Above: Washi Tape Dispenser I recently purchased; located for me by my friend Molly. It's quite nicely made. It has a non-skid/non-slip base so when you rotate it around it's very solid. And each roll of tape has its own cutting edge on the lip of the dispenser. I got mine through Amazon, but I think Walmart also carries the same brand. Click on the image to view an enlargement.
I don't remember when I first started using washi tape. I do remember I was in Wet Paint and one of the staff members (probably Verra, because I remember being at the paper desk) brought some out. We started talking about how it was being used and an in-store reference book was brought out. It showed how artists in Japan were using the tape. That reminds me it must have been at least 2010 because I purchased a couple rolls of analogous colors and went home and did a little "cut tape" drawing of a finch in my P10 Journal (which you can read about at the link and even find video flip throughs which will include that finch portrait). Come to think of it that was probably the beginning of my slide down the slippery slope of non-archival materials.
No one I've ever asked has made any claims of archival qualities for washi tape, and some of the brands I've used have started to let loose the moment I turn my head. Others I'm sure will start to spread their adhesive through my journal pages as the years turn to decades. But I don't care.
What I do wonder is how I ended up with so many rolls of the stuff. I don't mean the 20 rolls that came with the dispenser, I mean the bag of rolls I had before the dispenser arrived, rolls for which I'd hoped to use the dispenser. Another slippery slope.
If you've been reading this blog over the last year you'll see that this tape has crept into many of my drawings. So many in fact that I found it necessary to name the style of sketch it was leading me to create: Piecemeal. You can see a restrained example of piecemeal style here, full-blown examples here, and click on the Piecemeal Style category in the category list at the left to see more examples. (I have some really LARGE painting examples you'll see in the new year.)
It started innocently enough—I was sketching something and I went larger than the sheet of paper and wanted to add to the sketch so I simply grabbed another sheet of paper and added it on to the original sketch by taping it in place with washi tape—which just happened to be out because I'd been wrapping presents with it.
And by wrapping presents with washi tape I don't really mean wrapping, I mean decorating. I put the washi tape, which doesn't want to hold to anything for shit, on after I've put on packing tape or other tape that will hold.
Those early applications of tape sat well under the gouache I put on next. I was surprised. Then later explorations proved that not all washi tapes are created equal in their stickability in any circumstance.
I've since found that 3M makes a brand of washi tape and they stick a bit more convincingly (as one would hope from a 3M product).
Still none of them are archival, or claim to be, that I've seen. And yes there are people out there suggesting you make your own washi tape with archival tape and all manner of printing methods, and I think that's great, go for it.
But I just want the ready made stuff. Even though I know its stickability and beauty are fleeting.
And that's what I don't understand about myself. When did this happen? When did I stop caring about archival qualities in art materials?
I haven't, it's just sometimes the fun factor trumps all.
And I can scan something and save a "memory" of how it looked on the day I finished it.
I blame all those years of working in Photoshop—hours spent "erasing" large engagement rings from model's fingers and "redrawing" the erased fingers; days spent composing gigantic collages for use on textbook covers—containing just about everything related to the topic that could be related to the topic, arranged in a way that made the client happy; and time spent just goofing around with the program to see what it could do—screen, multiply, etc.
It seems to me that with a roll of washi tape I can right away add a layer, then paint over it and have another layer, or effect. Maybe that's why I like it.
Of course I love texture and it does add texture, especially if you paint over it, but even if you don't.
I could think and think about this and give you all sorts of reasons, rationalizations, and even some excuses, but we all know I think excuses are boring.
I just like the stuff.
So my advice for today, in this run down to 2014, is to not over think things. Certainly ask yourself why you are breaking a habit of a lifetime; certainly assess what the benefits and losses are to your action; certainly ask yourself if you're going to be happy/comfortable/angry/sad when you look back at the decision to break that particular habit—but ultimately if you can't see a downside you're unwilling to live with maybe you can go on to think about something else for a change. Some things are just unfathomable.
I'm a crow. I've always been a crow. Washi tape might not be sparkly, but it typically is bright and it has the ability to attract my wandering eye from across a crowded Michael's store (even when I'm with a chaperon).
There's a satisfaction to be found using it. I have, as I've written, zero luck getting it to hold wrapping paper—but I've found that I can encrust a package with the tape, transforming the package in interesting ways.
And in my paintings there's a type of satisfaction using it as well. But there it comes from the fun factor. I think it's good to embrace the fun factor in our creative work. It leads to new discoveries and solutions. It helps us keep working that extra hour when we might otherwise go to bed discouraged in our progress. It causes us to run towards work rather than away from it.
Yep, I just like the stuff.
(I will have a little more to say about this when I post in the new year about the larger paintings I'm making in piecemeal style.)