Pouring Through Filters

“Pouring through” is the process integral to my work, and porosity is a key factor in choosing these filters, as I like to call them. I like to start a pour with a mix of at least two transparent watercolors chosen for their separating and granulating properties. For instance, the heavier metallic blues (such as cobalt, manganese and ultramarine) have granules that run through a facial tissue faster than the staining colors that tend to stay on top of the papers. With heavier, sedimentary colors, the textural imprint is accented, resulting in a fascinating array of color when the tissues are finally lifted.

If you want to try this approach, what can you use for filters? Almost anything: Kimberly Clark’s Kleenex tissues, any size, (but I avoid tissues containing lotion), paper napkins, coffee filters, paper doilies (lots of holes!), bathroom tissues and fishnetting. You can try cheesecloth, laces—real or plastic, and stencils you’ve made yourself or bought from a craft or hardware store. With an eye to its usefulness, I look at everything—from the cover of the barbecue grill to that bit of grandmotherly lace. I also use rice papers. Most often the least expensive, Japanese sumi-e rolls or pads of practice papers (such as Kozo) will work well, resulting in a pour that shows handsome texture.

Increasing Porosity
The basic procedure is this: arrange a number of filters on a sheet of 140-lb. Arches hot-pressed paper. (Some artists work magic with cold-pressed paper, but it argues with me. I like hot-pressed paper because tissues cling like suction cups to its surface.) Next, pour watercolors through the filters. Then you either have to wait until the colors seep through, or you can take more active measures to cajole the colors through the filters. In either case, the process will take from 20 minutes to a half an hour.

You may find, when you check progress by hesitantly lifting a corner, that you can’t see strong color. The color has stayed on top of the tissues or rice paper, rather than work its way through. The solution is simple: walk into the kitchen and get a bottle of liquid dish detergent. Squeeze a tablespoon of detergent into a quarter cup of water and pour this mixture over the reluctant pigments to break down the barriers. If, in spite of your best efforts, you find there’s still a lot of pigment remaining on top, just flip over the offending sheet of rice paper or other filter and make a monoprint.

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