Sunday, September 30, 2012

Artist Tip #3 - Recovering White Paper

Since watercolor is a transparent medium, it is difficult to place white or light values in an area already covered with dark paint.  The best method to "save" a white area is to simply paint around it.  Another method is to mask the white area with liquid masking medium or tape to "protect" it from dark paint.  Very small white highlights can be painted with white gouache (an opaque watercolor).  These methods all work, and have pros and cons.  But it's the rare watercolor artist who hasn't occasionally realized the need for a white or light area after the mid- and dark-values have been painted.

One method to recover the white paper is to use a common household cleaning product - Original Mr. Clean Magic Eraser.  This is a white foam pad, available in many grocery and hardware stores, intended for household cleaning chores.  It is also great at removing watercolor paint.  This "original" type contains no chemicals, and works through the physical design of the pad.  Other "enhanced" versions do contain chemicals, and should not be used on watercolor paintings.

A piece of Magic Eraser is shown in the accompanying photo, which also shows the steps to be followed.  After the paint is completely dry (1), mask around the area to be "cleaned" with masking tape, making sure that the tape edges are snug against the paper (2).  Next, dip the Magic Eraser in water and squeeze it out so it is damp.  Then gently rub over the area to be whitened.  The small bits that you'll find are not pieces of your paper, but pieces of the pad.  Dry the area.  If it's not white enough, repeat the process until you are satisfied.  Then simply remove the tape, and you have your "recovered" white paper, which can be painted over without problems (3).

I find this method especially useful for creating white sailboat masts against an already painted background.  I feel that painting around white areas is the best approach, but this method is very useful when I realize that I need a white area after most of the painting has been completed.  I recommend that this be used mainly for small areas, but it is possible to use it for large areas as well.  You may want to watch this video which shows how I used it to modify a very large area of a painting:

Tuesday, September 25, 2012

Wales Mud Flats - Original Watercolor Painting

Vast mud flats appear at low tide in most inlets along the northern Wales coast. Many of the boats at anchor simply rest upon the mud when the sea is out. Most sailboats in the area have double keels to keep them from falling over, and seamen must plan their arrivals and departures to avoid low tide.

If you'd like to purchase this 11" x 15" original watercolor painting for $200 including shipping within the United States, you can do it securely on my website There are additional paintings for sale there, and my smaller paintings are available on my other website  Add a unique original painting to your collection!

Friday, September 14, 2012

Artist Tip #2 - Flattening a Finished Watercolor Painting

Watercolor paper expands when wet and shrinks when dry, and often not uniformly.  Most watercolor painters struggle with the resulting ripples in completed paintings.  We've all seen a rippled painting framed, and not looking very good because of the gaps between the rippled paper and the flat mat.  A ripple along the top edge is particularly bad, as the overhead light casts a shadow from the mat, leaving a scalloped dark pattern at the top of the painting.  So... how does one flatten a finished painting?  If our paintings are professionally framed, the framer may have a large flat iron to flatten them.  But if we're doing our own framing, we need an approach that doesn't require large and expensive equipment.

I've tried a number of approaches, including:

  1. Dry-ironing the painting on a hard, flat surface.
  2. Steam-ironing the painting on a hard, flat surface.
  3. Dampening the back of the painting and pressing it flat under a board and weights.

Approach 1, dry-ironing the painting, is quick and works somewhat.  If the paper is badly wrinkled, it's difficult to get the larger ripples out.  And although an ironed painting is "locally flat",  it tends to curl toward the iron at the edges, though this may not cause a big problem once it is held in place by a mat.

Approach 2 can lead to disaster (listen to the voice of experience).  The steam can push through the painting and deposit some of the paint on the flat surface, smudging the painting when the paper inevitably moves while ironing.  I do not recommend this approach at all!

Approach 3 works best for me.  A fellow artist, Marlene Gremillion, told me about it.  I very lightly mist the back of the painting I want to flatten, being careful to not get it too wet.  I then put it face down on a hard flat surface, and put a rigid board on top of it.  I then put some heavy weights on top of the board.  Often, I make a sandwich of painting, board, painting, board, etc. before putting on the weights, and flatten several paintings at once.  After about 3 days, the dampness is gone, and the paintings are flat.  I've included a photo of this setup in my studio.

So, if I must flatten a painting and I need to frame it right away, I've found dry-ironing it is a decent approach.  But if I have a few days, misting the back and pressing it flat works best for me by far.

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Thursday, September 6, 2012

Valley Dreams - Original Watercolor Painting

This painting was inspired when I saw the beautiful Tywy valley in Wales. I hope it draws you in, as it does me, and makes you yearn to explore this charming valley of river and farms.

If you'd like to purchase this 7.5" x 22" original watercolor painting for $225 including shipping within the United States, you can do it securely on my website There are additional paintings for sale there, and my smaller paintings are available on my other website  Add a unique original painting to your collection!