Artful Behavior

“What are artists creating with your products?”

by Jenn Bergin

Painting with Ink

Fine artist and painter Sharen AK Harris has art studios across the country – she practices plein-air in Alaska, creates scenes of the southwest in Arizona and enjoys the fall colors at home in New England. Regardless of where she works, one thing stands out. “Everyone instantly focuses on my vibrant alcohol ink paintings,” Sharen says. “In my studio, they pop right off the wall.”

Sharen paints with Tim Holtz Alcohol Inks and says the transparent dye inks are a must-try for any sharp-focus or abstract painter. The product of a collaboration between star crafter Tim Holtz and Ranger Ink, Tim Holtz Alcohol Inks are specially-formulated to create colorful, unique effects on nonporous surfaces.

Ranger, headquartered in Tinton Falls, New Jersey, is well-known for its inks, paints, embossing powders and craft products including paints and dimensional glitters. The company has been around since 1929, when it started manufacturing an exclusive line of commercial ink products for the banking industry. It was a new exhibitor at this year’s Art Materials World.

“I’m always coming up with new tools and techniques with this old but new-to-artist medium – it’s so spontaneous and interactive,” Sharen says. “You can get as tight as you want using a brush, or more abstract by pouring the ink out of the bottle and letting the magical shapes appear. When it flows quickly, the medium has a mind of its own – you can see your painting transform as you work.” 

Her painting Paris (pictured below) was created with very little brush work, but a lot of roughing – she applied the alcohol ink with a cotton swab and paper towel. “The painting constantly works with you, offering ideas you never thought of,” Sharen explains. “You can take those ideas and run with them by moving the ink using compressed air or smudging, or you can stay on track.”

To create Flowering Cactus (pictured above) Sharen poured the alcohol ink right out of the bottle in the center of the flowers and pulled color towards the edges. “I manipulated the ink to stay where I wanted it with a brush, and used a blending pen to work on thorns. Then I sprayed the alcohol to create a dripping and spatter abstract feel.”

Tim Holtz Alcohol Inks dry in just a few seconds, allowing artists to add thin layers, or apply a heavier layer of ink to break through previous layers. “The inks don’t take stain like some watercolors,” Sharen adds, “but I like using the stain depending on the application.”

Tim Holtz Alcohol Inks are acid-free and available in 60 coordinating colors. They can be used on any slick surface, from glossy paper to shrink plastic or glass, to create a polished stone effect. A full line of tools, surfaces and accessories is also available.

“The most important tools for me are the Tim Holtz Palette and the Tim Holtz Alcohol Ink Blending Pen,” Sharen says. “The palette is very shallow and has 36 circular compartments that you can fill with alcohol inks, 91-percent alcohol, or blending solution. Each medium works differently and all are a must-have.  The Alcohol Ink Blending Pen is perfect for lifting and blending color.”

For more information on Tim Holtz Alcohol Inks, visit To see more of the artist’s work, visit

Chalking It Up

Illustrator Melody Howe traditionally works with watercolor and gouache paint, but recently started experimenting with Imagination International’s Tommy Art line of chalk-based mineral paints and products. “As I explore new mediums, my experiments and mistakes lead me in cool and unexpected directions that I wouldn’t discover with my usual materials,” Melody says. “The art I create and what I accomplish really surprises me.”

Tommy Art products are ideal for creating a shabby-chic, vintage or French Provence decorative look and give Melody’s work a different feel. The Italian-made mineral paints offer ultra-matte coverage, porosity and light fastness. Chalk colors are available in three ranges – pastel, neutral and intense – and more than 35 colors. They dry rapidly and adhere to most surfaces without primer or sanding. In addition to chalk-based mineral paints, the Tommy Art line also includes metallic paints; specialty products like 3D Dust Crackle and pearlized Timbrillo; matte, gloss and chalkboard varnishes; pastes to create special effects like terracotta and rust; coatings and waxes. 

Creating this mixed-media owl portrait with Tommy Art was a learning experience, Melody says. “I had to think about how to incorporate materials I wouldn’t normally use for a drawing into a piece of art.

“I cut chunks of Styrofoam and shaped them with an X-ACTO knife to create the pronounced texture on the lower crystal-like sections,” she explains. This was the most difficult part of the project because Styrofoam crumbles away so easily, making it hard to get exact or straight lines.

“I started the process by sketching an outline based on a reference photo, and then, using the chalk colors, painted a base coat focusing on the face and ears. I used a metallic paint for the eyes to create that life-like intensity that owls have. After that I started working on the feather texture. It’s hard enough to make feathers look realistic on the page, but I was pleased with how easy it was using a few different brushes to get that unique feather-like texture with the rock paste and then covering it with chalk color.”

After gluing the cut pieces of Styrofoam to the page, Melody layered rock paste over it to match the feather texture. When that dried, she used chalk colors to complete the feathering effect, and added purple highlights to complement the brilliant eyes.

Tommy Art products are homemade in the IRIDRON laboratory in Italy and developed in collaboration with Italian artist Tommaso Bottalico, who focuses on the art of “easy painting” which “allows anybody to paint in a very short time and obtain the best results.” The mineral paints are created using a traditional molazze with millstones and three rollers to create powder pigments and high-quality auxiliaries for decoration, fine art and restoration.

For more information on Tommy Art products, visit To see more of the artist’s work, follow @TheImaginativeIllustrator on Instagram.

Out of the Dark

“When new colors are introduced, I’m always excited,” says French-Canadian visual artist Francoise Issaly, “so when I heard Liquitex introduced the Special-Release Muted Collection, I couldn’t wait to experiment!”

For the first time, Liquitex launched a color collection last fall with a tonal palette that includes five new colors: Muted Turquoise, Muted Pink, Muted Grey, Muted Violet and Muted Green. A special blend of pigments was used to create the new tones, which aren’t easy to achieve by mixing colors already available in the Liquitex range.

Francoise was somewhat surprised by the darker shades at first, but then she began to introduce nuance – first with the pure color, then by mixing it with Titanium white and adding Transparent mixing white. “This allowed me to see the full range. It was as if each color contained hundreds of colors hidden inside!”
Francoise used the Muted Collection in her abstract work (pictured here) “to play with the ‘clair-obscur’ feel that you see in Rembrandt paintings. I started with a darker background (Liquitex Black Gesso) and worked on bringing the light back. I progressively added whites to the muted colors and played with glazing (since the pattern on top was done in Liquitex Parchemin white) using the white to bring the muted colors to life.”

The Special-Release Muted Collection is available across three viscosities: Soft Body, Heavy Body and Ink for the freedom to explore different textures and layers. A Liquitex team of chemists worked to achieve a perfect color match to allow artists to mix mediums as they work. “I can go from Heavy to Soft Body, and also use the acrylic inks to create a watery or dripping effect,” Francoise says. “Or I can work final details with the inks and a nib.”
The Muted Collection is perfect for creating dark to light effects, she adds. “These colors are made for that. Because they are muted to begin with, you can play with darker tones but then progressively bring in light to reveal their intensity and variety. It’s like watching the sun rise – the light appears from darkness.

“I can’t stop using the turquoise, rose and violet. But the Muted Grey is the most mysterious of all, with this purple tone that shows through,” Francoise says. “These colors are special. Take the time to experiment with them in order to reveal their secrets.”

Liquitex was the first water-based acrylic paint created, in 1955.

For more information on the Special-Release Muted Collection, visit To see more of the artist’s work, visit

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