top of page
Live Art Demonstration
by Sallyann Brackett

Sallyann's subject was British wildlife and the medium is Tissage. It is a technique that uses pen & ink on tissue paper which is then collaged onto a background canvas. Old maps and book pages can be used in the background. Highlights and hints of colour are added afterwards using watercolours and acrylics.
Write-up on Sallyann's Demonstration

Sally used to be a secondary school art teacher at a large Notts comprehensive school. Tissage stands for ‘tissue collage’ and is - as far as she knows - unique to Sally. From trial and error Sally found that you can get different effects in opacity depending on how much glue is used. Sally enjoys using wildlife and landscape closer to home. Sometimes the whole canvas is covered in tissue and for others it is only part of it. Sally uses recycled materials wherever possible, but uses white- or sometimes cream-coloured tissue paper. Stronger coloured paper contains an unstable dye. Maps are also used to good effect. The UK is the most mapped area, with many older maps available and the paper is very good quality. OS maps have a 50-year copyright, which means that nothing could be reproduced as cards or prints.

For our demo, Sally starts by drawing a hedgehog directly onto tissue paper using a pure liquid ink pen. This means it will have shellac in it, hence it will dry with quite a solid finish. Pens might also say waterproof or permanent. The tissue paper has to have something firm underneath, otherwise the pen can push through. Working with pen, everything has to be interpreted into a line or a mark, rather than shading as with pencils. For this reason Sally uses a strong outline and then shades away from it. For animals, follow the direction of the fur. She explained how she adds detail, sometimes using a finer pen. It is quite a time-consuming method, but Sally explained how she enjoys line drawing, finding it relaxing in a way that others might enjoy knitting. Dots and spots can work well to lend variety to a picture, but don’t put too much pressure on to avoid ripping.

The pen drawing has to be left to completely dry before any liquid can be added. For this reason Sally did a Blue Peter style ‘Here’s one I did earlier’. Tissue paper works well on canvas and follows the indents. Mainly Sally uses acrylic paints on the canvas behind it. She has also used ink, which is brighter, but watercolour works less well because it is affected by the addition of the glue. She can use solid colour or a blend of colours. A section of tissue has been cut out with sharp scissors. This time it is a puffin with a foreground. PVA glue is used, not too dilute otherwise the tissue can rip. Some tissue paper is too soft - it will cause the line to bleed. The tissue that has a shiny surface on one side is particularly good. Sally advises starting with small sections until you get used to the method. PVA is painted onto the canvas in sections, applying the tissue by stroking over it from the centre to try to avoid air bubbles. Some glue is also painted over the top. It is then left to dry.

For the next stage Sally brought out another canvas where the tissue had already been stuck on, this time a hare. Now she uses watercolour to add detail. This allows the line detail to show through. Sally uses a watercolour pallet that includes white, but also uses white acrylic for highlights. This works well for sheen on fur. The highlights will take as long as the original pen drawing. It’s hard to know when to stop. You can even go back with the pen if needed.

Burnt umber is used for the hare’s fur. Shadows and highlights are used to bring the body forward and give a 3D effect. Sally has found herself using stronger colours recently and wonders if it might be a result of lockdown.

Once finished, Sally uses a spray varnish to ensure the surface is sealed. This adds a final protective layer and a slight sheen if a gloss varnish is used.

Meg Grant

Click Here to view photographs taken at the demonstration

bottom of page