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Treating Paper with Adrienne Arvidson and Moira Mudie - February 10th, 2007

Have you ever finished a painting and then wished that you had thought more about the background? A vibrant background can make a difference between a good painting and a compelling one that captures viewers' interest. Adrienne Arvidson led workshop participants on an innovative approach to creating this kind of dynamic background by treating paper. Moira Mudie completed the workshop by showing us how to create effective paintings that optimize these backgrounds.

This workshop required some special items in addition to our painting gear:

Adrienne Arvidson began by showing us the special non-absorbent paper we would use.

Fine non-absorbent paper shown by Adrienne Arvidson

Some samples of treated paper were presented. They had a random set of lines and were in single and multiple colours.

Examples of treated paper

Adrienne Arvidson then set about using the hake brush to wet the papers.

Hake brush used to wet paper

After the non-absorbent paper has been wet, some paper towels will sometimes be used to take up any extra water. The colour is then added in a similar way to adding a wash to a painting.

Colour of treated paper added

Then comes the saran wrap. The more scrunched the saran wrap, the more lines will appear. It is the saran wrap that absorbs the colour not the paper.

Saran wrap added to create random lines

The completed treated paper occurs when the saran wrap covers the paper. It is then set aside to dry, which takes about an hour.

Saran wrap complete

The demonstration used one colour, blue, but Adrienne showed us the same type of effect with two colours.

Adrienne Arvidson shows treated paper with two colours

This close-up picture illustrates the vibrant effect of the technique with two colours.

Another example of treated paper with two colours

Naturally, workshop participants asked if the two-colour technique could be shown too. Adrienne volunteered to also demonstrate treating paper with two colours.

Creating a second treated paper with two colours

Wetting the paper again with the hake brush is the start.

Hake brush used to wet non-absorbent paper

Then Adrienne Arvidson used some paper towels to soak up some extra water.

Paper towels are used to soak up extra water

Treating paper with two colours begins with a random application of the first colour.

First colour added

The second colour is then added to the non-absorbent paper in a complementary fashion.

Second colour added

Saran wrap completes the process once more.

Saran wrap added to two-colour treated paper

At this point, Adrienne pushed the two-colour treated paper aside to dry and returned to her first sample to demonstrate the effect.

Taking off saran wrap from first treated paper

As the saran wrap came off, the treated paper revealed a fascinating pattern of lines.

Pattern of random lines emerges on treated paper when dry

Adrienne explained how the scrunched saran wrap created the effect. As you become familiar with the technique, you learn how to control the effect better.

Adrienne Arvidson explains how the more scrunched saran wrap creates more lines

Workshop participants then tried their hand at treating paper as Adrienne Arvidson helped us one-on-one.

Participants begin working on their own treated paper

The second part of the workshop conducted by Moira Mudie demonstrated how to use the treated paper to create memorable paintings such as this one where birds and branches were added to an underlying pattern.

Moira Mudie shows work using treated paper

In another painting, Moira showed how wisteria and vines could be offset by a background of treated paper.

Another example of using treated paper as an effective background

Moira examined the treated paper to decide what type of painting would best be suited for it. There is no rule. It is similar to Moira's previous abstract landscape workshop: look at the pattern and think of how to build a painting that works effectively with the effect.

Studying the lines on the treated paper

Moira Mudie began with a line of sumi-e ink following a line in the treated paper.

Working with the lines to begin painting

This line developed into a tree trunk and then branches and leaves.

Tree develops by using lines on treated paper

Moira continued to add details in black sumi-e ink with a fine brush, always working with the pattern in the treated paper.

Details in sumi-e ink added by Moira Mudie

Burnt sienna created bark for the tree and provided an effective contrast to the paper.

Burnt sienna creates bark

Moira returned to completing the work with details on the tree that complemented the background pattern. The pattern in this case could be viewed as a type of forest or rock, either one giving an effective setting to the tree.

Branches and leaves fill our painting on treated paper

The workshop ended with us heading home with our dried treated paper to work on our own paintings with this creative background.