Thursday, June 24, 2010

Artistic Polar Bear Challenge: 100 Ways In 100 Days. #39 - Poured Watercolor

I approached this particular challenge with some trepidation, as I was having a hard time 'getting' the pouring process.  Artists like Jean Grastorf and Roland Roycraft make it look so beautiful and easy.  For me, trying to understand the process was like trying to make my brain work sideways, or trying to read a paragraph where every other letter is upside down and backwards.  It's like, you sort of get it, mostly get it, but there are fuzzy intangibles that keep the picture from being clear.

"Oh, bother."  as Winnie the Pooh would say.  I read Jean Grastorf's book again, and armed with good information and a bewildered brain, set to work.

So here's the first step.  The sketch was done on 140 lb. Canson watercolor paper, and the whites were preserved with masking fluid.  For my primary colors, I used Holbein's Aureolin, Cad Red Deep, and Ultramarine Light.

This is what it looked like after the first pour.  Then it's a matter of finding the areas that are the correct value, masking them off, and pouring again.  Repeat until the darkest values are achieved.  It's a lot of steps, and a lot of time waiting for paint and masking fluid to dry.  Patience is a necessary virtue for this process, and sadly, it's something that I have in short supply.

Several masks and pours later, this was the result.  Now it's time to remove the masking fluid, and see the results.

Except the masking fluid wouldn't come off.  It stuck to the paper like roofing tar.  I could move the gooey layer a little bit, but not remove it.

You can see my removal attempts at the top of this photo.  The striations are masking fluid after being vigorously rubbed with a mask remover.

What the $%#@*! went wrong?!  Was the masking fluid old?!  Did I need to stir it?!  Was it the wrong paper, somehow?!  I didn't stretch the paper.  Should I have stretched the paper?!  Did it make a difference?!  Maybe the paint wasn't dry enough when I put the mask on?!  Maybe I really don't understand this pouring stuff!!  To quote Nancy Kerrigan: "WHY?!  WHY?!"

Then to my horror I realized what I had done.  Remember the part about patience, and how I lack it?  Well, after I applied a paint layer, to speed things up, I was using a hair dryer to dry it faster.

The dryer was set on low heat.

I had baked the masking fluid into a tarry layer of unremovable goo. 

Now right about this time, I know you watercolor artists are out there shaking your heads and facepalming.  Please be kind.  Beginners mistake, and all that. And a lesson learned.

Some days you're the windshield, some days you're the bug.  Some works are successes, some, like this one, are dismal failures.  But it's only a failure in the fact that the painting itself didn't turn out quite the way I wanted it to.  What's not part of the failure is trying a new artistic method and all the lessons learned therein.  That part is a success.  No worries, although I was really looking forward to the 'reveal' when the masking fluid was removed.  I'll try this one again someday, and you can bet I won't be using a hair dryer next time. 

And even though it didn't work, I say it still counts as part of the 100!


Terri Buchholz said...

Dear Bug,
I gotta say - this made my morning! So funny. I was pretty dug in while reading the first part and felt your pain when "the big reveal" crashed and burned - but learning from mistakes is a strength. A STRENGTH I TELL YA!! (I've had this conversation with myself - often.) I'm eagerly anticipating the do-over.

Ginny Stiles said...

Oh boy. First off. Congratulations for 1) reading up on how to do it 2) posting a mistake. It takes class.

And I hasten to actually MIGHT not have been the hair dryer. Seriously. I didn't ask if you waited for the paper to be thoroughly dry before applying another coat of mask. THAT is usually when it's a problem. The paper and paint must be BONE dry before the next layer goes on. There's where patience happens and where mistakes happen. Low heat hair dryers to not always bake mask! I've used it with no problem. The other problem is Canson paper. It's too soft for masking techniques like this (in my opinion). I have had problems with mask on this paper before. So probably the mistake happened that you didn't test it first on scrap paper.
Otherwise you a victim of un-earned self recrimination. I always wanted to say that.

Cynnie said...

I say it counts too. What a learning experience for you. This experimentation is where we learn the most and no matter how many workshops we take or books we read,,,if we ain´t in the trenches actually doing it,,,well then what is the point.

Lisa Walsh said...

Hi all! Thanks for pulling me from the bear wreckage. :-)

Terri - you always make me laugh. If learning from mistakes is a strength, I should be mighty powerful by now. Bug.

Ginny - aha! No, I didn't test the Canson paper first, and the paper might not have been absolutely completely dry. I was in a bloody hurry trying to get posts done in advance prior to going on vacation. The wrong paper, the dampness and the hair dryer may have added up to the 'Perfect Artistic Storm'. I've always wanted to make that analogy. :-) What paper would you recommend?

Cynnie - you're totally right; if we ain't doin', we ain't learnin'! Hopefully someday I'll be able to get out of the trench! =)