Monday, February 08, 2010

Batik-like effects with masa paper - the demo

A tangle of capelin  11 x 15 

I did promise that I would take readers through the process of this batik-like technique to the finished watercolour, so bear with me.  Photos are taken under artificial light so most htings have a yellowish cast.  One of these days i really will invst in a white light, honest!

I started with a half sheet of masa paper.  There is a smooth and a rough side to the paper and I drew my image on the smooth side.  This will be the side that I will be painting on.


I then lightly crumpled the paper into a ball and wet it under warm water for about 20-30 seconds til it was thoroughly wet.  I squeezed the excess water out and very gently unfolded the masa.  Be gentle!  When wet this paper becomes fragile and tears easily.

Masa back

I laid the wet sheet of masa onto a layer of paper towel which was placed on a large drawing board making sure the rough side was facing me.  I used very wet, strongly pigmented washes of watercolour and a large brush and randomly added them all over the sheet.  As the drawing is face down at this point, there is a certain hit and miss to knowing whether or not the colours and lines will be quite where you want them. You can`t use masking fluid on masa, but low tack tape may be an option for leaving areas white.  That experiment comes later!   I like the surprise element of how the pattern emerges.

Masa front

The paint on your piece of paper will appear very bright and start seeping into the cracks in the paper to the other side.  This is good.   The paper towel will absorb the excess paint and becomes a painting in its own right almost. 

I left this to dry completely then cut a piece of 140lb watercolour paper that the masa would fit on, leaving about a one inch margin on each side.  I used general purpose white glue that I squeezed on the rough side of the masa.  Using a wet brush, I made sure the entire surface of the paper was covered with a light layer of diluted glue.

Glued masa

I laid the masa onto the watercolour paper and used my brayer to roll  the paper, taking out any wrinkles and leavingn a smooth surface to paint on.  A baren would work, even a rolling pin, anything to ensure contact with the glue and to create an even surface.


I left the paper overnight to dry.  It bends a little, but not significantly enough to be a problem.  It can easily be flattened under a weight.  Once dry it is ready to be painted.  My pencil lines were still intact but a little bound up in the batik pattern.  I started adding light layers of watercolour to the surface, following my pencil guidelines.
Masa is more delicate than watercolour paper and you can`t manipulate the paint on the surface so knowing what you want to put where is important.  As well as having patience in allowing it to dry completely before adding additional layers.  Too much water and too much rubbing will cause pilling on the surface of the paper and it will tear.  Believe me.  Not fun.


Toni said...

Thank you for the wonderful step by step process. I came by your blog through another. I'm loving what I see and so inspiring!

Jeanette said...

Thanks for stopping by and commenting Toni.

Lindsay said...

Thanks so much for posting!! You know I'm such a media junky.....I love the random quality mixed with the tighter rendering.
You are on a roll!

RHCarpenter said...

Whether or not I've seen a technique done in person or done it myself, I always enjoy stepping into the studio with an artist and watching them create - this was fun for me :)

Billie Crain said...

Wonderful demo. Thanks for posting this, Jeanette! Masa sounds a lot like tissue paper when wet. Love your subtle color transitions and shading and I adore the batik effect you achieved.:)

Sherry said...

This is a fascinating look and process that I am anxious to try.

Robyn said...

This finished piece is extremely beautiful, Jeanette. Such an interesting process - it would probably create a wonderful ground for relief printing too. If only I knew what masa paper was. I'd better google it.

Olivia said...

Magnificent representation of the shine of scales. I like very much this very inspired painting.

jeanette mistress of longears said...

Fascinating! I've seen another on-line contact use this paper in a slightly different way, but still wetting and wrinkling it. thanks for the de-mystification!