Using Golden Fiber Paste Medium as a ground for watercolor

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.

You can control how rough the texture is. If you want a smoother texture, either smooth with wet palette knife. You can also fill holes by adding a thin second layer after the first has dried.

You can control how rough the texture is. If you want a smoother texture, either smooth with wet palette knife. You can also fill holes by adding a thin second layer after the first has dried.

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!

The Fiber Paste texture is fabulous for this wrinkly pachyderm!

The Fiber Paste texture is fabulous for this wrinkly pachyderm!

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!

Marabu Product Test - Fun mixed media art supplies from Marabu

In preparation for my recent Alternative Materials in Watercolor and Mixed Media workshop, I had the opportunity to test some great products from Marabu, a company that makes a broad array of art and craft supplies.

In this project, I used three Marabu products:
Acryl Mousse and Acryl Mousse Pastel – An acrylic-based ground for pastels, water media and mixed media
Art Spray – Vibrant, fluid, sprayable acrylic paint
Art Crayons – Water-soluble wax-based crayon
I used Arches cold press watercolor block for my painting, but any heavy paper would work.

I thought it would be interesting to use a stencil to mask out areas (particularly when using the spray) so I used one I happened to have on hand, but you can easily make your own, or block out areas with tape or frisket film. I first made some sketches and notes to plan my painting. I covered my workspace with plastic (I used old plastic bags).

1. I taped down the stencil and used Art Spray to create my background. I sprayed horizontal bands of paint across the paper, starting at the top and working my way down, I overlapped the colors slightly so they blended together. I started with black, then blue, then pink, then yellow.

Stencil taped down and ready to go

Stencil taped down and ready to go

I knew I would paint some trees in the background in the right side, but I decided to remove the stencil before painting that side so that the tree trunk would also have a bit of green undertones in it. I was so excited about my results I forgot to take pictures while I was spraying! Sorry about that!

Here is the resulting background with the stencil removed:


TIPS: For a more even coating, prime the sprayer by spraying into a bag or onto newsprint to clear the nozzle. That will reduce the larger splash marks (like the ones you see in the image above), and give a more even coating. I blotted the extra paint off the stencil with a paper towel so it wouldn’t drip as I removed it. Then I blow-dried the artwork on the lowest setting until dry.

3. I wanted to give my tree a textured bark, so I decided to try using Acryl Mousse, a white, textured paste that is ideal as a ground for pastel, drawing, acrylic and watercolor. It has a very find, sandy texture and is the consistency of cake frosting. I applied Acryl Mousse to the paper with a spatula, then used a palette knife to create texture.


Marabu Acryl Mousse

Applying Acryl Mousse with a spatula

Applying Acryl Mousse with a spatula

Acryl Mousse spread with palette knife to create bark texture. Notice I let some of the green show through.

Acryl Mousse spread with palette knife to create bark texture. Notice I let some of the green show through.

4. I added lavender Acryl Mousse Pastel with my skanky old palette knife to create shadows on the bark. It is identical to Acryl Mousse but has pigment added:

Acryl Mousse Pastel

Acryl Mousse Pastel

Texture and shadows added with palette knife

Texture and shadows added with palette knife

5. When the painting was dry (again I used a blow dryer to speed the process), I used black and brown Art Crayons to add some shadows and more texture to the bark.


6. After applying the crayon, I used a wet brush to create washes and soften the texture.


7. Then I added some trees on the right side of the painting and a horizon line with some distant trees on the left side of the painting, then used water to create washes and soften the lines.


8. I wanted to use some silver Art Spray to make the sky look snowy to finish the painting. I taped the stencil back in place, and sprayed the top half of the painting, plus a light spritz on the right side.

Here is the final piece with some detail images:


Total time (including drying time, using blow-dryer): 1.5 hours

Since this is the first time I used these products, I will give my impressions:

Marabu Acryl Mousse/Acryl Mousse Pastel
Pros: I think this material is extremely versatile and could be used in a lot of applications. You can use as a ground on wood, paper, and probably other materials like metal or glass (I would test first). I found that the material accepted both the watercolor washes and the acrylic spray very well. It also works very well to add texture, as you can see in this painting. You can mix it with water soluble paint or inks to change the color, but I found that it started to dry fairly quickly so you would need to work somewhat quickly, or spray it lightly with water to keep it moist.
Cons: Just that they dry out a little faster than I would like, but workable time can be improved by lightly misting with water.

Marabu Art Spray
Pros: These are super fun to use, and the colors are vibrant and blend together very well. By using masks and a little planning, they are a quick substitute for airbrushing. They worked great with a stencil. You could also use them as a fluid acrylic by pouring into a palette and using a brush. I can’t wait to play with these some more!
Cons: Not that big a deal, but pay close attention to the directions for clean-up so the nozzles don’t clog. The cleaning process is a little bit tedious, but not so much that I would hesitate to use them.  

Marabu Art Crayons
Pros: These are a great tool for adding detail or covering a lot of area in a painting quickly. They adapt well to rough or smooth papers, and are easy to control with water to create washes. They come in a pen-like holder with a cap, and are very soft and smooth to use. They are a great choice for people with disabilities – they are a favorite with those who have limited mobility in their hands because they are larger than other crayons and easy to grip. I have one student with tactile sensitivity, he loves the feeling of how Art Crayons glide across the paper. They are very soft, almost like drawing with lipstick.
Cons: Because they are so big, not great for very tight detailed work, but you can sharpen them with a large makeup sharpener if you are working on a more detailed piece.

All of these products would be great for kids (with supervision and a little help), but they all have applications for professional artists and are great additions to my art toolbox. If they don't have them stocked at your local art supply store, ask to order them, or you can order online at the major art supply outlets.

A big shout-out to Celia Buchanan at Marabu for sending me the samples!

Link to Marabu mixed media guide
Full Marabu product catalog pdf - viewable online or for download
Marbu Creative USA on Facebook