I’m a bit of a latecomer to social media platforms. I’ve used Facebook for a while, keeping up with geographically distant friends and relatives, but that was about it. Since the beginning of this year, I have spent more time on, and have really been enjoying, Instagram (I do wish there were less ads, but that’s a whole other discussion). I love how it allows me to connect with students, or the parents of students in the case of younger participants, and how it offers a glimpse into the work of so many incredible artists. Since learning how to connect through Instagram, and seeing the creativity blossoming in the professional artists and students I follow, I’ve become interested in painting again.

It has been years since I dabbled in watercolors. I didn’t often bring paint to my in-person classes, they just weren’t long enough for my students to get a good painting session in. So here I found another way in which virtual classes expanded my options for bringing different mediums to my lessons.

Starting again after such a long break, I didn’t feel ready to go into landscapes or other realistic subjects right away. It felt too intimidating without some practice, so I decided to honor my process and try something abstract. And, as you know very well by now, I couldn’t just start painting without putting my own spin on it, so I decided to create a textured surface on the paper to make my watercolor painting more interesting to me.

The spark was back after my first attempt! I couldn’t wait to share this technique with you; it is a simple but effective way to amp up your paintings. I only tested this technique with watercolor paints, but you could try another kind and would likely have really interesting results.

Here’s how I made this stone-look textured watercolor painting:

  1. I started with a heavy grade paper designed for watercolor. Mixed media paper, canvas, and even corrugated cardboard reused from shipping boxes would work.
  2. Next, I made a mixture of white glue and water. 2 parts white glue to 1 part water.
  3. Then I applied tissue paper. I chose white because I was interested in seeing the pure colors I could get with my paint, but feel free to use whatever color tissue paper you would like. I ripped the tissue paper for a natural effect, but you can also cut it for a tighter texture, then I covered my heavy grade paper with a coating of the glue/water mixture and laid the tissue paper down. I gently squished, crimped, and pushed the tissue paper to create the textured surface. Finally, I used a little more of the glue/water mixture to secure the tissue paper around the edges of the paper.

*Do not cover the top layer of your tissue paper with the glue/water mixture. If you do, the paint won’t be able to infuse into the tissue paper because the glue completely coated the surface.

  1. I took a break and waited for the textured paper to dry completely.
  2. After it was dry, I added paint to my textured paper. I used more diluted pigment to begin with; the paint moved into, through, and around the crevices, and wrinkles. Then I overlaid colors, sometimes the same color for a deeper tone and sometimes a different color to add interest or dimension, and this is what gave me that natural rock look as rocks show no negative space, but they do reflect.

Work slowly and remember to let the paint guide you. The texture of the paper makes it more difficult to have total control over the movement of your pigments, but half the fun of this project is seeing where the color goes on its own.

And, as always, I encourage you to mat, mount, and/or frame your artwork. I love the way it give my pieces a very “finished” quality.