Stretching Watercolour Paper

Skill Level : 1 Beginner, 2 Intermediate, 3 Advanced

Medium : Watercolour Painting

Subject : General

Tutor : Dennis Clark

Class Length : 2 hours

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Class Description

Thinner watercolour paper will buckled when water is applied to the paper. The problem is easily solved by a method called stretching. We will look at some of the methods of stretching and the problems associated with it. Then we will use the stretched paper for a demonstration painting.

In this lesson you will learn:

1.  What equipment to use
2. How to use the equipment
3.  When  the paper is ready for painting on
4.  Painting the final painting

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Class Tutorial

Equipment needed for stretching

Watercolour paper
Container of water
Pen or pencil
Board for stretching
Gummed tape
Towel

Stretching the paper

Fill a container with water deep enough to submerse the paper.

Mark the top side of the paper with a pen or pencil.

Slide the paper into the water and allow it to soak until it has soaked right through, generally a few minutes.

You may have to experiment with the type of paper you use. Remove the paper and lay it between layers of towel and smooth off the excess water.

Take the paper off the towel and lay it on the board.

Cut strips of gummed tape to the proper length to adhere paper to board, allowing for a comfortable overlap.

Run the gummed strips through the water and lay them gummed-side up off to the side.

Then lay the paper top-side up on the board.  Adhere the strips half onto the board and half onto the paper.  Gently rub out all the air bubbles to create a strong seal.

Lay flat to dry naturally at even temperature (no hair dryer). Do NOT stand the board upright.  An alternative method would be to soak the paper with a sponge rather than run it though a bath.  Also, stapling can be an alternative to using gummed strips.

Composing the painting

In working with any type of seascape as in this painting on the stretched paper, first establish the horizon line (but not in the center – either above or below, depending on where you want the main focus).  Mask it with tape. Then reconfigure the background elements to make it your own composition.

Preparing to paint

Lightly draw on the mountains and the tree shapes, then use masking fluid to cover the other small shapes such as twigs and buildings.

Painting the clouds

Brush some water in spots over the sky for creating clouds.  Mix some light raw sienna  and paint that randomly around the sky to give it a bit of a glow.  Use ultramarine blue as the sky colour and brush it on around the glowy areas, creating cloud-like shapes as you go.  Be careful to not create hard edges.  Add a bit of orange to the blue and use it for contrast in and around the clouds and the dark area at the top.  Dry it.

Painting the mountains

Mix ultramarine blue with a bit of alizarin crimson and a touch of burnt sienna to create a purple colour.  Then mix a yellow ochre with a touch of blue to create a blue-gray colour.

Use the blue-gray colour to paint in the mountain starting at the left of the tree.  Paint right over the masking fluid.  Dry it.  Now brush on masking fluid to preserve the colour as it will create highlights for the tree limbs.  Use the purplish mixture to create shadows where appropriate.

Darken the purplish colour to a more reasonably dark green and paint it onto the mountain on the right, bringing it down over the mountain in the background.  Leave some white patches and create contours in the mountain as you paint.  Also add some dark patches that are created by shadows from the clouds.

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Darken and thicken your paint mix to create the mountain on the left.  Give the impression of lots of trees on the mountain.  Remove a bit of the horizon line tape to paint the mountain extending below the horizon.  Add some orange colour at the bottom of the mountain to create the appearance of cliffs.

Painting the houses

Paint some yellow ochre around the masked houses.  Add some green spots for trees. Add some darker patches of shadows.  Let it dry, then remove masking fluid from that area.

Now randomly paint some roofs, using different colours – orange, white, red, darker in front, lighter in back.

Adding highlights/shadows to the mountain

Run some yellow ochre over the white spots on the mountain.  Then add some dark shadows where appropriate.  Dry it.

Finishing the left mountain

After removing the horizon tape, use the dark colour to finish off the bottom of the mountain and show it curling around behind the mountain.  Dry it.  Then lightly draw the bottom of the trees.

Painting the sea and sand

Create a sea colour of ultramarine blue with a touch of viridian.  Starting at the horizon, begin painting the sea.  Leave a few random white lines to create a more realistic look.

Move to the bottom of the paper and use an orange/brown mixture to paint an undercoating of sand.

Run a darker sand colour along the water's edge to create a low-tide effect.  Add a bit of sand color in the water from the receding waves.

Paint some darker areas to create contours and shadows on the sand.  Then apply a thin water glaze over the sand.

Add more water to accentuate the low-tide effect.  Dry it.

Painting the trees

Remove the masking fluid.  Brush on a light layer of burnt sienna to define the tree trunks.  Add some lighter-coloured branches.  Darken the shadow side of the tree trunks and limbs.  Squiggle on some additional dark twigs. Add more shadows.  Dry it.

Mix a leaf colour.   Using the brush sideways, run the colour over the top of the tree, leaving plenty of sky holes and avoiding a symmetrical look.  Add darker and lighter patches where appropriate for shadows and highlights.

Now use the same the brush technique Dennis uses to create some small bushes along the shoreline and between the trees.   Scrub on some earth colour under the bushes.  Add the remainder of the grassy and sandy embankment area.  Flick out a few odd grasses here and there.  Use some yellow ochre for some sunshine.

Add some shading and contour to the remaining sandy foreground.  Draw on a small dead tree for  extra drama.

Final painting

About Dennis Clark

Dennis has been drawing and painting for most of his life (since 1944) and shortly after that in watercolours. During WWII there were no art books so to speak, so he had to teach himself through experimentation, sweat and tears. He teaches the following mediums online - Watercolours, Pastels, Acrylics, Pencil, Pastels, Pen and Ink and Oils.
Read more about Dennis Clark

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