Stormcloud; watercolour 13×9″

My plans at the beginning of the year included doing more pastels. That plan seems to have melted away, as my experimenting phase continues. But it will come back at some point. For now, I am carrying on with exploring media that I have had lying around untouched for some long while. Eventually some of this playtime will rub off into new work; the learning process is endless.

This week’s painting is unusual. It is done on a sheet of gessoed watercolour paper. The paper is first stretched and then given a couple of coats of standard acrylic gesso. When dry, the painting can start.

Adding watercolour to this surface is not quite so simple as when dealing with untreated paper. For starters, the whole thing can be wiped clean with just a cloth or paper towel; which also means that adding fresh washes on top will lift off the first colour unless you are very quick with the brush-pass. In this instance I have chosen clouds as a subject, since the lift-out method works very well on gesso.

A strong wash of ultramarine blue was first put on and left to settle. Next, a paper towel was used to lift colour out, creating a bank of cloud. For this picture I was referring to a photo taken locally. When this had dried back, more colour was gently added to create shadows and also further cloudbanks to the left side of the picture. Where paint application didn’t go quite right, it was easy to lift out and start again.

Finally, extra watercolour was mixed to create a simple landscape; greens, yellow, a few light browns were stroked on, allowing them to mix. The paper towel was applied to control the wash flow and also lightly lift out small areas for variation.

This gesso surface is very good for creating loose and flowing work; it is possible to create sharply defined shapes but they do tend to diffuse somewhat at the edges. I am still thinking over how I can use this technique for other pictures, such as backgrounds for pastels. It is possible to use fluid acrylics as well, but of course you have to be quick with lifting the colour out before it dries.

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