Lost in the Forest: A Painted Collage

Today was a prime-the-pump day: I spent all day in an art class at Arizona Art Supply in Phoenix. Lauren Griggs IV was teaching Arboles de Papel (Trees of Paper), the full class of the demo I had seen him do several times at the Women’s Expo several weeks ago. Lauren is the manager of the Scottsdale store, and a force field of energy.

The class was the kind I’m fond of–a bit more expensive, but everything is provided

Acrylic on tissue and canvas, by Lauren Griggs IV. This was the sample for the class

Acrylic on tissue and canvas, by Lauren Griggs IV. This was the sample for the class. If you look closely, you can see the tissue texture.

the  36″ wide x 24″ high canvas, three tubes of acrylic paint, brushes, water containers–everything. And to spoil us further, Kevin came along as assistant. It was really great to have someone who helped carry canvases outside to dry, fetched water, made tape appear. Bliss!

We started out by coating portions of the canvas with Liquitex gloss medium, and, while the medium was still wet, applying tissue paper. We pressed folds into the tissue so the wrinkles run in the direction of the planned work.

Once it was dry, we coated the entire piece in gesso, making sure the folds got gessoed down. Lots of texture, and it took a long time for this layer to dry.

trees1The next step was to tear pieces of blue painter’s tape and applied them to the canvas, grouping the lines to look like trees. This is the hard part, as you are working with positive and negative space. The two small pieces of tape on the right and left margins helped me establish a horizon line.

trees2Once the tape was rubbed into place, we began mixing and applying color. No surprise to anyone, I chose to do a monochromatic piece, and applied a coat of warm gray to the middle section. My trees were going to be a stand of aspen after a snowstorm. Then the fun began. I applied a mix of Payne’s Gray (both Grumbacher, which is more charcoal and Golden’s, which has blue in it), Blue Violet and Ultramarine blue. As soon as the paint was applied, you squirted it with water, to allow the paint to run and create more texture. We worked from top to bottom, encouraging runs and dribbles.

We then broke for lunch, while the work dried.

trees3Once we touched up the paint, we pulled the tape off. The paint has leaked under the folds of the tissue and tape, creating interesting tree trunk effects. Unfortunately, some of my tissue came off as well. Fixes were in order.  This stage shows half the tape removed.

We were now well into the afternoon. I’ve never worked this big and it felt like I had to paint a whole, real forest! I glued down torn tissue with gesso, smearing it with a wet towel. (An art technique called Frottage). We added detail along the tree edges, created more detailed bark, and added some shadows. I also added some small specks of orange in the darkest section to create depth.

trees4And the painting was done, ready to go home. It was a wonderful way to spend a 106-degree day here in Phoenix!

trees5Here is the finished work of two other people in class. Each painting was so very different. And while the person who did the work on the left claimed she wasn’t creative, her finished piece proves otherwise.

Thanks to Lauren and Kevin for helping us get great results!

—Quinn McDonald is proud that she did her first really big painting at Arizona Art Supply where she will begin teaching next month!