It has been an eventful teaching summer for me here in the Pacific Northwest, as I taught 3 suminagashi marbling workshops in 3 months (in 3 different Oregon towns). I enjoy sharing this water-based method of marbling with other creative folks---we all hunch over our marbling trays, deep in thought as we watch the ink droplets spread and form concentric circles. There's nothing else quite like it.
What I love about sumi marbling is that it's different each and every time I do it. I'm still learning new things as I mix the various ink colors together to form new hues, test out different rice papers (and even a brand of watercolor paper that seems to accept the ink better than others). My student bring in unusual papers--maps, Braille paper, old book pages--and we try them all, making note of what works and doesn't work. After we've marbled for a day, I do a slideshow and then a demo on how to paint/develop the marbled papers into finished paintings--my favorite part of the process.
One piece I'm particular proud of (because I had to wrestle with it to cover up some of the black sumi ink swirls) is a painting I call "Thoughtful Scholar #4". It's a take on a series that I've done in watercolor and acrylic marbling---but this time I used very monochromatic (green) colors. It has a fuzzy, soft, restful quality---which is exactly what I was trying to capture in the curve of the woman reading her book. I've included a step by step gallery of images so you can see how this painting started and how it ended up.
I start out with the suminagashi marbled rice paper, and carefully glue this thin transparent rice paper onto 300# watercolor paper so that it's sturdy and rigid--easier to paint on later. I use a mixture of Elmer's glue and matte medium--spreading it out all over the watercolor paper with my fingers, and then I gently place the dampened rice paper onto the glued surface. I work from the inside out, smoothing out any air bubbles that might form until my rice paper is flat and glued down securely. I let it dry for 30 minutes and then I apply matte medium to the entire surface and let that dry for another hour or so. Then I am ready to draw on the dried paper (using a soft water soluble watercolor crayon). That's when the magic happens and I turn a very chaotic suminagashi pattern into an organized painting! I cover up lines and streaks I don't like with several thin layers of white gesso, letting the layers dry in between. Then I proceed with whatever acrylic paints I want to use on the painting. It is a very intuitive process and I can change my mind as I go--just by adding more acrylic paint. Once I've covered up the suminagashi pattern with paint, though, I can't get it back. I can, however, add patterned collage papers, so that's always an option. The sky's the limit!