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Exploring New Paper

Misty Lake _358DSC_0014

Morning Mist                                                     20″ x 15″                                            watercolor

I have always loved quality watercolor paper.  Without it I would be lost.  Ruscombe Mills handmade paper in 300gsm (140Lb.) cold press is nothing new for me.  However, this batch of Joshua Cristall historical paper is a new adventure. Morning Mist was my second attempt on this sheet. I’ll show my first try in a moment.  I am accustomed to painting with fairly controlled washes where I can predict and/or manipulate the effects on the surface. Well, this paper gave me some surprises. Now I don’t consider this to be a bad thing.  All of us need a challenge to wake us up.

This paper has a high linen content and I am told that there is also a measure of hemp in the sheets I ordered.  The paper is beautiful and while I have stated unpredictable; I need to clarify my comments. Remember this is handmade paper and is a bit different from previous batches I have ordered. In this case it behaves as if one side of the paper reacts like a hot pres sheet while the other side acts like a cold press surface. Morning Mist was executed on the side that reacts like a cold press surface. The color hold out is quite good and while there are a few layers of glazing washes; a great deal of the approach  was direct and spontaneous while some of the grass texture is dry brush.  The foggy areas are the result of wet ‘n wet washes and you can see them crop up in numerous places in the back ground and foreground.  The highlight of the lake surface is the pure white of the paper.

I really like the effects this paper produces and can’t wait to start another group of paintings. While moving my studio I found some old sketches from 1968! My wife accuses me of being a pack rat. At any rate I have some canal sketches and one intriguing group of the gondola factory that was on a less traveled portion of Venice.  I was 25 years old and fresh out of art school when we arrived in Italy.  In Venice I walked and sketched some of the areas that John Singer Sargent captured in watercolor.   I never painted from the sketches but I think now I am ready to give it a try.

Callieinlight _357DSC_0013

Cat on hot press side                              20″ x 15″                                                     Watercolor

At the time I painted this I really didn’t like it too much.  I’m still not wild about it but I am showing it for a reason. This sheet is the other half of the sheet that was used for Morning Mist.  This was the first attempt I referred to earlier in this post. This was the flip side of the paper, the side that exhibited “hot press” tendencies. One particular thing that will immediately stand out is the  texture of brush stroke in the background. Hot press papers tend to show brush strokes and pose a bit of a challenge with layered washes for the previous wash will often lift very easily.  When I was learning to paint egg tempera I was required to paint on hot press and plate finish paper. The reasoning was that properly prepared traditional gesso (not the commercial acrylic kind) presented a very smooth surface.  One had to learn to deal with the crawl of ink wash on the smooth surface. In actual practice I’m not so sure that it is a really big deal.  However, that is the way we were taught.

On the plus side the color is very vibrant.  I’ll be playing with this surface some more.  Both sides of the Joshua Cristall paper invite a lot of spontaneity.  I really like having the paper on hand.   If you are a watercolor painter you might want to give it a try.  I know I plan to always have plenty of  Ruscombe Mills paper on hand.

On line classes: NEW PLATFORM

Some of you may know that for several years I have been conducting on line watercolor classes. Those offerings have been pretty successful with over 500 students. One limitation is/was limited interaction with students. As I get older I prefer to have more painting time.  In spite of that I still enjoy sharing watercolor. I am just curious about how many of you would be interested in an interactive on line class. This would involve each student being able to post their work and for me to comment and to do impromptu demonstrations of various visual problems.  Sort of like taking requests. Students would be able to post privately or perhaps post publicly for all enrolled students to see and learn from written critique. The contact hours would be set on a given schedule and the numbers would be limited.

I realize that this is a vague outline but send me an email if you think you would be interested in such a program.

Interested in knowing more about the watercolor glazing technique?

Mastering Glazing Techniques in Watercolor by Dr. Don Rankin is available direct at www.createspace.com/3657628 .  A revised and updated edition of the original classic.

The Antique Shop: remastered DVD of an onsite study painting demo with brief tutorial www.createspace.com/350893

 

The Surface Makes a Difference

Have you ever noticed that some watercolors by the same artist  have a different look or impact?  While there are many possible variables there is one element that can have a profound impact on the effect. All else being equal, that is the same quality paint and brushes, the choice of paper can really change the dynamic. Most painters paint upon either cold press or rough watercolor paper. A few adventurous souls work on hot press and/or plate surface paper. What is the difference?  Basically, one is more absorbent than the other. Hot press and especially plate surface or finish paper is slick. The moisture and the paint have a tendency to crawl and creep across the paper rather than blooming or blossoming across the paper in the usual expected way. A slick surface brings on a whole new series of effect. Some of it can be quite magical while for some painters the whole thing becomes a nightmare.

My first encounter with the idea of painting watercolor on a less absorbent paper surface came about while learning to paint with egg tempera. While the gesso ground for traditional egg tempera is absorbent to a degree; it can be modified by the degree of polish one produces on the surface during the layering of the gesso. By the way this is NOT  the canned gesso you buy in most art supply stores. Traditional gesso is a mixture of hide glue and and ground chalk with or without pigment  and requires a rigid support to prevent cracking.  Very often beginning painters develop their painting skills on plate finish papers using watercolor washes. After a few maddening hours, if the student is willing, they began to see some intriguing results.

I would encourage any watercolor painter to work with hot press and plate finish papers and boards for the effect that can be achieved. Yes, it is different.  I’m going to share a few examples of watercolor on hot press boards. I keep a decent supply of the paper in my studio for those times when I want to get a different feel to a subject. Often the color is brighter and more vibrant. The reason is that the color dries mainly on the surface and has less tendency to sink into the sheet.  One word of caution.  Since the paint is on  the surface it can easily be disturbed and create mud. Melting OffMelting Off ,  16″ x 7″ (40.64 x 17.78 cm ) Watercolor on High Surface/ Plate Finish paper board. From the Collection of Sonat, Inc.

The palette was simple combination of vermilion, thalo blue with some gamboge and a dose of black India ink in the foreground, with much of the tree line poured onto the dampened surface and allowed to blend and puddle.

Compare that with the following effect on a traditional sheet of watercolor paper with a coldpress surface.

MarchDSC_0372_185March,  18.5″ x 32.5″ (48 x 38 cm) Watercolor on 140lb. D’Arches paper. Private Collection

While the palettes are similar the dark passages are softer, the blending is more subtle, creating a quieter image.  The basic message is that the paper surface can contribute to  making a big difference in the presentation and the feeling in a work.

The QuarryDSC_0345_165

The Quarry, 10.5″ x 21.25″ (27 x 54 cm) Strathmore hot press rag illustration board. Artist Collection

The mood and the palette are different. But note the sharp edges in defining the rocks on the edge of the waterline.  If you look carefully you can see hints of Gamboge in the upper edges of the treeline and in the limestone rock of the quarry’s edge. The colors in this work are Thalo Blue, Gamboge and Winsor red blended in with blue to create the darker passages.

Want to know more about watercolor glazing techniques?

Mastering Glazing Techniques in Watercolor, Vol I by Dr. Don Rankin:                             BUY DIRECT at http://www.createspace.com/3657628

ON LINE WATERCOLOR COURSES: Join Don and learn more about watercolor glazing techniques at your own pace in your own home. Level I covers the basic techniques for developing wonderful glazing effects.  The course is designed using simple exercises to acquaint you with the underlying principles of watercolor glazing.  It also directs you in the better choices of color selection and the proper sequence of application. You can stop the video, do an exercise, master it  and continue or review as you wish.

https://www.Udemy.com/mastering-glazing-techniques-in-watercolor/

Level II is a full (real time) demo in the artist’s studio.  The only editing is the omission of the drying time between some of the washes. See the progression from beginning to end.

https://www.Udemy.com/mastering-glazing-techniques-in-watercolor-level-II/

MemPhoto_Generic6a  2017 recipient of Marquis Who’s Who Lifetime Achiever Award in Art and Education

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