Homemade Black Walnut Ink

*NOTE - THIS POST IS FROM SEPTEMBER 2014* This fall I've really gotten into walnut ink - I just fell in love with how gorgeously luminous it is, and the inky and watercolor-y effects that can be achieved with it. So, I decided to try to make my own batch of it.

I found a recipe on The Fountain Network (it's the most niche nerdy forum website ever - love it) by the user Fiberdunk - I included it in my previous post. Luckily for me, I have an abundant source of walnuts at my boyfriend Garrett's dad's house, a gorgeous old farmhouse with an awesome yard and vegetable garden in upstate New York. Richie has lived there for almost 30 years, and knows everything there is to know about the environment around him.

The pigment for the ink resides in the softer outer husk of the walnuts, not in the nut itself. There's two ways to make walnut ink - cooking it for several hours, or cold fermenting it for a few months. In this post I'm making the cooked version.

We collected more than 15 gallons of nuts - 4 buckets full, which is much more than I really needed to make a test batch of walnut ink. For the cooked batch, I ended up using about 5 gallons of nuts - one of the buckets in the picture below. The other three buckets I set aside in the cellar with lids on, to start a cold-fermentation batch.

  Raw Material – 15 gallons of american black walnuts, still in the husk

Raw Material – 15 gallons of american black walnuts, still in the husk

The next step was to boil them. We set up a portable gas range out on the porch (an incredibly useful relic from the 70’s Rich had kicking around!), filled a non-reactive enamel pot 4/5 with walnuts, and covered them with water, with an inch or two of water above the walnuts. It’s important to use a non-reactive pot like enamel or steel – the aluminum in a regular pot can interact with the ink and cause discoloration. The pot was brought up to a boil, and then set to simmer for 10 hours straight. Every other hour or so, I dipped a brush in the juice and tested it on paper to see how concentrated it was. It was pretty late in the evening when I turned off the range, so I left the pot out overnight.

  Walnuts cooking away – pretty gross looking!

Walnuts cooking away – pretty gross looking!

The next morning I had to strain the walnut gunk to get the lovely walnut juice, which would then become the walnut ink. Rich found a gallon jug for me, and I set up a funnel into which I squeezed with my hands the walnut mush with a piece of cheese cloth. I had to wear thick rubber gloves up to my elbows to do this – it stains like crazy! This was actually pretty hard work, the most labor-intensive part in the whole process.

  Straining the walnut sludge by hand – messy work! Richie surveys the scene

Straining the walnut sludge by hand – messy work! Richie surveys the scene

  Garrett squeezing away… and the leftovers from STRAIIINING HAARD (not on the toilet)

Garrett squeezing away… and the leftovers from STRAIIINING HAARD (not on the toilet)

  Richie with the filtered walnut juice

Richie with the filtered walnut juice

We ended up with almost a gallon of walnut juice. It wasn’t quite ready yet, as it had to be reduced further to become dark enough to use as ink. But the ink was off to a great start!

More to come…

Tropical Cookies Illustration

Tropical Cookies Illustration Here's an illustration I made for a recent post on Tasting Notes, Astor Wines & Spirits' blog on wine, spirits, cocktails and food. It's for a recipe of "Tropical Rum Cookies" that I put together for an in-store treat. Since staff isn't allowed to pour actual product, I instead chose to serve the alcohol to the customers in a different way - by baking them into cookies! I adapted a recipe of oatmeal cookies by adding rum-soaked dried fruit - and it was a smashing success! I normally don't love dried fruit in cookies, but I couldn't get enough of these.

The illustration is made with broad-tipped markers, one of my favorite mediums.

Walnut Ink

walnutbrain-sm I was in Blick recently when I spotted a bottle labeled 'Walnut Ink'. Intrigued, I had to pick it up. As soon as I came home I had to start messing around with it! I found that it was not very 'saturated', which gave it a nice variation in depth of color. It lends itself more to line/brushwork than larger fields, as it dries slowly and the pigment settles unevenly.

Walnut Ink is made by boiling the green outer husk of a walnuts and then reducing that liquid by boiling it under low heat for several hours. There's a recipe here http://www.fountainpennetwork.com/forum/index.php/topic/232797-homemade-black-walnut-ink/ (mostly posting that cause I love the lady's supercreepy profile picture)

Sketching with walnut ink

Bacon and Bourbon 2014

Cocktail Illustrations for signage at Astor Center's Bacon and Bourbon 2014 One of the highlights of Astor Center's public events calendar, Bacon and Bourbon is exactly what it sounds - an enormous walk-around event where the bourbon flows freely and the bacon is bountiful.

Above are a couple of vector illustrations I made for signage at the event - three signature cocktails were served, and their ingredients were to be made clear visually.


HAIRMONSTERS These guys are the hairmonsters! They get into all sorts of hairy situations because bodies are made entirely of hair. Be careful when you chew bubble gum around them - and you don't want to be near them on a cold dry day - the static electricity is killer!

Astor Window Display - WHY WE LOVE CRAFT SPIRITS

window-1window-4My latest window for Astor Wines & Spirits was based around a beautiful copper pot still I had the chance to borrow from the wonderful people at Caledonia Spirits, based in Vermont. Astor Center had hosted a craft spirits event in August, where Caledonia Spirits featured their amazing Barr Hill Gin, whose base is derived from their self-produced honey. When I saw their pot still standing regally by their tasting station, I knew I wanted it for my next window. I decided to go for a hand-crafted approach to match the spirits, building shelves to evoke an apothecary with jars of ingredients next to the spirits which contained them. I started with a sketch, and then the hunt began on acquiring the props. "Where can I find Gentian?" was a question I had to answer for myself - the answer is Dual Specialty, an amazing spice shop on 1st ave and 5th street in the East Village. I found pretty much everything I needed there!

My brother Thor was visiting at the time, and was kind enough to help me out a little. Thank you big brother!workprogress


I've been staying up way too late for my own good this past week. But I can't help it, it's the first week I've been able to work in the basement studio that my boyfriend Garrett was instrumental in setting up. Finally! I don't have to be crammed right next to my bed wrangling with pots of ink or markers, spilling paint on everything. Here's a small fruit of my labors: the album art for my dear friend, Sofia Sparr. She's got a beautiful track out, "När Jag Dör", that deserves to be listened to on repeat! Below is the illustration.

Sofia Sparr

April In Paris Window Display for Astor Wines & Spirits

ImageImageThis past weekend I worked all Sunday to put together the new window display for Astor Wines & Spirits. The theme was 'April in Paris'. Naturally, the first thing I thought of was people sitting outside enjoying themselves in a cafe. You can't walk 5 meters in Paris without coming across a cafe with plenty of tables on the sidewalk. The funny thing is how all the chairs are turned outwards towards the sidewalk - I guess people-watching is the national sport of the french! I painted the backdrop to look down Rue St. Dominique, at the point where it crosses Boulevard La-Tour Mabourg. I was feeling nostalgic - I used to live in a tiny tiny apartment on Boulevard La-Tour Mabourg, next to a fishing supplies shop run by two friendly guys who would always wave hello to me. 

Anyways, the snowmen from the previous window had to go - in the photo above they're waiting to be melted in Astor's dumpsters. 


Erdenlied at Taste Festival at the Direktorenhaus in Berlin

I am unbelievably excited at having been invited to exhibit the Erdenlied wine label I designed for Astor Wines and Spirits at the Taste festival, hosted by the Direktorenhaus in Berlin. You can see it here http://www.direktorenhaus.com/blog/taste-festival/product-placement/erdenlied.html. Unfortunately I couldn't be there because I'm on the other side of the Atlantic - otherwise I would have made a beeline straight to the Direktorenhaus! Check out photos from the festival here: http://www.direktorenhaus.com/blog/taste-festival/opening-bilder/opening.html