It is summer in the islands and the air is weighted with humidity while the trade winds are barely a whisper on the skin. So for the next week or two, watercolor and collage will be my mode of transportation for the creative journey. With the air being fairly still, I can leave my papers out and not worry about having a paper chase every time a breeze wanders through the opened windows. On the other hand, with this sticky weather, I have to be careful not to brush up against a stack of torn paper bits or I might become a walking piñata.
The fact is I love paper. Always have. From store bought papers to found bits and scraps of plain, printed, textured, and or tinted ephemera that we come across in life’s journey.
Whether a delicately textured rice paper, or a sheet of elegant Chiyogami paper, even the pretty little postage stamp on yesterday’s mail, all are like little treasures, and with collage, most of these will wind up being torn, crumpled, painted and glued to make more little treasures.
Over the years, the paper I get the most use from are those that I can tint or ‘dye’ with watercolors. Most often these are ‘found’ papers, particularly plain tissue paper or other light weight papers used for stuffing or wrapping commercial purchases.
My process of dyeing the papers is varied, but all are fun and carefree. Unless I am after a particular color scheme, it is a go with the flow kind of thing which is great and therapeutic in helping to shake off the stresses of the day. During these sessions I just lay the papers out on a backing board, sometimes in a single layer and other times overlapping up to 3 layers depending on the thickness of the paper. It all becomes a mad experiment on color mingling and intensity with no worries about making a mistake.
Periodically I will place the papers on a sheet of 140# cold press Arches watercolor paper and approach it as I would an under-painting. I will do several at a time and it is always exciting peeling off the dried paper and seeing what lies beneath.
Examining the remaining imprint, often a textured looking under-painting, frees the imagination to run loose and come up with painting ideas. I also use this method with my sketchbook, tearing smaller sized papers and using random colors on various pages.
Later when I am doing actual daily sketches, coming across one of these pages can not only inspire a drawing, but perks up the visual senses with their subtle pops of color.
Keeping a few plain papers on hand also helps when I want to clean out color wells to make room for fresher paint or to make use of the remaining puddles of paint in my pallet’s mixing area. Instead of wiping up the sometimes large mixed color puddles with a tissue and throwing it out, I can dye a few papers, and often times these interesting color blends really make a difference when used later in collages or other projects.
Looking at the papers now strewn across the work table, landscapes come to mind. Cool landscapes with a water feature, a good destination during these overly warm summer days.
First I need to gather up the papers I will be using, maybe a glass of iced water, and then we can get started.