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My Granddaughter and I recently spent a Saturday, together, working on an art project. I am beginning a watercolor and rice paper collage class and my Granddaughter remembered that we had done this together once before.


My intent was to begin with a cruciform design created with washes of wet-in-wet watercolor.


Next, I experimented with different rice papers and tore them into strips and glued them to the surface of my paper, dividing my page into foreground, middleground and background areas. I made the glue from 3 parts acrylic matte medium stirred in with 1 part water. The glue should be runny, not thick. I am careful to not use too much glue in this process and try to keep it just on the papers. If it is allowed to pool in puddles around the papers, it dramatically changes the look of how the paint sits on untouched portions of the watercolor. paper.  I wait for the paper to dry or dry it with a hair dryer prior to moving on to the next step.


In the above step, I went back into the painting with color. I was careful to use colors I had already used in order to avoid too much muddying. I began to envision a large rock formation in the upper right quadrant. I could see a shape, in the distance, that could serve as another rock formation and enhance the depth of the landscape.


I knew I needed to develop a foreground and middleground for the distant rock formations. I mixed a dark from the greens and reds I’d used for my initial washes and began to carve out the lower edges of the rice papers. I did this in strips, thinking about the striations of rock.  I allowed this to dry before moving on.


I painted in the two rock formations in the background and darkened the the greens between them. I decided the foreground area was too large and bland and needed something to enhance depth. I glued down more textured rice papers in abstract tree or shrub-like shapes. You can see them, faintly in the foreground and middleground of this step. I again waited for the paper to dry.

redrockcollage finished piece

For the final step, I painted these shrubs and trees using my darkest darks, created from the reds and greens I’d used for lining the striations.

My Granddaughter liked many of Gerald Brommer’s compositions she viewed in his book on this subject. She decided to draw a distant house and paint and create a pretty colored foreground to the house.


She drew her house and stream and painted large washes of greens, various shades, into the foreground. She painted her blue wash for the sky, and while the wash was still wet, dropped in some yellowy-green wash behind the house to attract attention to it.


She then glued down all types of rice papers in torn shapes and glued them to her foreground green washes. She had more fun choosing all the different papers and glueing them down. She was pressed for time, so she dried this with a hair dryer.

houseinfield finished piece

Then, she painted her foreground area with colors she chose from my palette. She painted in her stream and used colored pencil on her house in the background. Oh! She outlined the house and the windows with a black sharpie.  My Granddaughter is seven.  I am always amazed by a child’s ability to create.

The above process takes time, so don’t rush yourself if you should try this. I enjoy the freedom and the shove to explore that the rice papers bring to a painting.

More posts using rice papers can be found here.


  1. Wow, Les! The beautiful pieces you create from rice paper. I love the transitioning steps you post and am in awe of the transformations that take place. Wonderfully creative!

    • Thank you, Nancy! One of my students left the class last week commenting on how “freeing” working like this can be, once she let her ideas happen on the paper. I so agree with that! 🙂
      By the way! You can use these rice papers with acrylics and canvas in much the same way.

  2. Fabulous colors! I love how you used the paper in steps-like formation. So clever you are! The finished painting is intense and beautiful! Thanks for the instructions!

    • You are so good with collage, Isabelle. I like working with these papers. They help me to begin to see beyond and have fun with shapes and colors.

  3. beautiful work by you and your grand-daughter, thanks for sharing your progress, it is amazing the progress from step to step. and the intergretion of the rice paper. amazing.

    • Rice papers offer so much to think about. Sometimes I feel like I’m sculpting the surface of my watercolor paper with it. Thank you for this comment, ssgt leslie.

      • i personally never worked with rice paper, the regular, every day water color paper during my high school years. yes, i can see the sculpting work. your welcome, and thanks for sharing your beautiful art work.

  4. Very effective and colorful demo Leslie!

  5. I’m a big fan of rice paper and you have used it in so many different ways. Your granddaughter surely has talent. Very nice paintings.

    • This working with rice papers is so much like “playing”. I love the feeling of creating without the crutch of too much reliance on a reference. Thank you, Gretchen! 🙂

  6. You both ended up with an amazing work of art, Leslie! I seem to have lost all of creative juices of late. I love seeing what you are up to.

    • Sometimes, I just have to get into a space where time stands still and the outside demands of everyday life are given no thought. Those are the best times for me to work on projects like this. I have to designate my free evenings for painting. Otherwise, I may never get any painting done. Thank you, Sherry.

  7. So much to like about these…

  8. Wow, these are great and seem like great fun. i would have never expected, seeing your first picture, how it would have turned you. You have great vision. And the painting came out wonderfully. It looks like many of the rock formations I saw out west.

    I love your granddaughters painting as well. She is very talented and clearly is following in Grandma’s footsteps.

    • You said it all Carol!

    • I didn’t know where I was heading until that third step, either, Carol. That’s the fun of doing these. I want to get better with abstracts and these rice papers help me with that. Thank you for the comment to the granddaughter’s work, as well.

  9. Beautiful in many ways, Leslie. A detail that catches my eye is the bridge. Sounds like a wonderful Saturday.

    • It was a great Saturday. Thank you, Hannekekoop. Her bridge is cool! Thank you for pointing that out. I liked all that rushing water. The most fun of all was watching her select color after color for the foreground. She looked so into it!

  10. Wow, both just wonderful. I can’t get over the landscape you managed to coax from that haze of color in the first picture. The middle stages so often don’t look like much. At least to me! This happens to me quite often. But I’m rarely disappointed if I follow through to the later parts, with more fun and detail.

    • You are so correct. For a very long time these don’t look like anything. After a while I set these up on the mantle and live with them for awhile. I keep glancing at them . If I don’t see anythin, I continue to work on them abstractly. If I see something, I work toward it. It is fun, but the key is to back way off of them so you can see the patterns of the lights and darks instead of every brushstroke. Thank you for your comment, Cindy. You rock!

  11. Leslie, you should video record these sessions with the little girl, I am sure she will treasure these moments when she grows up, both works are beautiful, you got a competitor in your own home 🙂

    • If I had a video recorder and then would I need a tripod to set it on? It is a great idea. My Granddaughter would love to save memories that way…. Thank you for that idea. She does good work and I feel wonderful after watching the confidence and ease with which she creates. I hope no one bashes that for her as she grows…… Thank you, Padmaja! 🙂

  12. I’m SO impressed!!!

  13. Too much fun with your granddaughter. I am amazed too with her sense of form and color.

    • I love watching her create things. She writes stories, too! Thank you for your comment directed her way, Ruth! 🙂

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