“Pensive” Phase 1

Pensive phase 1

Pensive phase 1

Here is a picture of the first stage of my next painting. It is on 3×3 foot canvas, and is #2 in my Cymbidium Orchid series, the first of which was “Funky Orchid”. I will be using acrylics for this painting (thanks Sarah Jane). I obtained some Liquitex Slow-DRI Blending Gel, as suggested by Sarah, and it worked like a dream! I didn’t use the heavy matte gel, mostly because it had a warning label on it that said it “contains a known carcinogen”. The label doesn’t disclose what this ingredient is, and I’ll have to do more research to find out what it is, unless someone would like to comment and let me know. Regardless, the slow-DRI works like a dream, the paint has a nice blendability to it, and according to package directions, you can add as much or as little as you want without diluting the paint color too much, or affecting binding. It feels a little different from oils, a bit more slick, and fast, like painting with (pardon this comparison) KY jelly. Over all, the effects were similar, although I can see the brush strokes more than with oils, even when I’ve run the blending brush over it, but that may be the way I paint. I feel the more visible brush strokes will add to this painting anyway, so I am very happy with the way it turned out. I will definitely be using acrylics more in the future! Stay tuned for Phase 2.

Wish Phase 1

Wish phase 1

Wish phase 1

Well, as it turns out, even with all the playing and fiddling I’ve done over the last couple of months with acrylics, I just can’t get over my first love: oils. I’m an “Oilers” girl! Can’t help it! The smoothness and blendability fits in so well with the way I like to paint. I find the fast drying acrylics, even with flow retarder, a bit frustrating at times. But I do admire the beautiful work most acrylic artists achieve with that medium.

So here is my latest commission, for a beautiful little girl. It is just in Phase 1, so this is the background layer of the painting. I knew I had achieved the look I was after when my 3 year old daughter walked up to my easel and said, “Beautiful sky, Mommy, I love the clouds. It looks like my dream!” Children are very observant, and frank, they say! I was very happy with the lights and the darks, and the blending of colors I achieved today. My next step is to let that sit for a bit and then to paint on the next layer. My blending brushes, however will need replacing from so much use, so tomorrow, it’s off to Edmonton for some art supplies. So while that is drying, I will start my next painting: Pensive. It will be a gigantic orchid -my favorite. I’ll be posting about that one very soon!

Suminagashi Recipes


Finally the perfect viscosity and dispersion

Finally the perfect viscosity and dispersion

I decided to post some Suminagashi “how to’s” or at least the methods and recipes that I found successful. Suminagashi is the Japanese art of floating ink on water and then transferring the design onto paper. It is similar to paper marbling, and Turkish Ebru. I’ve adapted this tedious process for easy to access modern acrylics and canvases.

The first important “ingredient” is alum, or aluminum sulfate. It is a “mordant” that is very important if you will be marbling onto fabric or paper. Its purpose is to make the paint adhere to the paper or fabric. I found that I didn’t really need it on gesso primed canvas, and whether I sponged it on the canvas beforehand and allowed it to dry before using, didn’t seem to make a difference as to whether the acrylic paint was going to adhere to the canvas. The recipe is 2 TB per pint of water. Just stir it together and sponge it all over the object you want to marble. I had a heck of a time finding alum in my grocery store. I finally found it with the spices as people use it to harden the starch in pickled vegetables so they remain crunchy.

The second important ingredient is “size”, or the medium upon which you float your paint or ink. Suminagashi traditionally used plain water for size, but Turkish Ebru uses thickened water. The water can be thickened with carrageenan, methyl cellulose, or corn starch. Some people even use liquid laundry starch right out of the bottle, although die-hard marblers will use either carrageenan or methyl cellulose. Carrageenan doesn’t keep well, and tends to degenerate in heat or humidity. It is made from sea weed. Methyl cellulose is best, but a little more pricey. Corn starch is harder to wash off the final marbled product. Surprisingly I couldn’t find liquid laundry starch anywhere in my local vicinity! Here are the recipes for carrageenan, methyl cellulose and corn starch size:

Carrageenan size

Marblers say you can get the finest, most detailed marbling from using carrageenan. It must be prepared in a blender. For a half-gallon:
Put 1 level tablespoon plus 1 level teaspoon of carrageenan powder into an empty blender cup. Fill it up to the top with cold water.Blend it on the highest speed for one minute. Then pour this foamy mixture into a half-gallon container (such as an empty plastic milk jug) and fill it on up to the top with water.
Shake it a bit to mix it. Let this mixture stand overnight in the refrigerator, or for at least 4 hours. This is to let the bubbles pop; it comes out of the blender as a mass of foam, and has to sit many hours before it all becomes liquid again. (adapted from marble art.us)

Methyl Cellulose

Methylcellulose Size
• Place 4 Tablespoons methylcellulose in a clean 2+ quart bowl. Pour 4 cups boiling water over the powder and stir gently to completely disperse powder. Do not create bubbles or froth.

• Add 4 cups ice water (can be all or part ice cubes). Stir gently to blend. Within 10 minutes, the liquid will quickly become thick and clear. Pour into clean tray, to a depth of 1-2″. It can be used immediately and, covered with plastic, will keep indefinitely. (Adapted from danielsmith.com)

Cornstarch Size

The following recipe will yield one gallon of stock solution that can be thinned as needed.


* Powdered cornstarch * Mixing bowl

* Stove or hot plate

* Measuring cup

* Water

* Slotted spoon or metal whisk

* Large saucepan


1. Add 1 cup cornstarch to 1 cup cold water in the mixing bowl.

2. Stir until completely dissolved.

3. Bring 3 quarts water to a rolling boil.

4. Add the boiling water to the cornstarch mixture in the mixing bowl.

5. Stir the mixture with a slotted spoon or metal whisk until thick and smooth.

6. When cool, pour into a gallon jug for storage (milk container works well).

7. Add water to equal 1 gallon (about 2-3 cups). The mixture will thicken as it cools. Add water for correct consistency before using as size.

(Adapted from Donald Gruber, Ed.D., 2001)

Obviously, for the purposes of Suminagashi on my large-sized canvases, I had to make gallons of size.

The third important ingredient for Suminagashi is the surfactant, specifically for the acrylic paints. If you are using ink, I’m not sure that you need surfactant. Surfactant makes the paint disperse on the surface of your size, and keeps the colors separate so that they don’t become one muddy brown mess. You can use ox gall, or a couple of drops of dish soap in 1/4 cup of water. The use of soap is controversial, some say the soap breaks down the acrylic paint.

The final important ingredient is the paint! I used fluid acrylics, some swear by airbrush paint, and still others prefer actual marbling paints. I wanted a “dreamy” quality to my paintings, so the light pastel-type colors that I achieved were exactly what I wanted. Other artists prefer very vibrant colors, and those are best achieved with airbrush paints or marbling paints. The secret here is not to over dilute the paints with water or use too much surfactant. Flow Aid, or airbrush medium is a good idea so you don’t overly dilute the binders in the paint.

Well, that is it in a nutshell! All you have to do now is paint on your prepared size, and then transfer it onto your chosen marbled object! The rest is up to you! Good luck with this artistic process, and if you have any tips for me, I’d love to hear them!

More Suminagashi

Ripples in a Dream

Ripples in a Dream


Ripples in a Dream II

Ripples in a Dream II

Suminagashi on canvas has proven to be quite a challenge. Issues with paint adherence on the canvas, too much or too little surfactant, and the right viscosity of the size has taken some research, trial and error, basic chemistry, and perseverance. The process has been fun (my three year old and I had a blast playing in a big pool of jelly), and I believe the end result is worth it – unique, one of a kind abstracts. This is my most recent Suminagashi painting on 18×24″ canvas. After I originally posted the painting I went back and deepened the color on some parts of the painting, and it now looks more the way I imagined it. I wanted it to convey the action of trying to remember a dream…or contrarily, the act of forgetting one, and then vainly trying to remember it.

Bonsai Abstracts





I continue to take advantage of the mornings I am free while my children are at school. Today I experimented with acrylic pouring techniques, and plan to do a series of paintings that explore the basic shapes of the bonsai. Above are pics of my first attempts. They are quite large, poured on 24×36″ canvases. Pouring acrylic is tricky business, but I am happy with how these two paintings turned out. Suminagashi is still on my mind, and I will continue to play with that technique as the winter comes upon us.

Suminagashi Part 4



Moving into the land locked province of Alberta after a lifetime by the ocean has made me miss it terribly! The sounds of the waves crashing on the shore, the call of the gulls, the splash and barking of sea lions as they migrate pass the house….it’s no wonder I saw a sea-snail in the myriad of dots in my latest Suminagashi painting. It’s not as amorphous as my last painting, but I love the swirl of sea shells, there’s something so relaxing about tracing their lines with your eyes. A few more finishing touches to this one and it will be finished!

Suminagashi Part 3

My first completed Suminagashi abstract.

My first completed Suminagashi abstract.

Well, I decided to add a little something to my “London Fog” painting as it didn’t feel quite complete. It is my first foray into non floral abstract art, and I feel quite content with how it turned out. It’s not quite like London Fog anymore, so perhaps I will have to rename it! Cosmic comes to mind…but I shall think on it. Naming a painting feels like naming a child sometimes, doesn’t it? Well maybe not quite, but the right name is very important. I am now inspired to do Suminagashi on even larger canvases. Wish me luck!

Suminagashi Part 2

Here are some close ups of the beautiful marbling I achieved from yesterday’s Suminagashi session. I love them just the way they are! It will be hard to add anything to these because they get their beauty from the random entropy of diffusing paint. This naturalness is what I wanted to capture, so I avoided using rakes or combs to manipulate the paint. The entire Suminagashi experience felt special, in that most of the work was in the preparation of the paints and “size”. It was like a tea ceremony, ritualistic and quiet – much like meditation. I will definitely do this again.


Hello everyone! I am finally back to blogging after a long summer hiatus! I hope everyone had a wonderful summer. Now that it is Autumn, my kids are back at school and we now have some semblance of a routine. This week, I explored the fascinating world of suminagashi, which means “floating ink” – the Japanese art of paper marbling. I adapted it for my large canvases, preferring those to small pieces of paper. I used a large baby pool to hold the “size” or medium on which to float the inks. Instead of inks I mixed acrylic paints. After much trial and error, I got 7 canvases marbled to my satisfaction, which will form the basis of some abstract paintings. They remind me of Pap smears and bacteria stained with Gram’s stain from my science lab days…I can’t wait to show you all my finished paintings. I’m hooked on suminagashi!

My-Not-So-Green Monster Smoothie Take 2

I am re-posting this post because somehow it only half worked the first time! I apologize if you get this twice!

I am absolutely amazed at the amount of greens my garden has already produced! I actually had to thin my littlest kale plants, and ended up with a beautiful pile of baby kale leaves to try out in my Green Monster Smoothies. The larger kale and Swiss chard leaves (4 more bags full), I blanched for a minute or two in a wet, hot skillet, puréed, and stored in freezer bags for later use. I searched the Internet for the best Green Monster Smoothie recipes, and they all seem to have the same ingredients in varying amounts: Spinach or kale, honey, some kind of fruit (berries and bananas usually), yogurt, water. While I am not a proponent of supplements or “unnatural” (man-made, for lack of a better word) food, I did add some whey protein powder (Weider Fruit Splash) and PGX granules. I have been experimenting with protein powder and PGX granules, for the sake of feeling full without adding extra calories. I recently attended a diabetes conference in Edmonton (for my work as a diabetes nurse educator), and a dietitian from Vancouver actually condoned the use of PGX as she stated that it was one of the only supplements that has been scientifically proven to do what it says it is going to do. That said, it really is just concentrated “hyper-viscous” fiber, so I decided to try it, never having tried it before. I am not in any way encouraging anyone to use PGX themselves! The shake I made ended up being a nice golden color (from the peaches and protein powder), with flecks of green kale. I didn’t use honey. And I had tried various Green Monster smoothie recipes before that had too strong an earthy flavor from the kale, this one tasted ok, I think because of the strong artificial fruit flavor of the protein powder. The shake came out to about 300 calories. Now would I make it again? I’m not so sure. I’d rather have a 1/2 a vegetarian panini with kale chips on the side and a glass of milk, which would probably come close to the amount of calories that ended up in this drink! But here is the recipe I used in case you are interested. With the protein powder and PGX, it is quite filling.

Not-so-Green Monster Smoothie
1/3 cup milk (30 cal)
1 heaping Tb yogurt (33 cal)
1/2 small banana (40 cal)
1 peach (75 cal)
2 cups water
1 1/2 cups kale (50 cal)
1 scoop whey protein powder (90 cal)
1 single packet PGX granules(10cal)
Blend, enjoy.