The above painting was created by using watercolor in conjunction with rice paper collage. My watercolor students are currently exploring the use of rice papers in their paintings. For the first exercise, we painted a cruciform design on our paper. This is an exercise that Gerald Brommer suggests in his book Watercolor and Collage Workshop.
The image, above, is my initial cruciform design. He tells us we can splatter, work wet-in-wet, and make small and large marks. One thing we needed to watch out for is to try to not “muddy” our colors in this stage. We waited for this intial design to dry before going on. If we were in a hurry this phase can be dried with a hair dryer.
We, next, tore or cut pieces of textured manila and white rice papers and affixed them to our initial design using a glue we mixed ourselves. We used 4 parts acrylic matte medium with 1 part water as our glue. Use old brushes to brush the glue onto the paper (less is more) and then apply them to your composition in an interesting pattern. Cut pieces of rice paper would appear to be more man-made structures and the torn pieces looked more like forms in nature. I have learned, from experience, that I need to be very careful to not brush the glue off the rice paper and onto the adjacent areas of watercolor paper as this changes the way my pigment lays on the paper. Some rice papers are so thin that I can lay them on the surface of the watercolor paper and stroke the topside of the rice paper with my glue brush. The glue seeps through the porous paper and adheres that to the watercolor paper below. I then stroke gently and lift the excess glue from the top of that piece of rice paper. Once my pattern of glued papers is dry, I again paint into my design. I concentrate on colors that will not create “mud”, often using the colors I used in the initial design. I may, after the pigment is dry, incorporate more rice papers. Sometimes the values are not clear and the artist needs to use more papers to rescue the light values again. I decided my composition, above, fell into that category.
To finish my piece I used permanent white gouache to accent areas of lighter value and went in with my original darks and accented the shapes I wanted to darken with them.
I thoroughly enjoy working with watercolor and collage in this way. It frees me from being tied to reference material and allows for self exploration of texture, value and color. I create these with nothing in mind other than what the paper and pigment direct me to do as they mix and form in front of me.