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A series of experiments

Updated: May 21

This post is a quick overview of experiments I've done with papers. These include testing watercolours and gouache on Japanese papers, and printmaking on a range of papers. I started safe and small - to conserve materials - before gradually working on larger pages. I'll be posting photos to begin with, and then add notes as I go along - so this page will be periodically updated.

This one is a small experiment with gouache on gampishi:

And these are small strips of various Japanese papers and watercolours. One thing I realised pretty quickly is that Japanese papers are not externally sized, which means that watercolours will bleed, and if it's really wet the fibers start to lift and pill the paper.

Gouache is pretty easy to control as long as it's not too runny. This paper is, again, gampishi, which really does not like to get very wet and pills easily:

The gampi, below, is much more stable and receives printmaking ink and gouache very well, but will bleed everywhere with watercolours!

The other thing I needed to consider was paper stretching. Even though the Gampi paper is unbelievably thin, it still stretches when wet, so I had to learn how to paint it without it buckling. With a bit of research, I discovered a technique called 'Nihonga', which is a Japanese painting technique on traditional Japanese papers. The first step in Nihonga, however, is stretching the paper by mounting it to a waterproof board. So I cut up some A4 MDF boards, varnished them with a couple of coats of acrylic varnish, and used these to stretch the papers.

I also tried to add sizing by dampening the paper with a solution of rice paste and water:

I placed the printed gampi sheets on the board and brushed the solution on the board with a goat hair brush and left it over night to dry. I did this with all of the hand-coloured prints and it made it so much easier to paint!

Here's how they look before painting:

And after painting:

I painted each of the creatures in a series of layers, and I only painted them on the wrong side of the print. First I started with a simple blend of colours to achieve the result below, but then added layers and designs to achieve the results above.

And here's a short video of peeling back the paper. I had to be careful to lift the entire edge off before peeling it back to prevent it from tearing.

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