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The above painting is of a view of a home behind my house, while peering through the branches on my large maple tree. There are other homes in my subdivision, but you would not think so looking at this piece. Painting this caused me to think of how an artist can control imagery to create a different feel of an area than what is actually there. I like that. I framed this scene in by making a four sided viewfinder with my hands, thumbs and index fingers touching. I moved that home-made viewfinder around until I found this view.  I set these items to my masa paper with a graphite line drawing, first, and then defined the scene  by trying to replicate the lights and darks I saw in it.

I must note that I used toned masa paper to paint on and I tried something new. I glued the masa to coldpress Crescent board. I wanted to try this surface as the board is sturdier than the 140 lb coldpress Arches I usually use. I will not use this support after completing three others that I have already glued down. The illustration board does not take the pigment with ease and I had to work painstakingly with my layers to achieve my darks. It does offer up a different look than my other masa paper paintings, however.  I am thinking the coldpress paper on this board must not have been very thick nor very absorbent. That is my best guess. …but someone just starting out with the masa paper painting might abandon the technique very quickly with this support as it requires a lot more patience and diligence to work on  than  Arches 140lb coldpress paper.

I will reserve the Crescent illustration board that I have remaining as a support for my citrasolve collage work.

How to prepare masa paper here.


  1. I really like houses with pitched roof (sloping roof). If I move to Tehran (the capital), I will explore this way of painting, because, in my home town, I can not find this paper!

    • Sandrine Pelissier
    • Posted August 11, 2011 at 11:50 am
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    • Reply

    It is interesting how it usually doesn’t show in the final painting if the process of making it was more difficult or not. Sometimes a painting is almost painting itself and we can be disappointed by the result, sometimes there is more struggle like this one but the result is well worth it. Excellent painting! What stroked me was the colors you achieved and also the contrast between the crumbled paper and the very straight outlines of the house. Great work, well worth the fight 🙂

    • You know, I am thinking back to some of your tutorials, Sandrine, and this painting was much like that. I was painting, lifting, swabbing, rubbing in order to get this painting to work. I do think it has a somewhat vintage look that my others on Arches paper do not. I think that is because of the multiple things done to the paper to make it work. So the colors I achieved probably were affected by all that painting removing and painting again. I have since read that this surface is good for illustration, so I am guessing ink and airbrush, light washes of watercolor and marker work. That was my problem. I needed a paper more conducive to juicy wet washes of color under my masa.
      I thank you so much for your praise of this piece and I like what you say about the viewer not being able to tell if the artist struggled. I will certainly pass that wisdom on to my students this fall. 🙂

  2. I could picture you in my mind Leslie, hands spread and searching for the best view, and my goodness you found a wonderful one. The house looks swathed in Mother Natures greenery, almost framed by her fine hand, and that’s a Watercolour to be proud of. My eyes keep skipping from one colour to the next, finally settling on the white of tiered house… Lovely, just lovely. xPenx.

    • Ha! Oh Pen, when I first began painting outdoors, my paintings had everything but the kitchen sink in them and made no sense at all. At the time, I did not know or give myself permission to REMOVE things, feeling as though I was being dishonest. Now, I take the time to look at the scene. It has made all the difference. Your eyes rest exactly where I wanted them to, Pen. Thank you!

  3. This is gorgeous, Leslie! I love the lovely dark places that give it that very real depth and dimension.

    I’m glad you told me that about the crescent board. I made some batches with matt board and I haven’t tried to paint on it yet. I think I will take your advice and save it for some collage work. Thanks for saving me the trouble of trying to paint on it. 🙂

    • Word to the wise, Beth. Do not glue your masa to illustration board. Oh my. I broke every rule and made up some of my own techniques to get this one finished. I think it would only work if I’d done an ink and wash on it. I think matte board might be the same as this or maybe worse. The wet-in-wet does not work very well and one layer picks up another, so good old Arches is really helping us under our masa to give that glow we have been achieving. I am still going to finish the three others I adhered and save the other two sheets of illustration board for the collage work. Try one and see what you get. I like juicy wet work and this support did not. Thank you for the comment. I absolutely would not give up. This poor board took a beating. 🙂

  4. You took me there…watching you with your fingers framed about till you found just what you wanted. I like the choice you have made. I too have several houses near my home, but it is very difficult to see them at all in the summer months. The winter, well now, that is a different story….everyone seems to be exposed as you know.
    This painting you have created has a lot of depth to it. The trees close in the foreground push the house far back giving me the idea that the house is not all that close to you. I love it, Leslie! 🙂

    • BINGO! This house is not all that close to mine. …and I was practicing depth by using values and accentuating foreground, middleground and background in the hopes that I can use this painting as an example for my students to see the amount of value change needed to create depth. Thank you, Debbie! I also want them to know they can look at the scene and not share every little thing they see in minute detail.

  5. Why were you peering at your house from between the branches of a large maple tree? Had the dogs locked you out for not providing enough treats?

    Another lovely Masa paper painting. A little more abstract than your others. I love the branches and leaves on the bottom of the paper. Once again, let me just add: YOU HAVE A GIANT HOUSE!!!!!

    Always an inspiration!

    • 🙂 🙂 🙂 This is not my house but the one behind me. I hope no one saw me standing behind my maple tree holding my hands up and peering at their homes through them. I suppose it would have been grounds to worry if I had the binoculars out! This house is huge!!!! Larger than mine but, by no means, the largest around here. My home is large, though, especially in comparison to what someone like me would be able to afford in New York. As for those little dogs? They were probably watching me and saying, “Now what is she doing?”
      Thank you, Carol.

  6. Very interesting comments Leslie. I have done one painting with MASA and it was on Crescent Watercolor Board. I did not like the surface but you have probably explained why. I will have to try Masa on watercolor paper which I have never done. This painting is really beautiful. I love the composition, texture, strong value scheme and the antique look you achieved.

    • Without a doubt, that is why you did not like the surface. That is why I am glad I tried it because I figured my students might want to skip having to glue this down to already taped down 140lb coldpress paper and opt for the board. Some of what I am able to achieve with the masa is because I have the coldpress paper I am used to working on underneath it. I do think the antique look came from the beating I gave this particular painting by laying in color and scrubbing and lifting until I had the values the way I wanted it. The color did not mingle like on the other surface so I had to keep at it. No one would ever work on masa again if this had been their first experience. You would be O’kay with the coldpress you have been working on if it is 140 lb or heavier. Thank you for sharing your experience and for your comment. 🙂 You said in a recent post you were not too pleased with Fabriano, so don’t use it. Use a surface you like.

  7. I love this – it looks like you’ve used crackle glaze with those lovely lines running through it – is that the texture of the paper or did you achieve that using paint! I have so much to learn about watercolour. This is just stunning.

    • Hi Nicola,
      I have a step-by-step posted here:

      The crackled look actually comes from pigment settling in the cracks of this paper after it has been crumpled and soaked a few minutes in water. I think you would like this a lot, Nicola. Preparing the paper takes some time but some of us are now devoting an evening to just making the toned paper sowe have it available for paintings. It is truly worth the effort. Just don’t adhere it to illustration board. Opt for the 140 lb coldpress watercolor paper. Thank you for the comment and the visit! 🙂

  8. You have definitely done us proud here Leslie, I find this example of your work extremely wicked (Wicked in a good way I mean :)) and thank you for adding it for our viewing pleasure…

    Androgoth Xx

    • I have accepted that “wicked” is something I should smile about, Andro. Thank you so much.
      It is about time for me to wish you a great weekend. You, across the pond, get to enjoy it several hours before ours starts. Happy weekend, Andro!

        • Androgoth
        • Posted August 12, 2011 at 7:01 pm
        • Permalink

        Thank you, and a very happy
        weekend to you too Leslie 🙂

        Androgoth Xx

  9. That is the beauty of the freedom that the artist possesses.. you could create something better than actually exists!
    This is again a lovely piece you created, the crackled look adds a lot of value to this composition Leslie!

    • You are so right in saying that, Padmaja. Our eyes and minds take in so very much and it is our choice to create that which we want to share. I like that very much about what we do. I suppose it is through these images we create that others begin to see what we see. I owe so much credit to what this beautiful paper does to enhance a painting. Thankyou, Padmaja.

  10. Peaceful. I’m sitting on a deck, listening to the gentle rustling of leaves and sinking into the familiarity and safety of my neighbourhood. Leslie, I read how you do these fabulous pieces and am still in awe over what you produce.

    When I write, I sometimes exercise the framing effect. At times, when I am aiming for a particular portrayal, the part that is framed was not what I intended. I like the experience because it reassures that “I” can step aside. Plus, like your painting, it drops a lot of unnecessary detail and distraction.

    I really enjoy seeing what you see. Many thanks!

    • “At times, when I am aiming for a particular portrayal, the part that is framed was not what I intended.” That is exactly what I meant, Amy. Our reality produces new reality in our creations. Sometimes that just blows me away that we can find beauty beyond what is already there. Sometimes my students becomeupset that what they created is not like the reference material they used, while I am standing there drooling over what they produced. It takes time, I think, for each of us to begin to let go and be led into a new vision. Thank you for enjoying seeing what I see! 🙂

  11. Have you seen David Leffel’s still lives, Leslie? He creates worlds of emotion and meaning using a few objects and some kind of magic I cannot define. Your painting here made me think of Leffel’s works even though it is not a still life. You have consciously created a world that wasn’t there before by executing your vision. Love it!

    • Wow! His still lifes are what I would call luscious! I have seen his work and I knew that name but never connected the two nor known this info about him. You bring something new for me to peruse through, Alex, and I thank you for that. It is hard to make comparison of his beautiful paintings in comparison to my feeble struggles, this time, with this surface but , yes, this is something “new” created from a real scene behind my home. It blows me away everytime I find a gem of a vision that I did not see before even while seeing it day after day. I guess paging thru my self portraits give me a taste of that where the likeness flits around the form and they are all me, but not me. Does that even make sense at all? Thank you for the intro to Leffel and the comment, Alex.

  12. aloha Leslie – interesting observation regarding the way materials handle pigment. good info to keep in mind.

    i like the way you found your subject – a relatively simple straight forward look around and then go at it.

    what i really like about this work is the flatness of it. it has a depth but it remains relatively flat to the surface plane of the paper. i like that in work. i think it creates a connection between the world around us and the flat (2-d) world we are working on with paper. that to me makes sense and respects both “worlds”. it’s something i’ve mentioned at other times i’m sure. i see it in a lot of great art and i think there is a reason for that…

    cool work – aloha

    • I think I know what you are talking about with the flatness of the appearance, Rick. It has almost a stained glass kind of feel to the look of it, which I relate to a 2-D surface. Good point. That may be mostly due to my struggles with this support as I could not get much mingling of color like the other surface I use.
      There is so much in the way of paper and pigments on the market, for us to try and to use. It is fun to try something new once in awhile like you and your i-pad. One thing I like about art is that we also venture and become explorers (your sidewalk finds; my paer finds) and we are also scientists discovering how our mediums and visions work together to bring a finished product. Thank you for the interesting insights you bring with you when you come and comment, Wrick! 🙂

      • yeah, stained glass has that kind of shallow depth almost by the nature of how it is worked. a lot of ancient cultures worked in this way too bas relief is another example of a process that makes use of it, or Egyptian panels for example too. even the moderns of the 20th century utilized that kind of shallow depth, picasso, matisse etc.

        to be sure there are examples of great art that get’s into a great sense of depth too – with one point, two point and even 3-point perspective and atmospheric perspective etc. too.

        some how i’ve found that kind of shallow depth appealing to me. i often use it without thinking intentionally about it altho a lot of thought has gone into it at other times. kid’s often use it in their art as well.

        yeah, again i think you are right about exploring and observing – in many ways very much like a scientist on a quest. even your “struggle” which ultimately led you into ways to work with this material is a research-like project. …which came out very appealing (imo). – aloha

      • Thankyou, so much for bringing another way of thinking to my attention, Wrick. That helps me to help others and I am very grateful for the input at any time. I do feel more like an explorer and these insights get into the fabric of each step into the unknown, for me.

  13. This works on many levels. The technique is great for this subject. I like it!

    • Aaah, but I watch you do this ALL THE TIME! You are the master of vision and the player of line and color. Thank you, Chris!

  14. I love how the branches of the maple frame the house. As you know, I am usually most fascinated by nature. And that is usually what catches my attention. I can’t deny it 😉 The house seems to be very idyllic. I like how the walls are white, but still not white at all.

    • Yes you are! You bring a gentleness to nature photography and the most unique finds. I am glad you are back with us. The walls aren’t white, so I am glad you commented on that. They are a light blue-gray but , when hit by the sun, flash back white! It dazzles the eye. 🙂 Thank you, Camilla.

  15. the branches and vines framed the house by a circle~~~ : )

    so nice to live in a tree abundant district~~~

    • I am fortunate to live where people have replanted trees where trees were removed to build. There is a large woods behind the home pictured here and some of the homes in the subdivision are nestled in and about those woods. I am looking to plant one more tree in a bare spot on my property to replaceone old cottonwood I lost to lightning three years ago. Thank you, Summer. Perhaps it is hard for me to paint a house with no trees hugging it, I think, because I can’t remember any without.

      • how lucky to live there~ : ) my mom even kills pothos~ therefore i was always surrounded by concrete and fake plants for decoration~
        don’t know if it’s the culture here but in asia, it’s common to plant a new baby tree when a kid is born… and the tree will grow up with the baby~ i’ll definitely do that for my future kids

      • I just read that about the tree in a book I’m reading written by a Korean author, Kyung-sook Shin, titled “PleaseLook After Mom”.

  16. gorgeous mosaic-like painting!!! Leslie, this is remarkable!

  17. What a beautiful painting! The view through the tree branches gives it depth and interest. The cluster of red/orange is perfectly situated. Blessings to you…

  18. Leslie,

    I also am fascinated by the “crackle” appearance and intense colors settled into the folds – through out the painting there is this satisfying richness. After following your links to see how you do this process, I am impressed by your tenacity to make this technique work. I’m sure I would have given up in frustration, but the results are stunning and unique!


    • You would have no problem with this, Nanina. Anyone willing to prepare the surface and glue it down will get fantastic results. Through trial and error, however, several others who are working on this paper and myself, find better results if the acrylic matte medium is used for the glue to affix the paper. …and that Arches 140lb watercolor paper, as the support, leads to better results. If, while glueing, you brush a thin layer of the matte medium across the whole surface you will have lifting properties whereby you can lay watercolor down and then lift out highlights. It offers another way of working with this medium we call watercolor. I think your deer and the texture of the landscape around them would be fascinating on this surface. Thank you for the visit and comment, Nanina!

  19. You sure do put a lot of time and effort in to pushing the limits of all these various techniques… I’m glad you do though, as that time and effort certainly pays off, as they’re always very impressive.

    • Welcome back, Brian! Hope you had a wonderful break! Thankyou, also, for the comment. Some paintings just fall off the brush. Others? Well, I don’t like taking “no” for an answer right off, at least not while I am facedwith a new surface to create on. LOL.

  20. Crescent coldpress #25 worked well for my daughter on many paintings but she moved on to other watercolor papers. Your picture is fantastic! My eyes could travel the whole painting but they were always drawn back to the house because of the intense colors, the way the trees and other folliage tugged at me and pulled me to the middle of the house, and also because there was little of interest that kept me on the outside. Very well done!

    • I didn’t even see #25 and I know your daughter is good! She may have discovered the same as I have; that watercolor paper allows for more freedom with applications and techniques.
      Thank you for that wonderful observation of your eye being drawn back to the house. That was my intent with choosing this as my composition. I don’t always pull that off, so, this makes me a happy camper tonight. 🙂

  21. I really love the effect of this from a distance, it looks like pointillism. Then close-up and it changes again. 🙂

    • I have that habit of making things look like pointillism, or maybe it is a little that, Val. I try to lay color next to color, most of the time; in this one the pigment and water did not to what I’m accustomed to, though. 🙂 Thank you for the visit and the comment.

  22. Nice painting Leslie…you are right about an artwork having its own reality. Sometimes the art is in deciding what to include and what to omit.

    • It took me along time to learn that, Al. Once we walk away from the reference material, the art created stands alone. A couple days later, it often looks even more different. I think I like that very much. This is often one of the largest steps I see my students take and that is always a fun to witness. Thank you!

  23. Seems like a lot of work, but the result is more than beautiful! 🙂

  24. The effect worked well with using your fingers as a “viewfinder” and narrowing down the scenery. It does appear that you’re looking from quite a junglely, isolated place at that house back there. I like this, Leslie.

    • I am liking this painting, more and more, Gayle, because of the fact that it eliminates the subdivision factor of where I live. Sometimes our vision is too far reaching. There are beautiful things if we only take the time to look. Thank you for the visit and the comment.

  25. i like this. it’s beautiful and i love the square canvas, too.

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  1. […] of rounded forms and are found in many bridges and entryways. We considered values and how our building/ buildings sat within the foliage and landscape that surrounded it. Were there shadows cast by eaves or trees on the side of them? […]

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