Friday, 13 September 2013

Elephant No. 11: Terraskin Paper and Alcohol Ink

I saw this technique in the free e-book, Using Mixed-Media Supplies, downloaded from the Cloth, Paper Scissors website. To get your own copy, just sign up and download here.

In the book tutorial, alcohol ink is dropped on "yupo" or "terraskin" paper. What are these exotic papers, you may ask? I had no clue, so I trotted down to the art store and asked for both.

Essentially, yupo and terraskin are both papers containing no organic material. Yupo is made with plastics, while terraskin is made with stone dust. Both feel like vinyl—in fact, they feel a lot like very thin borco (the green stuff on drafting tables). For more about each, click here for yupo and here for terraskin.

As for alcohol inks, at first I hoped I could maybe use my existing inks. Was India ink perhaps alcohol-based? Alas, no. Regular drawing ink is usually water-based, and has large particles of pigment. Alcohol inks are often not even available in art stores, so I went to a craft store. Unfortunately, alcohol inks seem to come in sets of three bottles for about $12 a set, and I didn't like all three colours in any of the sets I saw.

I looked online for a DIY solution, and found a great tutorial on making alcohol inks from permanent markers. I had some cheap permanent markers from the dollar store and bought some rubbing alcohol. The tutorial uses 91% alcohol, but the 50% I had worked fine. If you want to try making your own, click here to see the tutorial I used. Be forewarned, however: making your own alcohol inks is very messy and will stain everything in sight—skin, countertop, floor, fingernails, any utensils you use, and even the plastic bottles you put it in.

I bought a sheet of terraskin measuring 17.75 x 25.5 inches (45 x 65 cm) for about five dollars, and cut it into smaller pieces. I started by simply dropping ink onto the paper. Because the surface of the paper is not terribly absorbent, the ink spreads slowly across the paper rather than quickly sinking in.

By continuing to drop ink wherever I liked, I created some interesting patterns. When one area of alcohol ink touches another, the colours "bloom" into one another, making new shades, tones and patterns. You can also use a brush to apply the ink, but I liked the randomness of dropping ink onto the paper. I made two sheets and left them to dry for about an hour.

I was now ready to "draw" by removing the ink with cotton swabs. The e-book says to use a citrus-based heavy-duty degreasing cleaner like Citrasolv®. I couldn't find actual Citrasolv anywhere in town, so I bought something claiming to be strong enough to remove asphalt and caulking. If it could remove those pesky things, I figured it could surely remove alcohol ink. Oddly enough, alcohol does not remove dry alcohol ink.

In addition to cotton swabs, which I find a bit clunky, I used "microbrushes" which are essentially teeny cotton swabs. Although not always available at art stores, hardware stores sometimes carry them. I got mine at the wonderful Lee Valley Tools here in Ottawa. Paintbrushes won't work for the ink-removal part of this activity, because you need to apply a fair amount of pressure.

I decided to use a couple of photographs as references for the general outlines of my elephants. I chose the two below: one of an Asian elephant, and one of an African elephant. Once I had the outlines, I abandoned the images, as it would have been virtually impossible to reproduce them with any precision in the amount of time I had.

Asian elephant.

African elephant.

I started on the Asian elephant first, creating an outline with the microbrush. This required a surprising amount of pressure, and would have required a second pass with an equal amount of pressure to make the line white. I didn't want a white line, so this faint delineation was fine with me.

Once the outline was in place, I began shading with cotton swabs. I found that the cotton swabs were good for mid-sized swathes of ink, but that a bit of wadded up cotton ball was better for bigger areas with softer edges.

I did the same thing for the African elephant, discovering in the process that I could make interesting lines if I rubbed really hard with the microbrush. You can see this effect primarily in the edges of the elephant's ears.

As my first attempts with this technique, I thought these turned out rather well. The ink blooms often created serendipitous areas of colour that helped with the design, and the whole effect is a bit dreamlike and surreal. In real life, these are very pretty, and—messy though this entire experience was—I will definitely try it again.

Elephant Lore of the Day
This story comes courtesy of the World Wildlife Federation website.

In China's Yunnan Province, a canine police force is now on the job, sniffing out illegal wildlife products. Working as part of the anti-smuggling unit of China's customs bureau, three trained labrador retrievers locate wildlife items concealed in luggage, containers and packages sent through the post.

Things such as rhinoceros horns, tiger bones, live turtles—and of course elephant ivory—are all commonly smuggled into China for exotic health tonics, foods, ornaments and jewellery. The use of sniffer dogs is a new initiative of the anti-smuggling bureau, and is expected not only to increase the discovery of wildlife contraband, but also to act as a deterrent to would-be smugglers.

Training support for this pilot project was provided by TRAFFIC, which monitors trade in wildlife parts. It is hoped that the project's success will inspire other agencies in China and elsewhere to take similar steps to fight wildlife crime.

To read the full story, and to see one of the dogs in action, click here or here.

Detector dog in training in China.

To Support Elephant Welfare
Boon Lott's Elephant Sanctuary (Thailand)
Wildlife SOS (India) 

The Elephant Sanctuary (Tennessee)

No comments:

Post a Comment