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‘Paul Klee’ | Oil Transfer Drawing Technique

This masterclass illustrates an oil transfer technique often used by artist Paul Klee. Using Winsor & Newton hot-pressed watercolour paper as a base, take a sheet of copier paper and cover one side with a dark oil colour; here we use Artists’ Oil Colour in Ivory Black. Placing the paper with the freshly painted side down, add a clean sheet of copier on top and tape both down to avoid movement. Then draw with a pen or pencil on the top paper, the painted sheet below acts like a carbon sheet and transfers the marks to the watercolour paper. The result is a fractured oil line which will act as a resist to watercolour when it is painted on top. We used watercolours in Winsor Blue and Quinacridone Red to demonstrate how the oil line stays undisturbed even with multiple layers of watercolour. This is a great way to combine linear marks with washes of watercolour.

Video Transcript
0:08    Hi. Today I am going to show you an oil transfer technique as used by Paul Klee. I'm using Winsor & Newton Professional Watercolour Hot Pressed Paper, Winsor & Newton Artists Oil Colour Ivory Black, some masking tape and regular office printer paper.

0:27    Here I'm painting the printer paper with Ivory Black oil paint using a brush, but you can also use a roller. Give it an even coat of paint, straight from the tube, but not too thick. You can use any colour for this, but dark colours work well as an outline on light paper, and a white outline will work when transferred on dark paper.

0:49    Immediately lay the oil painted paper face down on the watercolour paper with an extra sheet of copier paper on top of that - then secure all three with masking tape to stop them moving about. Now draw or trace a design on the top sheet with a pencil or ballpoint pen. I'll just lift the corner to check the drawing is transferring correctly - which it is. The oily paper acts like a carbon sheet and transfers the design onto the watercolour paper below. This technique also works well on a primed canvas. The result is a fractured but consistent line that will act as a resist to any watercolour applied on top. Paul Klee used this technique extensively.

1:55    Now I'm going to paint over this with a watercolour wash. I'm diluting some Winsor & Newton Professional Quinacridone Red Watercolour. Watch as I paint over the oil transfer line - see how it resists the watercolour. Let's add some Winsor Blue (Red Shade) watercolour. See how you can add any amount of watercolour without disturbing your oil line.

2:26     I hope you found this technique interesting.