The beauty of wrinkles

Crinkled masa paper plus watercolor provides some interesting effects.

I've done 4 paintings now, experimenting with this technique, and I have to say I'm really liking the effects you can get. The peonies pictured below turned out really soft and transparent-looking. Almost as if I'd used layers of colored tissue paper to make the image. (Hey - that's another interesting idea!)

Crinkled masa paper - Irises in a field

Crinkled masa paper - "Irises in a field"

The irises pictured above have a different feel - almost diffused, or impressionistic. For the irises I painted on the back side of the masa paper, which has a slightly fuzzy texture. This would be the explanation for the diffused effect of the painting overall.

Crinkled masa paper - Spring tulips

Crinkled masa paper - "Spring tulips"

The tulips are another idea again - the spread of color into the background gives a feeling of movement that I wasn't expecting. All in all, a fun exercise and I like the experimentation!


Masa paper - the crinkle technique

Inspired by Chinese artist, Cheng-Khee Chee, I've been experimenting with the masa paper crinkle technique. It involves soaking masa paper in water and balling it up into a crinkled mass. This step breaks the sizing in the paper and when you smooth it out it's left with a network of broken crinkle lines. When you paint into it the color seeps into the cracks enhancing the delicate lines.

Row of trees - masa paper crinkle technique

Chee did a lot of paintings of woods and trees using this technique. The cracks easily translate into tiny branches and woodsy textures.

My first try became a painting which I called "Row of trees". It's a small painting, about 8" x 10". I've already sold two prints of this painting at the Galleria, so I have decided to give it another go.

I started a large painting the other day, 31" x 21" sheet of masa paper, inspired by a beautiful blue iris garden I photographed over the weekend. From what I was reading about masa paper you can either paint on the smooth, shiny side of the paper, or on the slightly fuzzy backside. For this one I decided to go with the back as I like the texture.

I started with Ultramarine Blue for the flowers, creating the initial shapes of the composition by dropping the paint right into the very wet paper. The color fanned out beautifully, running up into the newly-created crinkles in the masa paper. Painting into wet paper is one of those techniques where you have to embrace the unexpected. You can't control where the color will go - you put it where you want it and then go with the flow.  In this case I think it's a nice start.

I kept moving, adding in lots of Aureolin Yellow and Antwerp Blue in the background, in layers of uneven color to get some modulation in tone. I added some Permanent Magenta to the flowers to give them some depth, careful to leave whites where I could. Then I left it to dry. When I came back in I started adding harder edged areas of grasses and stalks, being sure to soften them here and there. I also added more ultramarine blue to the petals to start building up definition.

It's going in a good direction, but I don't think it's quite done yet. Next step is to flatten the painting. Methods I've read about include gluing the masa to a backing sheet, flattening with a brayer as I go. I like working with the lighter weight paper though, so I think I'll try dampening it and putting a warm iron to the back side and see where that gets me. Once it's flat I'll continue adding sharper details to the foreground and a bit to the midground. I think I'll leave the back row of flowers soft to enhance depth in the final composition.

Above - my cat Finnegan was having a close look, and I think he agrees it needs more work.


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