It’s common for us to feature mixed-media techniques for watercolor, acrylic, fabric, markers, and the like, but it’s not very often that paper clay makes the list. That’s changing today, because Rogene Mañas has just come out with an inspiring book that teaches you how to sculpt and paint paper clay, a medium that she says is “the ultimate mixed-media material.” Click here to learn more about Rogene’s Artful Paper Clay and get this exclusive collection that includes 16 ounces of Creative Paperclay® and a 12-piece set of double-ended sculpting tools! I think you’ll agree with Rogene when you see her featured art here, and read what she has to say about paper clay. Enjoy! ~Cherie
Paper Clay: The Ultimate Mixed-Media Material by Rogene Mañas
As a mixed-media artist, I am always experimenting with materials, tools and techniques. I am forever in search of fun and forgiving ways to make art. More than ten years ago, I began adding air-hardening clay to my paintings after a fellow artist introduced me to the paper clay she used in doll making. For me, it was love at first sight and the ultimate mixed-media material because it held detail, adhered to my boards and canvases, and could be used in conjunction with lots of other materials. Working with the clay is such an enjoyable process that I soon became addicted to it.
I began teaching workshops by popular demand. Once people saw my work, they wanted to know how it was made. My students quickly discovered how easy paper clay was to use and master. And now, years later, I have compiled this comprehensive book to share all the ways I have discovered to use paper clay in bas-relief. It adds a sculptural element to two-dimensional work that makes it jump right off the board.
This book is for the experimenter. It’s for beginning and accomplished artists alike who are looking for new ways of creative expression. If you’ve tried different methods of making art and nothing has really grabbed you, or if you are new to art and just don’t know where to begin, this might be your medium.
Paper clay is perhaps the most versatile medium I have ever used. And because it is first sculpted and then painted, it fulfills my desire to work in a variety of mediums on a single project. The process is enjoyable from start to finish, and the results are very rewarding. It has given me a new way to express my thoughts and feelings that was missing from my previous work. It adds a dimensional quality, which I adore, giving weight and presence to my ideas.
The entire experience of working with paper clay and finishing it can be a meditative, yet enlivening process. You’ll discover a newfound freedom with art making because this process is a very flexible and forgiving one. Anything can be changed, reworked, patched, added to, removed, repaired, and repainted. So relax and have fun with it. Let your creative spirit guide you and get out of your own way!
A note about your paper clay tool: Your clay modeling tool may be the most important tool you will use to create bas-relief images, so it is important that you become friends with it. It is the best tool for smoothing, shaping, marking and sculpting the clay. It is natural to want to use your finger dipped in water to smooth the clay. But that makes the surface wetter and it will need to dry out before you can add detail. Practice using your tools, especially for smoothing the surface of your clay. For surface smoothing, use the angled edge of your tool and gently stroke it across the surface of the clay at about a 30-degree angle.
When making a serious work using paper clay, I like to have a solid design plan. While I enjoy being spontaneous in my art making, I find working with clay requires more of a pragmatic approach. Here is the method I use in my basic process:
Sketch the Thumbnail: I start every art piece with a thumbnail sketch. This is where I resolve the design and layout of my image before going any further. I do a quick pencil sketch of my idea, using just enough detail to give the essence of my thoughts. Then maybe I will do a few other sketches using the same elements while deciding upon my composition. I never draw directly on my substrate because I want to preserve its surface while I work out my ideas on paper.
Once I have my thumbnail composed, I sketch out a rough design in pencil to the actual size on paper. Sometimes I will digitally enlarge my thumbnail with my scanner to help me get started and keep my proportions the same. This is where I work to get my shapes accurate and refine my composition. Rather than doing a lot of erasing, I layer tracing paper over my sketch and keep refining my image until I have a drawing that I like. Sometimes this will take several layers.
Ink the Pattern: Once my design is sketched out in pencil, I get a fresh piece of tracing paper and cut it to the size of my substrate. I place it over my pencil sketch and trace over my drawing with a black permanent marker. While I trace, I make small corrections, refine shapes and develop details. Sometimes I add another clean sheet of tracing paper over this and continue to refine my image. It is far easier to make changes now than it is when the clay is on the board. Plus, the more you draw, the more you will train your hand, eye and imagination to work together.
Transfer the Design to a Board: Now that I have my pattern in ink on sturdy tracing paper, I transfer the basic shapes of my design to my prepared board, which has been painted with gesso and sanded smooth. I tape the pattern to the top of the board and slide a sheet of carbon paper beneath it. Having my pattern in ink helps me to see the design when the carbon paper is placed under it. I trace over the basic shapes so I know where to place the clay. Details are not necessary and would be covered by the clay.
Transfer the Design to the Clay: After rolling out a slab of clay to the desired thickness, about 1/16 to 1/8″, I lift the clay to be sure it is not stuck to the plastic sheeting and place it on a clean area of the plastic. Then I place my ink pattern over the clay and trace over my main subject with a ballpoint pen, being sure to go over every detail. The idea is to press hard enough to impress the image into the clay without poking through the paper. This is why using a sturdy tracing paper is essential. I begin with my main subject first, then when I have sculpted it to my satisfaction, I go back and trace over other elements, adding and sculpting them as I go.
Dry-cleaning bags are very thin and can be used over the clay, under the tracing paper to keep the moist clay from dampening your pattern. Just be sure to press firmly while tracing your design onto the clay so that your impression is readable. ~Rogene