Resources for artists
If you know me, you know that I love working with masking fluid. I use this medium in almost all my paintings and it is very common that people ask about it when seeing my videos on Instagram or YouTube.
Here are some of the most asked questions and some tips of how to use this medium without all the hassle of ruining your brushes or paper.
What is Masking Fluid?
Also know as liquid frisket, masking fluid is a water-based medium used to repel paint and preserve white areas on the paper. This technique is very handy to keep small or complex details that would be too difficult to paint around, but is also a great way to create unusual effects that would be impossible to do by hand.
What brushes do you use to apply Masking Fluid?
Short answer: (almost) all of them! I obviously go for the not so new ones and avoid really expensive brushes. Just please don’t buy cheap brushes to throw away after using them, there is no need of that.
We all know what masking fluid can ruin to your brushes, but it is all about preparing them correctly. So here is the big secret: Soap.
How to prepare your brushes before dipping them in Masking Fluid?
Mix a teaspoon of liquid soap in a glass of water and soak your brushes in every time you add more masking fluid, this will also make it easier to apply. Wash your brushes with more soap and under running water immediately after you finish applying it.
What kind of soap?
I always use liquid dishwashing soap. Alternatively you can also use a bar soap, I’ve seen other artists doing this, but because my brushes are big its easier to work with soapy water.
What brand do you use? My masking fluid is too thick to paint.
With some exceptions, almost all brands are equally thick, but by using the soapy water on your brush you will dilute it and make it easier to work. I recommend pouring your masking fluid in a small bowl or plate instead of dipping the brush in the bottle, you can always put it back into the bottle… yes, with soap and everything.
And if you still want to know the name of the brand, it is Schmincke blue masking fluid.
Why does my paper tears when I remove it?
There are different reasons that can cause this, but the most common one is that the quality of the paper is very low. Student grade paper and thin paper don’r react well to masking fluid.
Another reason can be that the paper was wet when you applied it or it was damp when you removed it.
What is the best way to remove the masking fluid?
It depends in the amount of masking fluid used. Small areas can be removed simply by rubbing with the fingertips or an eraser. For larger areas a stiff piece of cloth can be used, you can see how I do this in my process videos.
– Work fast and never allow the masking fluid to dry on you brush.
– It is important to apply and remove the masking fluid when the paper is completely dry, if not it is easy to tear the paper when removing it.
– Don't let the masking fluid more than a week or it will get too difficult to remove and damage the paper.
– Before removing the masking fluid I recommend using a humid paper towel to clean the excess of pigment accumulated, this way we avoid transferring colour to the white areas.
For more detailed information and a small demo can be found on the video below.
When you meet someone for the first time, there are some questions that one would expect. Given how jobs tend to define us as individuals, it is only natural that someone wants to know what you do for a living. But somehow I doubt that if you answer that you are a lawyer, the next question is ‘Do you have a second job?’ I have had so many funny conversations which start off with these two questions. It recently happened to me in a gallery where I was exhibiting and I felt like answering:
“Yes, I am a full time artist and don’t live on the street!”
Interior design challenge for The Sunday Times, London 2019.
Why do people assume that one cannot be an artist and enjoy a stable career? Of course, it is true that you need to work a lot (as with anything you want to be good at) and, especially at the beginning, you might need to generate additional sources of income. The difference is that art is fun and does not necessarily feel like work. But in a society that teaches you that only by suffering will you be successful, it can sometimes feel strange to other people.
It is not uncommon for me to get direct messages from young people on Instagram asking me whether it is possible, if I actually live from my art or I just post on IG as a hobby. A couple of other very common questions is what did I study and where.
In another post, I will be sharing the story of how everything started for me, but for now the important question is: Can you make a living as an artist? And the answer is yes, absolutely. But this does not happen overnight. You need to work hard on your skills, create something unique and be very proactive when it comes to learning and seeking new opportunities.
I wish there had been someone to answer this question when I was young and all I wanted to do was paint. The advice I received from my father was that I should study architecture and paint as a hobby. Of course, he was thinking of a career that gave me plenty of useful skills and a realist chance of finding a job.
I liked so many ‘artistic’ things at such an early age that I think my path was very clear from the beginning, but it got lost for a while because I did not realise all the cool things one can do as an artist. Luckily the internet now exists and you (future artist?) are reading this! If you wish you could paint, draw or make any kind of creative activity, all the while make a living from it, the following is for you.
Know that you don’t have to be in a gallery or museum to call yourself an artist. In fact you don’t have to call yourself an ‘artist’ to create whatever it is that you do. At the end of the day it is just a label, so don’t worry too much about it. A lot of people do not like it because it feels heavy but I personally love it!
There is no career that is going to teach you how to become an artist, everyone’s path is different. For example, I studied a Bachelor’s degree in Information Design and a Master’s in Publishing, so in fact I am a self taught artist. But studying a career and working in several office jobs has been very beneficial for multiple reasons:
- For years I worked in the publishing industry, where I learnt a lot about colour and production (super useful when I digitise my watercolours).
- Eventually I switched to a more fulfilling role as Brand Manager at a charity where I learnt about running a business with a very tight budget.
- I was able to build my own website and I never had the need to hire a designer.
- When I decided to become a full-time artist I was able to retain some previous clients until I did not need that extra income.
Do you want to be an artist? Before you do anything, work on your skills, look for workshops that will help you in specific areas, practice a lot and be original. When you do this, your voice as an artist will emerge and everything will fall into place at the right time.
Social media features
The very first time I got a feature was through BuzzFeed in 2016 and from one day to the next my little floral watercolour was everywhere: Facebook, Instagram, Pinterest, without me having to do anything. I always mention this in my interviews as this was the key moment I realised the power of social media and decided to pursue this avenue to build my business.
Once in a while these kind of features happen, sometimes by surprise and other times I receive an email asking for my prior permission or even a contract or agreement to sign.
Something important to mention: I have never paid for these features. Legit accounts don’t ask for payment, so be careful if an account approaches you and wants to charge you. I have seen this being discussed on Facebook forums, apparently it is quite common on Instagram.
|In my kitchen.||Walking my neighbourhood.|
|Life in the studio.||With my husband in our favourite pub.|
About my Etsy experience
One morning I received an email from Etsy asking for my permission to use one of my moons on the post 'Obsessing Over: the Solar Eclipse' with one of my favourite themes: the moon!
Days later a second email followed asking me if I would be interested in being part of the Etsy blog where they talk about the life of artists that sell on Etsy. I said yes without hesitation and full of excitement, so we arranged a Skype call where I answered lots of questions, but I didn’t hear back from her for a while and I started to think that maybe I was not a good fit for what they were after.
Months later during my holidays in Mexico I received a very exciting email telling me that they were considering me for a special post about 'all things woman-made’ celebrating 'International Women's Day'. I replied to a questionnaire, sent some photos and I got a yes, you will be featured! And ‘ohh, by the way, are you still interested in that post we talked about a while ago?’
What!? I was already over the moon, but yes, of course it was a huge YES!
So I prepared a script for what a day in my life looks like and weeks later they introduced me via email to Inna Kostukovsky, the photographer they had chosen to work with me. And again, the wait… in case you did not know, I live in London and the chances of getting decent light can sometimes be very small. So three or four months later, the good weather finally arrived and we found a beautiful sunny day to meet at my home studio.
I do not like being photographed, so this was definitely a big challenge for me, but Inna was wonderful to work with and gave me lots of tips of how to look natural. We followed my list: meditation, coffee, painting, admin tasks, yoga break, etc… a long day!
I also took Inna to my favourite places: garden, lunch in my favourite place on Golborne Road, supplies shopping at Cass Art in High Street Kensington and finally a drink with my husband in my local pub. By the end of the day I was ok with the camera pointing at me, I felt like a celebrity (that no one knew!)
Weeks later Inna sent me a link with the photos and more weeks later Valerie sent the draft of the post called: 'A Day in the Life of CreativeIngrid', ohh happy post!
|'Silver Moon', featured on Etsy blog.|
And then what?
As exciting as it is to be featured, the important part comes after. Every time has been different for me. The 2016 BuzzFeed experience basically put my Instagram account on the map and helped boost my social media presence.
Etsy is no exception, but each time the impact is different. Being on the ‘Editors picks’ results in a boost of sales, and this is the same with features. Instagram posts can bring more followers, but not necessarily more sales.
But I always try to look beyond the number of sales, I am talking about the exposure the different experiences bring. Don’t get me wrong, every time the ‘cha-ching’ sounds I make a happy dance, I still love it! And yes, of course artists want to sell, if not why do we have a shop, right?
I sometimes receive messages from art directors or companies looking for talent. Their requests can go from art collaboration, articles, interviews to things not related with my art at all! But thanks to these diverse opportunities my business has grown and diversified. Here are some examples:
- Calls to attend castings… one was for a shampoo commercial!
- Art collaboration with a local brewery
- A feature on Countryside magazine
- A gallery in California offering their space
- Harrods workshop for their employees (I did this one!)
- The BBC recently used my art in one of their programmes called DIY SOS
- I was invited to participate to an interior design challenge for The Sunday Times, it was so much fun!
What to do?
- Work hard and be patient. Note that from the time I received Etsy’s offer to the actual feature took more than a year. I do want to tell you the full story of my Etsy shop so you can understand the need for patience, but this will come in another post to make it easier to digest.
- Be prepared. When I was told that they were considering me for the Woman’s Day feature I was asked to answer a questionnaire and send a head shot within 24hrs. Though I was travelling in Mexico I luckily always have my iPad on me and photos on the cloud.
- Have your shop spot on. Good quality photos are key, do some research on SEO to improve your chances of being found and build a cohesive look… brand yourself!
- Be there. Check and answer your messages as soon as you can, you never know who is trying to get in touch. Plus this is also an important part of a good customer service.
- Be ready when it happens. When BuzzFeed featured me I was super ready for it. My Etsy shop was up and running, I had a website and I was working on my social media. This was the reason that I was able to monetise that boost, but also to show everyone what I had to offer.
NOTE: you need to copy/paste to make it work. You can add and remove as many products as you wish from the shopping list.
|Terms & Conditions|
|Cass Art is the UK’s leading art supplies retailer, with an online shop and 13 stores across the UK selling the top brands from around the world. The Cass Family have been supporting artists for over 100 years, you can take a look at their blog here to find out more. Together we have created my recommended list of materials for watercolour. If you have one of the items already you can simply remove it or you can add some other great quality items. You can use their Click and Collect service to pick up your order from any one of their shops or enjoy free shipping straight to your door when you spend over £40.
Simply visit www.cassart.co.uk/ingridwatercolour to receive 10% off!
Terms and conditions: Discount code can only be redeemed once per customer. Cannot be used on special promotional days, in conjunction with any other offer, Cobalt Blue Student Card, Viridian Card or Reward, or for the purchase of gift vouchers, Wacom products or event tickets. Valid until 23:59:59 on 31 Dec 2020.
As an introvert, I have found social media an amazing tool to promote my art. Instagram is kind of 'my thing' and I love it because it helps me connect with other artists and like-minded people. One thing I noticed is that very often people ask the same questions: What paper is that?, What is that 'blue thing'?, Do you paint on canvas?, so I thought I would answer all of these in one place, and this blog post was born! So here I go...
ABOUT MY SUPPLIES
1. What mediums do you use?
In general I use water based mediums, being my favourites watercolours and acrylics.
2. What are you painting on? Is that canvas? Is that a giant paper block?
I always paint on watercolour paper, it looks like that because I use a thick white wood board to stretch my paper.
3. Why is your board so thick?
Just because it is what I have at hand. The thickness is not important at all. In fact the wood boards I give to my students during my workshops are very thin and light. Sometimes, when I pant in a larger format I use an acrylic sheet and it also works very well for me.
4. How do you stretch your paper?
There are two techniques I use depending in the amount of water that I am going to use and the size of my painting. In one I use painters tape and in the second one gummed tape. I will write a tutorial soon.
5. What paper do you use?
I love working with Arches paper 300 or 185gms. The thickness that I use depends on the technique I use to stretch it, which also depends (again) in the amount of water I plan to use.
6. Do you work with cold or hot press paper?
It depends on the project I am working on. I love cold press (the one with texture), I prefer the experience of my process with it. But sometimes I also use hot press because it’s easier to digitise and it just make my life easier.
7. What is the ‘blue thing’? What is the paint that you remove and leaves white behind?
Ahhh! The magic of masking fluid, my favourite technique. It’s just a liquid that works as a resistance when it dries. It comes in white and blue colour, I like using it blue because it is easy to spot on the paper. I wrote a tutorial about how to use masking fluid here.
8. Where do you buy your supplies? What brushes do you use?
I buy them at CassArt where I am brand ambassador.
Painting on stretched paper over a wooden board.
ABOUT MY PROCESS
9. Why do you paint on the floor?
Because of the size of the paper that I use, I find it easier to work on the floor where I can paint using my whole body instead that just my arms. I danced classical ballet for more than 10 years and I also trained to be a yoga teacher, so the connection with my body is an important practice for me.
10. Is not that bad for your back?
Its actually the opposite because I know what I am doing. When I am painting it’s a meditation in movement, I breathe and move very consciously. It’s not easy because I can paint for 4 or 5 hours in a row, so by the end I am exhausted and happy, like when you go to a very intense session in the gym. But remember that I trained as a ballerina for years and I’ve been practicing yoga for more than 8 years now. This is the reason I always call my painting sessions ‘Brush Dancing’.
11. Why are you barefoot? Why do you step on your paper? How do you keep your paper clean?
Being barefoot gives me the feeling of connection with the earth, but it’s also very handy so I can reach all the corners of the paper by stepping on it. My paper stays clean because everything around me is clean, my floor and obviously my foot. I also have a lot of practice so I kind of know what areas of the paper are still wet and I try not to step in there.
|My palette||In my studio
(Etsy interview 2018, London).
12. Where are you from?
I am a Mexican as all my family is and British because I have lived in the UK for a long time. I was born in Mexico where I lived until I was 24. Since then I’ve lived in Barcelona, London, NYC and I am back in London since 2016.
I consider myself a self taught artist because I started painting at a very young age, always playing and experimenting with what I had at hand. I only decided to make it my full time job after a year abroad in NYC (2015-6) where I purely focused in training myself and felt confident enough with my own voice.
- 2006 - Bachelor’s degree in Information Design in Mexico (UDLAP, Universidad de las Americas Puebla)
- 2008 - Master’s in Publishing in Barcelona (IDEC, Universitat Pompeu Fabra)
- 2015,16 - Various classes at The Art Students League of New York
I am a full time artist since 2016.
Being an independent artist is hard work. There is an idealistic idea that creatives have a life of chasing inspiration while travelling and drinking coffee, but the truth is that it is a job like any other.
There are so many things to do that you will be amazed of how little time one has to paint. There is painting (obviously), digitising and design, photography, social media, customer service, lots of administrative tasks and yes, I do all that by myself, no team unfortunately.
I hope this fast Q&A is somehow helpful, but if you have any more questions please leave them below and I will be happy to answer them. Thank you for reading.