Drawing with Walnut Ink
Walnut ink is one of my favorite drawing mediums. I am excited to be teaching a workshop on Walnut Ink tools and techniques at the Art Supply Depo in March.
About eight years ago pen and ink became my medium of choice for figure drawing. I love the way the ink flows from the nib. The warm browns of the walnut ink create a more lifelike color story in the ink figure drawing than black ink.
The Walnut Ink
The walnut ink that I have been using all these years I acquired directly from Tom Norton of Tom Norton Walnut Ink in Cambridge Massachusetts. I met him years ago when I was working in Cambridge, MA at a frame store near where he lived. When I finally tried it I was hooked.
In addition to the Tom Norton Walnut Ink I have also begun using homemade walnut ink which my husband MADE HIMSELF… from walnuts that fell from a tree!
My husband is a curious person who enjoys learning new things and time-intensive processes (like knitting and homebrewing). Therefore it is natural that he decided to investigate how to make the traditional walnut ink.
Knowing how much I love walnut ink tools and techniques, wanted to give me a gift. He took the opportunity to explore the lengthy process of making black walnut ink from scratch. While I was gone for four days last fall, he and our girls (ages 5 and 3) collected walnuts from a tree in our neighborhood and brought them home. They then smashed them, cooked them, strained them, then reduced the cooking mixture until it was a thick, beautiful brown ink. He watched it cook on the burner of the outdoor grill while the girls played in the backyard.
This 8 oz bottle should last me a couple of years. Now that I know that the process can be a family activity, maybe I will make my own from now on.
The homemade walnut ink is supposed to be much more acidic than the Tom Norton Walnut Ink so archival ph is a factor I also have to take into consideration.
Tools To Use with Walnut Ink
The main tools I use with walnut ink are a nib pen, sumi brush, and watercolor brushes. My students enjoy the bamboo reed pen as well. The ancient Egyptians used a tool almost identical to the reed pen to write hieroglyphs on papyrus. Van Gogh also used a homemade reed pen to create his intricate ink drawings.
With tools like these artists can create a wide variety of marks and effects. Whether working loosely (see the blog post Memory and Mystery) or with precision (see the blog post Eve: Closed Door to Heaven) , these simple tools can achieve either effect.
Walnut Ink Techniques
Walnut ink is very forgiving, so I always include instruction on how to lift both wet and dry walnut ink from paper. In the workshop I teach how to use repetitive marks like hatching, cross-hatching and stippling. In addition, dry brush and calligraphic lines are more fun walnut ink techniques. My students always love exploring all the different effects which can be used.
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