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I created the above paintings from photo references that my sister took of my Granddaughters while they played hide and seek after my daughter’s wedding.  Thank you to my sister for allowing me to paint from them.

I love the technique I used to create them so will share how I created the top one with you.


In the first step, I toned a piece of 140lb Arches coldpress with abstract color. I had to get this layer dark enough so it would show through the rice paper I was going to glue on top of it.


I then covered the entire surface with torn pieces of textured and transparent rice papers, overlapping them as I went. I mixed my glue with 1 part water to 3 parts acrylic matte medium. This created numerous textures over the surface of my abstract. I applied the glue on the underside of the papers and thinly over the top side of them with my brush, making sure I pushed any air bubbles from under the papers. I allowed this stage to dry overnight.


I then drew my subject on the format in graphite. Yes. You can erase, easily, on this surface.


I painted.


…and painted


…and painted.

I really enjoyed this surface. It was much like when I paint on toned Masa Paper pieces. I found I could lift and blend color if it dried too flat looking.  Some of the pigment would trail along a torn piece of the rice paper and add more texture.  Sometimes when I rubbed my brush over a dried painted area, interesting textures would show through like in the lower right hand quadrant of the second little girl, above. The glow of the original underpainting showed through in some areas, adding to the piece.

Shhh! finished painting

To finish the painting I added white gouache to the larger girl’s dress and veil. In the second painting I added the white gouache to leaf forms and tiny flowers.  I chose to fade the bottom of both pieces to show the textures of the papers and make the paintings appear significant of a memory.

I liked this technique enough to want to do more of them.




  1. Very beautiful Leslie and what an interesting technique. What type of glue did you use and how did it affect the way the paper took the color?

    • Thank you, Tim. I used acrylic matte medium and mixed 3 parts of the medium to 1 part water. You want the glue to be more runny than gooey. You can also use acid free Elmers mixed the same way. I like the matte medium because it doesn’t dry shiny. The surface is fine to paint on. It is not the same as painting on the watercolor paper, so wet-in-wet and washes respond differently. I like mixing my colors on the paper and this is great to do that with. It allows for some lifting and blending as well. If an area appears flat, after the pigment dries? I rub a damp brush over the surface and interesting patterns appear. The burnt reddish darks in the woods behind the girl in the second painting is an example of doing just that, rubbing the surface in those areas, with a damp brush.

      • That is really neat. I might have to give it a try sometime. I really enjoy the look it allows you to create in your paintings.

  2. I love this technique and I was amazed that you could draw and erase over your textured paper with graphite. Your granddaughters look like angels in these paintings. I love the textures in both of these. I’ve tried to do a painting by first toning a piece of watercolor paper, but it never worked out for me. You make it look so easy.

    • Thank you, Carol, for both the compliment to my Granddaughters and the painting. I have searched multiple techniques with this rice paper collage with watercolor and this one is, by far, my favorite. I like it as much as painting on toned and crinkled masa paper. Both take a long time in preparation but I don’t seem to mind too much because of the results I can achieve with patience. I’ve tried the toning of the paper, also, and I just end up getting darker and darker.

  3. First of all, holy cow you have granddaughters! I would never have believe it. 🙂

    Such beautiful paintings! My favorite thing about it is the dappled light effect you get in the foliage. Smashing! The children are adorable, of course. I really love the flowered dress, and those terrific tree limbs in the second painting.

    • The tree limbs were fun, in that second piece. The papers’ textures were different around the tree branches in the first one, so couldn’t play around in them as much as the papers allowed in the second one. The dappled light is only made better because this surface allows me to play around on it and lift and scumble other colors in along the way. I suppose it even has something to do with the colors glowing through the papers from the underpainting. So much fun. Thank you, Cindy.

  4. Oh man! Thank you for the step by step guide. That is very generous of you. I will think about this for myself and might also try it with my children (as artists and subjects).

    • I really enjoy sharing what I try with all of you readers. I would think this would be a good surface for several different media. I could see it used for acrylics, drawing and oil pastels as well as watercolor. Thank you, Kestralart.

  5. The painting is stunning and I enjoyed seeing all the stages. You are so talented.

  6. Omg, it is brilliant Leslie, “complete”in every sense!

    • It was fun to paint a story, Padmaja. I had no idea they were playing hide and seek while they were waiting on the picture taking session. 🙂 Thank you.

  7. Delightful, happy paintings.

  8. You captured their innocence and joy. Lovely! Charming!

  9. This is so stunning, Leslie! I hope you either keep these two for yourself or give them to your daughter. The technique is scrumptious!

    • Yes. Eventually these will be framed and hang in one of our homes, for sure. I like this technique as much masa paper. It is fun to build and lift color. Thank you, Sherry.

  10. simply magical results, Leslie, there’s something so personal comes across, and I bet the two watercolours will be treasured so much more than an instant snapshot.. a piece of yourself is contained therein… xPenx

    • You are right about something personal when you spend so much time painting something like this, Pen. I liked the idea of painting a little story. Thank you! 🙂

  11. The unexpected floral pattern on the little girl’s dress is a place my eye keeps returning to in this painting.

    • I saw that, too, Al. It sort of holds the eye and shoves it back into the scene. …and it was fun to paint. Thankyou!

  12. The girls are adorable 🙂 I really love how you show a series of pictures, explaining your process, and you do it so well. This is beautiful work; you may yet inspire me to try watercolor 🙂

    • I spend all my time with watercolor mainly because I teach watercolor for a continuing education program and am constantly searching for new things for the accomplished artists who attend these classes. I like combining watercolor with other media, as you have seen, and try to share some of what we do step-by-step. If I venture away from watercolor, it’s to draw or do an occasional collage. I like colored pencil but have not spent much time with it the last two years. Watercolor just seems to answer that need in me to feel challenged and see what I can do. Thank you!

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