Skip navigation

I am still exploring masa paper, so new to me.  I took the reference photo for this painting the night I was trying for a photo of Biskit.  I was drawn to all the overlapping shapes. He was sleeping on one of those cat stands, suspended in dreams.

I have probably broken every guideline of watercolor while I painted this by using the white and muddying the tree trunk. I did not mind at all and just let this painting lead me.


  1. oh, I like this cat a lot. The first rule about watercolors is that all rules can be broken, especially with results like this.

    • Thank-you, Mimi! I really like your watercolors, also. I had to go in search for your watercolor blog. It was not connected to the link, above. Thank you for the visit and the comment!

  2. aloha Leslie – yeah – what mimitabby said. break the rules. break the rules. this is stunning. the effects of paper plus your skills match up beautifully in this. and what ever rules you’ve broken, broke beautifully. way cool. this is definitely a work to return to. to return to. to return to. and explore and explore and explore. way awesome.

    • I am going to take your advice, Rick, and stick with this awhile. I like the surface “a LOT”. I have always liked drawings drawn on toned surfaces aand textured surfaces. I had just not found one for watercolor I liked as much as this. Thank you for your energetic encouragement, Rick. That helps a lot!

  3. This is just beautiful. I so have to try the masa paper technique. I love what you’ve accomplished AND I”m glad you broke the rules.

    • This is so much fun. Really is! I know you and Alice will try this at some point when all else slows down. Thanks, Carol, and I do think I am going to break some rules with this from time to time.

  4. No body told me there were rules, there are rules, Hmmmm!
    Keep breaking them, I like what I see Leslie!

    • 🙂 You would say that, Ryan. Painting on this paper offers so many possibilities. I feel like a kid with my first art supplies painting on it. Thank you for the visit and the comment.

  5. I love this! Please continue to break all the rules.

    • Hi Chris. I have not been so intrigued for quite some time. I love working on this surface with watercolor. Thank you!

  6. This is really, really beautiful, Leslie! I love it! And as well as cat, I can see a koala in there!
    The colours and texture are just gorgeous. Makes me want some of that paper. One day.

    • OK, Val. Now I’m looking for the “koala”!
      The toned papers sort of remind me of what you see as you develop the colors and patterns in your digital creations. I just have not tried to find the images that are already there like you do. I enjoy working on this surface and the fact that it is toned, first, is so much fun. Thank you for the kind comment. 🙂

        • Val Erde
        • Posted March 6, 2011 at 9:00 am
        • Permalink

        I can see a koala head in the head of the cat!

        I’d love to see you do some abstracts, Leslie – especially on this paper, they’d be gorgeous!

      • I might see it in the lower right hand side of the head defined by the lighter whites?
        I have only painted three abstracts, total, Val. They always come from attempting to paint something else. The only one I have a photograph of is this one:
        I am not sure why it is, but I can not start with abstract in mind….it just doesn’t work. If I ever do get something nice, I will surely post it. 🙂

  7. I think this is a wonderful painting Leslie. Your last post was one of the best demos I’ve seen an artist do…you feel as though you could do this yourself if only you tried. You made it look easy.

    • I think anyone can do the masa paper. I think that is why I tried to share what I had done with it. It would make great collage papers for collage artists, also. Small pieces of the toned paper cut and mounted on a blank greeting card would be great, also. Thank-you so much for saying I made it look easy and for your praise of this painting, Al.

  8. Leslie, if I could do even a modicum of what you produce – and loved doing it as much as you seem to – I’d be spending hours at it every day.

    When I see the intimate details you manage, I get goosebumps. Today I’m looking at little toes and ear hairs.

    • Oh, Amy, you paint pictures with words. I know because I see them when I read your posts.
      Those ear hairs were tough to come by. The rose color behind them kept popping through! Thank you for the visit and the comment, Amy!

  9. Beautiful, Leslie! Just beautiful!

    I love breaking rules, and I loved that you have broken a number of them here with great results. I just wanted to comment that breaking rules with pleasing results can be done only with deep understanding of the rules. While it sounds like a paradox, it is not. Breaking rules for the sake of it creates a mess, dismissing a particular rule to achieve a concieved vision can often bring rewards, like it has for you here.

    • I agree with you about understanding guidelines that those before us have so diligently found to be true in what tantalizes the human eye, so to speak. We, as artists, yearn to incorporate those things as we take our journey. It seems as though I find something that sinks in and I am off to the next technique or the next way to express myself and always on a journey to bringing that which is inside me to the foreground as I work. I like to think of it as dipping into my bag of things I’ve learned as I create. Sometimes the two clash and I let go of those restricting guidelines and “me” pops out. I look for these things in my students. The innocence with which a child creates and some of the ways my students form what they want to say always amazes me. I tread softly into their visions being ever-so-mindful of the beauty they are showing me through their work. Oh. I teach them what I know of value, line, shape, negative space and how to choose a format, but I encourage them to be free. Does that make sense?
      I have often felt, that if I ever create that perfect painting, then I will be done with this journey. It would be so boring to replicate only that which I know and not go in search of “what if”.
      I read something, somewhere, in an art book. The author said he saw artists seek the truth and the exactness of their subject until they yearned to find themselves in their work. It is wonderful to have understanding, enough that we can manipulate it to do what we want to with it. Excellent comment and thank-you for taking the time include it here, Alex!

  10. I think the painting led you very well, Leslie, you can see the tightly held frame suspended in sleep, dreaming of who knows what and chasing through who knows where…Lovely painting… My Bess twitches and uses her leg movements quite violently sometimes whilst sleeping…I think she runs so much better in her dreams…(Osteoarthritis stops her in real life) … and she loves hiding her muzzle under her paws…a bit like myself when asleep…;-) I think there are quite a lot of similarities between us, I wonder who copies whom? xPenx

    • Oh, what a wonderful comparison of the animal side of us. As I created this, I was ever mindful of the way the human form curls in upon itself in slumber. I reveled in the shapes turning in upon themselves. Actually, my largest struggle was to get the shapes somewhat believable in the twist and turns of it. The tree just happened as an extension of the curled up form. Thank you, Pen! May “Bess” have many lovely adventures!

  11. The process that makes you happy and lead you the way without constraints is what matters and it is nice to break rules to bring out the real you. Very nice result to see and enjoy Leslie!

    • Thank you, Padmaja! I know you explore these possibilities in your work, also. Missing you while you take a break!! Thank you for taking the timeto visit, here, 🙂

  12. Rules are there to be broken sometimes and this has really paid off! love the colours in this painting Leslie – and the Massa paper you used looks so tactile I can almost feel it 🙂 The close ups of this are wonderful as always 🙂

    • Hi Lynda. It is through some of the posts you offer up that I get these urges to explore. I think I have told you, before, how much I appreciate you bringing artists of all styles and techniques to the foreground for us to view. Thank you! 🙂

  13. Leslie, you are at it again, and I love it. I love the antique effect the painting has, it is just awesome! The cat is lovely, but the work is even better! I will have to try this.

    • Hi Debbie,
      I am really enjoying this paper. When you try it, remember to put a waterproof dot of ink on the front, smooth side of the paper. After you wet it, you can’t tell which is the back and which is the front until you try to paint on it. It is not difficult to stain it and not difficult to glue it down. Make sure you allow the paper to dry overnight. Make sure you tape down the watercolor paer that you glue it to. It will ripple some during the wet glueing stage. By morning, it will have gone flat again. I think you could even do oil pastel on this surface with some interesting results. Thank you for the visit and the comment. Let me know if you have any questions if you try it.

  14. Beautiful painting, I like it a lot!

  15. I think your painting is beautiful and the style could quite easily become your signature. I’ve read your step-by-step guide. We’re going to try and get hold of the materials to give it a go. I’ll post our results (perhaps) 🙂

    • Oh I do hope you try it; and better yet, I hope it is something fun. It will take one day for the crinkling, wetting, staining and glueing to a support and the next to draw and paint unless you secure the use of a blow dryer. I’m painting a landscape of trees on this next one and it is fun, also. I just visited Myrna’s site this morning and she paints and draws on anything, Keith. Check this post out:
      Thank you, Keith! Let me know if you have any questions. 🙂

      • I can see why you follow, thanks for the link Leslie.

      • You are welcome, Keith. I sure wish I could get to one of her workshops but they are too far away. I have to be satisfied with what she shares with us on her blog.

  16. Welll, Leslie… some rules(guidelines) are made to be broken. Especially, in this case. Absolutely lovely… 🙂

  17. Oh this is a dream cat, an otherworldy, fantasy cat. A cat dreaming and being dreamed. Love it, Leslie. Night cat at rest–or is it?

    • Thank you! I did see something like that, Eva. You read my mind. I was thinking how we are uplifted in our dreams and this cat was lifted up. I thought about how, in our sleep, we roll into and out of ourselves. I fully intended to paint him on the cat stand and this branch-looking shape began to become apparent, so I went with my thoughts and what was happening on the paper. I also had the thought about how I would miss this vision of a cat slumbering in the nook of a tree in real life. Something about how the night may take our light and it is offered back to us in dreams. It was fitting that the cat was white, but I don’t know why. Cool that you caught that vibe…..thanks.

  18. Interesting technique – never occurred to me to try working with this paper. I read thru some of your comments up higher ^^^^ I had to smile at the one where you say ‘ if I ever create that perfect painting, I’ll be done with this journey ‘, well, that makes two of us and I am afraid I’ll never get there, but maybe you will…hahaha
    Keep cranking them out!!

    • 🙂 You know what I think, Frank, “perfection” doesn’t really exist but gives us an excuse to keep enjoying this wonderful exercise we call painting. We will never find that one painting that does it for us. I laugh with you.

      This paper is interesting. The first two I glued to Fabriano Rough 140 lb coldpress paper and achieved more of a bleed as I painted on the masa surface. I am working on a landscape of trees right now with the masa glued to a sheet of Arches Rough 140 lb coldpress and there is no bleed with the pigment, so there is a little difference in how the image is coming along with this painting. I like that. It makes me wonder what will happen when I use different support papers. The initial wash pattern needs to happen in those first washes that you use on the backside of the masa. It is fun to try and pull a composition together on this surface. Wonder what a yellow taxi would look like on it?

  19. There are guidelines to painting that we’re supposed to follow !?!?… Cr*p !!… That’s where I’m going wrong… lol.. That masa effect is quite striking… almost like a pearl shell in this painting…

    • You make me laugh so hard…. I felt the same way the first time I found out that the Masters had followed guidelines that they helped devise. I thought they were just super talented! Thank you, Brian.

  20. Excellent painting Leslie.
    Breaking the rules. tut tut tut.
    Lol, you know i tip my hat to those who forge their own path with their artwork.
    Tipping of the hat to she who risked the white and muddied the tree trunk.

    • Love it, Richard. I can see you tipping your hat, oh you of many characters! Thank you! 🙂

  21. I really like what u did using the masa paper. The art work looks very exquisite. Well i promise to try it out last week but fail to do so, many distraction and i can;t find masa paper at a our stationary shop may be i need to find it in one of those art shop.

    • Yes. An art shop should carry it in the large paper files they have. Ask for it by name and tell them it is a type of oriental paper. I know it can easily be ordered online, also. It is less expensive than the watercolor paper you may use to glue it to. Thank you, Francis! 🙂

  22. I have only heard of masa paper recently, and have no idea what it is. I’m really intrigued by what I read in this post, especially the process of wetting, gluing and then re-working! This could be the most exciting experiment I’ve attempted since I first started pouring last year!

    • It is an oriental paper. It can be purchased at most art stores in large sheets. Easily ordered and not expensive; not like watercolor paper, anyway. I think you would really like it, David. You will absolutely have NO problems with working on it. What I have begun to do is spend an evening preparing the papers, crumpling them, wetting and toning, and then glueing them to the paper. When I find a reference for a certain pattern I have prepared, it is then ready to go. It will take some time for me to find out which surface of watercolor paper I like best. I am currently working on a piece that is glued to Arches 140 lb rough and liking it a lot. The pigment bleeds a little more on the Fabriano rough that I used for the cats. I have not tried Arches coldpress, yet. This will fit your technique really well I think! I do not do the drawings in advance as others have done, but after the paper is glued. Just a little bothersome working over the texture but I kept loosing my drawing in the wetting process. Hope that helps. Just think of the texture you will get in your buildings and landscapes. Ahhh, so cool!

  23. Hey Leslie – this has got to be up with your best. I hope you frame this and keep it in your home. It is all so moody.

    • Stephen! I am so sorry that I did not notice your comment, here, sooner! Oh my!
      Thank you for this comment and yes, this one is getting framed and entered this summer in the local Guild show. Wish me luck!

  24. I wish my cat would stop and rest[in order for me to draw her] Like yours did. What a beautiful drawing…..

    • I can draw them while they snooze, Noel, but I could not have painted him like this without a photo reference. Thank you! Good job on your portrait painting!

  25. you’re amazing, leslie!

  26. Oh my gosh, this is gorgeous, Leslie! I love what you do with color and this cat is incredible!! By the way…. rules? HA! No rules! Guidelines are just that…. guides. **big grin**

    • I know, Beth. The guidelines thing; had I followed them? This painting would have ended up in the trash. It has taken me a long time to learn to watch the paper and go with what the paint and the water tell me they want to do. Thank you!

  27. Amazing how you captured the definition in muscle tone—also really fits the idea of being suspended in dreams. You should break the guidelines more often! lol Lovely work.

    • I always feel like a painting like this is some kind of step into the unknown. I wish it would happen everytime I sit down to paint. There is something about that analytical left brain of ours that gets SO BOSSY. Thank you, Adam!

  28. This is so peaceful. You are inspiring me to pick up my sketch pads and pencils again … not that I can do anything like this … I love that I can come here and scroll and visit all these perfectly beautiful piece. Thanks, Leslie.

    • Your very creative writing leads me to believe you would be able to do the same with anything you attempt, Jamie! I love the idea that you scroll around looking at the images, here. Thank you so much.

One Trackback/Pingback

  1. […] that this surface is adaptable to any subject matter. I painted a Westhighland Cow here,  a cat here, and a tiger […]

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: