During the Inktober challenge (which I shall post about next time) I like to set myself an extra challenge, something I want to improve on, or explore.
Last year I wrote a book, the year before, I was still developing my Hare & Snail illustrations.
I didn't have the time for book writing this year, so what could I do?
The point of Hare & Snail is to understand nature and my garden so what better way to do this than to physically use my garden.
I've had an interest in botanical inks for a while and dabbled in it, but the Inktober challenge gave me the excuse to really go for it.
I found a few recipes, some using mordants and additives such as alum, some using time consuming pigment development. I needed something quick and easy. After reading through a lot of information...this is what I decided to do.
Collect some plant material, discarded vegetables, wood etc.
Nasturtium and Cranesbill
Add them to a pan with just enough water to cover the material, (some recipes say to add a little salt and vinegar - I never did and will experiment with this at a later date), bring to the boil and simmer for a while, usually about half an hour, though things like nut husks and wood may need longer.
At this point, strain the flowers from the liquid, you can use a coffee filter for this and put the liquid, back in the pan. Add some gum arabic or honey, which will thicken the liquid.
Add some clove oil to stop it going mouldy, I just drop a clove into the ink jar, hopefully that will work, or you can just scrape off the mould when you use the ink!
An important thing to consider when you're making ink from your garden is that you won't necessarily get the colour you think, and the ink wont necessarily stay that colour.
dBecause these inks have no preservatives or additives they can be fickle, changing in the same way as they would in nature. Some inks are Ph sensitive and so even the type of paper you use, will make a difference and then some (like my blackberry and deadly nightshade berry) oxidize, they go on to the paper a deep purple and then change to a beautiful blue when dry.
These inks are not lightfast or colourfast, changes are almost inevitable.
I love this about them, an ever evolving painting.
Also another thing to remember is that not everything in your garden produces a colour. I tried with Rose of Sharon (Hypericum) seeds with no useful results at all.
You can also, purposefully change the colours to increase the range in the inks, for instance, adding vinegar will increase acidity, adding bicarbonate of soda will increase alkalinity. Sometimes giving completely different colours.
I was so impressed with the sky in the painting above, and was saddened to discover, four days later, it was all just green apart from patches of blue, but didn't know why.
I began to check each one for possible causes.
Adding heat when drying, adding varnish, was it the vinegar or the bicarbonate of soda?
I discovered again, after four days, the bicarbonate of soda in the deadly nightshade ink, completely disappears the blue, leaving a lovely sagey green, and if it comes into contact with another ink with bicarbonate of soda in it, it will do the same.
I now test all inks in this way, so I have prior knowledge before using them.
This little project has completely changed the way I look at nature, now, whenever I go for a walk, I want to collect anything and everything to see what ink I can get from it (I'm actually running out of space now), I even brought plants back from Spain!
When I first began Inktober, my colour palette looked like this;
It now looks like this, and is ever growing!
(B - for bicarb added; V - for vinegar added)
Now the flowers are dying off, I'm hunting for what else in the garden is possible to create an ink. I still have turmeric, which isn't quite ready to harvest, some spinach, parsley, teasel...dried twigs, mushrooms and fungi....
*drifts off into the distance*