This is Teresa Sharpe, one of the best tattoo artists in the world.
This is one of Teresa Sharpe’s tattoos. Note the asymmetry and perfect handling of color. Isn’t she amazing!?
This is a painting I made of Teresa Sharpe using alcohol inks. The purpose of the painting and this tutorial is three fold:
1. To teach people what I have learned so far about making portraits with alcohol inks.
2. To promote my podcast. It’s called ‘My Friend’s Divorce’ and follows my adventures trying to make it as an artist on the mean streets of New York. You can listen to it by pressing play below!
3. To try to win the ‘Paint a Portrait of Teresa Sharpe’ contest. The grand prize is a tattoo from the artist herself. I’ve always wanted one of those! So here we go:
My process usually begins with a drawing. Drawing is the foundation of painting. You don’t have to be a good draftsmen to be a good painter, but it helps. I execute the drawing with water soluble colored pencil because the lines erase more easily than graphite when used on yupo paper.
What is yupo paper? Good question! It’s like paper, but made out of plastic, at least I think it’s made out of plastic. They sell it in opaque and translucent varieties and you can buy it bundled in convenient pads or big sheets. For this painting I started with a giant sheet of opaque yupo, and cut it down to 17″x 17″.
If you dribble alcohol ink on yupo paper, the liquid pools up and gets all squiggly and wild. It’s sort of like painting with watercolors, but you get incredibly vibrant effects. Be sure to put down lots of cardboard or newspaper to protect your surfaces. This shit gets messy!
What are alcohol inks? Another good question! I think they’re the stuff inside markers, but sucked out and loaded into expensive little tubes. They’re primarily used for crafting, but a bunch of artists have begun making fine art with them. The person who taught me how to paint with alcohol inks is named Wendy Videlock. Wendy is a poet and an artist. She lives in the mountains of Colorado, and I think of her as a sort of surrogate mother. Where’s my actual mother? Find out by reading my hilarious memoir!
How to sharpen colored pencils. Have you ever seen those sharpeners with two holes and wondered why? Here’s the answer: one side gives a long lead and is perfect for graphite. The other is for colored pencils and gives a short, stubby result. The stuff inside colored pencils is soft and breaks easily. You’ll waste a lot of time and money sharpening colored pencils with a traditional sharpener. Invest in a good combination unit and be sure to replace it often, as the blades get dull fast! Why didn’t they teach you this in art school? Because art school is a joke. Avoid it at all costs.
There are lots of techniques for applying alcohol ink to yupo paper. In this tutorial I use three of them. The first is the direct squirt technique. It’s pretty easy, just put your bottle against the paper and squeeze, then cross your fingers and hope the ink ends up where you intended.
Here are some lines I drew using the direct squirt technique. Benefits: Thick, rich color. Downside: lack of control.
Which brings us to the Self Moistening Art Brush. Self Moistening Art Brushes are awesome! You can load Alcohol Blending Solution into the handle and use it to get more control with alcohol inks. What is Alcohol Blending Solution? Because of the way the Internet works, I’ll have to break this tutorial up into multiple parts. But don’t worry! I’ll tell you all about Alcohol Blending Solution in part two!