Mexican Bark Painting

“Mexican Bark Painting” by Arin

Colorful Bark Paintings made by the people of Xalitla, Mexico, are the primary source of income for their entire community. These paintings on amate paper (made from the bark of the wild fig tree) typically depict flowers, birds, plants and animals.

1. Cut apart a brown paper grocery bag. (I can usually get 3 or 4 “bark papers” from one bag.)
2. Draw fanciful designs of birds, plants or animals on brown paper. Leave some space between your drawing and the edge of the paper.
3. Outline with a black (F) Sharpie and erase any pencil lines still showing.
4. Crinkle paper, smooth it out, and repeat until your paper is an even, “crumpled” texture.
5. Smooth out paper again and press it under heavy books to flatten it. You can also iron your paper on a medium setting (no steam!) if necessary.
6. Use tempera paint to carefully paint inside your black lines. (Neon tempera is especially fun for this project, although it’s a bit more expensive.) Leave the background unpainted to show the “bark” paper.
7. After your paint is dry, you can go back over any lines with your Sharpie that were covered up by the paint.


8 Responses to Mexican Bark Painting

  1. Kathy Barbro August 10, 2009 at 1:05 pm #

    Wow! I am in love with this painting!! I will have to try it out. Thanks for reminding me how cool that krafty brown paper look can be.

  2. goldenbird August 10, 2009 at 1:57 pm #

    I love this idea. Thank you!

  3. Craig August 12, 2009 at 2:17 am #


  4. Charlene August 12, 2009 at 5:29 pm #

    Fun to marble the paper to give it a faux bark look. This project turns out great and the kids love the neon paint.

  5. muller August 30, 2009 at 7:37 pm #

    beautiful artworks.

  6. Brenda August 31, 2009 at 5:06 pm #

    Great idea! Love how bright the colors look on the brown paper!

  7. Hope Chella November 29, 2009 at 11:35 am #

    I can not wait to try this with my third graders :D As a second year art teacher I especially appreciate all of your lesson sharing and pointers!!!! Thanks Again XO

  8. Brittany April 29, 2014 at 6:07 pm #

    This is gorgeous! I love how there is always background information and information about artists.