! Well, I'm going to start this week with an announcement - I'm now officially in Brighton for a course in journalism! This is incredibly exciting for me but does, unfortunately, mean that I'm not going to be able to upload any good work to DA as I am shorn of a scanner
! Nevertheless, I'm keeping up with the blog and will, of course, be working on stuff (in between my busy work schedule) which I will get up as soon as I can.
So, this week I want to talk paper stretching. I've just had a massive battle with it and I want to share with you my hard-won lessons.
First, why stretch the paper? Well, watercolour paper comes in three basic types; rough, cold pressed (smooth) and hot pressed (super-smooth). It also comes in a variety of thicknesses. It's great stuff as it is designed to take really wet washes without huge bleed and, as long as it's acid-free, will last a long, long time. HOWEVER, like all paper it WILL BUCKLE when wet. This is why it must be stretched before painting, especially if you like using wet, sloppy washes. Now, many sites will tell you to soak it in a tub for a set period of time depending upon the thickness of the paper - maybe 2-3 minutes for 90lbs, 5 for 140lbs/300gsm or 15 for 300lbs. This is great advice and is probably the best method. However, I have a problem with this - I have nowhere to do it!!! Of course, I could use the sink but then I hit another problem - it is imperative to keep detergents off the paper. Therefore, soaking it in a sink full of soap residue is a bad idea. So I used a wet sponge. Laying the paper on my board, I wet it both sides with a clean sponge. I really soaked it, trying to the paper to absorb as much water as possible before wiping away any puddles. I left it to get properly soggy, judiciously adding more water from time to time, until the paper was better stiff and floppy. Apparently, the perfect state is when you can bend a corner of the paper and it slowly lifts back to its original position. It neither stays bent nor springs back. Basically, if it springs back it means that the paper is still too dry while if it is completely floppy then you've probably washed all the size out of it, rendering it useless for controlled watercolours.
Once you've achieved this perfect state, the next thing you need to do is stretch it on the board. Remember, the point of stretching is to avoid your paper buckling and this is achieved by getting the paper to absorb far more water than you will apply during the painting. The more water you add, the more the paper expands and, now its wet, you want to hold it at this expanded point. This is so that any water you add with the paint will fit easily within the paper without forcing to expand still further. So, you need to attach it to a board. There are several ways of doing this. You can buy special stretching boards to pull the paper tight or you can take a regular board (more on this in a future article!) and hold the paper down with tacks, staples, clamps or tape. Personally, I favour tape as the other methods risk the paper tearing as it dries and tries to contract. The tape you need for this is gum tape, also knows as butchers tape. I tried to used masking tape and, trust me, its useless. Gum tape works by having a water-activated glue on the back. You need to cut strips of this tape, four strips to hold the paper down on all sides. Put the paper on the board and wipe away the excess moisture with your sponge. Then, wet the tape with a different sponge or piece of towel - you do not want to get glue on the sponge you wipe all over your lovely paper as this will ruin the surface! Now, tape the paper down tightly to the board as smoothly as possible. Leave to dry, face up, for a good long while, ideally overnight. Do not place the board on a slant as all the water will run to the bottom and cause an uneven stretch. In the morning, the paper should be nice and stretched - completely smooth and yielding a nice, husky rattle if you rap your fingers lightly on the surface! So there it is, paper stretching!
However, I must add a caveat. As I stretched my paper, the water warped my board! The paper's still good, great even, but my board clearly will not take another wetting. I am currently researching the most appropriate material for a board and will let you know as soon as I've found one - see you next week Art Elves
DEVIATION OF THE WEEK #39!
There could only be one winner this week in my mind - check out this truly exceptional Captain America fanart by