Thursday, September 29, 2011

An Old Technique Is Made Young, Again!

While thumbing through my sketchbooks last week, I found a texture I'd created years ago and then left white and sad and blank. I immediately took after it with watercolor paint, changing colors frequently.

I fell in love all over again with the way the pigment pooled into the nooks and crannies.

This technique (an old crafter's trick, actually!) is incredibly easy to create and only takes a few basic supplies. 

Supply List

~ sketchbook, altered book, sheets of water color paper, or stretched canvas (In the example above, I used an altered dim sum cookbook!)
~ inexpensive 1- or 2-ply white paper towels
~ heavy-bodied white acrylic paint (my favorite for this is Blick Studio Acrylic because of its thick, creamy consistency)
~ bristle brush for applying paint
~ putty knife, palette knife or flat trowel
~ 2-3 colors fluid acrylics or light-bodied acrylic paint thinned with water to milky consistency
~ mark-making tools: wooden sewer, stamp, texture plate, potato masher, etc

Note: If your sketchbook pages are lightweight, I recommend first gluing a few pages together; a thin layer of gel medium between each page will yield a firm painting surface once dried.

Step 1: Prepare your surface by troweling a layer of white paint onto your sketchbook page with a plastic paint scraper or palette knife. Be generous in some areas and create a thin layer in others. Allow your trowel marks to show. Messier is better, in this case!

Step 2: Before the paint dries, sketch, write, stamp or scribble into the paint. You can use anything from your fingers to wooden skewers, to commercial stamps for this, just get texture and movement into that paint! Allow to dry. (If you used a thick layer of paint, this could take overnight.)

Step 3: Prepare your paper towels by separating one ply from one another and tearing each sheet into irregular pieces. Try to break down the paper towel's straight edges by tearing divots into them.

Step 4: Using the bristle brush and more of the thick, white paint, begin collaging the paper towel pieces, using the paint as a glue: paint the sketchbook page with paint, lay the towel into the paint, and paint more white on top, mashing, pushing  and even tearing the towel a bit to create folds and a wrinkled texture. Cover as much or as little of your surface as you desire but try to be sure that all parts of the paper towel are adhered to your sketchbook page with no air bubbles or lifted edges. Allow the page to dry completely.

Step 5: Color, color, color! Working wetly with thin "glazes" of paint, paint the page, allowing the colors to puddle together and blend into the textured areas. As the paint dries, the pigment will settle into the creases and wrinkles you've created, highlighting them further.

Once dry, the page you've created can become a background for more collaged elements, or can stand alone as a lovely study of texture and contrast.

This week, while recreating this technique on a fresh spread of pages in my sketchbook, I experimented with using Lutradur as a collage element for a white-on-white study. I painted Stacked Journaling on a strip of Lutradur with white paint squeezed directly from the bottle, and then adhered the strip to my sketchbook page with heavy gel medium.

I loved the way the white Lutradur with white paint looked on the white background...

... but still wanted to bring out the texture more.

I took my idea to a small stretched canvas and this time, added washes of Titan Buff and Burnt Sienna.

It really makes the texture pop, doesn't it? I also cut the Lutradur into more organic strips and adhered them with gel medium.

The next step for this study in texture, neutral color palettes, and - of course- Stacked Journaling is to create another art piece, this time on a stretched canvas measuring 30" x 40"- but its completion will take time and many more layers!

The power of the sketchbook never fails to amaze me, and I'm so glad I've gotten them down off the shelf to play with them once again!


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