Hydrophobic Art

Sumi Nagashi

Next week the After School Explorers Club will delve into the many connections between science and art. From the chemistry of paint making to the vivid colors and patterns in nature to the skillful hand of a surgeon, you would be hard-pressed to find a science or art topic that does not include the other. One of my favorite art projects that we will be trying next week is a traditional Japanese art form, known as Sumi Nagashi (pronounced sue-me na-ga-she).

Sumi Nagashi, which is sometimes called paper marbling, is a printmaking technique that uses the natural repulsion of oil and india ink from water to make some very cool patterns. When the oil and india ink are placed alternately in a tray of water, they both naturally try to spread out over the surface of the water because they are hydrophobic, which literally means they are ‘water fearing’. This is a common phenomenon that happens when a polar compound (different atoms bonded to one another, like water or H2O) and nonpolar compound (same atoms bonded together or carbon (C) and hydrogen (H) bonded together, like india ink and oil) come into contact. Japanese artist have been taking advantage of this behavior for over one thousand years.

Try your hand at Sumi Nagashi

What You Need:

  • India ink
  • WaterSumi 1
  • Canola or vegetable oil
  • Aluminum Tray
  • Stirring stick
  • 2 cotton swabs
  • Drawing or computer paper in a size that will fit inside your aluminum tray
  • Paper towels or newspaper

What You Do:

Fill your aluminum container with just enough water to cover the surface.

Load one cotton swab with India ink and another with oil (caution – India ink will stain clothing and surfaces).

Place the cotton swab with India ink on the surface of the center of your water for a few seconds.

Sumi 2

Next, place the cotton swab with oil on it in the center of the India ink that is already in your tray.

Sumi 3

Repeat steps 3 and 4 4-5 times until you have the desired amount.

Sumi 4

Use a stirring stick to slowly swirl the India ink and water into a pattern. Do not swirl vigorously, as this will ruin the effect.

sumi 5

Once you have a pattern that you like, place a piece or drawing or computer paper on the surface the water for about 10 seconds.

sumi 6

Remove the paper from the water and let the excess water drip for a few seconds.

Lay your artwork on paper towels or newspaper to dry.

sumi 7

If your child enjoys science and art, there are still a few spots left in our upcoming Chemical Art Workshop in After School Explorers Club.

Visit http://www.theclaycenter.org/publicprograms/childrensprograms/asec.aspx to register.

Happy Sciencing


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