Painting with slush

Old Volvo truck, Värmland

Every winter I suffer from sketcher’s abstinence. It gets too cold for drawing outdoors, the ink in my fountain pens stop flowing, and watercolours freeze on the paper surface. Some years I just give up, and try to find nice environments and interesting subject matter indoors, but after a while it is not quite enough. I tend to look for spaces and situations when I draw, not just things.

The last few years I have been trying to find reasonable methods to go out sketching in spite of low temperatures, but without freezing my fingers off. Pencils always work, of course. Especially the carpenter´s pencil, which is thicker, and therefore easier to hold with mittens. Alcohol is also a neat solution to be able to work with watercolours in cold temperatures. Not drinking it (although that might help too, I guess, to a certain extent), but mixing it in the watercolour water.

Painting in the cold

This works reasonably well in temperatures just below the freezing point. What you need is uncoloured alcohol without flavouring, that you mix in your water. Cheap vodka has worked for me. I usually start mixing 50/50 (which doesn´t say much, since the vodka is about 40-45% alcohol to begin with), and then add more alcohol depending on how cold it is. Trial and error.

I avoid using my more expensive watercolour brushes for this, but have an old squirrel mop that works fine. Depending on temperature I am sometimes painting more with slush than with dissolved liquid watercolour, but it usually works out in the end. Sometimes I get these really cool random crystal patterns in the washes – one of those cool surprises that only watercolour can give you.

Old friends


We were in Sunne in Värmland last weekend, where I stumbled upon two cable excavators, seemingly rooted in the grass. They looked like old friends, watching the view over the field together, perhaps talking childhood memories…


42 x 29,7 cm, Lamy Safari and Kizuna Deco pen (fude nib) with red and black De Atramentis Document ink, and watercolours, on Stillman & Birn alpha series sketchbook spread.

Low contrast Värmland


I went to Värmland (county in Western Sweden) with my dear M over New Year´s. For practical reasons (no water for the wataercolours) I had a go at a drawing with lower contrast than usual, while waiting for a swollen toe to get some tender love and care at a health center.

And then I liked the low contrast so much, so I did another the following day. Limping, of course, and feeling a little bit sorry for myself. 😉


Various sizes, drawn with PITT artist brush pens, and some UniPin fineliner in the bottom drawing, on Stillman & Birn alpha series sketchbook paper.

Ink car


I like drawing weird perspectives, to skew things a little, to make room for a wider angle on the paper. Sitting in the passenger seat of a car is great for this, and the fact that there aren´t many straight lines inside a car makes it a forgiving subject to try these things with.

I am grateful that I don´t have the tendency to get car sick.

19 x 18 cm, Kizuna Deco pen (fude nib) with black De Atramentis document ink, and blue Copic Multiliner SP, on Stillman & Birn alpha series sketchbook page.