Shari Blaukopf: Wet in Wet Watercolor Demo
She’s been telling me for a while that I don’t have to stretch watercolor paper if I just work wetter.
I’ve always been told, in order to work larger, you soak the paper, then nail it to a board with a few hundred staples. (I have an electric staple gun. Kachunk Kachunk chunkity chunk. 100 staples in a minute).
She insisted this wasn’t necessary, I didn’t believe her, so she came by to prove it. She should have made a wager, because – turns out – I was wrong, she was right.
First she wets a quarter sheet of 140lb Arches Cold Press paper – completely soaking both sides with a sponge. (This would work with any size, she’s worked this way on sizes up to double elephant).
Then blot/rolls the excess water away with a towel. (“Like rolling pie dough – from the middle outwards”).
The resulting damp-all-the-way-through paper is glossy but not glaringly glassy-wet.
It’s kind of amazing how it works. She can do a whole painting in the time it takes the soaked paper to air-dry. Though she does say, if you need more time, you can just re-wet the paper (from the back).
She paces herself to get soft washes early and comes back at a dryer (later) stage for smaller hard-edged details. It’s a display of perfect timing, and the hard earned experience mixing the right paint/water viscosity for every stroke. (Richer milkier mixes of paint will keep a cleaner edge, even early on when the paper is soaked).
The work comes together remarkably quickly. Dextrous strokes of pure color mixing on the paper into soft edges and blooming transitions. Wherever pigment touches pigment, the wash that’s slightly wetter expands slowly into the previous color.
Note how large a brush she’s using. She really did 85% of the painting with that 2” flat. No fiddly #0 brushes for her. She puts in small stems and striations just using the sharp edge of this gigantic brush.
My own method involves starting with dry paper and flooding it with pale pigment – creating the wet areas into which I’ll “charge-in” pigment. There’s a narrow window while the wash is wet enough to work. Her approach is much wetter, giving her a lot more ‘open time’ – at least 30 minutes under today’s conditions. (Varies with humidity and direct sun).
Because her paper fibers are fully saturated with water (all the way through the sheet), color blooms can travel quite a bit further, and with a softer effect, avoiding the sedimentary edges I get on puddles. (Though, I like those edges. But I can see the appeal of avoiding them). Some of this might be her pigment choices, rather than just the wetness, not completely sure.
The end result is a beautiful painting with a full range of soft to hard edges, executed in about 45 minutes.