Painting with Newspaper Tutorial

I felt like posting this little tutorial for those who have been asking about making a torn paper collage. There are many ways to do it. This is just one. And it uses only black, white and a bit of gray. If you Google "Painting with Paper" you will see some pretty amazing stuff. But this is my process for painting with paper. And I use a similar process to begin any painting.

I have always been a fan of using recycled materials to make art. In this tutorial, I am using shoe box tissue and newsprint to make a painting. You will need: a canvas coated with gesso (as small or as large as you like), a piece of vine charcoal, black acrylic paint, a small brush, liquid matte gel medium, brush rinsing cup and water, tissue paper in colors you choose (black and gray work well with news print) and pages from newspapers...especially the classifieds and financials (small, consistent type works best)

For this piece, I was inspired by a classical painting by Botticelli. When I paint on canvas prepared with gesso, I begin by drawing my image using VINE CHARCOAL. Vine charcoal is very soft and wipes off easily with a cloth (not to be confused with other charcoals that have an oily finish). This way I am free to sketch and change it without making a huge mess on my canvas.

I can sketch to my hearts content.

If I don't like it, I can wipe it off.
See? It wipes off without an eraser...and no mess.
I add shading using my finger to smooth edges.
This is the base I keep it loose and simple. But I still throw in some shading so I can see where I am going.

Then, when I am happy with my sketch, I set the charcoal by painting over it with a wash of black acrylic paint. Thin paint...meaning watered it is more gray than black.

I add gray tones so that I know where I want to fill in with gray paper.

After I have "set" my sketch with paint, I rub off all the vine charcoal with a cloth, leaving just the paint. If I do not remove the charcoal, it will get into my work and look dirty.

Now I tear lots of tiny bits of paper and start adding them to the piece using my base painting as a guide for tones. If I want it to be darker, I use smaller, darker print. For lighter tones, more open print. The lightest tones are the newsprint borders where there is no print at all. I use a liquid matte get medium for adhering the paper to the canvas. I paint areas of the canvas with it and just start sticking down the bits of paper. I use my brush, sticky with gel medium, to pick up and place the paper pieces.

For the hair, I have torn stringy strips of black and gray tissue paper. I use my brush to move it around because it will stick to my fingers if I get my hands in it.

I use a bit of tissue on the eyes as well. It is important to mix materials in all parts of the piece...not just use tissue in the hair and nowhere else.

Sometimes, I use Elmer's glue mixed with water (50/50) for this part. But then I will always coat it all with gel medium just to seal it no matter what I use while working on it. By the way, Elmer's School Glue works just as well, and if you don't like what you have done, you can soak it with a wet paper towel and remove what you don't like and do it over.

Working this way is a gentle approach to painting. I can easily change the shape of things by adding more paper bits. I feel more freedom when using paper instead of paint. I love the texture of the bits of paper. And the satisfaction of using something that costs nothing! The acrylic sealer in gel medium will protect the work and keep the paper from fading.
Here she is all finished. When I make art that is planned out (drawn first and then "filled-in") it is a very meditative experience. I can lose myself in the process more easily than I can when I am working on a more spontaneous piece. I can go slowly and think about what i am doing. I can stop and start without worrying that the paint will dry. I learn a lot by doing this kind of work. It is very forgiving which is good when you are trying to learn. And art making, for me, is always a learning process.