Watercolour Techniques

From Newsletter 158

WATERCOLOUR AND COLLAGE

BY NIESKE HUTCHISON

Nieske (pronounced “Niece-ka”) Hutchison, is British born but a New Zealander by choice. A fourth generation artist, she has been painting for nearly twenty years and although self taught she has studied and attained a Diploma of Art and Creativity (Honours). She explains her techniques.

I work in a representational or abstract manner with watercolour and usually over a collaged surface that does not lose any of the medium’s translucent qualities.

Initially I detested collage until I attended a workshop where the tutor introduced me to Gerald Brommer’s book “Collage Techniques”. This book opened my eyes to the diverse and inspiring possibilities of collage.

In his book “Watercolor & Collage Workshop” Gerald explains the technique that he uses with oriental rice papers and with experimentation I have developed my own style.

There are many types of rice papers which are handmade in Japan and are available at Gordon Harris. To glue the lighter papers I use a matte medium that has been diluted 50/50 with water. For heavier papers I use the medium undiluted.

In preparation I do quite a number of thumbnail sketches and work out a colour palette before setting forth on the painting.

On stretched and dried 300gsm cold press paper I paint, freely, the design from the chosen thumbnail with ½” or ¾” flat brush either wet on wet or dry on dry and soften the edges with water. At this stage I use light to medium values. While the painting is drying I select the rice papers. I tear or cut these papers, approximately 1 x 2 cms. The torn paper has a softer edge and any fibres in it will show up when paint is applied so I use these papers to draw the eye to the centre of interest.

Cut edges are hard edges and are useful where needed. I glue the rice papers with the matte medium to the areas on the paper where I want to add texture. It is not necessary to collage the whole painting as it can become “busy” and the focal point could be lost. I leave the painting to dry thoroughly, usually overnight.

The initial watercolour washes are visible through the collaged papers. You may choose not to put a watercolour wash on the paper first, but start with the collage. This is the freedom of collage. The oriental rice papers can also be prestained before gluing, another interesting effect in the layering of the papers. I find that the collaged papers are quite abrasive and it advisable to use cheaper synthetic brushes instead of the expensive sables.

Finally, I go in with my watercolours. It is at this stage that my paintings can sometimes change direction completely. If I had been creating an abstract I might see something that moves the work toward representational or vice versa. I allow myself the freedom to follow this emotional response.

In “And all that jazz” I used a cruciform design and applied the collage as such. The collaged papers are hard to see in the photo. I have also implied rather than applied some textural effects with watercolour. The square format is used so that there is not an unseen landscape orientation to influence the direction of the painting.

“Ice Age Remnant” uses the same technique, as explained, but I definitely wanted a landscape and instead of an under painting of watercolour I have used Indian ink which was loosely painted onto the paper and then collaged. The fibres in the collage papers, are clearly visible, I have used them to follow the slopes of the hills. In similar works I have also used graphite, pen, and colour pencils. The collage technique lends itself to experimentation and exploration with so many wonderful possibilities. If the painting becomes over worked or you lose direction, add another layer of collage. Oriental rice papers are not the only papers that can be used - watercolour papers, papyrus and hand-made papers are all wonderful.

"And All That Jazz" by Nieske Hutchison


My paintings are framed in the normal format. As I don’t have very thick layers of collage, the mat and frame accommodate the collage. If thicker papers are used or there many layers of collage a deeper frame would accommodate the depth of the work.

The use and possible combinations of media and techniques is endless and allows for personal exploration. Happy
painting!


"Ice Age Remnant" by Nieske Hutchison




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