The Paper Surface - Inspiration, Backgrounds, & Clearing Artistic Blocks | Elisabeth Arena | Skillshare

The Paper Surface - Inspiration, Backgrounds, & Clearing Artistic Blocks

Elisabeth Arena, Artist and Educator

The Paper Surface - Inspiration, Backgrounds, & Clearing Artistic Blocks

Elisabeth Arena, Artist and Educator

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6 Lessons (25m)
    • 1. Introduction

    • 2. Watercolor and Salt Magic

    • 3. Suminigashi - Japanese Paper Marbling

    • 4. Gel Plate Printing

    • 5. String Pulling

    • 6. Tea Stained Papers

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About This Class

Blank Paper or Boundless Potential?

Ever found yourself overwhelmed by a vast expanse of blank paper? Do you get blocked, lose your inspiration or just have too much buzzing in your mind to find focus? 

In this course you will find a variety of techniques to get you going on using both familiar and unexpected materials to get some beautiful backgrounds and imaginative images. You will experiment, find your creative muse or at the very least, develop a stockpile of imagery that can be used in whole or in part of your fine art and mixed media endeavors. 

Watercolor and Salt


Suminigashi (Floating Ink Technique)


String Pulling

Meet Your Teacher

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Elisabeth Arena

Artist and Educator


Hello. I'm Elisabeth, but you can call me Liz if you don't care for all those syllables. I've been an artist since childhood and formally trained in college. I got my BFA from Tufts and the Museum School in Boston, spent a few semesters studying in Florence (si, sono Italiana) and went on for a Master's degree with a Drawing specialty from Radford University. In my personal work, I use graphite, ink, marker, watercolor, acrylics and oils and digital media...but am always willing to experiment when I discover something new. You can see some more work on my fine art website:

I have been teaching for a number of years. Foundation and creative Drawing, Painting and Mixed Media are among my big subjects. I taught adults of varying sk... See full profile

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1. Introduction: Hello. Welcome to the paper service. I'm artist Elizabeth Arena. Have you ever gotten a brand new sketchbook? And you just sometimes feel completely overwhelmed by all the possibilities. What you could put on paper that's happened to me more than once. It's kind of like finishing a new favorite book and feeling kind of lost, like you just lost all of your friends and you're just not really sure what to do next or how to make some new ones. That's frequently a transition period that I find myself then and I like Teoh, find some ways that I can fill in that time and be productive on create some potential backgrounds or even be inspired by some of my process techniques that will give me new ideas. As an artist, I don't really like to leave myself. I hate that question. What kind of work do you do in some ways? Because it's a very limited. I draw paint, sculpt, experiment. I see something that sparks my interest, and suddenly it will take me down a new creative power. And so I find that this process really opened my mind up using different tools, materials and techniques and get the ideas flowing in a pretty spectacular. So I'm gonna be sharing with you in the series of video. Some of the techniques that I use to break the ice with my new sketchbook or my new mixed media at, or just some of those newspapers I have hanging around that could be turned into excellent works of art. Finally, take the time to sit down, really looking forward to seeing some of what you might come up with and where this process takes you within our image gallery. So let's get started. 2. Watercolor and Salt Magic: Hi, I'm Elizabeth Arena. Welcome to the paper surface. I am an artist, that personal Aptiva media. I draw paint, sculpt. I do all kinds of things. But like any of us, I experienced greater blocks. And in those times I find it really helpful to focus on creating some different paper surfaces. That does a few things for me, one that helps you reconnect with materials that I might have used very much and also gives me an opportunity to create some backgrounds that might not have time for at other periods when I might be in a very high creative, um, float, shall we say, And also, I might find my inspiration again just through the process. So the first few techniques we're gonna focus on deal primarily with water, and I think that there's no coincidence there we are, mostly made up of water were calmed by it. It suits us. We tend to find stillness in water. You feel stressed out a bath hot shower. You listen to sounds of the ocean. You listen to the rain, and those things do tend to calm us down. And so I find the process of working with water my are very soothing, So the 1st 1 that we're going to focus on is watercolor and using fluid watercolors or liquid water. Coolest. So one of materials that you'll need to get to do this the right way or my way is liquid watercolors. There many different companies that make those for this video I was using Blix brand. They come in some wonderful, vibrant colors, and you could dilute them the last a very long time. I'm using them in little misting bottles, which we'll see in the demonstration on you can. You can really stretch them out, and you can also kind of control how intense the color is based on how much water you add. So it's a nice thing you can also put them in little eyedropper bottles were used. Little um, no pets. If you would like to have a little bit more intense bursts of color, you'll also need to get some nice thick grade. Watercolor paper doesn't have to be extremely expensive, but Strathmore cancer and I would recommend make nice papers. You can you put every prefer and also get yourself some salt instead of getting one with the uniform rain it's a mixed salt. Just that kind of would have two grand yourself. Using that type will give you much more interesting marks in variation on the surface of the paper. The last thing you'll need this process is patients, because you're just gonna have to let it dry, so I tend to let them sit for quite a few hours or even overnight. But later in the day, these air some examples which might get when you're done thesaurus dries and creates a really, really interesting marks. I like to use them for a number of reasons I paint on them. I drawn them. I use them in collages. I use that in mixed media pieces. I will put our frelick mediums on top and then do something else, and I will also, as you see the tiny scandal in and use them and breath design applications. Or to Justin handsome, I might do some layering techniques. I can actually change the entire color of the image of my leg, so it's a really versatile thing to do, and I think it's a really beautiful results with a wide variety of color, and you can focus on the images a whole. We're really just part of it and find some really beautiful elements, and I do find it a very inspiring process. Let the element of surprise in it. And I highly recommend trying. If you haven't yet, this is definitely a sloppy process. You're going. Make sure that you set up a area that you can You can kind of keep the mess to a minimum, do it outside, or just prints up newspapers underneath your work area. And I would suggest you where some slop vehicle it was, just in case things get out of hand. So I am layering on this paper with a few different colors on by usual kind of have a little idea or a theme Before I get started. I wanted to create sort of a fall mix here. I'm just using a combination of misters as well as little a little dropper. To get some more intense colors. You can lift it to get the colors, just move around and spread it some pretty interesting ways. And in your final step, you're going to Sprinkle that salt on. You get focused more in certain areas rather than others to get more intense area of what looks coming crystallization that that does yield some pretty interesting results. And then you can't put any more paint on top of the salt. Once you put the salt on your done, you just put it aside and let's try. Otherwise it won't do its magic, and you won't get those beautiful crystallized areas. So experiment with your color. And don't be afraid to really so the paper and get it moving around. It's gonna dry, and you might end up with some very interesting spots based on what college you mix together and wear. Certain colors pool around What's It's dry, which will be some hours later. You'll find that you have some remarkable surfaces, some of the salt little Quinn to the surface I find a little bit and create kind of a little shimmer, which could be nice, and you can do anything you want, as he couldn t have done here with some acrylic paint, have some fun and cherry results 3. Suminigashi - Japanese Paper Marbling: Our next technique is called Sumida gushed and that is the art of Japanese paper marbling. You're gonna need a few supplies. Firstly, you're gonna need some, assuming this is the yes, you Tomoe brand, so you can get other brands if you like. And this is the book on go marbling kit. This will give you the colors. If you want. Experiment that some colors so you can get that on Amazon or many art catalogs websites and you're gonna also need water. Water is not gonna work just from the top. Typically, because there so many additives or contaminants in your general tap water. So you're gonna want to make sure that you filter the water furs or that you buy some distilled water in the store that should get the bottle. You're also going to need a tray large enough to hold your paper For this process. I would highly recommend that you invest in some rice paper. If you use other types of paper, they may have sizing on them or just not really be is absorbent. And so a lot of your ink might run off where it just won't have the rich, vibrant color that you're looking for in this project. Race paper will really suck in all of the ANC, whereas the other papers may not do that. You end up with a kind of washed out image. You can also order that, but make sure that you get the thick variety. Otherwise, it will pretty much just disintegrate. What we're doing here really relies on the surface tension of water caused by hydrogen just sticking together. And we're gonna be floating ANC on the surface of the water and essentially pulling it up with the water. This is really fun technique. You can use these papers and a lot of different applications. I'll be using some colored inks and this video which you can see right here really nice set . Very versatile, really vibrant colors as well as some Sumi ink. Just black Sumi ink. And and there is just a drop of dish soup and some water to dilute it. We're using the surface tension of the water to do this technique. So the silk water acts as basically the surfactant, which is was gonna break the surface tension. Basically, that same kind of magic you get when you put a drop of super too greasy pot. I'm really, really just barely touching the surface of the water here. If I break the surface, the ink is gonna sort of dispersed in the bottom. Ideally, you're touching it so lightly that is just dancing the surface. And you don't have a think that's sinking to the bottom, especially in these initial stages and dirtying the water. So, as you can see, I'm just sort of going back and forth using the blacking and then the soap water mixture to kind of break the circles. I'm doing this one circle inside of another, and that's sort of the traditional method of SUNY Gashi. But you certainly have to do that. Every little motion counts. So if you're shaking the pan or the tray, you're gonna see those ripple effects in the water. That's perfectly fine with me. I like having these sort of, um, unplanned, beautiful designs that occur based on those natural motions. I think that's part of the energy of the peace, but you can certainly try and controlled as much as possible. I think that the joy of this is having a little bit of unplanned results. There's only so much again plan, because even just your environment will affect it. You can even use your breath to move the ink on the surface. You don't have to worry extremely quickly here. In fact, you can take quite a bit of time. But if you take too long, yes, the equal eventually start to sink it. It doesn't last forever, but it doesn't last for long enough that you could get some pretty amazing results. I also just started using the colored ing's. I find that less is more and I usually will limit my palate. I don't really want a rainbow. I usually just kind of stick with, You know, maybe maximum two or three colors unless I'm just really theory experimental. But one thing that is extremely important, this is that you always have very clean water. You'll find that if your water has any contaminants in it at all, the ink won't dispersed properly so much like a clean water test city. Honest what I did before I started this is actually just filter my water through a Brita filter just that clean out any impurities that it might have had. You could also get some distilled water, but it won't work well if you have any contaminants. Paper is another extremely important factor on us. As I said in the beginning, if he is the wrong paper, it's not gonna work. You will get the results you want. The ink will not be absorbed into the surface if you're using a paper with any chemical sizing on. And by that I mean, if you're using something like a computer paper, for example, the ink from the pressures meant to sit on the surface. So there's a pretty heavy coding on the surface that's not gonna allow absorption of materials. I honestly eight even drawing on cheap computer paper because it's not meant for it. Every paper serves a particular function. So what I'm using in this video is a nice, thick race paper. It absorbs like a dream. It's a sponge. It sucks up all the ink on the surface, and it's sturdy enough that the liquid is not gonna break through. You can see it bleed right through to the back, and that's exactly what I want. You can also see that my water surfaces fairly clean. It's just taking everything off. The only thing that you might see, especially as you go along with this. You really don't need a change of water unless you're using too much of the soap solution, which you want to avoid, because then you have to clean your water out faster. That will be obvious if you were Inc stop spreading nicely. That probably means that you've got too much of the soap solution on the surface, and you're just gonna have to change it out to get the beautiful results. In addition to just touching the surface, the where you can also gently tap the brush and sort of get a little spatter technique that you seem doing, the downside of that is you will definitely have some more of the breaking the surface just based on gravity. Of course, when it hits the water, something might fall to the bottom. It's not a big deal. Your trays gonna end up getting a little dirty eventually. At least it always does, in my case. But I think yield some some pretty cool results. When you do a little bit of just tapping the brush and dispersing that fluid, you do want to be careful that you don't get so much on the brush. That creates a drop because that's a little heavy and it will pop through. So less is definitely more. In this case, you'll know what to reload the brush because they want spread so well. When that thing that I really like about the colored inks is that you can mix them together to create new colors, you're not just limited to what's in a palate. They next, just like any paint with in addition to using your breath and the brushes to manipulate thinks you can also drag the bottom of your brush around to kind of manipulate the flow of the ink on the surface, just gently squirreling the brush around. We'll give you some pretty interesting results. So that's something that you can really experiment with. What can you use it for? The imagination is pretty much your limit. Once you get all of these papers and you have them in your little arsenal of surprise, you can create mixed media pieces. You can use them for bookbinding. You can use them to create beautiful cards. You can use them to pretty much anything you want with you. Can I think you can also maybe make them into the little jeweled art pieces. Eso I think having fun with this technique that looking at them and finding uses for them view the Miss little individual works of art. Just have them on hand when you're feeling a little stuck and need some inspiration. This is really a wonderful wait, a break that block. 4. Gel Plate Printing: in this next section will be working with gel printing. If you haven't tried before, it's really fun, in many ways quite spontaneous, and I will say it takes a little bit of practice. Teoh usually get the results you want, but no matter what you're doing or how much you love each print, it's a really fun thing to experiment and see what you can come up with. And part of that fund is finding things that you can use for textures on your joke. I have with me here a couple of things that I just pulled out that I think would be nice to work with. This is just some hemp string between was, as is or what part I really like Using string, you can use cardboard. You can use any little bits off plastic packaging that have interesting patterns. You can use things like lace or Doyle ease that could leave an impression on the plate or you can use is a resist. When you're going overseas marks, you can use commercially created texture patterns that you might use for cake decorating or also for creating clay textures. Keep your mind off there and you can also use things like bubble wrap, which have not used before, like I really like. What I will tell you is that you can end up with quite enough sort of odds and ends, so I would suggest you keep a little box in a way so that no spells friend were roommate might criticize. You have collecting junk because you might find that there's a perfect coffee sleeve at your local coffee shop. Makes the best mark ever, and you don't want anyone to throw it away. So let's go ahead, and it started with this one. Have some fun and please share the results. I'm not going to lie. Printing with gel plates is a pretty messy process, at least for me, and I've always envied demos where it looks like everything's very neat. What you're gonna need at the very basic level are some liquid acrylic paints and some texture. So what I'm using here is a variety of things. I have some plastic texture plates that are used for rubbings, also for creating clay textures. I have got some paper rules. I've got string. You can use bubble wrap. You can use corrugated cardboard. You can use pretty much anything that is, um, gonna create impression without potentially damaging your jail place. He won't use anything metal or sharp on the surface, but anything. Then we leave market pretty much work so you can use your imagination. Um, I used in this also some string and I'm not gonna lie. There are been many plates or prints that created where I'm that I'm not always crazy about the results. But that's all part of the process. You're gonna develop ways where you layer different types of colors. You might start with a darker layer and then discovered that you want to come with a light one, and maybe that works for you. You will find textures that are your favorites, and then you'll start looking around and finding packaging materials and refuse that you might otherwise have discarded a bottom oven. A card might suddenly become really fascinating to you because you wonder, how would that work? Leaving impression on this job, the brand I'm using here is speedball. I make a really nice one. Um, there's of course, jelly arts. They create a a nice permanent printing plate thebe quality for me if it was about the same , but that's that's up to you. I would caution you in buying anything that's too cheap. You typically get what you pay for, and if the plate is too hard, you're not going to get the kind of impression as you want to get. So by the by, the better the better quality. That's always my motto by by the best when you could afford, because you will be happier with the results and definitely be using it more. When I do this, I usually make a whole bunch of prints, and when go just so might clean up is a bit less. But using a relatively thick paper, I would say, is the best way to go. If use anything that's too thin, you might run the risk of tearing it. If it's not a good quality strong paper, I'm just using some white soul fight paper and some basic fluid acrylics. Your Breyer, the roller. It's also an important tool. I like a softer one myself. I think it rules a little bit better on the plate. Think about also how much pain you're actually putting on the surface. You don't want big globs of paint less is more you'll know if you need a bit more. If it's just a little too thin, it looks like it's drying out. But if it gets too thick, you're going to get a really sort of unattractive, blobby amount of paint. Also, be careful of the roller that you don't overmix on the surface or you're gonna lose those separate collars or that nice, greedy in you're aiming for. It's a little balancing act, and you'll find the appropriate amounts to roll, and also you'll discover which colors really work successfully together and maybe develop some new techniques with some experimental processes that you try. 5. String Pulling: This next technique is called ST Pulling, and it's kind of a traveling classic. But if you don't train your kid after chance, the nice thing about it is you only need a couple of supplies. You need some strength. Some are really paint ink and some kind of a big. What's interesting about this is that depending on what you use, you will get different results just like hang ups. For example, this is a silky street, so the way this holds the paint is gonna be very different than the way piece of dental floss holds a paint or construct. So you'll see what happens when you do the whole and if you like, If you don't, you can always switch over to a different kind of straight and see what happens. Also, keep your paper in mind. If your paper is very absorbent, it doesn't have much of a sizing. The way of the painter pulls across the paper will be different. Okay, so keep your mind open. Experiment a little bit. If you're not happy with the first attempt, just try to get and see if you like. But whatever you get, please share your results with us so that you're just could stimulate our imaginations to make sure what we see your very interesting stream pollings string pulling is a really wonderful technique to get your imagination going much like a roar Shock blood. Um, I'm using just standard we drying paper here and a little bit of blacker colic pain. I did water down just slightly. So with run a little bit smoother and I'm also using some dental floss here. So all I'm doing is soaking in the dental floss, arranging it on the plate paper and then just folding this paper in half, applying pressure and pulling out that string as I wiggled around a little bit. So what I'm really looking for here is a way to stimulate my imagination when I see what I want to see on the paper. Then in one step, sometimes it's hard to know when to stop because you're having so much fun doing it and seeing new things emerge all the time. And sometimes, you know, you can just take it a little bit of further. Sometimes I can actually just use what I pulled to create a dry I won't necessarily draw or create any artwork on top of this drink art that I've already created. But it might look at it and start drawing out what I see on another sheet of paper and allowed that piece to evolve on its own. Sometimes I might three see multiple things within a piece of string art that is created. So I think it's a really wonderful tool to use to get your imagination going. If you're feeling a little stuck while I'm just using black in this video, there's nothing that says that you can't use multiple colors. You can try different surfaces of paper and see what kind of mark you get from that. Also, think about using different type of string. I use both dental floss and a brewery floss in this process on its particular pieces. To get a little bit of a different weight, they will absorb your pain in different ways as well. Is the paper that using a surface on them may 2nd more of the pain, and you'll have a little bit less drag and get a different look? But I really created you to try this. It's simple. It's effective and very inspiring. 6. Tea Stained Papers: I've always been intrigued by coffee stains and little rings of colored T left from a cup that was sitting on the counter just a bit too long. And so I started staining my drawing papers with T quite a while ago. I usually cut little bits of paper or shapes and just kind of have them ready to go and use different types of tea. I've experimented quite a bit. I find some that are my favorites, but I don't usually use a black tea for this process. Using a CorningWare type trade to withstand the heat. I'm just pouring hot water directly onto the surface to get the tea flowing and a spoon to just kind of agitate the paper. Make sure that the the liquid gets in between all the pages. Otherwise you can get little pockets where the color won't penetrate. The paper sticks together. So once I agitated, you basically just let it sit there until the tea cools off enough to handle it. I'm using a fairly heavy weight Strathmore branch drop drying paper here, and I've never had any trouble with my paper tearing from the heat as long as they handle it carefully. You can end up with some really spectacular designs that might just stand on their own based on the papers you cut and how deep disdain is where you can have some really nice paper for just kind of a vintage look or something that's not so intimidated to get started on with a new drawing or work of art. These are also great for scrapbooking and card making or any kind of paper activities. Also, you might be able to use them a graphic design. If you get some interesting images, you can only scan them, turned into a photo shop rash and had some really intriguing elements to design.