Varnished Watercolors

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on 10 Mar 2009 7:41 AM

I'm a bit frustrated... just looked at the prospectus for AWS, and they take no varnished entries.

I've been mounting my watercolors to board and varnishing them for quite some time, and not only does it make framing easier, but the results are not easily confused with giclee prints, nor do I have to worry about reflections from glazing distorting the image.

I've been using Golden's UV protective acrylic varnish with great results.  I seem to sell my watercolors faster when they are varnished and framed like oils.

I'm reluctant to begin cutting mats and buying plexi again just so that I can enter watercolor society shows. Making this change is too expensive for me, and I find that once I put a mat on my watercolors, folks can't tell whether it's a giclee or not.

So, I guess I won't be entering any watermedia shows until they change the rules. In the meantime, I'm selling my watercolors on my own - especially the varnished ones.

 

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TJH5 wrote
on 10 Mar 2009 7:46 PM

I hope I live to see the day when watercolors behind glass have gone the way of rotary telephones, typewriters, and parachute pants.  As more watercolor artists discover the various other methods for preserving their work we will see more liberal water media contests.  Frankly, I like it here in the back of the bus.

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on 11 Mar 2009 7:40 AM

Hey TJH... Great point - I hear ya!  For now, I'll have to enter non-media specific competitions.  When the rules change, I'll submit varnished stuff to WC comps.

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TJH5 wrote
on 8 Feb 2010 3:56 PM

My goodness, you sure do have a lot of opinions.  While I appreciate your thoughts on the matter as they relate to your own work, I think your opinions about what other people should do are arrogant and dogmatic.

In regard to your first paragraph, varnish in whatever form the artist chooses to use it takes nothing away from the simplicity, magic, or charm.  My own reasons for varnishing my work have nothing to do with making it look like something it is or is not.  Quite simply, it is what it is.  In fact, my method with very few exceptions enhances the watercolor and is not likely to be mistaken for something else.  Not to worry though, I categorize my work as mixed media or watercolor & encaustic so as to avoid confusion.

Your second paragraph is equally perplexing.  Surface integrity?  I've never met someone who bought a painting based on it's surface integrity.  I varnish my paintings so as to maintain the integrity of the image and protect them from the elements.  The one point I agree with....."Also, some believe that having to use mats and glass or plexiglas is too much work. Again, that isn't really a logical reason for radical change."  You are correct.  My process for varnishing paintings requires far more work than what would traditional framing techniques.  My aversion to mats (not so much) and specifically, glass has to do with a plane between the viewer and the art.  In my opinion, glass takes away from the viewing experience whereas varnish tends to enhance it.

Conventions, norms, and traditions are made to be broken.  I don't really mind if some societies who insist on transparent watercolors keep their traditional rules.  However, to exclude varnishes when water soluble pencils and crayons, and guaches are acceptable is quite simply the splitting of hairs. 

I have my reasons for working with watercolor and I have my reasons for the way I treat the finished product.  Perhaps if you kept an open mind you might see the benefit as well........ instead of telling others what they should or should not be doing. 

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TJH5 wrote
on 8 Feb 2010 4:08 PM

Lori,

I've been getting great results from coating my paintings with refined beeswax.  The watercolors shine like they are perpetually wet yet they have all the feel and ease of maintenance that you would find in an encaustic painting.

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Margo5 wrote
on 8 Feb 2010 4:43 PM

I think it is nice to know what is working for all the people who are selling their art. I also think it is nice to know the possible problems (and there seem to be possible problems to all the different ways of finishing the paintings - e.g. broken glass could damage your painting, plexiglass could scratch, wax could bloom, varnish could change the color in an unpleasant manner ). I guess the best thing is to weigh all of the different possibilities and come up with the best solution for yourself.

I think the main thing is to let people know what was used so that they know what they are buying and how to care for it. An example would be if the wax blooms, how does the patron fix that (and my understanding is that it can be fixed fairly easily as long as it is only a clear glaze to finish).

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TJH5 wrote
on 8 Feb 2010 5:54 PM

The varnish has been a real selling point for my work.  Actually, I think that varnish might be a bit of a misnomer.  A more appropriate if more confusing term would likely be sizing.  The wax is absorbed into the paper and if properly applied, evenly saturates the paper so that water rolls right off of it.  Unless an amount of built up wax is desired on the surface of the painting, the most desirable finish would be close to that of the natural paper.  I have done several paintings with a built up surface layer of wax and have not had any problems with blooms yet.  Maintenance is fairly easy.  Dust can be wiped off with a damp cloth and if a gloss is desired on built up wax, it can be achieved with a clean piece of 100% cotton cloth.

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TJH5 wrote
on 8 Feb 2010 6:00 PM

One other thing to note is that by getting away from mat and glass, painting on pieces of paper that are measured in feet rather than inches is far more cost effective than it would be otherwise.

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Margo5 wrote
on 8 Feb 2010 6:23 PM

You can say that again! It used to be that watercolors weren't quite as expensive to create because paper was not expensive. Now, paper is expensive.

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TJH5 wrote
on 8 Feb 2010 6:50 PM

Oh, I don't know.  I think paper is still pretty reasonable if you're smart with your coupons and specials.  I never buy top shelf paper at full price unless I'm really in a time crunch.  Framing costs are what always have me pulling my hair out.....and I get everything at wholesale.

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Margo5 wrote
on 8 Feb 2010 7:36 PM

That's a given. I can't really remember a time when frames were inexpensive. Years ago we had do it yourself framing here and it was much more reasonable than getting things framed, but even that was not cheap.

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Kisu wrote
on 8 Feb 2010 9:08 PM

In all honesty, I hope that people are free to do as they wish; old school or new.  I understand the advantages of varnishing, but I love the honest texture and aesthetics of unvarnished paint and paper.  I will continue to mat and frame my watercolors. 

As for the conservative watercolor society show rules, well, perhaps in the future new blood will bring about change, or artists will start new watercolor societies that are less restrictive.

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Kisu wrote
on 8 Feb 2010 9:14 PM

Paul, I generally agree with your take on the issue.  I feel if one isn't getting the desired look from a watercolor without varnishing, then the solution is in the technique, the brand of watercolor paint, or changing to a medium or surface that does provide that effect. I do realize that people varnish for a variety of reasons, but I don't want to viewed as an anachronism for not doing so.

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Margo5 wrote
on 8 Feb 2010 9:26 PM

Hi Kisu, I love the look of watercolor matted and framed. If I ever try the encaustic, it won't be because I don't like the look of traditional watercolors. As far as varnishing, I have only used that on the aquaboard, clayboard and watercolor canvas.

By the way, how is that bathroom coming. I hope it is gorgeous.

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Kisu wrote
on 8 Feb 2010 9:56 PM

Hi Margo!  Looks like we may be on the verge of a serious art brawl here--palettes, brushes and tubes a flyin' !  But that's OK, topics can and should be discussed even if opinions differ.  Don't get me wrong; I really feel that free choice is the important thing, and if someone wants to deal with watercolors in whatever way they like that is how it should be. I'll admit I'm a little on the conservative side when it comes to a lot of my own art practices, and a lot of that has to do with the fact that I stopped doing a lot  of fine art when I went back to school and only recently returned to fine art.  A lot changed during that break (about 13 years), and so much is very new to me.

Encaustic is gorgeous!  I have a neighbor who does encaustic and shows at the gallery I have work at and her encaustic work is fascinating.  If you do try it, please give us a complete report on the experience!

The bathroom is progressing well!  We put down the first layer of mortar on the floor of the shower and tomorrow we top it off.  The Durock sheeting is on the walls and the built in shower seat, and possibly we may be able to start the tiling Wednesday.  We bought a bunch of Mexican Talavera tile for the shower walls and I'll definitely slip in a photo (somewhere) when there's something to show.  I'll look through my photos of the other half of the bathroom (the sink/vanity side) that we have almost done.  I'm putting a photo of the bathroom in my Courtyard Madonna post, so check there.  Thanks for asking.

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