One of the downsides of working on paper is that the the work needs to be protected both from moisture and bright sunlight. This usually means matting and framing watercolors under glass. This adds an additional expense, and the way the work is matted and framed is subject to the taste of the person framing the work. Framed artwork can seem more traditional, which may not appeal to people who collect contemporary artwork.
Recently I have been experimenting with alternative techniques and materials that will allow me to use the watercolor medium I love, but also leave the work unframed, without sacrificing a moisture seal and UVA/UVB protection.
Golden Artist Colors has several grounds that work well with watercolor: Golden Light Dimensional Ground and Absorbent Ground (also called Cold Press Ground as part of their QOR watercolor line). I have used both products successfully with watercolor, but I like Golden Fiber Paste more as a ground for watercolor.
Golden Fiber Paste is an acrylic medium that can be used to add texture or as a ground for acrylics, watercolor and many other media. I use it as a ground on stretched canvas, canvas boards, hard boards or cradled panels. Once the paste dries I usually sketch my design in pencil then use watercolor as usual. Painting on the Fiber Paste ground feels very much like painting on textured WC paper and receives the paint well. The material has good "liftability" and a beautiful texture. The ground allows for a variety of painting styles and holds detail very well.
Here is how I prepare the boards/canvas for painting with watercolor:
1. Choose the canvas, board or other surface you would like to paint on. The Fiber Paste can be applied to porous or nonporous materials including metal, glass and plastic. Make sure the surface is clean and dry. Smooth surfaces can be roughed with sandpaper for better adherence.
2. Using a palette knife, apply a thin layer (about 1/8”), and spread to even out the surface. It’s very much like frosting a cake. I usually do the front surface first, let it dry, then do the edges.
3. Use the edge of the palette knife to smooth the front surface edges.
You can make a smoother surface by skimming a wet palette knife over the top.
4. Let the canvas dry completely before painting. You can also add a second coat to smooth out any rough spots or divots. The dry fiber paste can be sanded, carved or scraped.
5. Paint away!
6. Protect your finished painting by spraying 4-5 light coats of Golden Archival Spray - Gloss, letting each coat dry in between spraying. Use the spray outdoors and with a mask as you don’t want to inhale it.
7. If you want a matte or satin finish, after the last coat of gloss spray dries, follow with one or two coats of matte or satin to get the desired finish. If you use matte or satin for all the coats, it will dull the painting, because the matte and satin spray has ground oyster shell in it… so using multiple layers of gloss first is best.
Once the piece is dry, it's ready to hang!