Something I’ve been working with lately is old sewing pattern paper. The pattern paper is a tissue paper and it has all these wonderful lines and curves on it. I glue it onto a canvas or board and it becomes the base for the painting. I usually glue on one piece large enough to cover the entire canvas, but I can also glue on several small pieces all overlapping each other. The latter method would give many more lines to work with, if your intention was to use the lines in your design.
The paper is glued on with acrylic medium. Since the paper is quite thin, when you glue it on, it has a tendency to wrinkle in unexpected and irregular places, making for a most interesting surface. So at the very least, using this method would yield a surface different in look and feel from canvas or board, even those that have been textured with different mediums. The surface is smoother than canvas, and very attractive.
Once I have glued the paper on and let it dry, I examine the lines on the surface and try to see if I can use them in my design. In my piece ‘Shipshape’ (right), I used the lines that were there and started forming shapes and painting them. As the painting progressed, I extended some of the lines and added some more, until I had an interesting and colourful arrangement.
The lines on the paper serve as a starting point for the painting, but they don’t necessarily remain visible. I may paint the painting with transparent colour, so the pattern design is still visible, or I may paint it with opaque colours so it disappears; or I may do some transparent and some opaque. It all depends on how the work develops.
But whether or not you can still see the pattern lines, they have still helped me find a direction, since I start my abstract paintings with no real plan in mind and I just let things happen. So the lines can be helpful in that way.
The two pieces ‘The Road Ahead’ (left) and ‘Sunset Boulevard’ (below) were done using this technique. Both have a section that is painted transparently and you can still see the pattern markings through the colour, but the remainder is painted opaquely. Either way, it is through the pattern lines that I ‘found’ my subject matter for both paintings.
Sometimes I apply the pattern paper on a blank canvas, and sometimes I put a layer of paint down first and then apply the paper. The paper has a yellowy tint to it so applying it on top of colour yields interesting results, as it changes the colour and gives a rather ‘antique’ look to the surface, although if you paint opaquely on top of that, that effect disappears.
Painting in the abstract, with no specific plan in mind, can be a bit daunting at times. I find that using the sewing paper once in a while gives me that little bit of help in finding a direction.
“The only thing that matters is that I have made something that didn’t exist before that moment… and somewhere there will be a person who gets a little tiny jump in their stomach or heart and says, “That’s beautiful, I love it!” (Audrey Morgan, Port Perry, ON)