Distress Spray Stains and Jane Davenport's Case of "Rainbowitis"

This week my latest Art Lesson in the Supply Stash Series is released. Number 11 is devoted to Distress Stains, inks, and markers. My goal for these Art Lessons is to stretch the boundaries of artist materials and show you different ways to use these mixed-media art supplies, so I concentrated on the free-wheeling nature of Distress everything and how to use them to paint with.

As soon as the deadline passed for Cloth Paper ScissorsArt Lesson 11, news of the brand new Distress Spray Stains arrived, so I contacted the editorial team to say, “Hold the presses!” But it really was too late to squeeze the new sprays into the Art Lesson, so the next best thing is to chat about them with you right here!

Tim Holtz Ranger Inks

First, do you need more sprays when there are so many available already? Maybe. I think the greatest beauty of Distress Range products is the range of color. Tim Holtz is a crazily talented colorist with a variety that balances delicious brights, such as Picked Raspberries and Peacock Feathers, with soft colors such as Tea Dye and Antique Linen. So look for the colors that appeal to you. I’m an art-supply addict, so I have to have everything, in every color and brand to match (I call my addiction Rainbowitis).

distress ink

Just like other Distress Stains, the new sprays behave very differently on varied surfaces. Look at the difference between the same colors on watercolor paper (right) and on gesso (left). One is rainbow bright, the other is pretty pastel.

I had some pages in a large handmade art journal that I had prepped with some Absorbent Ground from Golden. It turns any surface into a very rough paper-like surface. I spritzed Peacock Feathers, Broken China and Antique Linen across the surface and then doused the ink with a few sprays of water to make it blend and run and drip. It was the start of a lovely mess.

I sprayed a little ink on to a small Gelli plate and used it as a stamp across the page, and I loved the effect of that. To soften the edges of the printed area i just added a little more water.

I did notice that the Distress Stain Sprays sunk straight through the paper in some areas. This is Fabriano Artistico Hot Press 300gsm, and I use it specifically because art materials never pass through it. I made a mental note to be mindful of this when using the sprays. In this image you can see the blue and beige stain from the next page showing through.


Next I mixed up a wash of 1 part Black Soot and 3 parts Faded Jeans to make a Payne’s Grey color ( I like to call it “Jane’s Grey!”) into a porcelain palette. I added a little bit of Salty Ocean to make it a little bluer.


Then I used my dark blue wash as a liquid watercolor to paint. I’m obsessed with Frida Kahlo and that’s who flowed out of my brush. (I’m leading a workshop in Mexico City next April, and a visit to her house is the highlight!)


The fabulous thing about the Distress Stain Spray on the Absorbent ground, was the way I could so easily erase things. All I needed to do was add water and blot with a paper towel.

To add some color and visual texture to her clothes, I used an Artistcellar.com stencil and blocked the background with whatever was handy. I used Fired Brick on her bodice. I love the way the Distress blends into the other colors when they’re still wet. As a contrast, the ink stayed fairly sharp in the dry areas.


I dabbed a little of the Fired Brick over the spray with a cosmetic sponge and applied it to the cheeks and lips. I used a white Sharpie Extra fine paint pen to add detail.


To finish I used a little Mustard Seed in the eyes, sash, and jewelry.  

Frida Kahlo couldn’t move freely in life the way she does in my artwork. The Distress Spray Stains were the perfect tool to capture some of her free spirit!

If you want to learn more about drawing faces, figures, and Frida’s, join me at janedavenport.com, and get my Art Lesson 11: Freestyle with Distress Inks and Stains here!

Have a great week and do some art!
Jane/Danger Davenport


Blog, Mixed-Media Painting Techniques, Mixed-Media Supplies, Mixed-Media Techniques


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