let's talk about rice paper

rice paper and hours drawing
rice paper and drawing

Recently I got a question from a fellow artist about balls of paper forming when mounting a rice paper painting.

"I find that while applying the paste to the back of the painting, little balls of paper can form sometimes. I find this very disturbing. Have you had this happen? Under what circumstances, and how did you correct it?"
I have had that happen, sometimes it has been the paper. So let's first take a look at types of Rice Paper.

Even though the paper used for painting Sumi Ink Paintings is not made out of rice, Rice Paper is a popular name for this Asian paper in the West. Other common names are Washi, Xuan or Hanji, depending on the country of origin (respectively, Japan, China, Korea).

Rice paper can be machine-made, hand-made, raw or sized. Each variance gives the paper a different texture and absorbency rate.

With handmade rice paper, I have noticed that the ball is already in the paper itself. If you hold the sheet of rice paper up to light, you'll be able to see the fibers and any knots that travel throughout the handmade paper. Knots, fibers and remnants of what made the paper are part of the paper's personality, so they are not necessarily bad.

Before I paint on the paper, I check for any inconsistencies like thinness, thickness or knots that might interfere with my image. Sometimes the knot can be taken out of the paper when it is dry, but the risk is that a hole will be left in its place. If I am going to use the paper with the inconsistencies, I just make sure those points are outside of my image and aren't in the focal point of my painting. In the image above, the knots in the rice paper will be outside the drawing of the figure.

Other times, because the paper is thin or fibrous, the balls form when mounting. At times, I have been able to remove the knot by gently brushing it out or picking it apart to lessen the size. Again, I run the risk that a hole will be left in its place. So sometimes it is better to just leave the paper as it is.

If a hole remains after removing a knot, you can try working the surrounding fibers of the paper to close up the hole. Also, if the painting is mounted onto another support and varnished, the painting will not be compromised.

When mounting a painting on rice paper, it's important to use the proper brush for applying the glue which lessens disturbing the paper's surface. Also, use a light touch when spreading the glue. I hope to post more on rice paper.

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