My Blog

Aquapasto II August 27, 2021 20:19

Back in early 2018, I wrote a blog post about aquapasto. It's been my most popular blog post. People still come to read it. 

I hadn't done much with aquapasto  until recently, when I began experimenting with it again.

I first tried adding some to some paint to see if I could get lines to stand up. That didn't work.

I thought maybe I didn't add enough. Thing is that I noticed the more I added, the less brilliance the paint had--because, of course, there was less pigment per inch. It was spread out. What to do? Layers.

So I thought maybe it might be usable as some kind of transparent glaze, and I added much more aquapasto to each glob of paint, so that they were 50/50. I mixed them up with a very small palette knife I use with my watercolors, usually just to mix some tube paint with a bit of water and end up with something creamy. After mixing the paint and aquapasto, I added one spray of water so it wasn't so sticky.

This time I ended up with something much thicker than cream. More like limp toothpaste. This consistency allowed me to build some actual texture with the paint. Have a look. This is tube paint + aquapasto painted over DS watercolor ground on a gessoed canvas.

For most of this painting, I used a type of brush I discovered through oil painting. It's usually used for painting grasses in landscapes and is called a grainer. It doesn't work that well for painting grass, but it's really interesting for building up texture. They are pretty cheap, but you could just as easily use an old flat brush in bad condition that's gotten splayed. 

I've experimented on and off with using watercolor paint almost straight from the tube to do drybrush work. This is the kind of painting that leaves a thick (for watercolor) layer of paint on the support, rather than the kind of scratchy drybrush you often see used for depicting Western or desert scenes--at least, that's what I associate that type of drybrush with. The kind of drybrush that leaves a thick, brilliant layer that never has the chance to sink into the paper and thus dilute its brilliance by coloring paper fibers below the surface is very rarely done, from my experience. One thing that seems to prevent watercolorists is the expense of the paint. But you really don't need to use that much, in my experience.

Drybrush does allow for glazing if you really careful to have very little water on the brush, use brights instead of rounds (which tend to dig up the lower layer of any kind of paint), and hold the brush at an angle quite close to the surface of the support, so you are basically skimming along. Adding aquapasto to the mix means not only can you do a drybrush glaze more easily, but you can build multiple layers and you can create texture that is unobtainable any other way.

You can see how thick the buildup of paint and aquapasto is here--thick enough to fill the dips in the canvas weave. This has about 7 layers of paint/aquapasto to it. It will seem even more filled when I finish the painting with cold wax, which I have been doing for the past couple of years. This will make it very water-resistant (I have tested it with a kitchen sink sprayer--beads right up). The painting can then be hung not only without glass but without a frame. If you do use cold wax, you might have to call it mixed media if you enter shows. But if you don't use cold wax and only the aquapasto, you are still allowed to call it watercolor, no matter how much texture you achieve with it, because aquapasto is a gel made from water, gum arabic, and some fumed (safe) silica and has been used by watercolorists for more than a century.

When I first tried aquapasto back in 2018 and posted about my experiences on a now mostly defunct art forum, I thught other painters would be glad to hear how you could add texture to watercolor. Not so much. And worse, another poster scolded me for not sticking to "real" watercolor. Why didn't I just use acrylics or something, they asked with a sniff, the implication being that then the "real" watercolorists wouldn't have to deal with misfits such as myself. 

Thing is I wanted to paint with watercolor, but I wanted to push the envelope, to see how much it could actually do. And what's more, aquapasto was invented by 19th-century British watercolorists, and you don't get much more "real" watercolorists than them. 

So give it a try. Play with it and see what it can do for you. We need more misfits in the art world.  

Light dimensional ground in my work October 10, 2020 08:51

The Gold Bones mixed media painting

Here's the painting I finished yesterday that was painted over light dimensional ground. It worked as an experiment: I was able to apply three coats of cold wax to protect it, although I had to be careful not to let the wax build up in the creases of the painting. I did rub off two high points of the painting, because the ground is not as hard as the plain watercolor ground, but I was able to fix that easily by just painting on the exposed ground and waxing over it. So that's a win.

However, I think I chose very much the wrong approach with this painting. I put way too much detail into it for the amount of texture it has, so the texture gets lost in the detail. From now on, I will use far less detail in paintings with light dimensional ground. Instead, I will focus on large blocks of color with a few smaller ones here and there for color contrast. I think that will work much better and allow the texture to show to its best advantage. 

On this particular painting, I got very much distracted by the texture and followed it too much, which meant that the design of the paint got lost. I am just not pleased with it. I realized after seeing the work in progress in jpg form that I had way more straight lines and chunks of color than is normal for me. I generally use a lot of fluid lines and organic forms instead. I feel like although I began to put them in after I saw how blocky the shapes were that they look pasted on. They don't fit well, and that's what I don't like about the painting. 

Finally, I've been working with metallic watercolor paint from Daniel Smith, the Iridescent series. It doesn't show well in this photo, but the light areas are Iridescent Gold. I've been enjoying learning how to work with this stuff, but I was concerned that the cold wax at the end would dislodge the particles of the paint. I am happy to say that didn't happen. So I am going to move forward with using Copper and Silver. Just getting that link to insert here, I saw that DS actually has a bunch of other colors in the Iridescent line, and I am most definitely going to try them! I do love DS paints.

So all in all, I learned a lot from this painting. 

But I'm going to take a break from the dimensional ground and go back to the regular Daniel Smith Watercolor Ground. I want to work toward creating larger abstracts, but I also want to use up my supports, so the next two canvases (a couple of nice 16 x 20" Fredrix Pro Dixie with traditional profile) I have prepared with the DS ground. This stuff does show the texture of the brush used to apply it with (although I know there are ways around that), but I like that and it does not interfere with either my design or the application of cold wax.