Painting Magnolias on Masa Paper

Why Masa?

I have been wanting to experiment with painting with watercolor on masa paper for quite some time. Masa paper is a thin, Japanese art paper that you crinkle and paint on which gives you a beautiful batik look.

The Process

If you have done any research on painting with masa paper, you probably have seen many different approaches of how to prepare the paper for painting, what to use to draw your design, whether to stain or not stain before gluing to watercolor paper, etc. I tried four different approaches but wasn’t satisfied with the results of any one method. Therefore, I took parts of what did work and put them together to create a method that works best for me. There is no right or wrong way, you will just have to experiment to see what works best for you.

For this process, first, I drew my magnolia design with an HB pencil lightly on the shiny side of the paper. Then I cut a piece of 300 lb. watercolor paper 1/2″ bigger on all four sides than the masa paper design. I drew lines on the watercolor paper to know where the masa paper would stop as I only wanted glue to be where the masa would fit.

Next, I crunched the masa paper into a ball and soaked it in water for about 10 seconds. Next, I gently opened it up flat, laid it on my gator board, and dried it with a hairdryer. I think drying it first before gluing helps preserve the integrity of the masa, by reducing friction and possible pilling of the fibers.

Using a coarse hardware type brush, I brushed on Yes paste (which is archival) diluted with a tiny bit of water to make it spread easier onto the watercolor paper. I carefully placed the masa paper (design side up) onto the watercolor paper and gently pressed out any air bubbles. If you push the paper you will pill or possibly tear it. Also, I was careful to keep any glue from getting on the top of the design.

Here is my masa paper, glued to the watercolor paper, dried, and ready to begin my paint application.

These are the pigments I chose for this particular painting:

I began by painting the background with a blue mixed with Prussian Blue + Winsor Blue (green shade) + teeny amount of Hansa Yellow Medium. As you can see, some of the color will seep from the background into the petals–especially where the crinkles are. At first this bothered me, but I came to realize that this is the nature of how masa paper behaves and it actually adds to the character of the batik look.

Next, I darkened some of the blue in the background areas next to the magnolias using a darker blue mixed with mostly Prussian and a little of the Winsor Blue. I did not want the entire background to be dark because when things become too dark, you can no longer see the crinkles of the piece.I then painted an initial wash of Quinacridone Gold onto the leaves and centers.  I know it looks garish at this stage but you will see why I used this color in the next step.

After this dried completely, I mixed a green with Winsor Green (blue shade) + Quinacridone Gold + teeny bit of Quinacridone Burnt Orange to neutralize the color to a natural looking green. As I painted this onto the leaves, I was careful to leave a tiny strip of the gold on the outside edge of each leaf and in the center for the veins. If you look at magnolia leaves they have a little gold edge showing.

Next, I painted in the detail on the magnolia centers with Quinacridone Burnt Orange, and some of the green mix.

I thought I was finished, but oops! I realized my magnolia was floating in mid-air, so I added a couple of stems using Quinacridone Burnt Orange to anchor them.

“Magnolias on Masa”
© Annie Glacken
8″ x 11″ $125

I will say it was a challenge to come up with an approach that worked for me. But now, I look forward to trying another subject using this masa technique!

If you have any experience or helpful suggestions for working with masa, I would love to hear from you!

As always, the compositions in these exercises are copyrighted. Thanks!

8 Replies to “Painting Magnolias on Masa Paper”

  1. I love that you can achieve this batik look without having to use wax and iron! Thanks for working out the process. Can’t wait to try it!

    • Thanks Betty! As far as my experiments always turning out, many times they don’t. This rendition you see was the fifth one I tried! One thing is for sure, I am tenacious and determined! Thanks for commenting!

  2. Love this way of using masa. I have used the wax technique for batiks, but will be trying this! Thank you for sharing your beautiful work!

    • You’re very welcome Judy. I wish you much success with this method. Let me know how it goes. Thanks for commenting!

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