Week 28: Ink & Gesso Botanical Paintings

Before we moved I started working on a new mini-batch of 5×7 original paintings for the Spruill Gallery in Dunwoody, Georgia, where I’ve sold a few of my jewelry and art pieces year round for the last couple of years. I got caught up, though, and it’s taken me until last week to complete them.

The little mixed media pieces start with ink and gesso. I’ve become enamored with the way that these two media interact after a happy discovery with a student in one of my drawing classes. I’ve discovered that only one type of gesso (an old Liquitex jug I’ve had for almost a decade) seems to stimulate the reaction but while I have some left, I’m going to put it too good use. I hated it for a long time – it was far too loose to really provide much cover and so it has been used more as a transparent wash from time to time. The ink I use is just a plain old Speed-ball waterproof India Ink.

The process itself – posted awhile ago on my Instagram – is pretty straightforward: lay down gesso, drop in ink, disturb the surface until happy with result, let dry.


I’ve always loved the way that waterproof ink interacts with water-media and have been using similar techniques to create interesting visual textures in my work for a long time (see slide show at the end of the post). I particularly love the spontaneity but I’ve learned that you can develop a pretty good understanding of what is going to happen and can execute quite a bit of control. The result is I’m thankfully not wasting any of my remaining gesso!


While the initial abstractions are drying, I work on creating original drawings with waterproof brush pens on a beigey-yellow Canson tracing paper.


These drawings are then oriented in an intuitive fashion over the ink and gesso painting and adhered and sealed with acrylic matte medium. The texture created by the collaged tissue paper provides an interesting surface to work back into. I’ve been approaching this aspect differently every time I resolve these types of works.

I began this time with colored pencils. Each work includes 2-3 different color layers of Prismacolor before a thin wash of transparent white gouache. The gouache mixes a little with the underlying color and smooths out some of the tone in the negative space.



Finally, I finish each work up by touching up the outlines with the brush pen used to create the sketches. I seal the works with a matte Krylon spray and then clean up the back of the work with a brown paper backing, hardware, and my artist info before slipping it into a little plastic cover and bringing it to the gallery.


These works are priced at $35.00 each for the time being and are only available at the Spruill Gallery. I plan to have an online store up by the end of the fall but these specific 5×7 explorations will be limited to the gallery specifically. I’ll have several more available for the holiday artist market this fall – I think I’ll be incorporating a lot of moths and butterflies in addition to botanical imagery this winter.



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