Creative Work

Creative Work

With all of the work this past year launching MUSE, establishing writing as a daily practice AND getting all of my backlogged ideas and products out in the world, I haven’t spent as much time making art as I used to. But now that issuing MUSE is more routine, I have time again in studio. For this issue about work, I thought I would share the process and craft of making a paper painting. Here are a few in-progress photos of the first in a new series about Iceland. (I’m looking into making a video, too, and a flip book of a paper painting, start to finish.)

I start with a photographic print. In the course of ‘painting’ a scene I refer to the photograph often, especially at the beginning. This is a photograph of the panorama visible from the house we stayed in, near Bogarnes in western Iceland. It was taken in May, close to midnight.

My paper paintings have always been landscapes of real places that affect me deeply, so as I ‘paint’ my mind’s eye takes over, and also the emotions I felt in that place at that time. The result is something less than a reproduction, less than accurate, yet still a true and real representation.

I use stretched canvas as my base. For my previous desert series I applied textured wallpaper as a first layer. The rough surfaces help define different visual elements, and give the painting depth and dimension. Art papers conform and stick nicely to the wallpaper, too. Here are the wallpapers I am considering for this series.

Then I choose my ‘palette’. Here is my first selection of art papers, for the background, middle ground, and foreground. I will do a lot of experiments layering them with each other and with the wallpapers, to find the right materials, sequences, and combinations. Some of these papers will result in an impressionistic mode, others – the electric blue wavy one – in a more abstract rendering. I don’t know just yet which way the painting will take me.

A few of the experiments. These are some first ideas about Icelandic clouds and sky, for the background.


A rule of thumb about landscape drawing and painting is that two of the three grounds – back, middle, and fore – are featured, while the third recedes. My inclination is to emphasize middle ground and foreground here, to let a muted sky hold the bright mountains and crisscrossed plains. Then again, the Big Blue Sky may want center stage … I’m not sure yet.

Here are some textures and patterns to represent the foreground.


Next I’ll work out the snowy and ziggurat-ed middle ground.

The following photo is a mock-up of the whole, to test composition and color scheme holistically.

When I’m ready ‘to paint’, I’ll start with the base – in this case two or three wallpapers. Then the background, beginning at the top. I use matte medium as glue and sealer.
The rest of my process is a back and forth, layering the papers down the canvas, and atop each other to get the right effects.

That’s as far as I’ve gotten. Look for the completed painting(s) in an upcoming issue!



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