Hello from Madeline Island School of the Arts in the Apostle Islands! Where are the Apostle Islands? Off the coast of northern Wisconsin in Lake Superior (is this the lake also known as “Gitcheegoommee”)? Anyway, it’s beautiful up here and a very creative atmosphere! I’m stuck here in this terrible place for an entire week with a bunch of students who are trying their best to eat all of the chocolate chips cookies (yes, there’s a NEVER ENDING bottomless chocolate chip cookie jar in my classroom).

We’re here for the “Design Your Own Batiks” class, by the way.

But let’s get down to business. As you know, I was recently in Ireland and I want to share a project from one of my Ireland Journal pages with you. It all began with a photo…..this photo…..


A quiet, Irish hillside. I don’t know about you, but sometimes I get tired of doing the same thing – painting with the same media. I like to change it up! It keeps me excited about painting and challenges me at the same time. So, today….it’s COLLAGE! and here is the finished piece.


Welcome to this fun world where you can make no mistakes. Heck, if you do make a mistake, you simply collage another paper right over the top! OR paint with acrylic over the top! Plus, it’s like being in Kindergarten with all of the tearing and pasting (no licking the paste off your fingers, though. But yes, there can be a nap in the afternoon).

So, let’s begin. I know how you love the fun stuff, but not necessarily the ‘learning’ part, so I’ll try to sneak in a hint or two about composition without you knowing.

First off, this is your supply list:

ART TISSUE PAPER – Note that regular gift-wrapping tissue usually just disintegrates. Art tissue is very inexpensive. You can buy single sheets or a pack of many colors. There’s even a type that has glitter imbedded. The whole world is yours baby! You can find Art Tissue a lot of places, but to save you time here’s a link to Dick Blick’s assorted pack of tissues:


ACRYLIC MATTE MEDIUM – I usually use Golden or Liquitex, but all brands are the same….Daniel Smith, Dick Blick, whoever. Again, so you see what the product looks like, here’s a link to Dick Blick:


AN OLD BRUSH TO USE IN THE MEDIUM – Matte Medium can really mess up a brush, so use an old one if you have it. If not, just watch that the medium doesn’t go too close to the ferrule (that metal part that holds the bristles together). Wash it out often and NEVER let it sit with medium in without washing it out.

6 X 8 PIECE OF WATERCOLOR PAPER – Any brand or weight will work – even a piece of mattboard.


COUPLE OF COLORS OF ANY BRAND OR TYPE ACRYLIC PAINT – You will only need a couple of colors for the houses and gray for the sky.



Get out your Art Tissue and choose a few colors that you think may work in the piece. You can see here that I’ve chosen a green, an orange, a violet…..and the other paper is SPECIAL! That really cool paper I made myself. I googled the Book of Kells (which is in Ireland) and then printed out one of the free images onto the KINwashi rice paper (http://www.kathiegeorge.com/shop/kinwashi-stationery-paper/). KINwashi is full of beautiful, long fibers and it’s actually made for an inkjet printer This is the same paper that I use to print out my batik images to make them into cards – you can see more about this on my website. For now, though, here is a link to the Book of Kells image so that you can print it off yourself! You don’t absolutely have to print it onto Kinwashi paper. If you don’t have that, just try regular printer paper. It will still be a beautiful image.


Click here for a full size version to print


and start sticking them down below the horizon line. (To stick them down, use some of the Matte Medium and an old brush. Make a tissue ‘sandwich’ by putting down a bit of the medium, then the piece of tissue paper, then more medium on top. You don’t need much. Just enough to stick it down. Work out any bubbles with the brush. It’s a lot like wallpapering, if you’ve ever done that).

Now STUDY THE PHOTO. Use your powers or observation on this photo and what do you see?


  1. Several colors of paper are used.
  2. Some pieces are cut and have smooth edges. Other edges are torn and rough.
  3. The papers ARE LAYERED partially over another piece of paper! This is important. Look what happens when they are layered – each layer makes another color, and it also softens the color underneath it. All at the same time. Isn’t that cool? You have so much power!



Once again, using your keen artist spidey sense, what do you notice?

  1. No additional paper colors have been used. Only the previously used colors have been repeated, over and over again, always layering their edge on top of another.
  2. Although at this point, the overall shape of the papers is beginning to look like the country of Africa…..it is also beginning to look like a letter….hmmm…what could that letter be?
  3. Oh hey! See how cool that KINwashi paper is looking, with it’s hairy fibers sticking out here and there? It almost looks like an obnoxious bug in this photo…..but it will get better.



Yep…the letter shape made by the papers is a big ole “T”. Doesn’t that make a very nice composition? It’s because the “T” shape ties the composition to three edges of the paper! It’s a solid, great form on which to build. There are other letters that are good compositions, too……like and “L”, or an “S”, but that’s for a future lesson.

Not only that, but see how one or two of the colors go from one side of the paper, peaking out between other papers until it also hits the other side? This is called “bridging”. You are pulling your eyeballs from one side of the painting to the other side. Our eyeballs like to follow the same color across a painting. It’s a cool trick.

The paper portion is now finished. So, on to a bit of very easy painting.

In this step the sky is painted with a simple gray mix. You can use a pre-mixed gray, or simply mix your own with Ultramarine Blue + a bit of Burnt Umber.

Let this dry completely while you study the next photo.



‘While the gray mix is still moist, also use it in the two bottom corners. Can you see it there? Thin it with a bit of water and pull the washy mix over the edges of the papers. This will soften them a bit.

While drying, paint in the sides of all buildings with color. I used light Burnt Sienna + Cadmium Orange on the two right buildings, and light Brown Madder on the left ones, leaving the roofs white for now.




I left the roofs white, but put in some shadows under the eaves with a gray mixture. Make this gray darker than the sky mix…..more Ultramarine Blue + more Burnt Umber…more pigment means a darker color.

If your artist spidey sense is good, you may notice a bit of a different color now in the sky? I simply used a glaze (which means a very thin wash) of the house color up in the right corner of the sky, softening it out to the left. That’s it. Easy!

Then, to finish up just use a liner brush to paint in a few tree trunks and branches. I poked them out here and there, as though there might be some trees on that hillside.

Done! You are awesome!

Thank you so much for reading. If you have any questions, just leave them as a comment right here on the blog and I’ll answer every one!

What should I do next? Hmmm….thinking…..thinking…..

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