For new challenges in watercolor painting or just for some fun experimentation, there are a variety of supports that lend themselves to watercolors. Here are just a few and some of the special characteristics of each.
This is a lovely support to work with and one of my personal favorites. The textured surface as opposed to the smooth offers the same opportunities for creating texture as one would find with cold press watercolor paper. Prior to using it, I have found that it is wise to gently wash the surface of the clayboard under the faucet, using your hands to “wash” the surface. The reason being is that with my first uses of clayboard I was dismayed to find little spots where the paint wasn’t taking as well as others. I called them “footprints” because of their shape. This was especially vexing after noticing them only after a painting was well underway. I found that doing the preliminary washing solved this problem. Do be careful not to get the backside of the clayboard wet. The clayboard inked stamp on the back is water soluble.
As with the watercolor canvas which I’ll discuss below, the most important thing to remember about clayboard is that paints will lift easily. That is, if you like to glaze your initial washes you may find that you need a very gentle touch so as not to disturb what has gone down already. This is good in one respect, but if you’d rather not have to worry about it, you may try adding a little acrylic matte medium to your paint. Do bear in mind that this medium has a lot of body and your paints will handle very different. Your brush strokes will show, which while maybe uncomfortable for a watercolor artist, does lend itself to new texturing possibilities.
This is an exciting opportunity for watercolor artists to use this more traditional oil support. The canvas is available in sheets and on canvasboard. Much of what has been said about clayboard also applies to the new watercolor canvas. Colors will lift easily. This can be a blessing if you’ve decided that you are unhappy with a work. Just put the canvas (or the clayboard) under the tap and begin again. Bear in mind that staining colors will do just that. I have found though that this can be a great way to add some added color/texture to the canvas when I begin again.
Watercolor canvas also takes a lot of paint, more so than paper supports. You’ll need to mix up more paint for your washes than you would normally do when painting on paper. If you find that your washes are streaky, try adding a bit of ox gall to your wash water or even wetting the canvas prior.
Now let’s say you’ve completed your work. You can frame either under glass as you normally would do with a watercolor. Another possibility is to frame it without glass like an oil or acrylic painting. This requires sealing and varnishing your work, which I’ll discuss next time.