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The above image was designed using a photo that my sister sent me of her cat, “BOO”, thinking he had hidden himself in the grasses around her home.  The image was somewhat fuzzy and I felt I would not do him justice in watercolor. My creative drawing class will soon be working on a project  where they will be asked to draw or paint with paper so I decided to give this image of Boo a go with that in mind. I decided to use papers that I created from National Geographics treated with the cleaning agent Citrasolv.  For a tutorial on how to create these papers click here. I usually spend some time preparing and drying these papers, in advance, so that I have them stored for when I need them.

    first step

The above is the first step in my process of creating Boo. I drew him on a piece of 140 lb coldpress watercolor paper. I only include those lines that I feel are necessary to guide the bolder shapes as they are soon buried by the papers. I began with his eyes. I found a yellow page that had turqouise bubbles to use for his eyes. In order to get the shape correct, I first traced the shape of his eyes using tracing paper, cut them out and used those cut outs as a pattern over the colored paper to cut out the shapes I needed. This is how I work.

1.  Trace the shape.

2. Cut out the shape on tracing paper.

3. Lay tracing paper over the colored paper I wish to use and cut that shape out again.

4. Glue it to the surface where needed.

I am careful not to cut out HUGE shapes as they tend to wrinkle more. I use acrylic matte medium as my adhesive. Sometimes I mix small amounts of water with it if it begins to thicken while I am working.

I then began cutting and glueing shapes for the background. I chose papers of the same value range as I was going to use for the cat because I wanted him to appear somewhat hidden.  I chose warm colors for the background of the earth and cool colors for the cat so that there would be some differentiation and so the viewer could find the image. I tried very hard to create an interesting composition of colors so that the background looked like a painting.

  second step

I then begin to draw and paint the cat’s shapes with paper. Note that I cut crescent shapes of paper for his belly and several pie shapes for his haunches.  This helped to give him a three-dimensional quality through the use of cross contours.  Had I cut out one large piece of paper for the entire body of the cat, he would look fat and the paper would have wrinkled. I did not want him to appear as a silhouette.

 third step

The next step was the most difficult. This was because there were many variations of values and shapes needed to describe the face and paws. The paper shapes were tiny and difficult to glue down without them sliding around.  I used a q-tip on some of them to rub them down flat, rather than my paintbrush. (I save aside several brushes to be used only for glueing with matte medium as they become stiff and damaged over time). There are 53 pieces of paper in the cat image, alone.  By this time, I am actually feeling as though I am drawing and painting with the paper, for sure.

  finished collage

The final step was the most fun. I divorced myself from the photo reference and designed my own grasses and plant shapes to furthur camouflaging Boo. I worked them in and out and through his form to furthur increase depth. I was very careful to save parts of him that I wanted to show thru. The final step was to add whiskers and highlights to the eyes with white acrylic paint.

I have used these papers once previously to create a selfportrait, found here.

I thank Carol King for having originally introduced this process to me here.

More  Citrasolv art may be viewed on the artist gallery page of the Citrasolv website here.


  1. You have done an awesome job on Boo. I love the technique, and thank both you and Carol King for sharing it; it looks like a lot of fun. I also like what you did with the piece after you divorced yourself from the reference photo for your grass. I am loving this, Leslie!!

    • It is a little messy and smelly to treat the papers so do so outdoors. 🙂 But, yes, once you have a stack of these papers, it is pretty fun to try and make something with them. Thank you, Debbie! Hug that Cici for me! Hadn’t said that for awhile.:)

  2. Wonderful finished resulting collage Leslie. Boo looks so defined and lifelike, almost ready to investigate what’s in his eye line, if only he wasn’t feeling so relaxed and disinclined to move a muscle..sigh!! 😀 I’ve just visited your self portrait link, dreamy and showing this wonderful technique off so well. I always enjoy my time spent here, talented lady that you are. bye for now…xPenx

    • Thankyou for your positive encouragement for these two collages, Boo and Self Portrait, Pen. Boo was very intent about the fact that he was completely hidden, so my sister tells me. He is such a “sprite”! 🙂

  3. Great art work love the way you did the cat.

  4. Leslie, you outdid yourself with Boo! I agree that one big piece of paper would have made him look like a cut out shillouette, but you have managed to make him look alive and hiding in the grasses.

    You did an amazing job with the different papers and textures. I’ve never forgotten your amazing CitraSolv self portrait.

  5. Excellent ! I think this technique works great with this subject of the cat in the grasses. Do you know why citrasolve works with national geographic pages, is it something to do with their ink? I tried with other magazines without success.
    Great collage!

    • It is the ink they use, Sandrine. It does not work on many of the ads either. The citrasolv disturbs the ink and results in these beautiful patterns. You can even put saran wrap in between some of the pages and encourage a wrinkled look to the resultant print of inks. Thank you!

  6. Great work of art, Leslie. I like it. Blessings to you…

  7. Leslie, that is just awesome! Thanks for introducing me to this beautiful process, seems more like a meditative process for me… careful planning and execution to precision is required..results seem endless!

    • It is pretty meditative and I sat here amongst piles of scraps. Keep a trash can right next to you for the little scraps you need to pitch, a box to put the ones in that you want to save. Otherwise? You can’t find your scissors and brush. 🙂 It is like combining art and a jigsaw puzzle, only you get to design the pieces. Thank you for the comment. I hope you give it a go!

  8. The artwork is definitely your genre, Leslie, for very obvious reasons. Look at the character in that creation of the hidden Boo! To think so many pieces had to be glued. The secret has to be in how you place each one of those pieces. I imagine you moving pieces until your eye was satisfied.

    I confess, I wrote down Citrasolv and plan to find some…I say it’s because of what it’ll do for my life, but I will sneak outside with a magazine and saran wrap and give it a whirl.

    In spite of following your well-documented steps, I will end up with a toad in a mud puddle. Well, it may be a really cool toad made from Oprah’s pyjamas.

    • What an absolutely interesting comment in that last line about toads and mud puddles! Ha! Oprah would be so fortunate to have her pajamas featured! Word to the wise. This only works on National Geographics, to my knowledge. I have heard that others have tried it with other magazines and it doesn’t work. Oh. The toad would be grande with the images created! So many of my printed papers would make beautiful toads! and frogs and turtles!
      Yes, many pieces and my eyes actually became crossed working on this! 🙂 Thankyou for your kind comment, Amy!

      • Leslie, say your thanks that I’m not in your neighborhood with a threat to sign up as one of your students! See how well I pay attention? I already showed up with the O Magazine! 😀

      • Ha! You would have been fine. I gave everyone a National Geographic to tone. You could do just that! Cut out Oprah in her pajamas and glue her into your Citrasolv landscape! 🙂

  9. I like the result you’ve got here – it very much gives the impression of when you look through the plants in dappled light & there is a cat hiding there. The face works well – I think you’ve captured the essence of a cat!

    • I had not noticed the dappled light effect. Thank you for that. Collage is a very interesting medium that I don’t venture into often enough. It really pushes me to think of values and shapes and contours a lot more. Thank you!

  10. Oh, wowww, that’s a cool technique! And the final product is so beautiful!It’s amazing how her eyes are popping out, and I love the texture created on the paper, very nice.

    • Thankyou, Anne! Something fun to do with National Geographic images. Supposedly I can transfer images from regular photos with this Citrasolv. I have not taken the time to read the tutorial on their site fully, as yet, but that might be cool for a photographer with your skills!

      • Oh, that’s a great idea Leslie! I might try it… Thanks for the suggestion.

      • I wonder if you could create interesting greeting cards by that technique. I know you could then collage interesting transfers from your own body of work as a photographer to perhaps collage.

  11. Oh Leslie, this is so wonderful!! I have been visiting a site called Cloth Paper Scissors and it has been making me want to do some collage. It’s a wonderfully inspiring site…. just like your blog.

    • Thanks for the link, Beth. Saved it to my favorites to take a look at.
      You praise me too highly. This was fun but oh so time consuming! Maybe, with practice, I’ll be able to spot the values and colors I need more readily as I practice. It is fun and definitely would fit “art to wiggle your butt at” like you like to create. 🙂 Thank you!

  12. I think you may have converted me, Leslie. I’m going to purchase some citrasolve and see if I can get some collage “mojo” going. It’s been awhile since I’ve done collage, but I’ve always loved the graphic nature of it, and never knew how to handle magazines with their ink problems.

    Thank you.

    • With how you render architecture, you will be the bomb! I can see them now. I am new to collage so I fumble stumble along. It has helped me with shape and contour, I think, so I will include it in some of what I do.
      Word to the wise on the citrasolv. Your garage is your studio. The odor from the citrasolv sticks around for awhile so you may want to do your paper treating outdoors on a non-windy day. I had to treat three magazines to get enough papers to have a truly good selection of values and papers. There are wonderful tutorials online for how to treat the pages. I use acrylic matte medium, suggested by Nita Leland and some others, as my glue. As long as the papers are completely dry, you can’t damage the ink unless you use a harsh bristly brush to glue them down. I use watercolor brushes (synthetic) that I devote just to collage. Have fun! Thankyou!

  13. Boo came out beautiful, Leslie! Amazing collage work!

  14. What a creative process (material preparation and exploration – both in choosing and applying; time element from start to finish; use of tools; your exploring attitude and calm). Incredible result! Your collage is definitely the way to express Boo. Good title “Camouflage”. That is what he had hoped for!

    • Hi Kimmy, Boo’s best friend! Thankyou for taking the time to leave this comment and for allowing me to use your photo as a reference! Such a lovely model you feed for me! 🙂

  15. Another fine demo! This cat looks like one I saw recently at the river. I could feel its eyes watching me before I could visually locate it.

    • I remember that post where you spoke of the feral cats. My heart breaks for them that they have to try to live like that.
      I was hoping to achieve that effect of being stared at with this image. Thank you, Al.

  16. This is something that I have never tried, not even in high school. I’m not sure why, because they turn out so great and creative. I went to a high school art show at the museum the other day, and a student had taken paper of all colors and sent it through a shredder. Using the long thin strips, and keeping a perfect horizontal pattern, created an image of his face.
    Thanks for all your creativity Leslie, I’m always learning from you!

    • That sounds so interesting, the shredded paper used to paint his portrait. There is a bit of being “out there” feeling while drawing and painting with paper. It takes me longer, sometimes, to find the values I want to use and cut the shapes than it does to glue them down. I have been reading a book by Gerald Brommer titled “Watercolor and Collage Workshop”. He actually takes torn pieces of rice papers and creates beautiful passages to enhance the texture of his watercolors. I don’t know if I can do it, but after I read the book, I think I’m going to try some. I’m sure you would create beautiful collages. Thank you, Ryan!

  17. What a wonderful collage. The personalities of the cats always show through in any of your art featuring them. Your blog is such an inspiration to me and makes me want to try out so many new things. I wish I could be in a few of your classes.

    • I could learn a thing or two from you, Ruth. Your ink work is lovely! Thank you for that about the personalities of the cats. That means a lot! 🙂

  18. This is gorgeous, Leslie!

    • Hi Val! Thank you for this. With how you create and have spoken of designing your figures on your digital paintings? I kind of felt like that as his form began to present itself with each paper I glued to the service.

  19. A beautifully camouflaged cat! I found this cat hard to spot when I first looked at this collage 🙂 I’m a great fan of collage and I love how you have used so many pieces to create Boo – this has really paid off. I’d love to see some live demo’s of these techniques Leslie – have you ever thought about putting these on film?

    • Hi Lynda. I don’t have a video cam nor the knowledge of how to download a video once I do one. ..but would if I could. There are some videos out there about how to treat National Geographics with Citrasolv.
      Thank you for thatcomment about you having a difficult time spotting the cat. I was hoping for that. Thank you, Lynda! 🙂

  20. Amazing art work, Leslie.
    Love the way you did the cat, so beautiful!
    Happy Easter

  21. Oh, the citrasolv is back !! What fun! Your cat is wonderful, so cuddly and cute !

  22. This cat will make for a creative class classic.. 🙂 Now-a-days, Boo must be proud of his looks Leslie 😉
    Happy Good friday and have a great Easter holiday!

    • Hi Rachana. Thank you for your praise of Boo and collage! Happy Easter. 🙂

  23. This is quite wonderful. What a fun experiement and the result appeals! I’m often surprised at the materials you use, things I’ve never heard of. Thanks you! Boo looks like a fun cat too. . .

    • Boo is much loved by my sister.
      I had not heard of this before last year, either. I keep finding new mediums and ideas to try. It is almost as though it is neverending….and to think I worried about not finding enough to inspire the students who take my classes. I can’t keep up with it all. I smile as I think back on that. Thank you, Jamie.

  24. Hi Leslie, This is wonderful – I love your portrait of Boo and how you do these – it is great! You are so creative! This is something I can show to my granddaughter here in Somerset West and my other granddaughter in Dubai when we visit them in June. But first I must experiment with it myself! Thank you! Have a great day.

    • I hope you like this, Jan, once you give it a go. I had paper clippings everywhere! Thank you for your continued visits and comments. Happy Day to you!

  25. what a sweet capturing of cat spirit… i love this.

  26. That must have been so difficult.
    I like this one

  27. I am blown away by this collage. Wow!

    • Thank you, Amber! These, I don’t do too often. Your comment inspires me to to want to do another. 🙂

  28. I LOVE cats and I love your cat especially. It is so nicely done and he (she?) comfortably blends with the outdoors. I tried to get citrasolv at the hardware store but they didn’t have it. I am going to have to go on a search for it. I have this feeling it is something that I would love playing with!

    • This cat is my sister’s and is a “he”. 🙂 I have visited and been around him. I would call him a sprite or elfin. He is small and sleek. He is all feline, giving off an air of nonchalance. If you can’t find citrasolv, locally, Cheap Joes carries it, now. I KNOW you would find use for these papers, Kathleen. Check out the link above to the tutorial as to how to make the papers. It only works with National Geographics and the citrasolv needed is the concentrate not the other products for various other needs. Thank you for your comment! 🙂

  29. This is just wonderful, Leslie. I like how you explain all the steps in how you come by your finished product. I love the idea of collages and always thought it would be fun to do. You’ve done a beautiful job of “capturing” Boo. I’m sure he thought he was totally camouflaged and invisible to any “predators” when your sister took his photo.

    I’m owned by a cat named, Sita, myself!

    • Oh yes! My sister said that he does this hiding “all the time”. 🙂 She is sure that he is confident that he is not being seen. Perhaps we humans could learn that confidence from observing them a little more. Tell Sita, “Hello” for me. 🙂 Thank you, Bodhirose!

4 Trackbacks/Pingbacks

  1. […] National Geographic photos into beautiful collage papers. My two previous posts on this are found here and […]

  2. By Little Bear | Leslie White on 06 Apr 2014 at 10:50 am

    […] My sister’sother cat can be found here. […]

  3. […] him up and found this. He is a red-slider turtle. I have also done two collages, without paint,  here and here. When I use them this way, I call it drawing with paper.  I never set aside time to keep […]

  4. By Python | Leslie White on 25 Feb 2015 at 12:12 pm

    […] If you study this carefully, you can see where I added some citra- solv collage. […]

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