Varnished Watercolors

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Margo5 wrote
on 9 Feb 2010 6:07 AM

Kisu, I am rolling on the floor in laughter. I can just see us all throwing our palettes, brushes and canvases at our computers! I think the discussion is great because we all have our opinions and they seem to be based on good reasons. It never hurts to know why someone feels like one way might be preferable to another way in the long run.

You are right about encaustic, it is amazingly gorgeous. I am fascinated with it, but it is very expensive and I can just see shipping a painting and having it melt in the process.

The bathroom renovation sounds fabulous. You could always do a painting of it.

Here is wishing a great week of painting for everyone.

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on 9 Feb 2010 9:14 AM

TJH - If you wouldn't mind, could you explain a bit more the process you use to wax/varnish/size your work?  I'm curious.  Thanks.

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TJH5 wrote
on 9 Feb 2010 9:37 AM

While I'm not a big fan of hurling my art supplies across the world wide web I do enjoy a good debate.  Big Smile  Besides, a crock pot full of hot wax would play hell on our keyboards.

The older I get the more I realize that it is intellectually lazy to accept what experts tell you without a good bit of skepticism.  Two of my biggest pet peeves about the conventions of the art community have to do with the two mediums I work with the most.  We've discussed to some extent my problems with watercolor purists.  There are also some problems with what is being put out there about what encaustic art is and how it done.  Too often people in positions of authority like to put things in terms of black and white when the thinking person sees things as a big gray area.....or rainbow of possibility.

I think the art community needs to start looking at things differently.  When you break it all down we have substrates, pigments, binders, and vehicles.  If you look at it with this kind of simplicity you'll find that crayons, oil and soft pastels, oil bars, colored pencils, encaustic paints, oil paints, acrylics, watercolor tubes and tubs, etc. are essentially the same thing.  What separates them is how they are applied or how they cure.

Water media can be applied with or reconstituted by water.  How many WC competitions forbid the use of pencil under drawings or resist techniques that remain on the completed paintings?  However, when you get into other absorbent media which are bound by lipids or gums all bets are off.  If a watercolor society allows wax resist techniques....why not wax coatings?  If pencil under drawings are allowed, why not crayon or pastel?  It is a slippery slope that is not defended by logic.

I have a similar problem with encaustics experts and what i see as their attempts to narrow the definition.  Encaustics are defined so only by the use of wax and a burning in process.  Some people choose to create encaustic art with heated tables and special pigments and like to insist that this process is the way to go.  They say you must do this and you must do that but in reality, you can run a hair dryer over your kid's crayon family portrait and have an encaustic masterpiece on your hands.

The resurgence of encaustics, arguments over what is and what is not watercolor, and what I have been doing with the two have had me thinking a great deal about what is and what isn't one media or another. 

Kisu, you can be creating beautiful encaustic art with the supplies you have around your studio, $75.00 in tools, and a couple pounds of refined beeswax.

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TJH5 wrote
on 9 Feb 2010 9:43 AM

Helen, please see my post on the other varnishing thread in this forum.

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Kisu wrote
on 9 Feb 2010 10:01 AM

Thanks, TJH, a lot of very interesting food for thought and information.  My knowledge of encaustic methods has been limited to vaguely knowing it was done with some kind of pigment and hot wax, so this in interesting.  I think your views on the contradictory and arbitrary categorization of media are sound.  I hope you understand that I really do think that artists should be able to freely work and exhibit in whatever methods they like, whether that be conventional or what may be viewed at the moment as 'experimental' methods.  I also think the art societies are too restrictive, but I suspect they're like any organization with a lot of people involved, you have some people who like to keep a tight rein on things they are familiar with and are threatened by things beyond their experience and capabilities.  I have very mixed feelings about these art societies, and while I've been tempted to enter their juried shows, even tempted to join them, I'm held back by these reservations.   

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patrickart wrote
on 9 Feb 2010 10:15 AM

paul is correct in saying that when you apply varnish to a watercolor it is now a mixed medium. i have yet to give varnish a try. the only down side to matting and glass is the cost. glass being the most of the cost.

i do know that most all museums paintings are behind glass. oils or what ever. if i was to varnish a watercolor it would not be to bring out the richness of the colors. again it would only be due to the cost. my only fear about varnish is what will it look like in 20 to 30 years ? not that i will be around to see them..........

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TJH5 wrote
on 9 Feb 2010 10:43 AM

Kisu, I've never let anyone tell me I can't try or sell something new.  While some of my fellow artists have from time to time suggested that it is untested, I point to the long life of the encaustics found in Egyptian tombs.  We seem to be of the same mind when it comes to art societies.  They will either evolve or be marginalized.

Patrick, not saying that you are wrong, just that varnishes and waxes can change the refractive index of the painting's surface.  While I did not start doing this to enhance the color, I was pleasantly surprised to find that in most cases it has given the colors more luster.  I did a test panel with colors I often use on an Arches pad and waxed half of it.  The proof was pretty plain to see.  As to your concerns about the life of the product, I can't speak for other varnishes but given how the ancient encaustic paintings have weathered the years I'm willing to take a gamble on using it on my watercolors.

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Kisu wrote
on 9 Feb 2010 1:18 PM

I was going to say that I thought I recalled that encaustic was one of the oldest techniques around.  As far as degradation over time and other types of media, I know oils are very susceptible to cracking, peeling/chipping off the supports which can puncture and tear, and becoming more transparent over time.  Pastels are pretty stable, even though I've heard that they aren't, but it seems from looking at museum artworks that it is the pastel paper that loses color long before the actual pastel pigments degrade.  Some of Degas' pastels were done on very brightly toned paper but are essentially neutral colored now, even thought the pastels colors on them are intact.  Watercolors seem to be pretty stable over time, too, even though we all do concern ourselves with UV light and fading. 

I think a century ago art societies were the happening places because other venues were not in existence, but as museums and galleries and other exhibit spaces have developed they started to become exactly as you say, marginalized.  They definitely have their followers, both artists and collectors, and awards from larger society exhibits can help a career, but outside of their kind of insulated and kind of inbred worlds I'm not sure of their place in the whole scheme of things.

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patrickart wrote
on 9 Feb 2010 4:21 PM

keep in mind it is not paper. watercolor "paper" is 100% cotton. it is more like a fabric. paper as we humans know it is made from wood.

rice paper is another type all together. really it should be called water color on cotton..........

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wrote
on 10 Jul 2010 10:59 AM

Lori Woodward:

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.

 

Do you use the satin, matte or glossy finish?

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wrote
on 10 Jul 2010 11:02 AM

Do you use the satin, matte or glossy finish?

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on 12 Jul 2010 7:04 AM

I like glossy varnish best. It seems to bring out the richness of the darks and intensity of color.

 

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artlover29 wrote
on 15 Aug 2010 10:24 PM

What sort of varnish can you use, Spray varnish? U.V? Do they affect the watercolor like cracking or anything??

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wangtao wrote
on 1 Sep 2010 9:48 PM

 It is the responsibility of the artist to maintain the surface integrity of the paper. Some artists think that varnishing makes a watercolor look like an oil painting.

Welcome to my paintings website - Wholesale Art Mall.  

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NZJen wrote
on 18 Sep 2010 4:31 PM

Wonderful to read such a lively debate.

 

I think it's great to post a painting and receive replies that it  is lovely. It can make your day. 

 

But it is also very helpful to learn things by hearing what could be done differently or better. Or see different opinions and hear people explain why they hold the opinions they do.

 

If people or societies have strong opinions or rules about what should and should not be done, fair enough, but there should be clear statements about the reasoning, science or data behind the thinking, so we can all have informed opinions on this. If history and heritage is a part of it, as Paul said, then that can be stated.

 

'Mixed media" always seems such a boring 'grab-bag' title. I wonder whether there could be exhibitions and competitions for innovative and imaginative new techniques, new ways of using old materials,  something like that.

 

Thanks for the suggestion about the crayons and hair-dryer, I'm feeling inspired to have a play!

NZJen

 

Comments and critiques welcome

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