Painting Watercolor on Canvas and Boards – Part One

Commonly watercolor paintings are done on watercolor paper. If you want to display the painting and hang it on the wall, it usually is framed behind glass. That has two downsides, it’s costly and because of the weight, it limits the size. So I did some research on what else I could use to paint on. Obviously, there is canvas, but as far as I knew it usually was not used for watercolor, rather for oil and acrylic paints. After having consulted with a very knowledgeable salesperson at my art store, I came up with three options:

1) Most canvases are already primed with Gesso. He thought it was worth a try to just use it as is and see how it works with watercolor. I did, however, buy a Gesso board, wanted to try that first.

2) I found a watercolor ground (Schmincke, Daniel Smith, several companies make it), that can be painted on pretty much any surface. Once dry you can paint on it.

3) I also found a canvas especially made for watercolor. It is produced in Berlin, Germany. So, possibly you might not find it as easily in other countries, I am not sure. However, I would never want to use it again. I thought it was the worst option of the three. Obviously, that is only my opinion. You might want to find out for yourself. I was just not happy with the quality.

In order to test those three options, I painted a little bird.

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From left to right: Gesso board with three layers of Aqua Ground, then in the middle simply Gesso board (as bought in the store), on the right the above mentioned watercolor canvas, which is really rather paper, not traditional canvas. Note the different quality of the brush stroke, the way the paint spreads, the quality of the layering and the way the paint flows into other colors – or not. As I said, the worst underground was the watercolor canvas (according to the company, it is their new invention, specifically made for watercolor painting). I wasn’t even able to add the watery layers I did on the feet in the other pictures. It simply would not work, the “canvas” would not take the color or let the color flow. If you look really closely, you can see a very faint spot around the feet of the bird. I also don’t like how the paint smudges. The other two undergrounds were fairly similar. The Aqua Ground allowed for a little more blooming. It was a very interesting experiment. Goes to show, how important good material/underground is. It can impact the quality of the painting quite severely. Note, I painted all three birds within a few hours, meaning there was no time for my painting skills to improve. The difference in quality is completely due to the ground I painted on. It was quite a revelation to me.

I experimented with other options to paint on. I will show you in the next post.

Hope you found this helpful. Keep painting. Stay healthy. Be well.  👩🏼‍🎨 😘

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