A Miniature Masking Project

Size matters. Working on a large scale takes time and a commitment to one project. Working small can give you the opportunity to spend that time exploring a variety of materials such as acrylic inks, rubber stamps, water soluble crayons, watercolor ink pencils, graphite, and waxed paper transfers. You may even get a large stack of greeting cards or several small book images out of the process. A very satisfying project for beginners as well as those used to image making.

Time to make a little art.

Tools & Materials: artist's masking tape (as low tack as you can find); your choice of the above materials; waxed paper & fresh newspaper & bone folder or burnisher; thick 100% cotton paper or hot press (smooth) watercolor paper or 100% cotton board (like 4-ply museum board); container of water

1. Use the low tack artist's masking tape to define a small shape on each piece of paper. For this experiment, make the shapes between 1" - 2".

2. To keep things simple, choose either a warm or a cool color palette such as the reds, yellows, and oranges shown above, or various shades of greens, blues, purples.

3. If you are using rubber stamps, pick out one to be your theme (I chose the patterns of a thumbprint for the above samples). Use the stamp pad (or pads) themselves to blot some color into your square. Fill up the space completely, right to the edge. Let dry. Stamp the one you've chosen for your theme and play around with it.

4. For now, keep your color scheme and theme. Try out each of the materials on separate cards.

5. For the acrylic inks, try diluting a little to make a wash. Let dry. Then paint full strength on top of the wash. Don't leave any pools or shiny spots because they won't dry, they'll be sticky forever. Try blotting, using a dry brush to move the ink around, spattering with a toothbrush, drawing with a stick, etc.

6. Continue to try out each of the materials with varying amounts of water and brushes or tools. Let dry between layers of color. You can work on a new card while you are waiting or use a blow dryer to speed up the process.

7. For the waxed paper transfer you will need a fresh newspaper. Today's or yesterday's is good. Find a section of text or texture that interests you (black and white only). Place the waxed paper over it and rub firmly with the bone folder on top of the waxed paper. Now you have a transfer. Place it over the blank section on one of your cards and rub it down. Add more layers, choosing darker or bolder letters, words, or images for the final layer. Yes, you can put one person's head on another person's body…

8. When finished, carefully peel up all the tape. You can find out more about masking and acrylic inks in Painted Paper.

For Daily Use, 2006 (photo: Sibila Savage)

This is a miniature Coptic book (under 3" square). I masked out sections on a larger sheet, used a small brush with gouache, cut the sheet down into strips, then accordion-folded them into page-sized pieces.