Expermental Art - Rit Dye

I love the idea of paintings that paint themselves.  By that I mean, letting go of control over the process and watching as the process unfolds.

You need to approach this experiment with a sense of adventure and without any expectations of getting a great painting.  The idea is to be open to the process of creation and to become so engaged in that process that you lose all sense of time and place.  In this state, you can rid yourself of any stress and escape the everyday demands.

For this art technique, you will need:
Any size watercolor paper
  • Dark brown, powdered Rit Dye
  • Spray bottle of water
  • Hair blow dryer (optional)
This technique was featured in Jan Fabian Wallake's inspiring book, Watercolor: Pour it On!  This book is loaded with interesting techniques, step-by-step instructions and beautiful illustrations that will totally inspire you.

The technique is simple:

  • Soak the paper in water for a few seconds or spray it thoroughly.  Make sure that it is on a protected surface to prevent staining.  For those who work with watercolor, it can be put on a stretcher board, but it doesn't need to be.
  • While it is wet, sprinkle tiny amounts of the dye on the wet paper.  Don't squeeze the particles to a fine powder - it will tend to look solid brown.
As the particles hit the paper, they will "explode" into individual color particles.  Wallake states, "Once the dye has put on its spectacular display, you can easily see the many colors used to make this color.  I have used this technique for organic images such as forest foliage and underwater plant growth".

For myself, I have used it alone and with India ink to create random and spontaneous abstract images. 

You can tilt and turn the paper to spread the flow of color or use a hair dryer to blow the dye in different directions - I love the movement this creates.

If you're in a truly experimental mood, add drops of India ink to the wet paper using an eye dropper.  Use the spray bottle if you need to re-wet the paper.  For the image above, I used tiny drops of India ink along with the dye.

I usually like what turns out as is, but you may find that images have formed that you would like to draw into and expand on what was created with additional art work.

The main idea though, is to explore new techniques to develop and transform your creative abilities; to approach the process with positive intentions and appreciate the beauty and alchemy of the unexpected results.

This openness will allow you to connect at a much deeper level to your creative spirit.  And when the creative spirit is in charge, instead of the mind, you will be amazed at what you are able to create.

Try this technique - consider it your playtime!

Special Note:  for the perfectionists and judgmental types (you know who you are!).  If there's a section that don't like or "didn't come out right", don't throw it out - trim off the "offensive" part instead.  You may find at a later time, that you have grown to like it.

Happy Doodling!