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Friday, May 24, 2013

Welcome to Wabi-Sabi Art Workshop Blog with Serena Barton!

Welcome to my new site! This is a site especially for readers of my book from North Light, Wabi-Sabi Art Workshop. I'll be posting questions, comments, and photographs from readers as well as my own wabi-sabi photos and art work.

As you know, I like to go around my neighborhood and my town looking for wabi-sabi. Here are some recent pictures I took close to home.

Closeups of a rusted dumpster

These photos inspired the painting below.

Realms          20" x 16"

This piece was done in oil and cold wax, but you can do something similar in acrylic, re-inker glaze, or encaustic. I'd love to have you share your inspiration photos and art with us! your can email me your photos through my website and I'll post them here.

A few questions from reader Dawn:

1.) What are the different uses, properties & applications of various types of inks: reinkers, alcohol, India (from your book I know you use reinkers w/acrylic glazing medium for layers of glazes, but not sure when or how to use others.

Dawn, I use dye re-inkers in the projects in the book. Now there are pigment re-inkers out also, and I'm planning to try them soon. What I know so far is that they are more opaque, so I assume the dye re-inkers work better for glazes, but I'll keep you posted. I use the alcohol inks for accents in my work, over wet re-inker glazes. I know some artists who use alcohol inks with encaustics also. If you google alcohol inks you'll find a whole range of uses for these lovely inks--I have yet to try them all. India ink works great for adding an aged look to encaustic collages. Rub ink into incised areas, or rub ink over the whole piece and then quickly rub most of it off. Here's a little piece I did with alcohol ink.

Outside the Village                         Acrylic and Alcohol Ink on Panel   5" x 5"

 2.) What size are most of the pieces I see in your book?

Most of the project pieces are fairly small. 8" x 14" or 12" square--in that vicinity. Some of the gallery photos are larger pieces.

  3.) Is most or some of your Wabi Sabi work reproducible? (Some types of mixed media collage lends itself to reproduction- like prints or notecards-better than others- just wondering.)
Much of the work reproduces very well. Encaustic is sometimes hard to photograph. I am delighted with the photos taken for the book! I take my own photos of my work and get the best results taking the pictures outside on an overcast day. I also scan small pieces. Taking pictures or scanning at a very high resolution helps with getting a good reproduction. Thanks for your interesting questions, Dawn!


  1. Thanks for all the clarification, Serena.

    I do have more questions. I attempted the "scraping and incising" project (p.38-40). I had never before used micaceous iron oxide. I used it unthinned which gave me a heavy dark application. While your surface looks fairly light after applying the Nickel Yellow Azo, my surface was extremely dark. Even experimenting on another board with a thinned application the surface was darker than in the demo. My piece never recovered- the incising went well, but the piece was overall too dark and also I was unable to achieve the distressed look of your surface in "Waiting to be filled" even after applying the reinkers. Any advice?

  2. Hello Serena,

    I made a second attempt at the incising and scraping demo. Although this time I thinned the applications of micaceous iron oxide, I still had to contend with a too dark and somewhat dull background. I spent a lot of time attempting to lighten in up with Indian Yellow glazes and dry brushing Naples yellow. I did not have Nickel Azo yellow, so instead used Transparent Yellow iron oxide over the micaceous layers. Possibly the Nickel Azo yellow is lighter and more opaque and would have given me a lighter start with this.

    To be honest, I spend a lot of time attempting to lighten my palette. I tend to like working on black paper or black gessoed boards or canvas, and I gravitate to darker, richer, earthier colors. I am always struggling to achieve a lighter palette and some "pop." I know I should start out with light colors, but it seems for some reason difficult for me to do this.

    One more question: about shop towels- aren't they only sold in blue (you say you use Scott heavy duty shop towels and I have only ever seen them in blue)? Your stained and painted shop towels appear to be white.


  3. Hi Dawn,

    I'll comment on the last part first. The gallery photo on page 69 shows the blue shop towels. Kabuki on page 68 may actually show a heavy white paper towel. Either will work.

    I'm emailing you instructions on how you can send me images and I will post them together with any suggestions I have. I think if you are drawn to darker and earthier colors, then you shouldn't give up on them. Maybe we can figure out how you can use the colors you love and still get that "pop."