Wednesday, August 8, 2012

A Bit of a Stretch

First, Hibernating House book project news: I finished the small rough sketches and they were approved by the authors with a few minor changes. The last week or so has been spent on outlining and adding extra details with colored pencil. So today I will start the watercolor paint which probably takes the longest of all the steps so far. I’m hoping to have all of the paintings done by Aug. 26 when I go back to school. Not sure if I’ll meet my mark at this point since there is A LOT of detail to attend to in these illustrations, but it will be worth the time spent for sure. For now, I am keeping the art under wraps so you’ll have to wait to see these illustrations for a while...

In the mean time, here is one of the things I had to do before even drawing the full-sized pieces (they measure 11.5 x 17.5 in.) is stretch my watercolor paper. I use a good quality cold press paper (I prefer Strathmore). You want to use the thickest paper you can afford, but even with a good quality paper, when you paint the paper can wrinkle. YUCK! Stretching can help decrease or eliminate the wrinkles in your finished work. YAY!

Some artists stretch paper by submersing the entire sheet into a water bath, then hanging it to partially dry before taping it to a stiff board. I like to stretch all of my paper for a project all at once, so I tried this method and it works better for me:

1. Do this on a dry or low-humidity day. First, I use pencil to measure and draw my picture boundary and cut my paper down to about 2 inches larger than the boundary. Any marks you make will be impossible to erase after you stretch, so if you draw your image before stretching (I don’t recommend doing that, but...) be aware.

2. Next, I use masking tape to attach the paper to a slightly larger piece of corrugated cardboard to foam board. I put small pieces across the corners first, then apply long pieces all the way around the edge of the paper and press down hard.

3. I fill a bowl with CLEAN water and get myself a very clean natural sponge like a sea sponge. Kitchen sponges can leave dyes on your paper. Also, sea sponges absorb better.

4. I use the sponge to apply a generous amount of water to the surface of the paper. I let it sit for a few minutes.

5. Next, I use the same sponge to absorb as much water from the surface as possible wiping horizontally and vertically until all of the water is picked up and squeezing out the excess into the bowl. Make sure you are not leaving any puddles on the surface.

6. The paper will wrinkle at this point while drying. Don’t panic. You will never get this type of wrinkling again after this step.

7. Set the board somewhere where it can remain flat, and let the paper completely dry. As it dries, the tape will keep the paper from staying wrinkled and it will revert to flatness. You must keep the paper taped to the board while you work on the painting, then you can remove the tape or cut the paper from the board when done.

If you are using a huge amount of water for painting, there may be some wrinkling (unless you are using very thick expensive paper), but again, if taped you should see it flatten when dry. Personally, my painting method uses minimal amount of water, so I haven’t has a lot of problems using this stretching method. Give it a try!

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