Despite sharing my Black Licorice double xuan paper with artist friends, I had several widths left, and that large gold bamboo frame beckoning from the art room. The simplicity of two cranes in a setting holds considerable appeal, and I had a working technique developed for painting them. So I set the challenge of painting pine around two cranes for the larger frame. Below is my first (successful) experiment with painting on black paper; I called it “In Praise of Plum”.
The traditional method for painting pine clusters is to ink in the needles, then go over each needle with a dark green, and finally lay in a green-blue wash over each cluster (softening edges with water). You can either ink in branches, limbs and twigs with outlining and texturing, or depict them freestyle with color. Obviously ink outlining was not going to work on black paper, nor would the use of white paint for the needles. I had some experimenting to do.
First off, I searched online to see if any other CBP artist has gone down this discovery path and posted anything. All I found was one Youtube video demonstrating painting on black cardstock using acrylics. The subject (lotus) and method is CBP but the paper handling is not. The result is stunning, but too intense for my vision for pine.
I sat down to try a few different methods and ended up with one that seemed to work. (Lucky for me I had several highly skilled CBP artists to consult in my two art groups; their input is always helpful in ‘developmental’ work.)
I intended to paint two cranes slightly off centre, looking to the left, and dominating the scenario. I aimed for pine that would fill the upper right and part of the lower left. I intended to ‘ground’ the cranes with a light wash around their feet, and lastly drop in my chop in the lower right.
I would render these fellows in the same manner as for my “In Praise of Plum” composition: outline in white paint, paint the eye in black over white paint, fluff in body and wing feathers with white tones, paint red over top of white for the head marking, paint the beak and legs with gold and add some black ink scale marks to the legs, and finally, add black ink and gold paint to suggest the wing tip feathers (those that look like tail feathers because of their placement).
I had experimented with different ways to depict pine on the black paper surface. I found that I could lay down pine limbs and smaller branches, using several rust and rose shades from my pearlescent paint box with a large orchid/bamboo brush. For the needles I used a detail brush loaded with green paint and then dipped in the blue and sometimes the green from the pearlescent box. I placed moss dots on the needle clusters with gold paint and also dotted the needle cluster centres. I even managed to suggest cones among the pine clusters using the pearlescent brown.
I completed the composition pretty well as planned, brushing some very light green pearly paint at the feet of the birds to ground them, adding inky swirls to the pine boughs, and bringing the pine behind the birds at the right in order to add to the depth within in the scene. I discovered that the addition of moss dots in deep blue enhanced the coloring of needles and pine bark.
In preparation for gluing I made sure my painting was large enough to fit the frame (just barely) and sprayed the composition with fixative. I added my chop in the same manner as with the plum painting. Having lost much of the pearly and gold paint from my previous painting on black paper (In Praise of Plum) in the gluing process I double-dosed my pine painting. I also sprayed lots of water on the back of the painting as I stretched it with the gluing brush to avoid leaving a milky glue haze to dry.
As soon as I flipped the painting to the drying board I could see that despite the copious spraying of fixative I had yet again lost about 25% of the metallic and pearly paints in the procedure. Once the painting was dry (and still stretched on the board) I had to touch up the entire composition. The cranes were the least affected this time, so maybe the extra spraying had helped the white painted areas.
Once the composition had dried, I cut it to size and popped it in the frame.
I now had TWO paintings on black paper that were show-ready, and three days left before the show hanging.
My paper stash yet includes a few sheets of the black licorice paper; with a workshop on painting chrysanthemum coming up, perhaps I’ll tackle that fourth gentleman before my ‘black paper days’ end.