Is Watercolor Painting Friendly?

Let’s consider the true value of having a hobby. Is it really just a way to pass the time, or can it be something more? Can a hobby raise your self-esteem? Make you feel that you’ve really accomplished something? Can it shine a light on a part of who you are that has been shunted aside in the scramble to earn a living or raise a family?

Now that seems like a tall order. What hobbies are there that can provide that kind of satisfaction? The answer is simple: “One that provides the opportunity to unlock the creative side of who we are!”

One example that is popular is working with clay. Learning how to control a potter’s wheel and turn a lump of clay into a useful bowl gives the satisfaction of learning a new skill and creating something that didn’t exist before. The downside is that it’s messy, requires equipment, takes up space and that you need access to a kiln to complete the project.

So, what about watercolor painting? Seems a lot friendlier doesn’t it? Doesn’t require a lot of space. Your only equipment is a sheet of paper, a brush and some paints. And the best part is that it all cleans up with water!

That is, until you actually get into it. Then, like me, you discover that when the paper is wetted, it bulges and curls up around the edges. So, there is an entire protocol you have to learn to just to prepare the paper.

But you can’t just paint on a flimsy sheet of paper - it flops around too much. You have to attach it to a backing. What’s a good backing? A nice thick sheet of plywood that’s been cut to size makes a great backing. Just a trip to your local lumber yard should get you what you need.

Now that you’ve finally gotten the paper to lie mostly flat, all you need to do is attach it to the backing and you’re all set to start painting. You can use masking tape, tacks or clips. By now, I’ve probably already lost most of you. You’ve already done a day’s work and you haven’t even picked up a paintbrush!

But for those of you who are determined to make watercolor painting your hobby, let’s move on.

What it takes to make an actual painting

A feature of all paintings is that the color white is always used to add life and interest to every painting. We see white in the glint of light coming from a glass window, the froth of ocean waves and reflections from a pool of water. White is easily added to paintings done in oil paint or acrylics, but watercolor is different. The white in watercolor paintings is always created by simply not painting over a particular area and allowing the white of the paper itself to show.

Consider what I just mentioned: In order to “not paint” over a particular area, you have to know, in advance, what that area is so that you can paint around it. Which means that you have to plan your painting in minute detail before you ever pick up a brush so you know where all the areas are that you’re not painting! This planning requires a detailed pencil sketch of the entire painting. You can buy liquid rubber at the art supply store and apply it to all the areas that are to remain white. Then you make the painting and when it’s all finished you simply rub off the rubber and you have your white! Anybody out there still with me?

If you’ve gone through all of the above and are finally happily making a watercolor painting, don’t make any mistakes. The reason you can’t make any mistakes is that watercolor paper is porous. It absorbs the watercolor paint into its surface and creates a stain that you can’t just wipe away. If you try, the surface simply falls apart.

There is a singular answer to every one of these problems. It’s the answer that I discovered for myself as a watercolor hobbyist. It was years before I realized that somebody else besides me might also be interested in this amazing solution.

The answer is the Encore Erasable Watermedia Board.

The Encore board is only ⅛ inch thick, you don’t need to have a backing. It will stand up by itself if you lean it against anything, like a stack of books.

The surface of Encore is white and it’s textured just like watercolor paper. Encore is ready to paint on with almost zero preparation: just wipe it with a clean damp cloth to remove any fingerprints.

The learning curve for Encore is not difficult. If you’re a watercolorist and are used to using a certain amount of water on your brush, just use a little less. This is easily accomplished by touching the tip of the brush to a damp microfiber cloth to remove any excess water before you start painting.

Planning your painting is reduced to a minimum. For those of you with an adventurous spirit, don’t even bother! The best part is that you don’t have to “save the white” anymore! Add all of your white highlights at the end of the painting where you know you want them. The secret is that Encore is completely erasable back to white even after the paint has dried. If you want a white highlight, simply touch the surface with a damp brush and “lift” the paint off to create it.

I’m pretty sure you’ve figured it out already, but if you don’t like your painting at all, simply wipe it away with the damp microfiber cloth and try again later!

When you have a painting that you want to keep, spray it with a “fixative” available at any art supply and it becomes permanent. Encore is stable and “archival”. It contains no acids or other chemicals that might cause it to deteriorate in the future. Encore will not yellow or crack in extended periods of bright sunlight.

Some of the things that happen with Encore that may be a bit frustrating to the traditionalist can be incorporated into the paintings of the more creative and adventurous. For one example: If you have a lot of water on your brush Encore can sometimes “skip” or leave “bubbles” in a way that you would never see on watercolor paper. You may see this as a problem or you can experience them as new effects that cannot be achieved on any other surface. Encore is not watercolor painting as you’ve known it in the past. It is actually a new way of painting that we’re calling “Watermedia” because it just happens to use watercolor paint in the process.

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