Techniques and Tips

Color Wheel for Watercolor (2-9-12)
To see my post on laying out a color wheel in watercolor click here.

How to Stretch Watercolor Paper (1-20-2012)
To see my post on stretching watercolor paper click here.

Watercolor Canvas (3-28-11)
    Watercolor canvas has been around for several years now. Traditionally, only oils and acrylic could paint on canvas, the surface was too slick for watercolors and it would resist the paint. Fredrix Canvas, I believe, had the first watercolor surface. Now, there are a couple other companies that have a canvas or watercolor ground that can be painted onto a canvas to allow watercolors to be used. Watercolor canvas can be both forgiving and frustrating. It is forgiving because unlike regular watercolor paper, it allows for very easy lifting of color. You can still use masking to save the white areas, but with watercolor canvas you can also easily lift the color back off with a damp brush. Accept for some staining colors, you could easily wash the watercolor off your canvas and start over, if you so desire. However, because the color lifts so easily this can also be frustration if you are trying to use layering because the bottom color will tend to lift, as well. 
     Tips: Unlike traditional watercolor papers, canvas has a more matte look to the finished piece. Washes will appear softer. When trying to add value or darken a passage, using more paint to water will help rather than trying to add wash after wash. The more direct you can be, i.e. paint the value you need the first time, the more you will like canvas. 
     One really nice thing about canvas is that it doesn't have to be framed or behind glass. As long as you seal it with several coats of a good archival acrylic sealer, no glass is needed. Canvas comes pre-stretched around stretcher bars, glued to a hard backing, in tablets, and on large rolls. Recently while doing a demo on canvas for a class, I realized that I liked stretching my canvas from the large roll I had. The large roll of un-stretched Fredrix canvas seems to have a more accepting surface than the pre-stretched Fredrix canvas that I bought at a local store. Plus, buying the large roll (58"x3yds) is more cost effective.
     Watercolor canvas is still unknown to the general public. I have had people see my pieces at the gallery and think it is a print, because they haven't heard of watercolor on canvas. I have also had paintings sell because they like the fact that the watercolor does not have to have glass. I think I will stick with traditional watercolor paper as my main painting surface, but canvas is fun to try every now and then.
link to Fredrix Canvas provider:
link to new watercolor ground by Daniel Smith:

Seeing Values (3-10-11)
Seeing Values - Red Cellophane Over Image ©L Watry
Have you ever had a painting that just didn’t seem to be working? One of the culprits could be the values (lights, mediums, and darks) in your painting. When you are first learning to use color it is often hard to judge one value next to another. There are several good ways to take the color out of your painting to better judge the values. The first tried and true method is to simply squint your eyes! By squinting your eyes at your painting you are subtly blurring the scene and also reducing the light a little. This will allow you to carefully look at the relationship of one value shape next to another. You can also use this method when you are painting from life. By looking at your subject through squinted eyes you can see the value relationships, as well. The second method for smaller paintings or for sections of larger paintings is to make a black and white copy or use your digital camera in the black and white mode. By “changing” your painting to black and white it allows you to view the values more easily. The third method is to use red or green cellophane. Take a piece of red/green cellophane (found at most craft stores in the gift wrap section) and lay it over your painting. I use red cellophane. As you can see in the image to the left, the upper section with the red cellophane removes the color from the painting and allows you to see the values. Tip: As long as your values are working you can paint a scene in literally any color combo and it will still work (may not be pretty, but it will work).

Tools for Applying Masking (2-26-11)
What is masking or frisket? masking fluid is a substance that can be painted on your watercolor paper to preserve the white of the paper. You can then paint this white area later or leave it white. Masking can also be applied over an already painted color, but check, on a sample, to make sure that the masking won't remove any of the color. Masking can be removed with a rubber masking pick-up or by rubbing with your fingers. The manufactures of masking fluid have several tools with which to apply masking. A lot of artists use a brush dipped in a mixture of water and dish soap before dipping their brush into the masking. However, you should never use a good watercolor brush for this because the masking is a very sticky substance and over time may ruin the brush and the tools the manufacturers sell have the same problem. So, how can masking be applied without it ruining the tool you use for application? I have come across two tools that work well: the first is really for working with clay and is called a "clay shaper", the second is just a household hors-d'Ĺ“uvre tooth pick. In the image on the right, you can see that I attached the toothpick to a pencil to make it easier to work with. The clay shapers come in a lot of different sizes and tip designs and I have seen them at my local art store and craft stores. They have a rubber tip that allows you to easily clean the masking off by rubbing it on a towel or with your fingers.

Saving Time (2-25-11)
I am a very realistic, detail oriented painter.  Therefor, to save time, I have come up with a method to draw, transfer, and save my painting designs. This is my process:
  1. Draw the original drawing on a good piece of paper around 9x12 (or what ever proportions needed).
  2. Then I use an acid free, black ink pen to go back over my drawing to darken it.
  3. I can then take the drawing and using a proportion wheel enlarge it to any size I would like at a copy center. Just tell the copy store what percent enlargement you need.
  4. Finally, I use this enlarged drawing and my light table to transfer it to my watercolor paper. (Hint, if you do not have a light table, you can tape your drawing on a window and transfer the drawing to your watercolor paper using the sun as your light source.)
I now have my original drawing and an enlargement. I can re-use either of these if I need to.