Wednesday, March 23, 2011


 In the midst of my ArtFix studio residency, I went outside my four walls to take a  workshop from my friend and fellow instructor Carol Bajen-Gahm at her Torbay Bight Studio. Usually I teach encaustic with Carol , but this time I was  learning the ins and outs of strappo. 

It was a fabulous two days and I created four pieces of work, some more successful than others. The strappo technique was new to me, but it will be one I'll definitely use in the future.   I would describe it as a combination of painting and printmaking which fits into the category of monotype except it is done with acrylics not oils.  Intrigued?  

The Process

 You begin with a sheet of clean  glass  the size determined by finished work dimensions. You can do  a conventional painting or a mixed media work. Straight painting is  the easiest to demonstrate/explain, so I will stick with that for my first post on this topic. As a result of my explorations I learned the following:

My Observations

- the glass should be free of any dirt or grease; a good cleaning is in order;

- the paint slides around on the glass and you can see the brushstrokes;
- the softer, smoother your brush, the better coverage you get;
- don't fight your natural application tendency (mine has a watercolour look);
- check periodically to see what the image looks like through the glass- this is how the finished print will look;  

 Louise Sutton checks out her progress.
- apply  one thin coat of paint, let dry and then reinforce with a second coat if you want solid coverage;

- work with the light coverage and add a second layer of another colour to make the image look "deeper"/more dimensional ;  (I used a blue green as my second backing  coat).  You could still see through sections of it after the second coat.  I decided to see what would happen in the end.

- if you dislike what you create, use a blade or the handle of your brush or thin slivers of wood to remove parts;

The original idea for frothy water against the rocks was a failure. You have to blend as you go because what dries in the first layer is what you get.  You don't have the option of laying in rough areas and refining by building up which is how I paint in acrylics.  I was ready to give up on this one when Louise said, "Scrape back". I broke up all the solid bits of white and changed the season to spring when we get a lot of lose ice in the harbour by my summer house.

This is more like it.

When your painting is dry apply two coats of acrylic gesso to the back of it to thicken the acrylic skin.  Let dry between each coat. 

The final step was to apply a  coat of gesso to the  back of the painting and to a sheet of printmaking paper or 90 lb. watercolour paper.  Put the paper( still wet) on top of the wet gesso on the painting and roll with a brayer. Put the sandwich under weights and let dry thoroughly. If you want to frame the work as a print make sure the paper you are attaching has enough border. 

When dry, (leave overnight) use a razor blade to trim the dried ooze from the gesso  and if you are going to mount the image on a cradled panel (my choice) then also cut off the excess paper that hangs over the edge. 

Use a wet Q-tip to moisten the corners and the top edge of the "sandwich".  Use a razor blade to gently loosen the top edge away from the glass.  Slowly begin to lift the acrylic skin from the glass using your fingers close to the glass rather than pulling higher up.  

In the pictures below I am almost at the end of the "pull".  This is often the part that can stick and pull away from the paper especially if the gesso has seeped into a crack and attaches itself to the glass. 

Almost there and it is stuck with gesso.  I had to get a blade to "persuade" it to separate .

 When you have a section that sticks you can correct the area with a mixture of paint and gloss gel.  I hate the long green line in the rocks lower right.  I'll have to doctor that up a bit.

Harold Garde developed/named this technique. I also discovered that the strappo technique was originally used to preserve frescos .  Check out this video.  I found it fascinating.

A strappo image has a surface that is unique in its tactile and visual qualities. This method expands the print makers choices. It has proven useful, adding to the range of techniques available for an artist's visual expression."
                           - Harold Garde

Next post:  Attaching to a cradled panel and an acrylic pour


Carole said...

Wow! I'm going to try the Strappo technique out. Thanks for sharing this with us.

Mark Sheeky said...

Thanks for sharing, I'd not heard of this technique before. I wonder if cleaning the glass with alcohol first would help or hinder the later stages...

Anonymous said...

Wow, really fascinating technique, thanks for sharing it with us and explaing i such a simple fashion. xox Corrine

Ian Foster said...

Thank you for introducing me to this fascinating technique, I am certainly going to give it a try.

Margaret Ryall said...

I'm glad I have created some interest in this technique and I've only described one aspect of it yet. Stay tuned for the mixed media options.

I thought about cleaning the glass with alchohol too. I'm sure it's a good solution.

hw (hallie) farber said...

This is really interesting. Thanks; I'll be following.

Anonymous said...

What an interesting technique that I've never heard of! It reminds me of mono-printmaking except the use of gesso, and letting it dry. I'll have to give it a try.