Col- Mitchell- Sculpted Paper Technique: Origins

Sculpted Paper Technique: Origins

Col Mitchell Contemporary Paper Artist Sculpted Paper Technique: Origins Leave a Comment

Since 2008 I have told the story of the Sculpted Paper Technique countless times. It occurred to me recently, that the only way anyone has been able to hear this story is if they had met me personally. Well, that definitely leaves a serious many out of the loop.

So this blog tale is for those who have only seen my art online, or who have happened upon my work at a gallery or show where I am not present.

Here is the first work I did in this technique:
When Seasons Meet © Col Mitchell   8″ x 10″  (photo credit Ellen Fox)

And here is the story behind this work:

I attended a workshop early 2008 (Jan or Feb) led by Artist Donna Buchan. This workshop involved a demonstration by Buchan on soaking a sheet of light weight watercolour paper that was larger in size than the canvas support it would be applied to. After applying gel medium to the canvas board,  Buchan first bunched up the paper into a ball, then spread it out over the canvas board, matching up the edges of the now malleable wet paper with the edges of the canvas, leaving a surfeit of paper to “play with” in the center.There were 12 or 15 of us in that class, each of us came away with something different.

When it was the class’ turn to try our hand at what she had demonstrated I already knew I was going to try to shape a tree. It was while Buchan was bunching up the wet paper that I noticed the quality and character of the crumple lines; and I thought to myself those lines would make a great tree.
When Seasons Meet is made from one sheet of artist quality construction paper (white) larger than the canvas: wetted, crumpled. spread onto a gelled surface, and pinched, pushed, maniplutated and sculpted into a trunk with branches and a bit of ground texture. Tissue paper (white) was carefully applied on top to add variety and a different quality of line: more fine and sharp.
The story doesn’t end there, however. Most went on to paint their new works during the class. I opted instead to take mine home and let it dry completely. I could see the lovely tree shape made from the paper: the interesting surface lines of creases, the surface quality of the two papers. And I had no idea what to do with it. It was beautiful and I was not all that confident I would not wreck it somehow by painting over it with acrylics.
Fortunately, just the week previously I was in the artist supply store browsing all the toys, when I spotted acrylic inks. I had no idea inks came in acrylic form, and I found the discovery appealing enough to purchase the 3 primary colours, plus black, white, and a pen-nib. It was the quality of ink (super thin) that made it a perfect choice in my mind to apply to the paper tree. You see, I was afraid any other paint would obliterate the finer lines. I had a spray bottle of water standing by in case it all went horribly wrong.
Proceeding with caution, I first misted the entire surface with water. Then I used the droppers in the bottle to drip the ink. The result was dazzling! The ink spread like fireworks, traveled, hugged crevasses  thinned and paled with absorption; the two types of paper each affecting the travel and staining intensities differently. I repeated many applications of thinned ink; impatiently drying with a blow-dryer between each layer, or encouraging  colour blending, creating even more surface interest.
It was all lovely, soft, delicate and . . . blurred. Unfortunately, not my preference. I still felt I could take the piece further. It needed some definition. So, I pulled out the pen-nib and went in adding even more lines, highlighting and defining preferred lines, increasing depth, upping the light, and finishing the work as you see it here.
When Seasons Meet © Col Mitchell 8″ x 10″ (photo credit Ellen Fox)

And that is the origin of the Sculpted Paper Technique. I make every attempt to stay true to this three-step process in the works that follow: sculpted paper, layered acrylic washes, multi-hued pen-nib applied ink lines.


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