Saturday, June 15, 2019

Last week on Art With a Needle

After I complained about a bottle of long-ago-purchased-but-just-opened acrylic ink, Cheryl pointed out that the globs on my bottle and pen are due to the acrylic medium drying out.  In this type of ink, pigment is suspended in a dilute acrylic medium.  Then Idaho pointed out that with india ink, pigment is suspended in water, so it behaves differently.  She wrote: "I am a firm believer in understanding the makeup of what you are using and what it is best for, thus avoiding some pitfalls and frustrations, wasted time and materials.... once you know 'the rules' then you can more effectively experiment by breaking them." 

Oh my, how I hate to be reminded that there is a better way than just buying something, opening it up and seeing what happens!  She's right, of course, I should look things up before I leap in.  But it's so much more fun to just leap in.  Yes, this occasionally brings pitfalls and frustrations and wasted time and all that bad stuff but for some reason I keep doing it. 

Shamed into it, I did a little more research and discovered that acrylic ink not only has the pigment suspended in plastic, it has the pigment permanently bonded to the plastic.  So it is more durable and lightfast than other varieties of ink, including india ink.  Perhaps worth putting up with some globs.  Or I suppose I could go buy a new bottle...  but I want several bottles, in lots of different colors, and by the time I use them all, they'll all probably have globs....

Idaho also found in her research that you should clean the pen or brush before acrylic ink dries.  I'm always pretty obsessive about this part with all kinds of ink, even more so when I'm using brushes rather than pens.  But I don't believe that I ever saw my father, lifelong user of old-fashioned india ink, clean his pen -- in fact, some of the pens I inherited from the mug on his desk still had ink on them, decades later, and they worked just fine. 

By the way, I've wondered why my colored inks vary so much in value, while my black ink is always black. 

Research tells me that's because the colored inks are transparent, black is opaque (don't know why).  The color variation is quite dramatic as some areas get multiple layers of pigment, others get only a light wash.  If you want your colored ink to look all the same, you'd probably better reload your pen or dip your brush very frequently.

Some comments also on my post about mending a silk blouse with the help of organza.  I love mending and am always happy if I can persuade somebody else to give it a shot instead of throwing away something with lots more life in it.  Warning: you can get very fiddly with mending, especially when you don't have enough material, or you're trying to make the mend invisible, or it's a slithery fabric, or any other tricky situation.  I find myself sinking into a zen state when that happens, and quite enjoy it -- but it's easy to spend more time on a mend than the salvaged garment really deserves.

Anyway, thanks, friends, for reading and commenting.

Here's my favorite miniature of the week, a little fish trailing a halo of bubbles:


  1. a note on medning. My mother always mended my dad's bib overalls, saved good bits for future mends. Hay is poky and the fronts wore out much faster than the backs. My aunt mended her sons' pants until just this past month...she is 95. And men would gather at the feed store/bank/post office and proudly display their wives' handiwork in mending their overalls---the striped bib or plain bib overalls. I still have some of the saved fabric for mending and the buckles.

  2. Ha! Thanks for putting up with my comments about researching first, diving in second. My art group is split between those who just go for it and those who dip toes in cautiously after gathering lots of info and both sides are better for this diversity. Info gathering can often be seen as procrastinating, and that can be true - if I find just one more relevant piece of info, I'll be confident enough to give it a go - that sort of thing. I DO find myself doing that and have to suck it up and proceed to diving in! Thanks for the additional information on inks - I find all this quite fascinating.

    And those old pens that still work? You've gotta think there were plenty of fountain pen users who never did much maintenance back in the day when fountain pens were the Bics of their day without much repercussion. And then there are some of today's fountain pen enthusiasts who treat them like a beloved classic car carefully shined and maintained. I don't use mine enough so almost always have to do some kind of priming to get them going, but so far nothing super drastic. If you haven't spent a ton of money on the pen (or the nibs), it wouldn't be any great tragedy if one got damaged due to dried up ink. It's all relative!

    I love the look of your green script with varying values. I've noticed the same thing with one particular ink I use with a regular nib - it seems to get much darker as the ink level goes down. Now I have a clue as to why.

    1. I should clarify -- all my dad's pens -- and everything I have bought for myself since -- are dip pens, not fountain pens. I used to own and love fountain pens back in the day but for my calligraphy now I want the unadulterated experience!!