Rheology – the Flow and Shaping of Matter – 2017
Through the flow and manipulation of soot and plant based inks, earth pigments, wood ash and water, these paintings continue the ancient tradition of exploring and using simple earth materials for expression. Each piece starts with a brush stroke of ink into a layer of water. The ink includes soot and ash from a fire, the brush is made from the limb of a fallen oak and the hair of a friendly goat.
Gravity and surface tension affect the flow of the inks and pigments, creating rivers and lakes within the water layer. As the water evaporates, the particles settle and deposit on the paper, like the drying up of a lake or an ocean beach at low tide.
The Ancient Elements in this exploration:
- Air: wind, movement, evaporation, drying deposits
- Fire: heat, smoke, soot, ash
- Water: viscosity, fluidity, wet in wet, erosion
- Earth: pigments, gum, resins, local color, gravity
In early 2017 I started working with sumi inks and walnut ink on Yupo sheets. Yupo has a very smooth plastic surface that accepts water media. In my acrylic paintings I use acrylic mediums to allow the fluid paint to flow and be manipulated on top of a “slip” layer of medium. In these ink paintings I put down a thin layer of water as the slip layer, smoothly spread out over the surface. This is similar to traditional watercolor, working on a wet sheet of watercolor paper although on the Yupo sheet the water does not soak into the surface, it lays on top. The ink is put down with various brushes and flows out from the strokes while I pull or push the ink as needed. The initial strokes are live, active events. In the next couple hours after the initial strokes most areas will be dried, with a beautiful matte surface. Some inks that I use are waterproof and can make a bed or background for additional layers. Some of the inks are very fragile and even the slightest touch of a wet rag or brush will melt them. The most interesting interactions occurring when several inks and pigments interact within the wet layer. I’m not afraid to work the surface a bit to pull out and define the composition. A spray fixative seals the surface and brings out the contrast, darkening the blacks and protects the finished painting.
I’ve set up a tall copy stand, really just a heavy steel pipe attached to the wall, and made an articulating arm that holds my digital camera. The camera can be moved up to over 6 feet away from the painting table or down to within a few inches. This allows me to capture high quality digital images. While the surface is still wet and fluid the light is refracting through the water layer, making the image very rich, deep and smooth in areas. This all changes dramatically as the surface dries and deposits the particles of ink. In Photoshop I can manipulate the image further, adjusting the dark light balance, adding color or completely changing the composition. At this point I’m keeping the images within a narrow range, making subtle adjustments but not re-inventing the image too much. I’m sure I will use these amazing textures in other ways in the future, perhaps as backgrounds for animation.