playing with diffusion paper

in the art studio...
in the art studio…

Right now I’m struggling a bit with the shift from Daylight Savings Time. I don’t get into my art studio until late afternoon, and the truth is, I like it to be dark outside as I work. Even though natural light is much better to work with, if there’s daylight, a little part of me feels like I should be outside. I get antsy.

I am super productive in the winter, so as soon as the time change happens, there’s a noticeable shift. In the fall and winter, I LOVE coming into my studio as the sun starts to get low in the sky and it’s easy to get out my supplies and work until dinner. I get really focused and I really like peeking out the window from time to time and seeing all the houses with their lights shining. It’s like we’re all tucked in together.

Now the sun doesn’t really set until after 8pm and it’s been *so* hard to shift into habits that were strong just a little over a week ago. I’m sort of forcing myself to keep going, and hoping I find my groove again. Or a different groove. (Or maybe some dark shades, but the idea of that makes me a little ugh-y.)

I’ve been painting this winter- lots of acrylic and collage and mixed media. There’s been a shift into watercolor the last few weeks (I’ll post those soon) but I’m still doing the acrylics and collage, and I’d like to continue all of it instead of doing this cyclical thing I tend to do where I change my medium based on seasons (for some reason, getting all set up for acrylic – which isn’t that big of a deal – seems like this tremendous task in spring/summer whereas just getting out my watercolors seems much less arduous. But I like painting with acrylics just as much, so I’d like to do both.)

mixed media experiment
mixed media experiment on diffusion paper

I got a pack of diffusion paper from Amazon. It’s a novelty fabric-like paper that basically sucks and spreads water in unexpected ways. I’ve wanted to try it for a while because I wondered if it might be like painting on silk without all the dyes, boiling, etc. (Spoiler: it’s not.)

I tried to do an Arabic-inspired pattern using it with some resist and watercolor. I was going for a stained glass window effect, thinking I could use resist to create different areas, and then “drop” watercolor into each area and let the color travel and move on its own and then come up to the resist and stop. Sort of like silk painting, only on paper.

Nope. Because the paper is so absorbent and resist sits on the surface, the paint actually will swim *under* the resist and bleed into other sections. I even tried really soaking through the resist lines with white acrylic mixed with all sorts of fabric mediums (which are designed to soak through materials) and it wouldn’t create enough of a resist to hold back the paint from bleeding.

The paper doesn’t like traditional watercolors at all- all my Daniel Smiths just sort of turned diffuse and dull. In the end, I wound up just testing which colors and their pigments would spread on the paper and which didn’t work so well. The diffusion paper is difficult to work with (but fun and unpredictable) so I wound up just using the most intense colors I had on my palette just to test how they spread on the paper.

I stretched the painted paper on a collaged canvas panel and glazed it a few times to see if I could get a mosaic, layered effect with the patterns on the canvas sort of “shining through” the individual panels of color. It didn’t really work.  Because the paper is SO absorbent, glazing for a thick, shiny surface is almost impossible- it just sucks everything into it. It smoothed out nicely with no bubbles, but no shiny surface.

I do think the paper might be good for pigment powders (like Brusho and Infusions, etc.) because of the way it spreads pigments around. And for kids who like to just PAINT with color and not have any specific outcome in mind. I think it also may be good if you want to watercolor paper for collage- it’s very thin, glazes flat and fiarly translucent, and doesn’t seem to let the watercolor go after it dries, so if you are doing collage work, it’s really great for that.

But for straight watercolor paint, no. (I haven’t tested any markers or liquid watercolors on it yet, maybe that works better.)

In the end, I finally got it sort of sealed, painted some white dots on it, distressed it with white paint, and called it a day. I’m a little bummed by it, but it gave me a few ideas for other things to try. I did REALLY enjoy researching and creating the patterns, though, and doing the dots, so I want to do more of those things. Just not on this paper.