Posts Tagged ‘Cays Sunset’

Cays Sunset Revisited

Saturday, December 1st, 2012

After living with “Cays Sunset” (#120701, August 1, 2012, blog) in my studio for a while, I found myself becoming increasingly dissatisfied with it. Despite having reglazed the sky earlier to desaturate it, I felt it remained overly intense. Neither was I content with the rest of the elements in the composition.

I scrubbed the canvas down to reuse. A lot of the pigment washed away, but because of the underlying coats of gesso, much of the watercolor pigment still remained. It spoke well for the absorbency of the gesso, which fulfilled its intention (see blog April 15, 2012). It meant, however, that unless I reworked the same composition with only minor variations, the underlying colors would show through and compromise any new layers.

So I decided to reuse the canvas for an acrylic composition, instead, allowing the underlying watercolors to act as an imprimatura for the new acrylic painting. As it happened, I used the same subject with very few compositional changes in “Cays Sunset Redux” (#121107) below.

121107 Cays Sunset Redux

The chromatic variations across the sky now read better, and the hue and chromatic variations in the water have both improved, while the lines of the ship serve the composition more effectively.

Sometimes it’s worth the risk of wiping the slate clean and taking a fresh tack.

Watercolor on Canvas: Cays Sunset

Wednesday, August 1st, 2012

Taking a serious crack at actually using a watercolor canvas (rather than just experimenting with it — see my blog of April 15, 2012), I began by applying three coats of absorbent ground over the pre-gessoed surface of my stretched canvas, allowing it to dry thoroughly after each application. In order to really test the surface, I chose a subject that would be demanding, one that would require several layered applications of various colors.


After running the prepared and dried surface under water to wet it evenly, I applied the initial applications of paint to the sky area, extending it down far enough to cover virtually the entire surface. Due to my method of application, the initial coats turned out streakier than I wanted. While it was still damp, I turned the canvas upside down and reapplied the washes, allowing the paint to run more freely than I had before. The result was more satisfactory. I allowed it to dry.

Subsequent glazes worked well. They didn’t lift underlying colors any more than I would have expected them to do on standard watercolor paper. And, when I chose to intentionally lift color out for the wispy clouds, I was able to do so with no more difficulty than I would have experienced in working on a paper ground.

After the painting was virtually complete, I felt that the upper portion of the sky needed to be desaturated somewhat. I was able to add a cobalt blue wash to mute the saturated orange (a blend of scarlet lake and new gamboge). By applying the final glaze wet into wet on the previously dried surface, I was able to graduate both the value and saturation change with no difficulty. And by turning the canvas, I was able to control the direction of flow to achieve the final appearance I was looking for.

I also changed the size of the sailing vessel, removing some of the color from the first version and painting over it to improve the composition. I was surprised and please with the results.

All in all, the canvas worked fine as a watercolor ground and proved considerably more forgiving than paper when I needed to remove color or adjust the composition. The only negative issues I have with using it in lieu of watercolor paper are that it 1) is more costly than watercolor paper; 2) is more time consuming to prepare; 3) requires more space for studio storage; 4) should be varnished after completion.