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Posts Tagged ‘ARCHES 140 lb. Paper’

I love to experiment, and this week experimentation yielded a fun surprise!  I discovered something, certainly not “new”—but new to me.  Normally fresh ideas come from teachers I’ve viewed on DVDs or read in books, but this one came unbidden as a wonderful bonus in my play time.  The renderings on this page are the result.

Although my “surprise” could probably work on YUPO®, I think it’s probably most effective on traditional watercolor paper, 100% rag.  I use ARCHES® 140 lb. paper, and find it the most friendly of any plant fiber support I’ve tried.  ARCHES takes an incredible amount of rinsing and scrubbing without showing signs of wear.  Also, when the paint is thoroughly dry, layers can be applied over existing color without reactivating what has already been put down. 

Thus you have transparency with the glow of colors shining though colors.  I have tried this with less expensive watercolor papers, also 140 lb., and they just don’t perform as beautifully as ARCHES.  (The manufacturer is French, and the name is correctly pronounced “ARSH“.  When a DVD teacher calls it “ARCH ES”, my skin crawls due to years of indoctrination in French grammar and pronunciation.)

Anyway, here is my discovery with the help of ARCHES paper:  First I thoroughly sprinkled the paper with a water-filled spray bottle.  Then I charged the wet paper with versions of the three primaries:  lemon yellow, ultramarine blue, and alizarin crimson.  As I tilted and wiggled the paper, the primaries mixed and bled into secondaries.  Thus far, nothing was new to me.  The charge and tilt technique is one of my favorite and most frequently applied.  I probably begin 2/3rds of my paintings this way.

When the undercoating was thoroughly dry, I got out the gouache.  Still nothing new, until I decided to thin the gouache with water rather than just plop it on top of the exisiting color to add close-up detail to the painterly background.  And there was the amazing discovery:  gouache, which is notoriously opaque, can be thinned to a lovely transparency.  How exciting is that!!!  🙂

Gouache is actually just a form of opaque watercolor.  Since it has more “body” than transparent watercolor, gouache is sometimes called “body color”.  You can create something resembling gouache by adding Chinese white to transparent watercolors.  (For those new to watercolors, any white that you add will be essentially opaque.  Perfectly clear whites in watercolor are normally achieved by utilizing the original white of the paper.)  

The realization that gouache can be thinned to transparency opens a new world of possibilities for me.  I can do transparent layering with gouache, resulting in a vibrancy and depth of saturation not possible when simply layering with watercolors.  

The whites that you see on these paintings (above and below) began as thinned white gouache.  Any tints showing through the white are part of the watercolor underpainting.  Also, most of the other color glowing through color is my watercolor background beneath the thinned gouache.

To an experienced water media painter, my discovery is probably a ho-hum, business as usual DUH!  But because I serendipitously happened upon this idea, it’s exciting to me.  You can be certain that I’ll continue to work on the technique, and hopefully improve!

Margaret L. Been, ©2012

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