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  • Writer's pictureKaaren Poole

A Cliche is OK

I know it’s a little early, but, looking forward to Halloween, I was helping my granddaughters draw black cats and haunted houses. Wouldn’t you know it? I got the bug myself. Haunted houses weren’t doing that much for me, but the black cats definitely were. Yes, black cats and a full moon are surely a cliché, but I think every once in a while, a cliché is exactly what’s called for.

I considered creating a piece of wall art, but in the end I reached for my art journal. Since I knew I’d have large blocks of color in the sky and the black fur which could be rather dull, I thought I’d go for texture, so I began by adhering a piece of masa paper over the journal pages. Masa paper is an interesting paper to work with, as it can create lots of texture and takes watercolor well.


Here's how it all came together.

I tore a piece the size of my spread, crumpled it into a tight ball, soaked it in water, wrang it out and smoothed it back out as best I could. Then I brushed matte gel medium over the entire spread and over the back of the masa paper. The front of the masa paper has a slight velvety feel while the back is smooth. Finally, I laid the masa paper right side up over the journal spread, being careful to not get any medium on the front of the paper. Any bits of medium would resist the watercolor.


Here's the first layer, which I applied after the medium dried.


To work around the moon, I dampened the moon near its edge with clear water before I painted the sky around it. This meant that even though I painted only to the edge, the paint would bleed inward a little bit, creating a fuzzy edge.


On the other hand, I wanted a crisp edge around the cats, so only dampened outside the cats, stopping at their edges. Then, when I applied paint around them, it didn’t spread to the inside areas of the cats.


This first layer was actually several layers, successively darkening the areas furthest from the moon.

Then I let it dry and added more color, including the orange in the moon.

At this point, I wasn’t very pleased with the spread, but this often happens, and I knew I just had to keep going.

I’m so sorry I forgot to take photos of the process from this point, but here’s what I did.


With the cats, I began with the eyes then painted the fur. First, I painted it medium gray. I did this because of the highly textured surface. I was careful to work the gray into the texture though. Then, when I painted black over it, I allowed tiny bits of the gray to show through, especially where there would be highlights.


Next, I switched to my NeoColor I and NeoColor II crayons. The II’s are water soluble but the I’s are not – they’re wax based.


I used the II’s to deepen the color on the moon and to deepen and add more color to parts of the sky. Although the II’s are water soluble, I used matte medium instead of water to dampen them. Dampening spreads out the color and pushes it into the texture of the surface, giving a smooth spread to the color. And the medium – instead of water – fixes the color.


I used the I’s where I wanted to catch the texture of the paper. I think you can see this most clearly in the highlights on the fur. The crayon just skips over the surface, leaving the color on the high points of the texture. I also used white and light blue in this way in the sky. I seldom use my NeoColor I crayons, but I’m glad I had them because they were perfect for this piece.


For the cats’ whiskers and individual hairs around the edges of the fur, I use a 0.7mm black Posca paint pen.


At this point, I added a rim of dark blue NeoColor I around the edges of the spread, and areas of purple in some areas of the cats. I liked the piece, but felt it needed more. Originally, I’d intended to add some text over the large area of Darcy’s black fur, but it didn’t quite seem right, so I decided to sleep on the problem.


In the end, as you can see in the very first photo in this post, I opted for runes. I like the look of some sort of text, and I especially like it if it’s not immediately readable. It feels mysterious. From left to right, the meaning of the runes is:


Raido – ritual journey, personal destiny

Algiz – mystical communication with the divine, absorption of protective cosmic energy

Thurisaz – spiritual courage

Naudhiz – deliverance from distress, self-mastery, transcendence

Kenaz - spiritual illumination, inner guidance


I hope you enjoyed seeing this piece come together. And maybe you'll be inspired to use some of these supplies - masa paper, and NeoColor I and II crayons. You can purchase the NeoColors open stock, so you can try them out without much investment. If you do try them, I'd love to see how they worked for you!

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