Ink and String Surreal Art is one of my preferred painting methods. I first learned about it from the Book, the Soul’s Palette, by Cathy A. Malchiodi. As the story goes, the idea began with Leonardo da Vinci. He would lay in his bed and gaze at the cracks in his plastered ceiling, and see images within these lines. He would imagine landscapes with mountains, rivers, rocks, and trees, and fantasy scenes with strange figures and faces. He allegedly used this as inspiration for some of his works of art. It seems as though several artists may have hit upon the idea of using ink and string to create similar patterns, and thus the idea became an expressive art technique.
I first began using the technique after reading the book over ten years ago, and I’ve been fascinated with it ever since then. The technique is easy enough for young children to understand, and I’ve used the method with teenagers and adults with great results. In my opinion, the process is really fun and freeing.
It’s a wonderful way to unleash your imagination and the results are always interesting. Using cotton string and permanent ink, lines are randomly created on paper. The randomness of the lines is very important, because we aren’t trying to create specific images at the early stage of the process. Next, we carefully examine the haphazard lines to look for hidden shapes and forms within the lines. These are developed into images using a very small brush and additional ink. When the ink is dry, the artwork is painted with watercolor, allowing the ink lines to prominently show up in the painting.
Finally, a writing process of “story-telling” is used to explore the meaning and messages in the artwork. If possible, the artist is encouraged to title the artwork to highlight the meaning within the images. Ink and String art is exciting because it promotes creativity, taps into the unconscious and often tells a story that is both revealing and insightful.