The First Step is to Try

Well, I have an art failure for you today. It’s a little sad, I suppose. I was certainly hoping for more​.

In college, I learned the basics of suminagashi, which is Japanese paper marbling. I made a lot of novice errors (cloudy water, poor form in lifting the paper, shaky hands, etc.), but I loved it. I’m a bit of an otaku (roughly “fangirl/fanboy” in Japanese), so I tried to learn the traditional style of marbling: hundreds of concentric circles in alternating colors. I don’t think that I have any good prints from those efforts, so here’s a few random ones:


These are all small collections of concentric circles, warped out of shape by a bumped tray or stray breath, for reference.

The thing that I enjoyed about the traditional style was the… Zen nature of it, I guess. I had to be calm and focused completely on the task at hand. To be still and only move my hands. To relax and lose the day’s stress or sadness. It was difficult. I was bad at it, but it was worth doing.

Fast forward a few years.

I’m in my home, trying to do this again using what I have on hand. Acrylic paint? No good. Thinner acrylic paint? No. Water mixed with acrylic paint? Nope. Watercolors?! Umm… Kind of, but it’s very pale. Huh.

Now, I know that I should have sumi ink for this- it’s a dry calligraphy ink that comes in small cakes and suminagashi is named after it. Roughly. That’s really broad strokes, and I’m treating “sumi” like its a brand name, which it isn’t, and I don’t tell you that it’s just the word for “ink,” which it is, and I can’t remember for the life of me if it’s actually “sumi-i” or not… You get the idea, right? I’m not an expert.

Anyway, the paints were one problem; the other was this:


I bought a purple tray specifically for this. I can’t see the color floating on the water because it’s in a purple tray! 😅 Why didn’t I think of that in the store? They had clear trays!

Oh well. Live and learn.

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