“The Serendipity of Alcohol Inks” by Guest Blogger – Linda Chadwick-Wirth

One of the great thing about alcohol inks is that they seem to have a will of their own, often leading you to a painting that is far different from what you had in mind when you started. The very nature of the inks allows an osmosis of intent and what was a seeming failure will continue on to become a success of an entirely different flavour.

I recently had just such a journey with my inks where a picture intended to be an abstract ended up as an intensely realistic red-tail hawk. I happened to capture the stages (for once), taking pictures occasionally, and it ended up being a photographic story of how I work, so Sheryl asked me to share it here.

Both Sheryl and I tend to prefer painting “things with an eye,” but, as with all artists, our individual painting approaches differ somewhat. While Sheryl’s work often leads from the subject out; mine tends to start with the background and then the subjectLC 1 emerges. Usually, this is planned, with me having a subject photo in mind first, which guides my color selection and to some extent the color placement on the page. I don’t generally mask the area where the subject is to be. The background abstract colors are in place first and I use a combination of painting and lifting to bring the subject to life from the background.

This is how I painted my flamingo pictures.        LC2

The hawk, however, was totally unplanned. Ihad recently received a copy of Pigments of my Imagination by Cathy Taylor and was playing with the credit card pattern shown in the book. I used the Ranger “Rustic Lodge” set: Bottle, Rust, and Denim in my unsuccessful attempt at replicating the Terra look. LC3

Drats – this just isn’t interesting enough to be my “abstract” for the alcohol painting group’s last week challenge. But as the subject for the current week is “birds of prey” maybe this background could be used for that, instead.


LC4 I set about looking for a reference photo. When painting animals, like Sheryl, I look for interesting light effects and a focus on the eye(s). It didn’t take long to find a picture that combines both.



Using white transfer paper, I trace from photo onto my background. After tracing, I like to first lift the general outline with a Chameleon blender pen, then start work on the primary focal areLC5a – usually the eye. I almost always use Spectrum Noir or Bic pens doing eyes. (I have a set of 30 something fine point Bic markers, which are alcohol ink based – they have a finer nib than the Spectrum Noirs and still allow the same blending and smudging.) Eye highlights, like the dramatic one in this picture, are simply a matter of removing ink.

LC6Then I follow with my secondary focal point; in this case, it is the beak. Here, again, I use a combination of pens, smudging and blending with the Chameleon blending pen.




Lifting with the Chameleon blender starts defining feathers. Then depth is added to the color with Teakwood ink, using a fan brush to add more feathering. And now, there is a decision point – to leave the background, which I like, or remove it?


LC8Usually, I leave the background and use some “inky techniques”: cotton ball swabbing, misting, etc. to create an illusion of the subject emerging from the background. In this case, however, the background pattern is too busy and the focus on the hawk is lost, so I remove the background, swiping it off with alcohol-soaked cotton balls and cleaning up around the hawk itself with the blender pen, leaving the ink-stained paper.

LC9After cleaning up the rest of the background, the final touches to the bird are added – more definition to the feathers with the Chameleon pen and the fan brush with Teakwood; placing the “whisker-feathers” on the face with a dark grey LePen and then using it throughout the feathering and around the eye to accentuate patterns found in the photo. There are some original vertical pattern lines left in the bird, which now seem a bit out of place, but for the time being, I leave them.

From an abstract to a bird of prey… just one of the fun trips the inks have taken me on!

8 responses on ""The Serendipity of Alcohol Inks" by Guest Blogger - Linda Chadwick-Wirth"

  1. Thank you for your post it really helped me realize I am someone who does not plan my work and remove or change color. Never thought about my style and now realize why I get frustrated in a lesson that is step by step for a planned outcome. Your work was wonderful and you thought me so much in that lesson.

  2. Hi Cora, I use several different alcohol ink markers, primarily Spectrum Noir as they are the cheapest. I also use Copic and Chameleon. I don’t know which are available in Canada. I bought my Spectrum Noirs from Consumer Crafts online. Recently several were on sale a JoAnns. There has been talk that the quality of the Spectrums in not what it used to be and one lady even had trouble opening them up. I’ve had no problem, so far. I hope that helps.

  3. I have been painting with alcohol inks for about 6 months now. I only have a couple of black and white alcohol ink markers that I use. I need to get some more color markers and some blending tools. Is there a place online where you order from that will ship to Canada and what would you suggest starting with getting? Thanks. I love your blog – so informative and inspiring!

  4. Linda, you are such a talented and generous artist! Thank you so much for sharing your creative process in a clear, detailed, and instructional way. We both started working with inks at the same time with Karen Walker. I’ve wanted to compliment your work on the AI Artists page but that forum seems to prefer short bursts of enthusiasm and encouragement (ie, “wow” or “cool”) over my preference for detailed sharing…and excessive wordiness, I admit! I hope many have the opportunity to read your guest blog – and a special thanks to Sheryl Williams, an AMAZING artist, for showcasing your talent. You should be prominently featured in the next book on alcohol inks…or better yet, you and Sheryl should co-author it!!!
    (I’m leaving my email address below in case you’d be willing to stay in touch.)

    • Linda Chadwick-WirthMarch 20, 2015 at 3:32 pmReply

      Mary – thanks for the very kind remarks – I’d love to stay in touch, but the email address you left wasn’t shared. Let’s try via Facebook messenger!

  5. I am just discovering alcohol inks and wanted to thank you and your guest blogger for all the information I am getting from your blog. Thanks so much for sharing!

  6. This was a great tip!!! & demo!!! thanks!!

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