Tuesday, June 11, 2019

Ink woes

I have always had the habit of buying art supplies on spec -- they look so delicious in the store, and I know I'll find some use for them any minute.  Then they may sit on my art table for a long time before the use appears.  This year, because of my daily calligraphy project, I'm finally using a lot of things that have been waiting.  For instance, a bunch of pens and nibs that belonged to my father, so last used somewhere between 14 and 50 years ago, are getting revisited.

But this week I decided to revisit a couple of jars of acrylic ink (whatever that is -- I have no idea how it compares to ordinary ink) that have been waiting on my table for a couple of years.  I used the olive green with no problems on Sunday, then yesterday went to the bright red.

What a gorgeous color!  I own another variety of red ink that I also love, but this one seemed a bit orangier, a bit richer.  But after a few lines of writing I started to notice gunk appearing on the edge of the bottle where I drained off the extra before writing.  And after a few more lines, gunk appeared on the pen itself.  Yuk.

I went to the kitchen midway through the page and scoured off the pen with my wire brush, but the gunk had reappeared before I finished.  Surprisingly, it did nothing to impede the flow of ink, which went on beautifully and only blobbed once (my fault for not draining the pen after filling).  But I found myself concentrating more on the gunk than on the writing, which kind of spoils the point of the whole art exercise.

When I started the daily calligraphy project my objectives were not only to make good-looking letters but to learn about different methods, techniques and materials.  Figuring out the possibilities of various brushes and pens, learning how to use different inks and paints.  So it's not all bad to find out that acrylic ink, whatever it is, seems to have a shorter shelf life than india ink, whatever that is.  Or maybe it's just this bottle.  I will probably keep using it, because it's so beautiful on the page, but will keep observing its behavior.


  1. I believe the acrylic "ink" is pigment in acrylic medium that has been thinned down considerably. So you globs are the medium drying. "Plain" ink is pigment in a different medium so different drying behavior. I was sketching in pen then washing over the top with watercolors and discovered a whole world of complications there, including what paper it was on.

  2. And India ink is this: Basic India ink is composed of a variety of fine soot, known as lampblack, combined with water to form a liquid. No binder material is necessary: the carbon molecules are in colloidal suspension and form a waterproof layer after drying.

    I am a firm believer in understanding the make-up of what you are using and what it is best for, thus avoiding some pitfalls and frustrations, wasted time and materials. The reason for my many supplies bought on spec as you say but not used is often this very thing, which is a pity. But a little research or a look at instructive videos goes a long way in getting me to open those bottles. And as in quilting, once you know "the rules", then you can more effectively experiment by breaking them.

    It IS a lovely red. And because acrylic ink has always confused me, I looked up if it should be used it in a calligraphy pen. Liquitex says yes, as long as you flush it out before it has a chance to dry on the nib. They say it is colorfast and fast drying and permanent once dry, full of pigment, not a dye, and thinned down as Cheryl indicated. Yeah, bad habit of mine - I can't help looking things up!