It’s true. I think I might be addicted to alcohol ink.
I don’t know how this happened. I hate the smell of rubbing alcohol, and I really hate setting things on fire-it scares me. Yet somehow, I’ve managed to fall in love with a new-to-me technique that combines those two things.
Alcohol ink is a highly pigmented liquid that is, as the name suggests, alcohol-based. It is smelly, it is stainy (don’t @ me, that’s a word now), and if you get it on your clothes like I did, you might look like you’ve been through one hell of a knife fight. If you’re still intrigued, keep reading.
Playing With Fire is Fun!
Fire is not the typical friend of the artist. It’s very hot. It burns. As a general rule, those are not beneficial things when it comes to artwork.
Imagine my surprise when I looked up alcohol ink techniques and saw that many artists set their work on fire. I gathered my three favorite colors – cyan, magenta, and yellow -, a bottle of 91% rubbing alcohol, a few 4×4 ceramic tiles and a lighter and trotted out to the grill. I was ready. I was going to set my work on FIRE.
Once I got out to the grill, whipped open the top and set everything up, I realized… I had no idea what I was doing. This is where you need to be willing to do two things:
1.) Waste an inconvenient amount of alcohol ink
2.) Remember that alcohol dries really quickly
The first mistake I made was setting the ceramic tiles directly on the grill grate. Maybe you’re reading this and thinking, that seems like common sense, and you’re probably right – but when you’re rip-roaring and ready to light your artwork on fire, you might just act impulsively in the “heat of the moment” and go crazy with some fire without a little protection for your grill. Take my advice – don’t. Chances are, you’re going to want to cook on that grill at some point, and although I couldn’t find definitive answers on the health risks of using a grill that had been soaked in alcohol ink, I’m guessing it’s probably not great for you or your family to eat purple chicken. Or in my case…blue chicken. Woops.
In any case, throw down a sheet of aluminum foil and curl up the edges a little bit, and you’re good to go.
Don’t Burn the Metallics
If you’re going to use the fire method, I would also suggest not setting the inks on fire if you’ve added one of the metallic mixatives. I did, using gold, and it snap, crackled, and popped into a nasty looking black mess. Something funky and probably very scientific happens when the metallics react with the flames, so, although I encourage you to do your own experimenting, I would also encourage you to use a very small amount of metallic if you decide to so that you don’t waste it.
For a nice effect, you can put add the metallic afterwards and blow it with a straw or blow dryer. This will give you a neat gossamer effect without burning up precious inks.
I’m not keen on setting alcohol on fire in my studio, which is in my house – call me old fashioned, but I’m not loving the combination of big flames and all the other fumes in my studio. So, now that it’s winter time and I refuse to stand outside, I’ve taken to dropping ink on a surface and blowing it around with a straw or with a blow dryer. You can get an incredible amount of control this way, and also create some really beautiful, flowery patterns. Try this on white ceramic bowls, or even porcelain mugs. A word of caution; you cannot seal your mugs or bowls right off the bat with dishwasher safe Mod Podge (ask me how I know).
Although I haven’t tried it yet, my plan is to spray seal a bowl, allow the spray sealant to dry, and then coat that with the dishwasher safe Mod Podge; which will then make a mug safe to drink out of. I’ll let you know how this experiment goes,
Sealing alcohol ink is not the same as sealing acrylic paint. You’ll need to seal it with something that isn’t water based, because that will make the colors run. To avoid this, I seal my pieces with resin, but you can also seal them with the significantly less-less expensive Krylon Kamar Varnish. When I seal the bowls I’ve got, I’ll likely use a layer of Krylon between the alcohol ink and the Mod Podge.
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