When you think of a painting, an image of something that looks real probably comes to mind. Not all paintings are done in a realistic manner, however. We learned some time ago that the invention of photography freed artists from making representational art and allowed them to paint and to enjoy color for its own sake. Sometimes it's fun to just experiment with materials to see how they react with each other. In this activity, we'll see what happens when we try different painting techniques in a nonrepresentational style.
Materials will vary, depending on the technique you choose. In general, however, you will need the following:
Foam board is a paper-covered foam material used in framing photographs and other artwork. You can get scraps from a framing shop. Visit your local printer or quick print shop to obtain pieces of preconsumer waste paper, scraps which have been cut from larger jobs. Many times the materials are recycled, but the printer will probably be willing to share some with you. The papers will be of different weights or thicknesses, and the textures and finishes of their surfaces will vary. These are characteristics which will be fun to learn about as you experiment with the materials.
Make a Wax Resist
Lay a piece of wax paper over a heavyweight sheet of paper, and draw squiggles and loops all over with a sharp stick or dry ballpoint pen. Press down on the tool as you draw, making a heavy line. Remove the waxed paper. Brush water over the paper's surface, and immediately drop or brush on liquid watercolor. If you wish to use more than one color, try to use three colors which are related such as red, yellow and orange, yellow, blue, and green, or red, blue and purple. Notice that the waxy lines resist the paint. If you wish, go back over the dried artwork with colored pencils or make designs with markers or ink in some of the small areas.
Paint through Tissue
Soak a scrap of foam board with water, and lay a sheet of white, tissue gift wrap on top. Carefully apply more water to the tissue. Since it will be impossible to smooth the paper, just enjoy the wrinkles and "bubbled areas" that result. When the painting dries, you'll be surprised at how they affect the tissue and the foam board beneath the paper. Drop or brush on liquid watercolors in related colors, as above. When the artwork is dry, carefully remove the tissue paper and discard. Work back into the foam board, using watercolor, acrylics, colored pencil or ink to develop the shapes.
Create Texture with Plastic Wrap
Quickly paint a scrap of heavy paper or foam board with acrylics. Squeeze some more drops of liquid acrylic onto the surface. Lay a sheet of plastic wrap (the kind used in cooking) over the wet surface. As in the tissue painting, shapes and patterns will result from the wrinkled areas. When the painting is dry, remove the plastic. Leave the artwork as is, or develop the work further by using more paint or other art materials.
Paint on Glossy Paper
Fold a glossy sheet of paper in half, and open it with the shiny side facing up. Squeeze drops of related acrylic colors on one side of the paper, near the crease. Close the paper, and smooth it with your hand. Open immediately to reveal a mirror image. Leave as is, cut the dried shapes out to use in collage, or work back into the artwork with a fine, permanent marker to develop a design or create a face.
All of these color experiments suggest using related colors or those in the same color families. What happens if you mix colors from two or more families? Try it, and see for yourself.
As mentioned previously, you can leave the finished work as a nonrepresentational painting. If you prefer, however, you can develop it further with more paint or other art materials. In addition, much of the art may suggest realistic objects such as trees or bodies of water. If you wish, you can work the textures into representational paintings.
Because mat board is composed of many layers of paper glued together, it is not recyclable. You can help save natural resources and landfill space by reusing a mat to frame your work. Your picture framer will probably be willing to share old or slightly damaged mats with you.
Color plays a very important role in our daily lives. It can affect our behavior, how we feel, and even how much energy it takes to heat and cool our homes! Visit the Color Matters Web site to learn more about color.
© 1998 Marilyn J. Brackney (updated 2018)
Volume 12 No. 2
Select this to choose other activities.