Word 4 Wednesday – Accidental

accidental |ˌaksiˈdentl|
1 happening by chance, unintentionally, or unexpectedly
2 incidental; subsidiary
3 Philosophy (in Aristotelian thought) relating to or denoting properties that are not essential to a thing’s nature.

A Nature Post With Flowers and Trees, Really

Fire in the Forest Created

This post explores the accidental nature of artistic techniques. Methods so simple, that anyone can do them. The only limitation is that of the artists themselves. The combination and execution of materials is aided by the imagination of the artist.

Forest Actual

I enjoy creative expression in many differing mediums. Much of my life and work is anything but accidental, though. This is a term to avoid at all costs, because it usually is costly in my profession if it occurs.

Aerial View of Mountains, Created

But, in artistic expression there is a type of art that is all about happening by chance, unintentionally occurring, or unexpected result. A book by James F. O’Brien entitled Design By Accident is a type of art anyone can do and do successfully. I could have used this book as an example for the last W4W post on Texture and Pattern, because the resulting art has much of both.

Foam on the River Created

Foam on the Niagara River Actual

I will show some examples and include the way in which they are done. The techniques are explained and show in grey, italicized type under the appropriate painting. Fire in The Forest, above, is noted at the end of the post. All examples are from the book and all photos are those I have taken.

I have produced art using these techniques that I have previously sold. My work, using these techniques, was combined with actual drawings and fine art paintings, but the techniques can stand on their own and can easily be mounted and framed if desired. Can you see any of these pictured hanging on a wall?

Flower Form Created

Coat your board with black showcard (poster paint) color. Then drop small amounts of white showcard color which is diluted with equal amount of water from a brush or medicine dropper. The black paint is still wet when you drop the white. Let the board dry in place. Do not move wet on wet pieces.

Black & White Photo

And it is all by accident, a trial and error kind of art. Many of the techniques result in forms from nature and with a little imagination, you can produce contemporary images of trees and flowers. What is of utmost interest is how these designs are all found in the natural world. I used photos I did not specifically take for this post for the examples. Just imagine if I had the time to shoot them just for the post or conversely, paint them to realistically mimic what is in the photos. They would be very, very similar in life and art.

Treeline Created

Use a small brush to make a heavy India ink line which forms a thick puddle across the bottom of a painted panel. Air brush the line with just air at 25 lbs. pressure, blowing the air in an upwards direction at about 30° to the horizontal surface of the panel. Trees will sprout from your puddle.

Treeline of River Birch

The artist prepares the conditions which will produce the accidental compositions, but there is not complete control by the artist, resulting in accidental effect. These techniques are not paintings unto themselves necessarily, but are tools that prove useful for the finished work.

Treeline of River Birch

Tree Forms Created

Coat illustration board with a coat of clear lacquer or spray with white enamel. Let it dry. Place your board in the sink and elevate it at one end by 2 inches. Use a brush to brush soapy water over the surface. The dish soap is added so the water is not repelled on your lacquered surface. In a ratio of 2 to 10 of black color to water, brush the wetted surface of your panel with the color mixture, allowing it to run on the slanted surface. Repeat this to the desired number of trees. Leave in the sink until completely dry, then spray fixative over the piece.

Trees Actual

Flower Forms Created

A great idea is to use them for greeting or note cards. Make them small enough to be adhered to a card for a personal and artistic touch. Add a few simplified stems and leaves to finish!

Coat your illustration board with a thin coat of white showcard color. With the paint still wet, drop drawing ink onto the surface from about 6 inches high, then just let it dry.

This photo makes a nice note card, but for….

a change-up from using your photos on note cards try to go graphic with Accidental Art. The recipient may just smile for the extra effort put into their card with a piece of your original and unique art.

Some techniques use an air brush, but you may be able to use a squirt bottle filled with air. Another way is to use a straw and blow air through to push or spread the ink. It just will not be as predictable an outcome as an air brush. I have an air brush, but use a straw also on occasion for quick convenience.

This and the next piece are done with the same method, only an adjustment of the angle of the air brush. Using 25 lbs. pressure and India ink in the well, holding the nozzle close to your board in a vertical orientation, squirt a few flowers.

The Accidental art has an organic feel to create a contemporary piece. Garden on a Bristol Board by growing flowers with colored ink. No need to use only black, but black and white lends sophistication to the piece. Remember, you can brush on stems and leaves if you desire to complete the piece, but just be loose and free with the brush.

I have combined this technique with illustrative art to create pattern and texture in fashion ads (a long time ago, when ads were hand drawn and I worked as an illustrator to help pay for my schooling). It is quick to simulate a textile rather than draw exactly. The flowers here are a good example in our nature themed post.

These  flowers above use the same method as the last illustration, only that you hold the nozzle of the air brush at 45°.

Flowers to Simulate

If you feel creative and want to paint some art of your own, these are simple projects and there is no right or wrong way to do it. Let your creativity flow with your paint and let your inner Jackson Pollack surface! Be a kid again and throw, splatter and drip that paint or ink. Experiment with a two-dimensional garden.


Another air brush technique, wriggle the nozzle while holding the air brush nozzle very close. You get yourself a little centipede.

Real Caterpillar

Long-Legged Caterpillar

This one uses a squirt bottle filled with ink. But the opening has to be small in the bottle. Tape your paper onto cardboard so you can maneuver your art. Squirt across the top edge of the paper while the cardboard and art are placed against a surface at 45°.

Water on a Window Created

Coat your illustration board with Elmer’s glue. Arrange your board to position it vertically, add more glue and let the glue run down the panel. Let it dry. India ink is brushed over the panel and let to dry again. To finish, you lightly sandpaper the surface with fine sandpaper to reveal your ‘water’.

Water on Window Photo

Some of the techniques require the use of oil floated on the surface of a pan of water, like the algae interpretation below, but these methods are much more complicated, so I did not get into their explanation. Some other materials to use are rubber cement and japan color. Most that I showed are accomplished with just black and white paint or ink.

Algae Created

Algae in Lake

 In the first illustration with the orange forest, this is the simple method.

Coat illustration board or Bristol board with Elmer’s glue, brushing the glue lengthwise to the board.  With the glue still wet, flow or drag red drawing ink in the same lengthwise direction as your glue strokes. Let your art dry.

Simulated Pop Art Mass of Tree Branches

Real Trees at the Farm

They only thing to be concerned with is warping your substrate. Just don’t soak the boards and make sure they dry flat or adhered to a stable backer board. If you do warp the board and have a very nice design, just scan it in the computer and print out a fresh copy.

Join in the meme and picture the word accidental, or do a post with words. This weeks word seems much more suited to wordy explanations. Click Mr. Linky to join and also see the other posts tackling the word, Accidental.

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About Garden Walk Garden Talk

I love to photograph, paint, draw, design, garden, travel the world, and pass on a few tips and ideas that I learned through experience as a Master Gardener and architect. I am highly trained in my field and enjoy my work each and every day. I garden in Niagara Falls, NY in zone 6-B. Find me at: http://gardenwalkgardentalk.com
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24 Responses to Word 4 Wednesday – Accidental

  1. One says:

    Donna, Your accidental art pieces are terrific! You just have the eye and the special touch to such things. This accidental post is interesting because it is not something I had thought of.

  2. I love this…what a great book and the type of art I love to experiment with….will definitely be checking this out…you are such an amazing artist on so many levels Donna…brilliant post!!

  3. Jeanette says:

    What a beautiful post, Donna.

  4. I’m not an artist like you are, so the chances of me picking up an air brush and doing anything other than accidentally blasting myself in the face are slim to none. 🙂 Great creations! I linked my post about a happy accident to your blog.

  5. Another very creative post. Sorry I have nothing to link this week, but I am enjoying other bloggers posts on the W4W. Had a good laugh when I saw your post on the picks list Is it a turnip or a neep (or something like that). What is going on with Blotanical?

  6. just beautiful! truly talented. Thank you so much

  7. HolleyGarden says:

    You are so talented! I can see someone more gifted than I actually using your directions and creating beautiful nature pictures. But I doubt I could even blow into a straw correctly! White I was reading this it struck me as interesting that almost any pattern we come up with has already been created by nature!

  8. Very impressive, Donna! It’s always so inspiring to see your latest post. Most of my creative accidents happen with plants or photography. I’m not much of an artist, but I sure appreciate talented artists like you!

  9. Indie says:

    I loved the post and all the art projects in it! So many awesome designs. I don’t know much about art, but many of them remind me of fractals (math geek here). I’m going to stop myself here before I go on too much about mathematics and art and nature 🙂

  10. Cat says:

    Fantastic! So much inspiration here as always, Donna! I’m hoping to give the “treeline” accidental art a try…LOVE it!

  11. b-a-g says:

    Hi Donna – I’m not an artist, but reading this post is very inspiring, making art seem accessible. If I had some paint, I would have a go at the dandelion picture.

  12. Andrea says:

    Donna, for me they are not accidental because they are destined to be very beautiful! Don’t get me wrong, i just want to make them follow the saying “there’s no such thing as chance”, they are excellent creations to be termed accidents. But i understand what you mean by that of course. Just let it be! On the other hand, some of your creations are more beautiful than the normal (e.g. the wave foam, that algae), and vise versa. We might say who will compete with the beauty of nature, but man does, sometimes. Will that be accidental, serendipity, chance, destiny or fate. Maybe like beauty it is in the eye of….

  13. I can use these ideas when I do decoupage. I ordered the book. Great post!

  14. Really great art! I love taking inspiration from nature. You are so talented and give us all a push to be more creative and explore new things.

  15. What great creative textures and images. I will definitely be trying a few of these with watercolors as texture is my new focus. Love “accidents” when painting. Really enjoyed this post!

  16. John says:

    Amazing pictures. I spent so much time admiring each one, though I still can’t decide if I like the “actual” or accidental derivations better. Very cool indeed.

  17. Karen says:

    Donna, your post is an absolute must-see! I am always amazed at the content and quality of your blog, you are truly an educator and entertainer all rolled into one. I know I am going to referring to your instructions on how to create the images you have shown here for years to come. They are truly, truly stunning!

    That said, if a wordy interpretation was what you anticipated, I did not let you down this week. Wordy is my middle name. Unfortunately, the words I used didn’t do any justice to ‘accidental’ other than my usual irreverent take on things. Feel free to un-link me if you wish, especially since I linked up so clumsily in the first place.

    Thank you for the opportunity to join. I do appreciate it so!

  18. helensadornmentsblog says:

    Lovely post. I used to teach preschool and some of the techniques reminded me of a technique my little ones would do. We would drop a teaspoon of tempra paint mixed with water in the middle of their page and they would blow the paint around with straws. They loved this! Thanks for your post, so much fun to read.

  19. Kala says:

    Very interesting post and explanation of techniques.

  20. Jennifer says:

    Hi Donna, I had an accidental post half done when my free time disappeared. I may still finish it and put it up anyway. I enjoyed your post and all the interesting paint techniques. My favourite is the long-legged caterpillar. It makes me think of an abstract expressionist painting for some reason.

  21. Fascinating post Donna, makes me want to give some of those techniques a go. I often find that the photos I take that I am most delighted with have a hefty element of accident about them.

  22. Bom says:

    This is great material, Donna! You are a wonderful artist, your clients are lucky to have you. I would never have thought of these methods. Then again I have no artistic bone in my body so that is a big factor. I really liked the tree form and the flower forms although I accidentally (haha!) mistook the first flower form for a snowflake.

  23. Thank you for sharing your art with us…you are certainly talented. I look forward to W4W and the challenge of the word prompt. This time I’m pretty early, joining in. I’m off to catching up with the blogs I’ve been too busy to visit lately!

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