork in bed. I am going to do a brief “slide show” of second steps—things that can be made with inkblots such as masks, cabinets of curiosity, butterfly inkblots, and inkblot journals.
The nice thing about an inkblot journal for anyone—bedridden senior or artist of any experience level—is that it is a journal that is ready to respond to you. Because you will have a sketchbook already full of wonderful marks to respond to instead of blank pages, then delving into it is like beginning a conversation with a wonderful new pal, instead of starting a monologue.
For an inkblot journal, I like to use a sketchbook with paper that is thick enough and tough enough that I can make an inkblot on the paper, and the ink doesn’t show or bleed through to the other side. I usually use sketchbooks of my own making (coptic binding) and my favorite printmaking paper, Rives BFK. But I have found that the larger size (8.5” x 11.5”) Moleskine Watercolor Sketchbook works great. The paper is durable, the colors of the ink show up well, and the texture of the paper is lovely for drawing on with colored pencils.
The first thing to do with your inkblot sketchbook is to fill it with inkblots. You can do blots by dripping ink and water on one page of the sketchbook, and closing the book on that, where the fold line is the spine of the book:
Or, make the folds be in the center of the sketchbook pages:
I wanted to do more blots, and was impatient with waiting for them to dry, so I started drying them with a hairdryer. The hairdryer moved the ink around in a fun way:
This gave me an idea. I have done inkblots where you blow at the wet ink with a straw to make wonderful branch-like tendrils. I set the pressure on an airbrush compressor to 30 pounds, but that speed of air was too vigorous for the ink. So I tried setting the pressure at a little below 20 pounds—about 18—and that worked great.
With the airbrush, I could make the puff of air very narrow, by adjusting the width of the spray, and get really tiny, detailed tendrils.
If you want to try this, and have and you don’t have an airbrush compressor, you could use a straw, or a coffee stirrer or cocktail straw to make a more narrow air puff, or use a keyboard cleaning compressed air can that has a tiny straw attached.
When I have worked with seniors, I warn them not to get out of breath while blowing the ink through the straw! It is exciting, and makes wonderful marks, and one can get carried away…
The blown ink looked like a wonderful landscape–calligraphic and organic, marks that I could never have created with my own hand.
I filled about half of the sketchbook with both dripped and folded traditional inkblots, and blown-blot landscapes. Now it’s time to draw into the inkblots; to begin the conversation . . .
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 www.MargaretPeot.com and at www.theinkblotbook.com.
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