Pulp painting is a process that uses pigmented paper pulp as a painting medium. The pigmented pulp is applied, freely or through a stencil, onto a freshly formed sheet of handmade paper. My artwork is made from various plant materials, ranging from cotton to abaca banana fiber. I also make paper from recycled fabrics such as denim and linen. The softness of paper, its imprecise delineations and blurred lines, contrast with the severity of the steel structures I seek to represent, creating a dreamlike quality. People comment that these pieces evoke memories. Often this is intentional, as I may reference a historical event (the final launch of the S.S. Keewatin or the heyday of the steel industry). Sometimes I reference an artistic style (the moody architectural renderings of Hugh Ferriss or an Art Deco sensibility). But mostly people respond with their own associations to these architectural images, reminding us that our built environments become integral to our personal histories.
They're both part of my daily experience in Chicago. Birds fit naturally with the pulp painting process, especially the feathery effects of the pulp paint. Buildings present a different type of challenge. Pulp painting architectural imagery on handmade paper has allowed me to explore the paradox between material and subject matter, described by one curator as “the ethereal nature of the medium married with the hardness of contemporary architecture.”
Artist Don Widmer guides the viewer through this unique process of creating imagery within the fiber of handmade paper, called pulp painting.
Steel No. 2 (2019), pulp painting on handmade flax / cotton rag paper. Size: 36 x 24 inches ; 91.4 x 61 cm.
Hook & Hastings No. 1 (2016), Pulp Painting on Handmade Cotton / Abaca Paper. Created in Skokie, Illinois. Size: 36 x 24 x inches; 91.4 x 61 cm.
Female House Sparrow No. 39 (2019), Pulp Painting on Handmade Denim / Abaca / Garlic Paper. Size: 11 x 8.5 inches; 27.9 x 21.6 cm.
Southeastern Bat No. 6, Pulp painting on handmade abaca / cotton paper. Size: 12 x 18 inches ; 30.5 x 45.7 cm.
All About Lily No. 10 (2016), Pulp Painting on Handmade Daylily / Abaca Paper. Created in Skokie, Illinois. Size: 18 x 12 inches; 45.7 x 30.5 cm.
I Roam the Streets with Chains and Bells, pulp painting on abaca paper with gold foil and twine inclusions. Size: 36 x 24 inches ; 91.4 x 61 cm.