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Watercolor-Painted Collage Papers

Meghan Burch

If you’re a parent or educator, hearing the name Eric Carle probably brings many colorful pictures mind. His iconic tissue paper collages are loved by many.

Are you drawn to his art? What do you like about his images? When I ask this to students and visiting educators here at The Carle, inevitably mentioned are the vivid colors, exciting visual textures, and simplified, or abstracted, shapes. The visual appeal and accessibility of his images make children and adults alike want to try creating their own Eric Carle-inspired art.

Eric creates his painted papers with acrylic paint and tissue paper. You can see slides of his process at his official website. Acrylic paint is not a material I typically use with young children for a variety of reasons, and it’s not a material widely available in most early-elementary classrooms.

Teachers tell us they attempt Eric Carle-inspired tissue paper-painting projects with their students using tempera paint, with mixed success. Occasionally it works. If the tissue paper is too thin, however, the paint bleeds and the tissue sticks to the work surface. In other instances, the tissue paper has been so thin it turned into mushy pulp. 

We’ve come up with a few alternative materials and processes so that children and adults can have a fun and successful experience creating their own visually textured collage papers.

Making Watercolor-Painted Collage Papers | Making Art With Children | The Eric Carle Museum of Picture Book Art

We’ve already shared how we use purchased and homemade stamps and stamp pads to create visually-textured collage papers, so here I want to share in detail how we make watercolor-painted texture rubbings for collage.

Making Watercolor-Painted Collage Papers | Making Art With Children | The Eric Carle Museum of Picture Book Art

This process starts with creating a texture rubbing on tracing paper using crayons. Our favorite rubbing plates are those we’ve made in the studio like these and these, Otherwise, you can purchase a set of washable plastic plates like these that we have in the Art Studio.

Making Watercolor-Painted Collage Papers | Making Art With Children | The Eric Carle Museum of Picture Book Art

Next, we paint with watercolors over the texture rubbing. It’s a beautiful magic, when the crayon resists the paint. I like using liquid watercolors for this part of the process, but watercolors from pans or tubes work too. How much to dilute the colors is a matter of preference and experimentation.

Making Watercolor-Painted Collage Papers | Making Art With Children | The Eric Carle Museum of Picture Book Art

Making Watercolor-Painted Collage Papers | Making Art With Children | The Eric Carle Museum of Picture Book Art

Collage papers made in this way remind me of how Eric’s collages look in Mr. Seahorse.

Making Watercolor-Painted Collage Papers | Making Art With Children | The Eric Carle Museum of Picture Book Art

After a slew of papers are dry, they are ready to be cut or saved for just the right project.

When we make Eric Carle-inspired collages in our programs we like to let our students decide the subject matter of their picture rather than require they make one of “Eric Carle’s” animals. Borrowing a phrase by the artist Henri Matisse, we invite our students to “draw with scissors,” or tear their papers, and see where that leads them. Sometimes they make representational art, and sometimes not.

Making Watercolor-Painted Collage Papers | Making Art With Children | The Eric Carle Museum of Picture Book Art

Making Watercolor-Painted Collage Papers | Making Art With Children | The Eric Carle Museum of Picture Book Art

Making Watercolor-Painted Collage Papers | Making Art With Children | The Eric Carle Museum of Picture Book Art

What would you create with watercolor-painted collage papers?

Making Watercolor-Painted Collage Papers | Making Art With Children | The Eric Carle Museum of Picture Book Art

Be sure to visit the collage category of our blog more ideas and inspiration.

Happy Creating!

Authors

Meghan, smiling and wearing a grey shirt with a blue background.

Meghan Burch

Art Educator from 2003-2016, Meghan has a BFA in Illustration from Massachusetts College of Art and Design. She tries to think with materials and work with her hands every day.