It’s been awhile since I’ve added to my collection of Wild Inklings. Fortunately my homemade wild inks are very patient, chilling out on the top shelf of our fridge, waiting for their next field trip. And Neil, lovingly and patiently, accommodates that sometimes his morning marmalade migrates behind my rows of glass bottles, each one filled with mysterious murk. The contents of which are not suitable for spreading on crumpets… probably.
I’ve enjoyed experimenting in many different mediums, but the moment I made my first wild ink, I was home. Painting nature-with-nature is pure magic. I enjoy the forage, the secret colours, and the alchemy on the page. I love to watch the hues change as they land wet on the paper, and as they settle into themselves over time. I love that the quest for colours is tied to the seasons — horsetail strobili in the spring, goldenrod in late summer, wild grapes in the fall. I love that the seasons swirl together in the created image. I love that you can use a dandelion to paint an acorn, or sketch a moose with a grape. Render a flower out of sumac, or create a bird from a charred vine.
The more I use this wild palette, the more I understand it, but it is also made of organic matter, and full of surprises. So when I paint with these inks, I am not 100% in control, and, more and more, I am not trying to be. I would like to paint a hawk, but the exact how and what of the hawk, that remains to be seen. I discover it along the way. It’s an exercise in exploring what is possible with what is at hand. This practice in letting go is good for my brain, which, like the brains of so many other humans, is so much more comfortable with hanging on.
Neil is a wonderful painter in his own medium: building and finishing miniature figures. Some of what he does is very specific, and he watches video tutorials to improve his skills. One of the creators he follows advocates “painting bravely” and it’s an idea I come back to again and again when I’m painting. Some activities I do in life have high stakes, but painting is not one of them. If I make a “mistake”, really, really, it doesn’t matter at all. So some ink ends up on the page in an unintended place. A colour combo doesn’t look great. So what. I like to be evidence-based, and so far the world has continued to spin each time, weird blobby of ink on the page or not.
When I’m doing well at “painting bravely”, again and again I try the thing that makes me nervous. I push my own edge. And for nearly each painting I have done, my favourite part of the image will be created in the moments just after I whisper to myself, “…paint bravely”. Even if the aesthetics of what comes out of the brush doesn’t work, the bravery, that you get to keep.
Here are a few photos to show how one of these wild inklings comes together. This time a hawk, rendered in inks from: sumac, wild grape, buckthorn berries, horsetail strobili, acorns. The painting’s creation supported by a combination of good music, reference photos, my inks, my tiny brush, and the constant reminder to “paint bravely”.