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Spilled ink, a nib and a little patience: how to survive ink washing


From sketch to the final version of my ink wash drawing. This animated gif repeats itself three times and then stops.

From sketch to the final version of my ink wash drawing. This animated gif repeats itself three times and then stops.

It is finals week, which means time is doing two things simultaneously. It is moving too slowly and disappearing to quickly. My final drawing critique is looming (and maybe it’s good that the moments are crawling forward, taking my last breath with them) and yet, I’ve lost days and time to we.

I left you Friday in the middle of working on an ink wash drawing. Did you wonder if I survived (yeah, I know, my center-of-the-universe syndrome is looming large in these words)?

So – back to ink wash. Hated it. Hated the idea of it. And yet as it turns out, it’s not so awful. I think the trick is using very little ink. Hear me now, if I have no other survival advice, this is it. If your ink explodes and you find your palette covered with a large layer of inky blackness – don’t try to make it work. Clean up the mess, contain the spill and begin again with just a few drops.

And the tools are important, too. Don’t cheap out completely. Best investment recently – $.72 for a small watercolor tray that looks a bit like an egg tray.

The second most helpful tool turned out to be the $5 I spent on fine point nibs and their holder (think calligraphy tools).

And the third thing that was super helpful – patience via blogging. As I worked on this still life and waited for the various layers of ink to dry, I wrote the text for the post I published before this one. This allowed my ink to dry and for me to get a real idea about the true tonality of the piece as I worked on it.

Let’s recap – Drawingpalooza Day 1 was all about using ink wash.

Key points to surviving ink wash:

  1. Too much ink is bad (you tend to make things too dark too fast).
  2. The right equipment doesn’t have to be expensive, but is worth every penny.
  3. Find a way to maintain patience as the various layers dry (I blogged).

There’s more to the Drawingpalooza I have to share, but to keep it palatable, I’m going to do it in a few different posts. I’ll post my final heighten drawing, which I lovingly refer to as Pre-Perimenopause, but that’s a lot of information (and I really couldn’t tell you if its autobiographical or not – but being the oldest student in the class, I now relate more to a crone than a nymph – and not that that’s bad or as my young peers would say – whatever). Maybe then I’ll share my kicking drawing of Lily, one of the King Smith kittens. And if the mood hits me just right, I’ll show you the drypoints.

But, now I must ready myself for tomorrow is final critique. Please keep your fingers crossed for me.


The Unwinding Path is the blog of L.S. King – photographer, want-to-be printmaker and sometimes hypnotist. By day she is an arts communications officer at a rural university (translation: photographer, writer, and media content provider), and most of the rest of her time she is an MFA graduate student at Radford University.


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