I love working with papers made with Citrasolv. Thank you to Carol King’s post of three years ago, found here, I was introduced to what Citrasolv, a natural cleaner and degreaser concentrate, can do to transform National Geographic photos into beautiful collage papers. My two previous posts on this are found here and here.
To prepare for any Citrasolv collaging, I prepare the papers in advance so that I have a lot of colors and patterns to choose from. I use a glass jar and pour enough Citrasolv into it to do several National Geographics. I work in the garage ( for ventilation; the smell is so strong when working with the concentrate) to do this. I lay out two rows of newspapers on the garage floor to lay my drying papers on and get busy. I set up a TV table and cover it with newspaper. Then, working from front to back of a National Geographic magazine, I either brush, spritz or eyedropper the Citrasolv on the pages with photos. Between some of the pages, I crinkle up some saran wrap for a stained glass sort of look to some of the papers (pages under saran wrap take a little more time to work). Some of the adds don’t work so I usually skip those. Spread the solution on both pages. I have had some problems with the dry page sticking to the wet page and have lost some of those prints. Then I take a coffee break or have a sandwich or something. There is a small waiting period for the solution to do its work. I find it takes longer in the cold of winter (yes! I have toned papers in the winter! 🙂 ). Once I see the solution has done its “thing”, I begin carefully tearing out the pages and laying them on the newspaper to dry. Drying is fast; 15-20 minutes! The pages are usually pretty easy to tear out because they are softened by the fluid. Here are some examples:
To start this project, I painted, first. I have rushed to use the papers too soon, in the past. It is almost as though the artist needs to see the values in the paint before he can decide which values and patterns in the papers to choose. I suppose, if I worked in another media, I could work on the surface of these papers and I could go back and forth with my choices. So I painted
The whole time I worked on the above painting, I concentrated on value. I wanted to use my papers as some of the darkest darks in the piece.
I then paused and waited for the above to dry while I mixed my glue. I like using acrylic matte medium with some water mixed in. Just a little water; I don’t want my mixture drippy wet, but also not thick. I have several old brushes I devote to the glueing process. They get pretty gummed up and I usually have to soak them in warm water before I use them, as they dry like cement.
I began by cutting little pieces of darks to color in the background under foliage behind the barn on the right. I started working in the trunks and limbs of the background trees. I always brush a thin layer of the glue on top of each paper. The papers are not acid free and I read in one of my art books that the glue on front and back will help preserve the color and protect the surface of the watercolor paper. At first, it is confusing, but, as I added more papers, the scene began to appear.
In this step, I finished the trees in the background and went back in with greens and yellows to fill in more leafy forms to help it read a little better. I added the foreground electrical pole, background foliage behind the second barn and a few branches on the foreground shrub.
The next step was one of the most difficult with this particular painting. I painted the shadow shapes on the second barn. I was careful to go back into the shadow shape and delineate each board on the side of the barn after the initial shadow wash dried. I also painted some shadows behind the shrub in front of the first barn and on the left side of the telephone pole.
To finish the painting, I extended the electrical pole down to the side of the foreground road and added the wires. I know. I know. Why the pole and wires? I think it was because it was part of the allure for me when I chose this reference photo (thankyou to Wet Canvas) for my painting. I thought the pole and wires added to the depth and it is so much a part of a midwest scene such as this one.
I love working in collage and especially with these papers. I think it is a wonderful exercise in values and patience. They do take time.
The Citrasolv art page can be found here. It was great to learn that some of the art supply companies are now carrying Citrasolv as one of their art mediums!