How to Create a Background for Torn Paper Animal Portraits | Paper Art Project

Today’s guest writer is Robin Panzer, who contributed the following mixed-media art project for Paper Art magazine (2014).

“Paper calls to me,” Robin says, “especially when that paper has been enhanced with beautiful natural fibers and textures. I’ve also always felt a kinship with animals. My husband thinks it’s in part due to my Native American heritage. It was a natural marriage for me to create animals from hand-torn natural-fiber papers. I love the feeling of the paper in my hands, tearing and placing it so that an animal comes to life under my fingertips.”

Robin Panzer ( is a mixed-media artist, specializing in creating work with hand-torn paper. Her commissions are highly sought after. Robin teaches private torn-paper art retreats in Hood River, Oregon.

Torn Paper Animal Portraits: The Background by Robin Panzer

1. Working on a protected surface, apply an even layer of gesso to the top and sides of the panel with the paint roller. Let dry.

2. Cut or hand tear paper to the size of your substrate to create the background. I used the back side of a sheet of Nepalese marbled paper the size of my panel. For a different effect, use a variety of small pieces of papers to cover the background.

3. With a large, soft paintbrush evenly cover the surface of the primed panel with clear matte medium. Carefully lay the background paper evenly on the wet medium. To remove any air bubbles, gently press the paper with your hand and then carefully roll the brayer over the surface. Use a soft cloth or paper towel to remove any excess gel medium that squeezed out. Let dry.

4. If needed, trim the edges of the background paper with scissors or a craft knife. Apply another coat of matte medium with a soft brush. Let dry.

5. Optional: Paint the sides of the substrate to match your background papers.

Find the complete project directions in Paper Art magazine (2014 issue). Get the digital or physical copies of your favorite mixed-media and paper art magazines at the Interweave store!

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