Stick Painting with Andie Thrams

There’s more to the Focus on Book Arts conference than the daily workshops – there’s an opening reception, a keynote speech, an artist marketplace, a vendor fair, a faculty-staff exhibit, and Hospitality Night – a time for conference attendees to share their work.

In addition to all of that goodness, at lunchtime there were informal demonstrations on three of the conference days. On Friday, I attended a stick painting demonstration with Andie Thrams.

Andie Thrams

No, we did not paint sticks. Instead of paintbrushes, we used sticks to apply paint. It sounds strange, but was actually quite an elegant process. Andie explained that the longer the stick, the “grander the gesture”.

Don’t use brittle sticks because they tend to crumble. When you paint, move from the shoulder – treat the stick like an extension of your arm. Sticks absorb ink the longer you work with them, which can help improve the flow.

When you use this technique, you are creating somewhat uncontrolled work that will be similar to the chaotic patterns in nature. You use this technique on watercolor paper. If you work dry on wet, you get more definition and precision. If you work wet on wet, you get freer and blurrier lines. You can either brush the water on your paper or use a spray bottle.

For variety, you can also apply layers of methyl cellulose paste mixed with dry pigment or acrylic paint to your paper.

Stick paintings

Samples of stick painting

You can use any type of ink for this process, just add ox gall to your ink to help it flow better. Always pour your ink into a separate container so that you don’t contaminate your main source.

You don’t want stick bits floating in your bottle, now do you?

Stick painting with Andie Thrams

Andie stick painting on dry paper

Stick painting with Andie Thrams

Stick painting with Andie Thrams

Stick painting with Andie Thrams

Andie stick painting on wet paper

As soon as Andie asked for volunteers, I jumped at the chance. Here’s my piece:

Stick painting

Oh yeah, I’m a beginner. Super-blobby-blurriness going on in the middle there. But I’m actually pretty psyched about some of the dry work. Painting with the stick was awkward at first, but then started to feel more natural. If I were to do this again, I would use a spray bottle instead of brushing water on.

I’ll leave you with this great comment from Andie:

If you think about a pencil or a brush – we’re all just working with sticks.

9 Responses to “Stick Painting with Andie Thrams”

By Rosaland - 3 July 2009 Reply

This looks like great fun! I guess many of us do ‘stick paint’. It also gives me some ideas for painting on fabric for journal covers, which I’m working on this weekend. Thanks for sharing!

By elissa - 4 July 2009 Reply

Rosaland –

I look forward to hearing how your work goes. Keep me posted.


By Carol - 10 July 2009 Reply

I’ve never done this but I love the look of it and imagine it gives a feeling of great freedom. I’ll have to give it a go.

By elissa - 13 July 2009 Reply

Carol –

It’s kind of awkward at first, but then feels more natural. I think the key is to find the type and length of stick that works best for you.


[…] miss BlueRoofDesigns great article on stick painting with Andie Thrams. “The longer the stick, the grander the […]

By inkcaravan - 5 August 2009 Reply

Great post, I’d have love to do that class. What a wonderful texture in the line!!

By elissa - 7 August 2009 Reply

Alisa –

I love the lines too. I need to play with it more…must find ox gall…


By Andie Thrams - 19 February 2011 Reply

Hi, how fun to see this! I’d like to correct a detail for those who wish to try this technique. I add oxgall to my paint water, not to the ink. I find this adds to the wild flow feeling of working with twigs and sticks. The words quoted as mine, are actually me paraphrasing Brice Marden. I saw a collection of his large paintings made with sticks several years ago at San Francisco Museum of Modern Art, which inspired me to experiment with sticks in my own work. He says something along these lines: the longer the stick the more the unique mark of the maker is magnified. True! From what I gather, he has used very long branches for some of his work… My website is not quite up, but when it is, I’ll have some images of my paintings made with stick and twig. I usually include this technique whenever I teach. It is a wonderful way to learn that making beauty does not always require control or hard efforts. So, have fun with your twigs and sticks!

By Elissa - 19 February 2011 Reply

Andie –

So nice to have you here!

Thanks for the correction – I can only capture so much with my notes and sometimes things are noted incorrectly. When your website is up, let me know and I’ll be sure to share the link with everyone.


So what do you think? I'd love to know!

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