Tuesday, August 26, 2014

The Roofing Felt Art post - at last!

my first ever sample of painting on roofing felt
 Ah, fabulous roofing felt!  (You may think of it as tar paper.)  After saving (on Pinterest) some interesting blog posts about art projects done with this material, I decided, not only was I going to try out this unusual choice for an art material, I was going to teach a workshop in the process!  (Nothing like putting the cart ahead of the horse, no?  Well that's me.)  The workshop was part of a morning of professional development put together by my region of the state art ed association (NYSATA).  I am our region's rep to the state board of trustees.  Anyhow, we needed a hands-on workshop as part of the day, and I volunteered.
The sessions were all held at the Empire State Plaza in Albany NY, and I taught in a room at the top of the Corning Tower.  This, above, was the view from outside the room where I taught my workshop.  Nice, huh?  That cool looking structure is a performing arts theater in the Plaza complex, known as The Egg.  I will mention it again later.

 I must give credit where due, so, the bloggers who inspired me (and gave me further ideas and advice when contacted were  Artful Artsy Amy and Beth Carter from It is Art Day.  I also received a great deal of information and inspiration from Nancy Raia, who I met in the Facebook Art Teachers group.  Nancy is the Community Arts Director in Fairhope Alabama.  Dealing with the aftermath of an oil spill in her area, she developed a lesson that she used with kids, using tarpaper, where they created a large-scale mural as well as smaller pieces, showing marine life.  When complete, the work was varnished, which gave it an oily sheen.  The artwork is beautiful, and I love the idea of it having a meaning and a purpose specific to a community.  Their sophisticated and lovely pieces put my silly fish painting, one of my very first samples, to shame.  I did this piece before I was contacted by Nancy.
The very first thing I did, after volunteering to teach something I knew nothing about, was buy myself a roll of roofing felt and get to work experimenting, so I'd have lots of samples and ideas to share.  I bought it at Lowe's for  $22.  If you are looking for an inexpensive material with rich possibilities that will last forever, this is it.  There's enough on one roll to last a lifetime.  I did a ton of experimenting, gave each of the approximately 25 workshop participants 3 pieces, and the same roll is still too big and heavy for me to lift.  If you buy this stuff, make sure you have someone to help get it from your car...
The technique that had inspired me was referred to as 'soap resist'.  A drawing is done on the roofing felt with a chunk of soap.  It's not really a resist process, because you don't paint over the soap; you paint BETWEEN it.  The painting is done with acrylic paints.  When the painting is done and dry, you rinse it off in the sink, thus removing the soap and leaving the black lines.  Here and those above are my first trial pieces.  The turtle below was partially inspired by the pattens of molas, which was a suggested motif by Amy, and the flowers below and funky face above were me  just foolin' around with paint.  The silly fish pic was done to test out some metallic blue paints in the water.
By the time I had completed these four samples, I had realized the stuff was terrific to paint on, and I began to experiment and explore more ideas.   But I wasn't fond of the fat lines of the soap and the crumbly texture, so I used chalkboard chalk instead for the two pieces below.  It also washed off just fine.  I started thinking about global art possibilities beyond the mola design: Australian aborigine dot paintings on bark,  African mudcloth, tapa cloth from the Pacific Islands, papel amate bark paintings of Mexico, and Native American design motifs.  The roofing felt texture and weight make it feel like a good mimic of treated tree bark or leather.  SO may possibilities!
 I experimented with birds, and with leaving a lot of black, as in the piece on the left. 
 And then Arty Artsy Amy reminded me that her students, instead of paint, had used colored pencils.  So I made this example, using Prismacolor and other  high quality pencils, around a white chalk line:
 And I thought "why not try oil pastels?" so, using the soap, I made this silly fish.  I think this might be suited to younger children and simple shapes, as it is hard to get a lot of detail on the roofing felt with oil pastels.  Still, the texture gives it an interesting quality. 
 And then I found I had a sample can of acrylic spray paint.  I wrote the word 'spray' with soap, sprayed right over it, and washed it when dry.  As you can see, the resist worked.  I see lots of possibilities for this material with spray paints. 
 
 And then, another whole wave of ideas hit me.  I had been tearing the roofing felt rather than cutting it (I liked the organic shapes), so I thought "collage!".  (By the way, it is both easy to tear and easy to cut.)  And I made this piece below.  I used tacky glue, but I believe regular Elmer's Glue-All would work fine.  I was using tacky because I was about to attempt something 3-dimensional.
 And here it is, below, the result of my favorite technique so far.  It was challenging, holding the roofing felt in place as the glue set (I had a bottle of quick-dry tacky glue, but it still required some patience).  The roofing felt is heavy so really needs to set before you let go.  I think this would not be suited for working with younger kids, but high school students could certainly handle it. The mask is sturdy enough that I could glue it on a wooden stake and put it on a base to have a standing piece.  And I was thinking about embellishing, perhaps with raffia and beads.  What fun!
But since gluing three-dimensionally was a challenge, I wondered, would it hold OK with hot glue?  I figured if I was doing something with small groups of younger kids, I could have a 'hot glue station'.  And below is my experiment.  Hot glue (low temp)works just fine.I didn't try the high temp stuff. (Though for permanence, I still personally ultimately would prefer the tacky glue.)
So back to my workshop - I taught three sessions, each with about 8 people, I think.  We discussed the materials.  After experimenting with soap (Amy recommended Ivory, which I found crumbly; Beth had recommended hotel bar soap) my first choice soap is Dial.  (You want soap that is not loaded with lotions and oils, and is rectangular in shape so you can cut it up into chunks to write with.)  I also was successful with, as I said, chalkboard chalk, and while I didn't have any, I think sidewalk chalk might be the best option.  I gave both chalk and soap options to participants, and surprisingly, I think most selected the soap.  The classroom smelled fresh and clean!
We reviewed the types of paint used - I recommend testing to see what you like best.  I had many sample bottles of various brands/qualities of acrylics, plus little bottles of acrylic craft paints, including metallics.  Some colors look best mixed or under-painted with white to increase brightness.  The metallic craft paints did not need under-painting.  Sometimes, I like the subtlety of colors without the white, such as on my mask. 
Workshop participants worked on their creations in front of a David Smith sculpture (above). How cool is that?  The Empire Plaza has a rich art collection and one of the three morning workshops focused on it, touring the collection and teaching participants how to teach from it.  The Plaza is close enough for field trips for most of our region.  Each of the participants even received a beautiful book of the collection.  The third workshop was about our state organization's Portfolio Project, which is an excellent opportunity for our students.
 One workshop participant had this idea to tear the roofing felt into strips, paint them with line designs, and then glue them arching over each other in an interesting painted relief.  Here she is experimenting. 
Here are some of the participants' work-in-progress.  I am hoping they will eventually send me photos of their completed work after it had been rinsed. 
 
 Above, starting with a line drawing and then painting outside the chalk/soap lines.  Below, some lovely, loose expressive pieces.  The one directly below has made nice use of the metallic paints.
 Ooh, I'd love to see these next two when they are complete.  The first one color-wise has made me think of Egyptian art (there's another possibility!) and the second one reminds me of a complementary painting / tree drawing lesson I've done.   The photo doesn't do justice to the color on this piece; it was absolutely striking!
 Van Gogh, I'm guessing, is the inspiration for the piece below.
 I like the use of the border on this cheerful piece.
 I can't decide if this looks more like peacock feathers or paisleys; either way it is lovely. 
 Don't you love this adorable bird below?  (Sorry he loaded sideways.)  I think it will be really striking when the soap is washed and the lines are black.
 And this!  One of my favorites!  We discussed possible artist motivations - I mentioned Matisse, Leger, Roualt, Modigliani, Kandinsky, Picasso, and Laurel Burch, but I hadn't thought of Peter Max.  I can't wait to see this piece finished!!
 The Great  Wave, perhaps?
 Another couple of unfinished favorites, that I think have an Asian sort of feel to them.
   Of course, no workshop day is complete without something unexpected, right?  As the third and last group was trying to finish their work and clean up, and get ready for the meeting directly afterward, suddenly the loudspeakers came on with a loud evacuation notice.  We weren't sure what to do.  We were told to head out on the roof/walkway to the Egg, where we waited in the hot sun, leaving behind all the work (including the pieces from the previous session that had been left to dry).  Eventually, we were told we could enter the Egg, and go downstairs to our meeting in the Plaza; that had not been evacuated; it was just the Tower. I snapped the outdoor photos during that time.  The first ones show all the evacuees from the Tower. 
So, after shooting these pics, we held our region meeting and were able to retrieve everything from the Tower afterward.  The other organizers and myself, all tired and hungry, walked (oh, my feet were SO tired) down to the outside of the Plaza where there is a daily lineup of food trucks.  All in all, a successful day!

A quick postscript - I loved experimenting with and painting on the roofing felt so much I plan to use it for some of my own artwork.  And I have one more experiment I want to do - weaving!  I'm thinking of painting two pieces, cutting one piece into a loom, and cutting the other into strips for weaving.  And/or maybe weaving fibers or various sorts into the roofing felt loom.  There is SO much possibility here.  Any more ideas?  Pass them on.  I still have piles and piles of cut pieces, plus the giant roll is still on my back porch, plus my husband just informed me that at our camp, we have another huge roll of roofing felt.  Yeeha!!

35 comments:

  1. I absolutely LOV your mask. I'll be interested in hearing how the weaving turns out. As I was reading your post I kept thinking about using the "felt" for weaving and 3D sculpture. I have one question (perhaps a silly one:)) Does the tar paper have any odor? I think I see a trip to Home Depot in my future:))

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    1. Christie, it's not a silly question. But no, there's no odor at all.

      So head to Home Depot! Just make sure you have a way to get that thing out of your car and a place to put it. Mine resides on the back porch... What does that tell you about it's size and weight?

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  2. Phyl! Wow these are all beyond amazing and beautiful. Thanks for the kind words, but you have taken this so far beyond the next level. I can't wait to teach this again this year with new eyes and all of this new inspiration. This is so cool. SO COOL. I've been excited to see this post for awhile (based on your great fb teasers) and you really delivered. Gah! I'm just so excited about it!! Thank you for sharing!!!!

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    1. Aw, shucks Amy; you make me blush! Just remember, if I had never pinned YOUR post, I wouldn't have had the inspiration in the first place! So thank you too!

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  3. Totally cool artwork, Phyl! Thanks for the great post and beautiful examples!

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    1. Glad you stopped by, Pat! I'm waiting to see what YOU will be posting sometime soon... ;)

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  4. Thank you Phyl for such wonderful examples and details. You are truly amazing. This is something I would love to try with my elementary students. <3

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  5. Love your post! Thank you so much for the shout out. And more importantly the examples you posted! I have a lot of the roofing felt left! You made my day!

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    1. So glad you approve! I always worry when I blog about something that was initially someone else's idea, that I might step on their toes. I think that's part of what inspired me to try so many different things. Well, that, and the fact that it was nice outside, and I did all of the artwork during sunny days, working in the sunshine at the picnic table in my backyard. It was a great excuse to sit outside in the sun!

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  6. This roofing tar paper is also really useful in the Ceramics room! I discovered that last year- if you're creating a piece that is made up of slabs, draw/cut out your patterns from the tar paper, and lay it on top of your slabs as you put them through the slab roller. Cut away the excess clay and leave tar paper on your slab shapes until the final piece is totally assembled. It helps keep your individual pieces from warping with too much handling.

    These paintings came out so great!!

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    1. PWB, what a great tip! One question - the roofing felt has a slight texture. I'm assuming it will show up on the clay from going through the slab roller. Do you keep the texture or remove it?

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  7. Love, love, love these wonderful ideas! I'm always looking for budget-friendly materials and would have never thought of this one on my own. Not sure where I'll put a roll of this stuff, but it see it in my near future!

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    1. Thanks Charmaine. I love using goofy materials! (search my old posts for 'toothpaste batik', or perhaps shaving cream marbling!)

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  8. Absolutely stunning artwork!! I love these Aboriginal Art paintings. Well I am not a professional artist still I enjoy making simple and pretty paintings. I am looking for a private tutor that can teach various art types.

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  9. These are absolutely GORGEOUS and I'd love to do some projects with this stuff!!! I'm concerned about safety using roofing felt with children (and adults). What brand did you buy? Is it listed as nontoxic?

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    1. Kathy, you can see the brand "Warrior Roofing' label in one of the posted photos above. There was nothing on the label to indicate any safety issues, and it has no odor or any residue on it to make me concerned. Thanks for asking! Try it - you'll love it!

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  10. You always inspire me, thanks Phil...just happen to have a roll in the garage

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  11. I think I'm going to give this a try. My middles school students could use something different to inspire them as we move into the end of the school year. Lucky for me my husband is on his way to Home Depot!

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    1. Janis, you're gonna love it - there's just something so appealing about the texture as a painting surface.

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  12. I just LOVE using things from the hardware store in my art, or even better, leftovers from construction projects! We have some flooring protection paper that is very thick that I am going to recycle into some bookmaking projects. I am thinking that your project would make fantastic book covers for journals! Also, years ago I used to live right next to Empire State Plaza and loved watching the fireworks there from our 4th floor apt patio. ;-). Miss the Egg and the NYS Museum!

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  13. I just picked up a roll of roofing felt at the hardware store (American Standard Felt) and when I brought it back to my classroom to use, I noticed that the label said it was a cancer causing material. Bituminous felt (aka felt paper). Not sure if it is cancerous because of particulate matter when it is torn or only if it is heated up on a job site (fumes when tar is added on top of it). Do you know anything about this? I would hate to be exposing my students or myself to a carcinogenic material.

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    1. Oh dear. There was no such label on mine, and when I did some hunting for info online, I still couldn't find a clear answer. Check out the info in these two links
      Here: https://en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/Bituminous_waterproofing
      And here: http://www.nrca.net/consumer/arma_asphalt.pdf

      From what I'm reading, it seems like a lot of vague and conflicting information. I think the amounts of whatever might be considered a carcinogen are too slight for you to worry about, since, first of all, each child will just be working on one piece, so exposure isn't huge, and second, you aren't heating it.

      But if you find out more, let me know. I originally got the roofing felt idea from two other bloggers who did various projects, and neither have reported any concerns to me.

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  14. Great work, love the colours. Iv been painting on roof felt for a long time, basically its the only material I use. You can see some work on my website www.andrewkenny.net instagram look for mutineer84 or facebook Andrew Kenny artist. Great to others using felt for painting:)

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  15. Thank you for all of the ideas- Another could be to cut/tear the roofing felt into long strips, paint the strips with lines and patterns, then weave with them!

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    1. Holly, actually I experimented with weaving painted strips after I wrote this post! The roofing felt is wonderful to weave with. I also experimented with weaving it and then painting the woven piece. So much fun...

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  16. I have been using roofing felt for a few years in my MS art classes for a "stained glass" looking paint project when we study Louis Comfort Tiffany and the kids love it! One of my kiddos' pieces even got chosen to hang in the governors building in Austin! I had been experimenting with gel markers, colored pencils, and oil pastels this summer because I'm doing a Walkup workshop at the TAEA conference in Dallas this year on it, but I'm so tickled to see a sculptural twist with cutting and tearing! Soooooo many possibilities!! Thank you for all the great ideas!!

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    1. Thanks!
      I like the idea of using the roofing felt for a Tiffany project. And gel markers - I haven't tried that on the felt, but I bet they work great!

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    2. Yeah Leslie Booth! Can't wait to see your walk up session!

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  17. Thank you for sharing these wonderful ideas!!! I am an elementary art teacher overseas and have been following your blog for a while. I really appreciate the variety and quality of your projects. Keep it up!

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    1. Thank you! I appreciate knowing that the blog is still of value. It inspires me to keep it going!

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  18. What type of sealer would you recommend? I am going to paint on roofing felt with my 4th graders next week. I was curious if you think mod lodge would work or maybe some type of spray sealer??

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    1. Since you are painting with acrylics, a sealer isn't necessary, but I think anything that works over an acrylic would be fine, Mod Podge, an acrylic spray, or acrylic varnish. All should work. But honestly, none of my samples were sealed. But remember, you cannot use tempera paint. It will not stick on the roofing felt surface.

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