Archive for July, 2010

Using frisket to reserve the paper’s white

Thursday, July 15th, 2010

In the March 15 entry, I wrote about various methods of reserving the white of watercolor paper.  One of those methods is the use of frisket, or masking fluid.

Arbor Gate, Spring (detail)

The tiny white blossoms at the corner of the fence in this detail from “Arbor Gate” (#090702) were reserved using liquid frisket.

If you want to try using frisket yourself, start with a throw-away brush and wet it thoroughly before dipping it into the frisket fluid, which will dry quickly and tend to glue the bristles together.  Redip the brush in water (or better yet, a solution of dish detergent and water) between dips into the frisket—no more than 20 seconds apart—to keep the bristles from sticking together.  Wash the brush thoroughly as soon as you are finished if you ever want to be able to use it again.

The frisket itself may or may not be tinted.  It’s easier to see its location on the paper if it has a tint, but even if it is not tinted, you will be able to identify areas of dried frisket on your paper because of the slight sheen those areas will have.

Especially if the frisket fluid is tinted and you see a layer of color lying at the bottom of the bottle, you may feel tempted to shake the bottle to mix it up.  Don’t do it! Shaking the frisket bottle will incorporate air into it, which will introduce bubbles into the “juice” your wet brush picks up.  If you spread bubbles onto your paper, the frisket will not go onto the paper smoothly, and the bubbles may pop as the frisket dries, leaving you with uncovered spots in the area you were trying to mask.

As soon as you are finished using the frisket, replace the lid tightly to inhibit evaporation.  You may have to periodically remove long, rubbery strands and globs from both the mouth of the bottle and the bottle cap to be sure they don’t interfere with a secure seal.

Allow the applied frisket to dry completely before painting over it.  When all your paint layers have been applied and the surrounding paint is thoroughly dry—no longer cool when you touch it with the back of your hand—use a “pickup” or white eraser to lightly roll or pluck the frisket off the paper.  (I recommend testing the dryness of the paper only with the back of your hand because your palms and fingertips are more inclined to leave oily deposits on the paper.  Your natural body oils will interfere with any subsequent paint you may wish to lay down onto the surface of the paper.)

Giving it a lift

Thursday, July 1st, 2010

Despite my best efforts, watercolor paint, by its very nature, frequently goes where I don’t intend it to.  Sometimes that’s okay and results in a serendipitous event that adds texture and interest to the painting.

But sometimes it spoils the effect I’ve tried to achieve.  In that case, I may try to repair the damage by lifting some of the color back off the paper.  While the paint is still quite wet, I can sometimes remove it by sucking it up with a “thirsty” brush, one that is damp but thoroughly blotted so that it attracts more water to itself than it releases whenever it touches the painting.  After each touch used to lift the wet paint, the brush needs to be thoroughly blotted so it will be ready to pick up more moisture with the next touch.

If the paint is still damp, I can either blot it immediately or add clean water to the misplaced paint and then blot it to remove most of the color.

If the paint has already dried, however, I can use a clean brush, moistened only with clear water, and gently stroke the color away, lifting the paint into the brush.  The brush needs to be rinsed and thoroughly blotted after each lifting stroke to avoid spreading the remaining color further afield.  For me, this method works best with a pointed “round” brush in very small or confined areas, such as when I want to lighten the vein of a leaf.  It can also be done with a mask to create or maintain a hard edge along the side of the lifted area.

This method of lifting is not only used for rectifying mistakes.  It was part of the original creative process when I used a small “liner” brush to lift out pigment to create whiskers on Boots & Bandit (#100305)

Boots & Bandit detail

For larger areas, I sometimes use a specialized “scrubber” brush, shorter and stiffer than a typical round brush, to gently scrub the color off the paper’s surface.  “Scrubbing” must be done very carefully to avoid roughing up or otherwise damaging the surface of the paper.  Referring once again to Boots & Bandit, I used a scrubber to soften many of the hard lines within their fur.  And I applied it again when the cats’ owner asked me to extend the area of white fur on Boot’s chest, more in keeping with his usual appearance (since the groomer had recently trimmed it uncharacteristically short), and to soften and add characteristic tufts to his paws.  (I also added black tips to his ears, which I’d overlooked in the shadows in the reference photos, and darkened the eye linings.)

Boots & Bandit detail, before

Boots & Bandit detail, after

Although all of these methods of lifting paint work well with non-staining colors, none of them works so well with staining pigments.  For this reason I generally prefer to use non-staining paint whenever I can.  The adjustments I made to Boots & Bandit would not have been possible if I had used staining pigments.