The Magic in Underpaper

Hey Messians! Michelle (@knittyscrapper) here to share with you all how I use underpaper in my art journals. This is one of my favorite things to create and use and is SO super easy to do so let’s get started.

“Underpaper” is simply just paper you lay down on your art table or workspace to protect your surface from getting stained or marred by paints, gesso and all the magical bits we like to use. It can also hold paints like a palette. I like to use Reynolds Kitchens Plastic Coated Freezer Paper. It is paper on one side and waxy on the other so it holds liquids in.

My table is actually an old door and is covered in beautiful paint splatters, smears and drips so clear and I love it.  What I did not love was salt and eraser dust catching on my glue stick, tape runner and paint brushes while I worked. I have seen other artists use palette paper (Waxy sheets of papers in a tablet format that I am too cheap to buy because I can get a whole giant roll of freezer paper at the grocery store for under $4) so I decided to give freezer paper a try.

I used it to sketch and list ideas on. I experimented with mark making on it. I wrote down the funny stuff my arty tribe says in Hangouts and I would jot down notes, inspirational quotes, bits and bobs from podcasts and Messy Conversations I listened to.  No more salt and eraser dust getting stuck to things because I could easily pick up the paper and toss that stuff in the trash. I mixed, dribbled, smooshed, splattered, paints all over it.  This piece of paper quickly started to collect the bits of my daily art practice and over the course of a few days or a whole week became its own work of art.

It was a game changer for me. This piece of paper was a place to experiment and have fun. After the papers grew full I would set them aside and start a new one. I saved the underpapers to use with collage in my journals, or on a whole page. I would tear them apart and stick pieces with quotes on them to remember and keep notes on colors I created with paints or marks I doodled. I started to find objects in the paint smears, splatters and random doodles. I started to cut these out and use in them in my journals. Sometimes I would write a quick story about them, it is always fun to see what might be revealed.

My underpaper helped me see new and beautiful things in something that I previously overlooked and tossed in the trash.  My underpaper helped me look closer at what I was creating and experiencing during my art practice. Creating with underpaper that I made is evidence that I have played. It is evidence that I show up for myself and my art. It is evidence that I am continually learning.

My underpaper helped me see new and beautiful things in something that I never really paid much attention to. My underpaper helped me look closer at what I was creating and experiencing during my art practice. Creating with underpaper that I made is evidence that I have played. It is evidence that I show up for myself and my art. It is evidence that I am continually learning. 

Action Steps

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Take the #gmunderpaperchallenge

I am challenging you, fellow Messians, to take the #gmunderpaperchallenge . Use whatever paper you have on hand or pick up a roll of freezer paper at the store. Lay your paper over your work surface. Use it as a palette, a place to doodle on, clean your stamps and stencils on, brush extra paint on etc. What does it tell you about your work, your process, your favorite go to supplies and color choices? What does your “evidence” that you played look like? Use your underpaper that you made in an art journal spread and use the above hashtag when you post on Instagram.

Michelle Johnson

Loud laugher, lover of cheese, coffee and bubbly water drinker. Momma to two sassy doggos and one sassy Guinea pig. Happily married to a dreamy, rad dude for 20+ years. Dislikes beets, lime Jell-o, and puzzles.

21 Comments

  1. Suzanne Earley

    We are cleaning out my in-laws house. I just brought home a brand-new unopened roll of freezer paper, among other things. I will have to do some cleaning before I can put a sheet down on my messy desk, but I’ll get to it!! ❤️❤️❤️

    • Michelle Johnson

      YAYAYAYYAYA! GO GIRL!

  2. Debbie Bamberger

    I happen to have some underpaper and I’m gonna use it today, you rad babe!

    • Michelle Johnson

      HOLLA HOLLA HOLLA!

  3. Kathy Russell

    Cool, Cool, Cool idea!

  4. Billie Miles

    Under paper rocks! But, not as hard as you. Awesome – thanks for sharing!

  5. Lisa Monconduit

    Hi Michelle, great tips. Love this.

  6. Phill Rushmere

    So awesome Michelle, just like you!

    P

  7. Alyssa Rothwell

    Brilliant! I love the resourcefulness of this community, nothing goes to waste!

  8. Jenny Sehlstedt

    Like you I love to use my under paper in my journals, I have bound in pieces of it into some journals too. Delightful tutorial <3.

  9. Patricia Shimozo-Allen

    I have been coveting my Rituals underpaper it’s soo good!

  10. Amber Coulter

    Yay, thanks for Sharing Michelle!

  11. Maura Flood

    Great tutorial! I think I have a roll of freezer paper in a kitchen drawer. I’m gonna go check right now.

  12. Mandy Grobosch

    A really cool idea… great tutorial. Thanks for sharing!

  13. Charlotte Erichsen

    I had A2 paper on my desk as a teenager and scribbled onto that, but I completely forgot. Thanks for reminding me! I don’t know if I can find freezer paper in Germany (never heard of it), but I will find something.

  14. Chris Silker

    D’oh – I never have underpaper because I use big nylon cutting boards (the ones that are super thin and flexible) and plastic placemats to protect my workspace – they can be rinsed off and reused for years…

  15. Michelle Ward

    What’s a great idea – I normally just throw it away. Never thought to save and use again. Thanks!!!

  16. Sasha Zinevych

    What a fantastic idea and a stress-free way to create more little pieces of art, Love this, Michelle!

  17. TC Larson

    This is just lovely! [I particularly love the blue buffalo and the ninja and balloons.] But the chronicling of the under paper is such a great idea, and it is such a snapshot of the day, mood, activities, and pages we’ve worked on. One thing I’ve heard of someone doing is getting double sided tape and making under paper into custom washi tape. Thanks for such a wonderful approach to something super practical.

  18. Emily@squiggleandswirl

    I don’t know if we have freezer paper roll in Australia? I really like how you have incorporated your experimentation and play into your journals. Very inspiring, thanks Michelle.

  19. Gina Nieto

    I LOVE this idea. Grabbing my freezer paper as soon as I post this.