Working with Tissue Paper in Mixed Media Art

Tissue paper can add an interesting dimension to collage, especially dressmaker patterns. We are mostly using opaque shapes in collage, so our work can get blocky. Tissue paper can add some transparency, and connect areas of your composition in a subtle way by overlapping them.

This piece has so much going on, just with color, that is was hard to tie it together. Tissue paper is help to give us more unity with its tan color moving over multiple areas. It is obscuring some elements lightly, making them quieter, and it’s also doing something I really like: introducing lines, graphic elements. The repetition of these lines, and the line of circles, is helping move our eye around and almost giving the piece a structural support.

Working with tissue will be greatly aided by a spray bottle of water! If you glue is down dry it will wrinkle uncontrollably. And you may want that. But in this case I wanted to control the lines and get them glued down straight. So I first spritz a piece of tissue with water. You might blot it lightly with a towel so it is not dripping wet.

My substrate here is a cradled panel and I am using acrylic gloss medium as my adhesive. Every piece I glue down gets a top coat of acrylic as well, so that my surface, at any time, is sealed and waterproof. So I can lay the damp tissue on top of it and not damage anything. It is a great way to preview your placements.

When you find where you want it, put a layer of medium down and set the tissue on top. Damp dressmaker patterns are fairly strong and you can pull them so that you remove wrinkles and get the paper where you want it. You might pull it back up a few times to straighten it, while the medium is still very wet. Give it a try, it works pretty well.

To a creative week,


The Workings Of A Book Collage

Collage allows you to use almost anything, so it can be a long process to discern what materials interest you the most.  The current day magazines were fantastic for exploring color and shape in abstract composition, but the material itself was not very satisfying to work with.

When I began to explore using old books as a collage material, I really hit a goldmine. There was a free bookstore, open only on weekends, where you could take up to 100 books at a time. Many people brought their old, unwanted books to this shop and volunteers would sort and rack them into a small library.  I spent hours sifting through the shelves, and yes, I often left with my full 100 books.

The raw material of old books is fun. Fabric covered hardbacks with thick, soft pages. Very scuffed and bent paperbacks with all that era-specific printing. Hidden treasures like the mull that glues the hardcover spine to the pages. 

Age Cage“, book parts, acrylic, tape transfer, thread, 2010

And since I was a student of the great Lisa Kokin at this time, I was learning about all the fun things that can be done with an awl, or sewing, or tape transfers. She also provided some interesting cast offs from her studio. She had been sawing books with a chop saw, and there was a bundle of perfectly cut rectangles from the pages of an old physics book. I peeled off any unnecessary words with scotch tape to simplify the graphics. Then, using a hardback cover as a substrate, I made a simple grid and set about embellishing it in every way I could think of: paint, punctures, sewing, etc. 

I still appreciate the playful, exploratory, character of this piece. It very accurately communicates how I was feeling at the time I made it. Not at first, of course. At first I was scared silly that I was about to make a disaster. But when Lisa came by and told me to extend my workings outside the little rectangular boundaries, then I saw how this could work— a tension between the strict order of the grid (and science) and non-sensical elements (of art) spilling into the aisles. This was my college training meeting my current day self, with current day coming through with a burst of sloppy sunshine. 

A drawing teacher once told us that every piece of art is really a self portrait. Can a science and math kid turn into an artist? Age Cage says yes, and happily so.

Have a great, creative week,