Varnishing watercolors

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Lori Woodward posted on 19 May 2009 11:26 AM

Anyone else out there varnish their watercolor paintings?  I've been doing this for almost 10 years now, and I love the way acrylic varnish makes my paintings look - rich colors with no reflection.

Let me know how you varnish your watercolors or if you'd like to know how I do it.

 

www.loriwords.com

 

 

 

 

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Hi Lori,

I find your question interesting.  Why would you varnish watercolors?  I mean, I don't see anything wrong with that, but to me it seems unnecessary.  By doing so, it seems you are turning your watercolors into acrylics.  Why not use acrylics like watercolor?

 

Mark

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Mark,

Good Question!

Nope, it's not necessary to varnish watercolors. It's my personal preference. One, because I like the way they look and enjoy the convenience of popping them into a frame without having to cut a mat or add glass.

I like the way they look because there are no reflections, and my collectors seem to like that aspect as well.

I do also paint in acrylic on paper. Sometimes I begin with transparent watercolor and then switch over to acrylics on the same painting. It doesn't matter to me whether the resulting artwork is called a watercolor or acrylic as I am not particularly inclined to follow rules. In fact, I'm sort of a rebel sometimes. Big Smile

What matters to me is the final result and not necessarily what medium got me there.

www.loriwords.com

 

 

 

 

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Interesting, Lori.  It's always nice to see a different approach.  I really don't mind putting watercolor under glass or having it matted.  I think it enhances the painting.  However, with that said, mixing mediums can be lots of fun and result in some very good work.  I once mixed egg tempera and acrylic medium.  The result was a very creamy paint that I enjoyed painting with.  Of course to do this I used dry pigment and made the tempera, myself, but also added the acrylic medium as well.  I painted with it on untempered masonite board coated with acrylic gesso.

 

Thanks,

Mark

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Mark, never thought of putting those two mediums together... egg tempera and acrylic medium. Sounds like lots of fun.

www.loriwords.com

 

 

 

 

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The mix was a little more forgiving than egg tempera alone, which dries very quickly on a traditional chalk gesso panel.  I used Liquitex medium from a jar, not a tube, and mixed it into the tempera I mixed myself in small containers  The acrylic made the egg tempera a little more permanent as well.

I did some research on Egg tempera, alone, prior to mixing it with acrylic.  I tried some non-traditional methods of painting with it, including using an air brush for application.  It worked fairly well.

 

Mark

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Lori:

Do you still place your varnished watercolors under glass?

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Nat, I don't place my watercolors under glass since they're varnished with acrylic varnish. I can even wipe them off with a damp cloth.

What I do is glue them to a panel or MDF board using acrylic medium as a glue and frame it just as it were an oil - without glass.

I'm getting ready to experiment with new UV protective spray varnishes. The problem with brushing on the varnish is that it can get milky if you brush it too long and that leaves a light film over the painting. I'm hoping the the spray varnish eliminates brushstrokes.

Might not get to it very soon, but if and when I do, I'll post the results with pictures.

 

www.loriwords.com

 

 

 

 

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Yes, I have varnished several watercolor paintings.  I have used actual varnish used with oils and acrylics and I have used the varnish with acrylic base and I have used the acrylic medium.   In all the cases, I was very dissatisfied with the result.  I had lost the effect of the matte finish on the watercolor and the softness in contrast. 

While I am not one to criticize anyone for trying something new (I tried something new, also) because sometimes it works and in your case you like the result.  I do not.   I prefer the traditional look and method of matting and putting under glass.

As an aside comment, I know an artists who paints in pastel then uses acrylic medium to paint into and over the pastel.  Huh?? Why not use acrylics to begin with.  After all it is the same pigment.  I think I will try to master each medium in its traditional way.

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Suggested by Hanni821

I have used Krylon spray varnish on students work and was very pleased with how it held up.  They had done watercolor paintings and then used them to cover hand-made books.  I've heard stories of spills, getting dropped in mud, etc, etc and all having wiped clean afterwards.

We used two coats - on some we used matte finish, on some satin finish and I didn't notice much of a difference beyond a very slight sheen with the satin - which I personally preferred. 

I would caution you to be in a VERY ventilated area before using the spray though - even outside it gave us all a terrible headache. 

I think I will be stretching and varnishing some of my watercolor work in the near future as I have some pieces that I think would look better with no frame.  As to why I don't just use acrylic - I simply like how watercolor handles better than liquid acrylic in most cases - the end result may look just the same, but the process is also important to me.  I assume this is the case with the gentleman who varnishes his pastel paintings also.

You can also find me on Facebook or visit my blog to learn more about me and my work. Smile

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Hi Lori,

Ya, I would be interested in how you do that (A way or another: reply, webcam, etc.)

Thanks,

Marc

 

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I took a workshop with Joyce Faulknor and I have stretched paper over stretcherbars and then sealed the painting as she suggested.  It's wonderful.  Granted, there are paintings that will look better with a mat and frame under glass and others that look good 'floating freely'.  I used archival varnish (sprayed twice)  to seal the paint/color and then polyurethane medium to seal.  I used gloss (8 coats)  but there IS a satin.

I entered my first art show ever...and it was juried...and I was hesitant about NOT framing traditionally as no one had seen it done....but I was accepted (and won First Place in Amateur Division) from about 500 applicants.  Talk about stoked!!!!

My next 'experiment' will be seeing if there is any impressive contrast between gloss and satin.

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Lori,

 I've been varnishing my watercolor paintings for years now. I take 140lb watercolor paper and soak it in water for about 10-15 minutes and then I attatch it to stretcher bars to make a gallery wrap image. Looks just like a canvas. I carry the painting right around the sides. This way I don't need frames, glass or matts. And they look great.  No reflections. I really don't care what the fad is, If it works for me thats all I need.

You may want to check the rules if you enter contests.  All the peole I've done paintings for love it because they can frame and matt it if they want or hang them as is.  Also being on a fixed income and not needing frames, glass and matts  allows me to put that money toward paints etc.

However an artist wants to display his work is fine with me. No right or wrong way.,But this just works for me.

P.S.   I use Krylon UV Archival spray varnish and put on 4 coats spraying one horozontal and the next vertiicle and so on so as to get good coverage.

 

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Hello,

It was great to come across your post. I am just beginning in watercolors and cannot afford framing right now. In India the supply of artist material is limited and the I am already mulling bankruptsy ! ( thamks to shipping charges from overseas). Still I plan to hang on .Thanks again for this solution.

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Try it. It saves a lot of money and being able to hang your work framed, matted or on it's own is great.

 

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