And another Rabbit in the Moon theme! This in commemoration of the 50th anniversary of the moon-landing. Last Sunday was the annual Japanese Nihonga workshop where we use traditional watercolour on special washi paper mounted on a small wooden block. The special part of this workshop was using a metal leaf like gold or silver as the background and painting over it. Last year, I used gold leaf which is more common. I thought I’d use silver this year.
We firstly stretched and mounted the washi paper around a wooden block with some rice glue. Then we carefully stuck the gold or silver leaf, one sheet at a time, on top of it using Nikawa, an animal protein binder. That was the most difficult part! It took quite a few attempts layering them on to cover the surface sufficiently because the sheets are so thin and delicate. In the end, we all made it! It didn’t have to be perfect in our case, though. In fact, we think that adds to the distressed look!
I found my Rabbit in the Moon through Google search. It took quite some time till I found what I liked. What I was looking for was something simple yet cute and stunning, and it has to go with a silver background. Then I found a kawaii drawing supposedly as a textile print and proceeded in screen-printing the photo. I printed it and brought it to the workshop. Once happy with the look of the silver leaf on the block, we traced the drawing directly onto it with carbon copy sheets.
From our workshops last year, the knack of using Japanese watercolour paints came back to me. Making the paints involves mixing the powdered pigments with Nikawa (the animal protein binder) and blending it in a small dish with the index finger before adding a few drops of water. The result is a rather opaque and thick texture, richly pigmented due to the pigments being based from natural minerals like shells. First I started with white, then yellow, followed by light blue and finally darker blue (which had some iridescent finish). Letting each coat dry, I brushed on a couple of layers. It was not as time consuming as I had thought actually, despite the rather complex pattern of the sea waves. I managed to finish the kawaii piece in 5 hours, as scheduled!
I enjoyed this workshop. It is most certainly a challenge with sticking on the silver/gold leaf, but this exercise was about developing patience which in real life I tend to lack. And hence, the satisfaction of achieving it in the end was amazing. And as a fellow participant said, the painting itself was quite meditative which I do find when I’m creating any kind of artwork. The second part of the workshop is on 15 September. That, I’m looking forward to!