little by little
Reed Between the Lines
Fall cattail pens and india ink
One of my favorite things to do is to harvest a few cattail stalks in the fall and use them for india ink drawings & sketches
It's so easy to do, and they last years
• find dried cattails
• cut at base and trim off flower at top
• carve them to a point
• add a slit for more ink yield
• dip in ink and draw!
Some cattail stalks are hollow and some are not...both of them work differently, grab one of each and try them out!
check out some cattail pen sketches in the NOVEMBER gallery:
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Mother The Verb
What does it mean to mother nature?
Consider for a moment that we have misread the phrase "Mother Nature" all along ...
By name, and pronoun, Mother Nature gives us the impression that she is the boss, she knows all, she is the matriarch of our collective household and rules over us.
Instead, consider mother is a verb, and maybe...just maybe we are supposed to be mothering nature... nurturing her, raising her to be a good and helpful citizen that we work along side of...because if mother is a verb, we are collectively doing a very poor job at being a parents right now.
We do tend to treat Nature as our mom and we are the insolent children... we expect She will take care of us and cater to our whims, be there for every dress rehearsal and have gum in her purse when we have bad breath...we thank her only when we get an award, we occasionally buy a gift or send a card, call once in awhile to make sure she's okay...but we live our lives, get busy and maybe not check on her as often as we should... until she's in a frail or damaged state.
If we turn the tables on ourselves and realize WE are the mother in this case, and that nature is our child, then we realize that we are those horrific parents we would report to authorities.
As a general societal concept, our lives have been set up for "battle" with Nature...
we plow, we dig, we re-form, we destroy and use up everything she has gifted us with for our own growth and survival...we are seeing our child as a resource...something we need to take from ... or fight ...we are seeing our own child as a threat to our very existence.
We've been taught that Mother Nature will always be there for us, just as young children see a parent. We have this impression that we must fight our mother to be self sufficient and fly away with strength, it means survival. We think we know more...
....but if we fought our children and took everything that they can give...they would (will) perish.
I am definitely not the one and only philosopher that has identified with this concept
...if you've explored the many transcendentalist writers out there, this is not breaking news. There are few modern thinkers that are continuing to push back on the old narrative...check out the absolute genetic marvel that is Neri Oxman on Abstract ... Neri gives me hope for (wo)mankind!
Why don't we wake up everyday doing something about dying whales, floods and strip mining? Because it's mind-boggling to solve a problem that millions of people collectively caused...me included (yup, I've tossed my plastic into the wrong bins, over consumed oil products and eaten animals that were factory farmed just like you have)
...and so I make art and create images from a place where I have no words, and I hope to make just a handful of people think differently...and maybe one of those people will have the energy or resource or voice that I lack to get through to 7.98 billion humans.
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Erin Thomas is an artist living in Southern Maine
EMAIL ERIN THOMAS
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Those Gouche & Ink Drawings
The most frequent question I get from other artists is:
"How do you create those gouche & ink drawings?!"
A friend of mine taught me how to do this technique somewhere in the early 90's, and I haven't necessarily gnawed at it or perfected it, but a couple times of year I pull it out to satisfy my soul...because the best part of it is the reveal! You can never be sure of your results until you wash it out, and I've had some bad results as well as REALLY stunning outcomes...but overall I dig the "Christmas morning" vibe of the whole surprise. The more I use this technique, the more I feel I can control the outcome for the better.
You will need just a few things
to make your own gouche & ink wash-out drawings
and maybe you have some of these things on hand already!
• Heavy-weight paper
the paper you use has to be able to both take the paint and ink and take a beating under a water spray - heavy weight watercolor papers work well, I prefer Strathmore Bristol vellum because of it's ability to take some abuse, plus this versatile paper is available in a lot of unusual places and very affordable, I purchased an 11"x14" pad of 20 pages for under $10 at Ocean State Job Lot in Sanford, Maine.
you can use a really nice brand for the best results, but keep in mind that you will need a thicker coat and most of your paint will be washed away, I can't bring myself to wash expensive brands down the drain, so I bought myartscape brand set on Amazon for under $13.00. I tried an even cheaper student brand once and I'm pretty sure it wasn't even gouche I was using... and the colors didn't take to the paper at all...keep in mind, the better the paint quality, the better the results you will have with color.
• Waterproof India Ink
you will need waterproof India ink, this is the crucial component that can't be substituted, and you will need a good amount of it to cover your page. Dick Blick offers a great and affordable pint: Black Cat Waterproof India ink
• Paint brushes & water
of course, you will also need paint brushes and a water source to complete this technique.
I use a small acrylic brush to apply the gouche and a big super thirsty soft brush to apply the ink.
A faucet or a sink with a sprayer will work just fine for your wash out
STEP 1 - PLAN YOUR DRAWING
NOTE: remember: the gouche will stain the paper and repel the ink
When you are getting ready to create an image, understand that anything you don't paint with the gouche will end up black. The gouche will stain the paper with color and repel the ink, so it's best to plan your drawing a bit ahead of time to figure out where you will want the deep black to show, and where your colors will land. I'm not much of a "planner" when it comes to art, I like the experimental factor and surprise results, so I recommend to keep it simple to start in case it doesn't work out. You can even do small sketches to test the process!
STEP 2 - ADD THE GOUCHE
NOTE: The thicker the paint, the less ink will get through to the paper
When you apply the gouche, and you leave paper untouched where you want the black to show, be sure and be generous where you want the color to be strong. Lay the paint on as thick as you want! brush strokes that go thick to thin come out fantastic as the black will pick up the details in the brush strokes where it thins out.
The image you are creating with just the gouche phase won't look awesome as it is, the magic comes after the ink is washed off
STEP 3 - LET IT DRY! LET IT DRY!
NOTE: LET IT FULLY DRY!
One of the most important steps in this process is your patience.
Let the gouche fully dry before anymore steps...if you don't, the ink will smear the gouche and make weird inky mud spots
STEP 4 - ADD THE WATERPROOF INDIA INK
NOTE: DO NOT BRUSH THE INK ON TWICE... DO NOT GO OVER YOUR STROKES!
ONE THICK HEAVY COAT OF INK - DO NOT RE-BRUSH!
The best results come if you "pour" the ink over the in one quick step using a dump bin...but I've never been willing to A: Waste that much ink or B: Make a huge mess that requires additional clean up time. So for me, I pour the ink into a cup and a use a soft, thick and thirsty brush that holds a lot of ink and I just brush it on quickly in large single strokes. Some of your ink strokes may show if you are slow. You do have to do this quickly and confidently because once the ink starts to sit on the gouche it can re-wet the gouche and you can smear the colors.
I personally like the effects of the flaws, but if you are more of a perfectionist, a quick pour has cleaner results.
STEP 5 - LET IT DRY! LET IT DRY!!!
NOTE: VERY IMPORTANT to let the ink FULLY dry before the next step!
The waterproof India ink will take longer to dry than your gouche. The ONLY way this process will work is when you let the ink FULLY dry before the next step! I've tested a few pieces that had wet ink and it REALLY didn't work out too well...so now, just sing this version from Frozen.... "Let it Dry! Let it dryyyyy" for a several hours or even more depending on how thick your ink is. I like to leave mine overnight so I can wake up and unwrap the magic in the morning.
and now . . . THE BEST PART
be sure and visit my November Gallery "Coincident"
I would love to see what you can do!
checkout the quick video tutorial below to review the process
so be sure and stop by my social pages and share your finished images!
ERIN THOMAS ART on FACEBOOK
ERIN THOMAS ART on INSTAGRAM
I found this super secret spot near my home that has these stunning root formations that have quickly made their way into my sketchbook and a few new pieces.
This super secret spot is the image gift that just keeps on giving with gigantic ferns flourishing in wet ground, squirrels, foxes, birds and chipmunks in abundance. Complex spider webs shimmer in the light that makes its way through the thick brush and tree branches and they are catching all the falling debris from the canopy.
Hilton Park - Dover New Hampshire
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You can't pay attention to trees without noticing the biker gang of the bird world
I am reminded of my Grandfather Chuck every time the crows stop by to chat. Chuck used to "crow call" at us grandkids when he wanted our attention...once, when I was about 12 or 13 years old and shopping in a large busy mall with my teenage girlfriends...we were browsing the latest fashions in a store called "Rave" ... which was also was affectionately known in school as "the heavy metal slut store" ... and off in the distance came a "CAHHHH CAHHHHH" in this low deep loud growly voice. Everyone in a five store radius is looking around for the source and about 30 yards away, across a huge corridor and through fifty people, and at the entrance of a shoe store, I see my grandfather looking directly at me with smirk.
I never told my friends it was my Gramps, I always figured it was "our" thing that I would hold close forever.
or click on the images above
Be sure and stop by October's online Gallery TANGLED
Through the Trees
The edge of the woods behind my house became a source of fear...and art.
I ran away as fast as my Dollar General slip-ons would allow
Over the years, we have had several coyotes pass through our property (picture 5 sets of little glowing eyes surrounding your house at night... SUPER creepy!), we also have weekly deer visits...plus raccoons, skunks, fishers and endless squirrels and birds of all sizes and shapes. We are very used to this and other than the healthy bit of fear of getting sprayed by a skunk, none of it has ever really freaked me out, in fact, I really love it!
We tiptoed up the hill to the treeline and aimed our flashlights over the stone wall ...
I told Finn to look where I was pointing my flashlight, that there was something beyond the tangled deadfall that was glowing. Was it a reflection on a can? Or, an eyeball on a deer?!
With our heads mushed side by side we aimed our lights at a glowing green orb about 20 yards through twisted branches and tree trunks and tried to figure out exactly what it was we were looking at...until slowly, very slowly... it's head turned towards us and we now had two, very large, very green glowing orbs staring back at us.
"what IS that?!" "oh my god, it looks ...so...big."
...and then suddenly...it started charging towards us.
I have no idea how long it was coming towards us before I just yelled...
I ran away as fast as my Dollar General slip-ons would allow... I even out ran my kid.
(who also had on slippers)
Not my finest moment as both a mom and a wildlife lover...I'm all too aware that my instinct to run was probably not the best choice if it was in fact a large bear as we are now quite sure it was
Or, as my husband keeps smirkingly telling me, it was definitely Mothman, and I did the right thing to run.
(I got him back for all the Bigfoot and Mothman jokes by making him drag lights out to the tree line to entertain my new obsession with nighttime lights splashed on forest edges.)
But after that night, I began obsessively checking the tree line every single night with a flashlight. I was going out every couple hours to scan along our property, maybe sort of hoping I'd see the owner of the giant glowing eyes....or, maybe just to re-acclimate to the evening tree line so I could get over being scared of it.
I also swore that I would hurl my body in front of my kid to protect them from any bears or mothmen in the future.
As an artist, I've always worked in a way that parallels my current experience.
Random happenings like that can greatly effect a direction art takes, and since that night I started to dream about crooked branches and the darkness beyond where my eyesight can carry me. Trees have been a common them that reappears in my work and my thought process, I also deeply consider that I am creating this work on paper created from those very trees with charcoal compressed from beautiful vines.
Charcoal has been my medium of choice to get these twisted dark branches out of my head and onto paper, it offers me that quick and effective way to show the light from beyond the trees and portray the "feeling". That one heart stopping moment that I experienced, wish a mission to portray that feeling I get with flashlights at night.
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Ask Me About My Art / 2020
Where does your inspiration come from?
"Everywhere! That's a bit of a tough question because inspiration is fluid and constantly evolving and it changes minute to minute, hour by hour. I could be passionate about circles one day and trip over a rock and obsess about the color of that particular rock for a decade. It's a constant surprise for me, that's what makes life, and art... interesting and beautiful."
What is your creative process?
"Well, that might be an entire separate book! I guess the simple answer is that I dump the things that clutter my brain into art so I can make room to upload all the new things."
What medium do you primarily work in?
"Depends on the subject, the colors I am drawn to that day, the subject I'm looking at and whatever it is that is inspiring me at that moment...I use whatever tool necessary to best convey the story, image, or message. I do seem to have a comfort level with acrylic on canvas, written word or digital photography, I frequently lean on and return to those tools after trying a few other things."
Are there specific techniques that you use in your work?
"I suppose in a way, I have created my own techniques over the years, I do have some art school & materials training, but my goal with art has always been how to get what's in my head into a more firm or permanent reality... translating what I see when I close my eyes, I've always wondered what thoughts looked like and how color smells, I like to creatively name things and see all their angles... those things drive me. I've never really loved replicating reality or deep diving technical skills because the kind of art I'm after is more born from the rawness of coming straight from a thought to paper."
Erin Thomas is an artist living in Southern Maine
EMAIL ERIN THOMAS