Monday, April 30, 2007

Weekend marbling/pastepaper workshop

What did I do over the weekend? Ooooh, I had fun!

Nena, Amy and I went to a marbling/pastepaper workshop in Smithville, TX. The marbling was taught by Pam Smith and the paste paper part by Priscilla Spitler.

Nena, Amy and I are known - to the Austin Book Workers - as "The Three Broads,' Personally, I like WeNenaMy, better, partly 'cos it reminds me of my Aunt Patsie doing the litany of names (mine and my cousins) when she caught us filching salad from the bowl while we waited for Sunday supper when I was a kid... Anyway, the three of us drove over to Smithville and back each day, which gave us time to talk and eat Annie's Cheddar Bunnies. Eating Cheddar Bunnies is a crucial part of our Artistic Life. You have to eat them BEFORE you art, of course, because art itself is a dirty job and you don't want your hands going into your mouth after handling, say, cadmium red. That's right... Art is also a DANGEROUS job, because paints are made with all sorts of toxic materials, like lead, and you should never, ever nibble on your paintbrushes...

The workshop was actually held at Buescher State Park, where they sell hunting and fishing licenses, but not artistic licenses, at the gate. We were in two groups, and, after we got checked in and introduced ourselves, we broke into the groups. Half of us began the day marbling, and the other half doing paste paper.

Marbling is done on a 'size' of caragheenan, which is a type of moss that makes a kind of jello like substance. You can float colors (water colors or acrylics) on top of the size using a variety of techniques - wisks (we made those, too, out of broom corn), eye droppers, styluses, atomizers. You also use a dispersant, that pushes the colors around. You can just 'pull' the sheets off the size - picking up the colors because the sheets have been sponged in alum water and alum is hydrophilic, so it draws the colors to the paper - or you can comb complex patterns into them.

My favorite patterns were made with the stylus. You do three little dots of color and then draw the stylus through them. Depending on which way you draw the stylus through (the last drop first or the first drop first), you get a 'feather' or an 'oak leaf.'

I didn't really like too many of the papers I made, but I got some wonderful ideas, so it was completely worth it.

Paste paper involves making paste (flour and water cooked together) or using methyl cellulose and adding acrylic paint to it. It's a pretty stiff paste, and you paint it onto dampened paper with a brush in a thinnish coat. Then you comb patterns through it. It's sort of finger painting for grown-ups. There are a hundred little additional techniques you can do with it, and it's very therapeutic.

At least that's my story and I'm sticking to it.

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