On December 10th I taught a workshop on my pouring watercolor on canvas technique. It was a small workshop and lots of fun. The day was just not long enough!
I had several canvases started so that my students could see the different stages of the process. They brought canvases, chose a project from many that I brought with me.
The first part of the workshop was showing the participants how to prepare the canvas for watercolor. A white absorbent ground is applied in several thin coats. This creates a paper-like surface on top of the canvas so that the watercolor will absorb slightly, but not lose any of its color potency.
Once the canvas is dried it is time to apply the drawing. Some students drew directly onto their canvas with a light graphite drawing. Others transferred drawings that I provided. Once the drawing is on a few areas can be shadowed with graphite, as this will help to hold the darker areas during the pouring process. The graphite has a tendency to lift and float away when the very wet pigments are applied.
With the drawing applied, we then added masking fluid to preserve any white areas on the canvas. This step will happen over and over during pouring process to save each “value step”. Again the canvas must be allowed to dry completely.
Here, Dawn is applying a first pour to one of her projects. The colors are dropped onto a very wet (with water) canvas. The colors are set next to one another so that delicate blends begin to take place, and we use primary color sets. My favorite combination is New Gamboge, Quinicridone Magenta, and French Ultramarine Blue. It’s important to only use transparent colors. Cadmiums, for instance, are chalky, and will have a tendency to lift quickly, look muddy and “powdery” after the pours.
Each layer of wet colors creates a value range on the painting. When working in this technique, it is best not to worry about “literal” colors in the painting. Rather, the goal is to work toward developing correct value ranges to hold the shape and space in the piece.
Each time the piece is poured it must dry thoroughly. Then another layer of masking fluid is applied to the areas that need to be “saved” for the next pour. Simply put, the mask resists pigment. Once the pour is completely dry it is a bit easier to see the value that is created on the canvas. If an area should not get any darker, it is masked so that it will not accept any more color during the next pour.
You can see the photo reference and value drawing that Dawn is using to guide her through the painting. You can also see how the paint drips over the edges of the gallery-wrapped canvas, creating a beautiful kaleidoscope of colors around the edges so that framing is really not necessary.
Jean worked on several projects throughout the day.
Robin and Chelsey are using mask at this stage.
It was a fun day and I am looking forward to seeing the finished pieces! I will post some pictures of my work from the workshop soon also.