crinkled Masa paper

My Woods

Trees and skies, that is the theme my group of Muse sisters is pursuing in our art exploits now. There is a beautiful birch tree by our driveway which has been enticing me to paint it’s white bark again. So I got out some Masa paper and wet and crinkled it, and did the thing where you drag your brush along the tops of the wrinkles. . .and instant trees without all the fuss of getting it “right”.

With these mixed media pieces I always poke around til I find something to add that might tickle the imagination. And, well, you’ll see what I found. . .a bit of enchantment.

India ink, fluid acrylics, crinkled Masa paper mounted on w/c paper and collaged on

I like to imagine a walk in the woods

And I’d come upon a native

Or maybe I’d be hidden in a bramble

And he wouldn’t know I was watching

(Though that seems unlikely

It being after all more his wood than mine)

But let’s just say he didn’t see me

And I was the stealthy one

Who picked up his scent of hide skin and smoke

With some tree sap thrown in

And it was I who wondered

What bird offered up its feathers

And they looked like they belonged there

On his head


But I’m imagining as a white woman

Who grew up in a house with central heat

And got her clothes from stores

And saw Nature as something altogether different,

Separate and wildly mysterious

And mostly out of reach

Hence my stories about

What might have been

If I’d slept in a teepee

And danced to drumbeats and

Cooked over an open fire

And learned to heal with herbs.


But back to the native here

This is after all my woods he has entered

On his horse with his rifle in hand

I do not fear him

He has entered my enchantment

Evacuation and beyond

Alas I had in mind the blazing colors of autumn growth when I painted this in Muse Group a couple weeks ago. The theme was the “tree of life” and we were painting on crinkled Masa paper. We’d had a lovely uneventful “fire season” at that point and even a few drops of rain. But by now you probably have heard about our massive Kincaid fire, evacuations, and lengthy power outages. The sentiment is strong here. . .oh no not this again!


acrylic and collage on crinkled Masa paper, 10 X 10″

When the neighboring towns of Windsor and Healdsburg evacuated and the winds were blowing our direction, we packed up our photo albums, hard drives and important papers and headed down to a hotel in Daly City, just below San Francisco where we figured that PG+E would not cut the power. There we stayed for four days, glued to the news and texts from friends, to await the terrifying spread of this firestorm.


While our brave fire warriors battled the flames and thousands of courageous evacuees buttressed themselves against the sudden drop in temperatures without heat and power, we hunkered down in Daly City and made a hotel our temporary home. To manage the anxiety I sketched, starting on Day 2.


On Day 3 we visited sketch buddy, Laurie Wigham and John, in nearby Bernal Heights. Laurie took me up the hill to enjoy 180 degree views of the city. In her good company and from that vantage point I could feel more philosophical about the possibility of losing our home.


Daly City is well endowed with malls and access to a freeway that is a major artery to SF and the bay area. The eating establishments within walking distance of our hotel included Inn n Out Burger, Krispy Kreme doughnuts, Mr. Pickle and Miss Tomato sandwich shops. The waiting and constant attempt to get updated news was exhausting. We wandered malls to find dinner.

By Day 4 I decided to go for a nature walk around nearby Lake Merced. It turned out that the “trail” was next to rushing traffic, BUT the lake was teaming with birdlife! So I spent a delightful hour in nature therapy, listening to bird conversations and arguments. I couldn’t quite tell which they were.

I have no more illustrations for after that. The winds died down. The fire is mostly contained. No one died in this fire though around 87 homes were lost. We’re out of danger for now, though our hearts are now with southern California as the fire monster is not ready to rest yet. The population of Sonoma County is back home with electricity mostly restored, grocery stores at least partially restocked and air that so far is mostly breathable.

And now we know, that all can change once again. There’s not really a home free anymore.

What Kind of Creature

If you’re asking what kind of creative this is, then maybe you don’t know about animal spirits.


crinkled Masa paper, inks, collage on w/c paper 10 X 11″

What kind of creature is that? you ask, as if animal spirits confine themselves to only one specie. These spirits are known to take the form of imagination and keep you guessing, to move with stealth and vigor across the page even while standing still. 

This one looks you in the eye and knows you, as the mirror does. . .only more. Knows your mental undergrowth to be a brambles and yet is comfortable there.

. . .even as you in your waking state find your hair standing on end to confront that gaze.

Look, I don’t dream up these creatures. They appear out of somewhere/nowhere. This one was (partially) a demo of various ink splotchings, stick drawing etc. for the Wabi Sabi workshop two weekends ago. It needed to be liberated from a piece that was going nowhere, so I cut it out and found a home for it/him/her on another underpainting of crinkled Masa paper.

It was a real Halloween character, this pregnant bunny/deer dancing creature. Isn’t this the way we often put together a costume, feeling free to mix metaphors.  Mine this year was a combination ballerina (tutu) and pirate (hat) and probably some other elements when combined with Jazzercise leggings and shoes.

Rileystreet Art Supply Demo


acrylic on crinkled masa paper, mounted on w/c paper

Free Demo at Rileystreet Art Supply, Santa Rosa, CA

Colorful Masa Paper Textures

Learn a mixed media technique using Japanese Masa paper to create delightful textures in your watercolor and acrylic paintings.  First wetting, then crinkling the paper, you can achieve a marbling effect with color application using watercolor, inks and fluid acrylics. This inexpensive oriental paper with its long fibers and sizing maintains its strength when wet, and can be flattened and mounted or used as collage papers.  In this demo you will learn how to work with Masa paper, while being introduced to some creative applications for mixed media painting.

Friday, February 12, 2-4 p.m

Sorry, there is no space available at this time, but they may have a wait list. Contact Rileystreet.

And if you’re interested in this technique, I am planning a new mixed media workshop incorporating crinkled Masa paper and the Japanese esthetic of Wabi Sabi to be held at Sebastopol Center for the Arts June 25, 26.  Put it on your calendar!  More info to follow.



acrylic and sumi ink on crinkled Masa paper with collage mounted on w/c paper

Shrooms!  My favorite winter bauble with an old shriveled apple still hanging.  My world outside and the territory of my imaginary ramblings, where I shrink myself to Lilliputian size. And take a wet walk beneath the bushes and across the decomposing leaves to come upon these newly sprung umbrellas with the spongy undersides.  There I rest and inhale deeply as the storm batters the landscape around.

It seems I never tire of painting on this wonderful Japanese paper or of painting mushrooms. These bright red mushrooms with white dots can be seen in my neighborhood now. Poisonous I’m sure. You don’t get that flashy unless you’re a lure! I take a bite of the painterly sort.

The Flower People


acrylic inks applied with brushes and dip pens on crinkled Masa paper, 10 X 11″

Do the flower people come out of their bud homes at night, when they’re sure we’re asleep, to dance and carry on in the moonlight?

What would they have to say, if we knew how to listen?  Would they answer all those questions about the birds and the bees and the caterpillars, like where do they come from and who eats who?

And would they tell us, that if we looked closely, we might notice them dancing in the middle of the day, and maybe even hear them speak some pretty things. . (.and others not so pretty)?

More hallucinations of a bent mind?  Or just another experiment for mixed media fun?  You decide.

The lesson was a new one titled “Mixed Media People”, which I titled first and then had to figure out how to share it with the group.  My intention was that we would allow the human form to emerge from our play with collage and paint.  I took an old colorful “start” from my pile, put tracing paper over it, and started sketching the outlines of the figures, who already seemed to be there in the colorful shapes.  Without editing I transferred the outlines to the painted surface and proceeded to define them with negative painting of shapes and outlining with a dip pen.

It’s probably safer to meet these flower people on the paper than in dreams, don’t you think?

Garden Sprite


acrylic ink on crinkled Masa paper collaged and mounted on w/c paper, 10 X 11″

garden sprite, bloom miss

your fingers in every inch of green

one day you sow

next day you sprout

next day it rains and you

don your blossomy bonnet 

dance through the wet grasses

singing your ancient fertility songs

your brush loads with fresh pigment

colors drip off your fingers and bleed from your feet

fragrances rain down from your open mouth

you cock your ears to signal frog choruses

and bird symphonies

garden sprite, spring’s favorite emissary

It is that time of year again when I wish I were a wild animal and could spend each day outside.  Instead my days consist of errands run in cars and chores in the house and studio and brief tastes of blossomy, green grassy, muddy earthed sweetness in the in betweens. It all happens too quickly, this sudden bursting out of life, as though there were some mad caffeinated conductress orchestrating it all, with no compassion for those of us who would like to savor each moment.

I’m heading off to Portland, OR for a long weekend starting tomorrow, visiting my son and friends there.

The Ease of Masa

treesacrylic inks on Masa paper mounted on w/c paper

Crinkled Masa paper makes it ridiculously easy to paint foliage.  These two pieces were quick demos done at  local art stores – Rileystreet Art Supply in Santa Rosa, and last weekend in San Rafael.  If you drag the brush flat way over this damp crinkled Japanese paper you get  marvelous texture, and if you press down with your brush and layer on the colors you see the suggestion of foliage.  Here I’ve used Daler Rowney acrylic inks and Higgins Black India. Come in with a Sumi or other fine pointed brush loaded with black ink and you’ve got the suggestion of tree trunks and branches and brambles and such.

I haven’t done much realistic painting for a while now, but this technique can tend to draw me back into it.


We’re past the apple blossom time now, but that’s what inspired this little painting, begun as a Masa paper demo and finished with some collaging of more Masa pieces on top.  I went for bouncing color shapes around in a more impressionistic way here. There’s something so satisfying about gluing paper pieces.  It’s restful (once you’ve decided where they should g0) and you can do it to most any music. Maybe it has to do with moving the color around until you get it “right” and not having to make the commitment until you glue it down.  I think it helps one develop composition skills. With paint it’s always more of a commitment, or risk.

Somehow we have to stay in that state of mind where it’s OK to mess up or we can’t ever do anything original in our art.  I just heard Eric Maisel speak at Copperfield’s Book store last week. He really hit the nail on the head when he said that we spend our day trying to get things right.  (You know, think of all the things you “accomplish” each day in your life.) But when we do our creative work we must shift gears and give ourselves permission to make glorious messes, which may or may not turn out successfully. He says you actually have to tell yourself “OK, now I’m completely stopping my need to get things right”. Not an easy task, but absolutely necessary.  Strewn in among the messes are some absolute jewels we would not have gotten any other way. After a day of painting or mess making I leave everything out and come in the next day hoping to find those unvarnished jewels.  The more messes I’ve made, the more likely I’ll find one!

If you think you’re up for making some glorious creative “messes” this weekend, there is one space in the Saturday mini-workshop in my studio.  For more information and to register, visit my website. You can also sign up for the one in July, August and/or September. By the way, you’ll also find video demos on my website.

Mass o’ Masa

rileystdemo1Crinkled Masa paper demo at Rileystreet Art Supply

This could be the scene out my studio window right now – apple blossoms and long green grasses.  So although I’d intended to do a more abstract demo, I couldn’t resist.  The Masa paper is wet thoroughly on both sides, crinkled up tight, then spread out and painted on with acrylic inks, first skipping over the raised crinkle to capitalize on texture, then painting thickly into the broken sizing of the fibers.  Then the damp piece is mounted with gel onto 140 lb watercolor paper and flattened out.

wildhorsesacrylic inks on crinkled masa paper with collaged papers mounted on w/c paper

how I long to run with wild horses

across plains down beaches through forests

not riding on but running with

stampeding with 

the dream horses that gallop

just out of sight

there but not there

with a fleeting scent

a monumental surge of something bitter

or sweet or golden or red

a forest fire or a mountain lake

but just for a unicorn moment

now you see it now you don’t


left only with the taste of longing


We did the crinkled Masa in Monday Muses today with spectacular results.  Have you tried it yet?  I am quite hooked.

And have you gotten your copy of the new Muse eBook In the Company of Muses yet?  We discovered that for a while this weekend the eBook was suddenly not available from our distributing service!  So if you tried and failed, please try again, because it’s working again.  This is a downloadable Muse eCourse in eBook form with demonstration videos not available anywhere else and lots of detailed mixed media lessons.  You can read more about it on my website and purchase it for only $14.95!


Acrylic and ink on crinkled Masa paper texture, mounted on w/c paper, 10 X 11″

the flag signals to air born thoughts
gather up your nonsense, it says
take a leap into the wavy textures of a time in flux
a mercury going retrograde

turn the paper and look again
a tree, a sea, a reflection, a bridge
no, an octopus throwing tentacles out to steady himself
not all scrunched up in his rock cave
but branching out into the sea world glistening
connecting, suctioning up some living thing
into the mouth cave, the frothing aperture where all life eventually comes to rest

nothing to fear in that oblivion
just a return to the sea floor
or the eye of some storm

We saw an octopus on our trip, at the aquarium in Newport, Oregon.  A whole stone grotto had been built for him, but the window to his underwater lair revealed only a form shyly hiding in the murky shadows.   Not like the cartoon octopuses with threatening arms capturing their prey.  I wanted to lure him out for a better look, but that happened later in the art!