Updated: Aug 29
Not everyone has to go on this journey, but natural ink is something I need to explore more. This is why I started this journey and why I keep going:
It all started with a little bowl of dirty water.
I stood over the sink, knowing what I was doing was wrong. Knowing that many others were doing it too. I hadn’t researched it, hadn’t even thought about it. Where did all that icky paint water go? It was all filtered out, right? Surely someone takes care of that.
Then I did a little research and realized the responsibility lays with us artists to filter our water. I buried myself in articles about how we should scrape out the bottoms of cups and bowls and put the dried material into a closed container and take it to a waste site. I read about filtering out small particles of paint from used water using pantyhose then letting the leftover water evaporate.
Did you know Cadmium orange and Cadmium red are safe to use in your studio (as long as you’re not inhaling or eating your paint), but it’s still a heavy metal and when it’s added to our water supply...
I thought of all the moms and kids with their Amazon watercolors pouring paint down the drain, all the libraries where the arts and crafts projects are dumped down unsuspecting sinks, the retired people I work with who just started painting for the first time, the young artists working from their little apartments... All people who probably didn’t even consider what the implications are, and I don't blame them.
No one passes out health warnings at Michaels, there's no training involved before you start dumping things down the drain.
“No one passes out health warnings at Michaels, there's no training involved before you start dumping things down the drain.”
I wanted a clean studio, a green studio. Maybe it’s just as impractical as dumping used water through pantyhose, I don’t know, but I knew I wanted to try. That’s when I really started to discover the possibilities of natural ink.
“I wanted a clean studio, a green studio.”
Natural ink is not like paint. It reacts differently every day. It spoils; it’s volatile and unpredictable. And it’s beautiful.
It melts and blends together like flowers spotting a field.
It sways and blooms, not like a chemical spill, but like a flower, slow, soft, and delicate.
The colors are unearthly, not quite one thing or another. Some colors I have trouble describing because they're outside of the typical color wheel. Green but not green, gray but not gray, blue but not blue.
The colors change as they are laid down or as the settle into the paper, just like the elegant shift of seasons.
Little spots of petals and pigment dot the landscape like stars.
The colors mix and shift in unpredictable ways, they bleed into each other like fjords and twisted oak branches. They react to the air, the temperature, the energy in the room, it seems. There are a million different ways to make ink and every batch is different.
“If you crave adventure, then natural inks are for you.”
If you want predictability, then natural inks are not for you. If you want precision and consistency, natural inks are not for you.
But if you crave adventure, if you long to be closer to the earth and all its beauty, if you're ready to release some control, if you’re willing to explore the unknown and delight in the good (and bad) that comes with it, then natural inks are for you.
If you want to learn more about getting started with natural inks, head here to check out my blog post detailing everything you need to make your very own ink (it's not scary, I promise).