When John Krenik creates a watercolor bath painting, he tears oriental papers into simulated shapes from a sketch and soaks them into a watercolor bath (watercolor puddle). He then pulls them out like a print, dries them, and adheres the colored shapes back together with a glue mixture.
The technique of “watercolor bath” was developed in 1986 by John Krenik, and is a combination of watercolor monoprinting and two dimensional paper sculpture/collage where shapes of oriental (rice) papers are dechiraged (torn) to emphasize the long, swirly nature of these bast fibers. The essential purpose of this technique is to demonstrate the interrelationships with watercolor and constructed oriental bast fibers creating a “papering” rather than a “painting.”
A selection of papers neutral in ph made with the bast fibers of Natsume, Unryu, Haruki, and Owakina are used because the long visible swirly fibers of these papers suggest natural shapes and lines essential for this technique.
Working from a sketch, the oriental paper is first torn into desired shapes using one of the following methods. In dechirage (tearing dry paper), the paper may be torn after being creased, torn along a straight edge, or torn free hand. In dechirage moulle (tearing wet paper), lines are drawn onto a sheet of paper with a wet brush, then torn along the wet brush lines. The entire sheet may be sprayed or soaked prior to tearing for creating unpredictable lines. In the same manner, portions of paper may be torn after they are laid in the watercolor bath and dried. Some shapes may also be froissaged (crushed, creased, crumpled, or wrinkled) prior to being immersed into the bath. Combinations of these techniques create additional results.
After the paper shapes are torn, they are immersed in the bath. The paper is always torn and dipped into watercolor, and the watercolors are never painted directly onto the front side of the paper with a brush. The bath is a thin layer of watercolor and water which may also include gum Arabic, and/or ox gall together in a puddle on a glass surface to create fluid, or bright color. The paper shapes are immersed and blotted into the bath, then pulled from the bath and placed on a flat drying surface. At times the back edges of the still bathing shapes are painted which seep under the shapes to absorb additional saturated color. When dry or wet, these shapes may be reimmersed into a bath of a different color to create contrasting effects or depth.
When dry, the shapes are adhered together with a neutral ph glue consisting of methyl cellulose, PVA, and calcium carbonate. Shapes may also be bathed in color while glue is brushed directly on the back, torn and adhered in place, giving the effect of “papering” rather than a “painting.”
A white line woodblock print is created from a carved plank of wood and watercolor. A line drawing is created on the plank of wood. A “V” groove is cut into the block of wood on each drawn line, separating each shape of the drawing from the other. Watercolors are painted over the large flat uncut areas of the block, one color and shape at a time. A registered paper is draped over the wood block after each shape is painted. The back of the draped paper is rubbed over the latest watercolor painted area with a barren (underside area of a silver wooden spoon). The paper is then peeled off the plank of wood and another area is painted with watercolor, repeating the process until the entire print is finished. A white line remains between the printed shapes, hence the name “white line woodblock print”. Many prints can be made of this same carved plank of wood, however each print varies (even if slightly) in color, value, and/or texture. The white lines in all prints remain constant.