Monday, October 11, 2010

How To Varnish Watercolours

I have just been experimenting with something that I have never considered doing before, varnishing watercolours.
It occurred to me that when visiting a gallery I find myself immediately "drawn" to certain paintings, also I like to look very close up at things like brush marks, paint effects and paint "blooms"  In a mixed show oils seemed to win over watercolours and I think it is mainly because of the reflections.
So... how to get rid of the glass?
This is what I do...
First of all take your watercolour painting and paste the back with PVA (Elmer's in the US I think) do this quite carefully working out from the center of the painting, so that none seeps underneath.
Then place the painting on a piece of mount board that is a bit larger than the picture.  After that carefully cover the painting with some tissue paper or kitchen paper towel.
This protects your still vulnerable painting from the heavy book you are going to put on top of it.  I did a few at the same time so ended up with a stack like this...

Once the front side was dry, after a day The whole process was repeated with another piece of watercolour paper on the back, this is to stop any warping happening.  Another day of drying and then they were cut to the size of the painting
Then I lined them all up in a shoe box (because they were small) and sprayed them with a thin coat of LASCAUX ACRYLIC RESIN FIXATIV When that was dry I did another just for luck!
After that I sprayed a few thin coats both front and back with  LASCAUX UV PROTECT  I guess by this stage you could use any varnish that you would use for oil paintings.  The most important thing I think is the UV protection.
I tested it by pouring hot coffee on it and cleaning with a was fine!
After that, when all is dry I framed it like I would an oil painting, Mine usually go on a white backing board with a white frame.  I gave the painting , the found objects that were to go underneath the painting, and the backing board a few coats of matt picture varnish and that was it.

This is one of the framed, glassless, varnished watercolours.


Kelly M. said...

Very cool! I've read about some artists varnishing their watercolors and was curious -- seems a shame to stick them under glass, I agree. Thank you for sharing!

amanda white said...

A totally unpractical person says Thanks for this (I especially appreciate the step-by-step photos) I will deffo have a go this week if I can track down the ingredients.

Am enjoying the rest of the blog, by the way, which I stumbled across while having my tea break!

Robyn said...

What a wonderful, helpful post. I've just been reserching varnishing watercolours so your demonstration is most welcome.

Your painting looks very classy!

harry bell said...

Very interesting. I must try it out. I know there's an artist who varnishes his pastels, but that seems beyond me.

I'm still waiting to learn at what stage you used the lump hammer.

bridget Hunter said...

very interesting.Thankyou for photos of steps and sharing information.

vivien said...

This looks gorgeous!

Thank you for the demo. I'm really going to have to try this as I feel the same about glass.

Dedicated Servers said...

That's a very helpful post, nice work done!

Starrpoint said...

One of the things I hated about watercolor and other works on paper is how vulnerable they remain. I think this would add to their durability and longevity.

That is one of the arguments for them being worth less than oils and acrylics

Susan Sawyer said...

Great post! Thanks. But in the US, we have PVA glue too. It is acid free and completely reversible -- unlike Elmer's, which is not. Lineco makes it, and it's just called "Neutral pH Adhesive."

Ugly Stepsister said...

Thanks for sharing. Your step-by-step is very well done.

Pat Wafer said...

Thanks, Sarah, for this info. I ordered the Lascaux fixative and UV stuff yesterday. I just have one question. the last step you mentioned was to coat everything with a few coats of varnish. Could you be more specific about what product you recommend for that step? Thanks! I found your blog on via Making A Mark. Lovely watercolors! Best wishes from Wisconsin. Pat

Sarah Wimperis said...

Hi Pat, the final varnish that I use is winsor and newtons matt varnish
I dont like shine!
Thanks everyone for all your comments

VPS Hosting said...

Thank you for sharing this. It is very classy and I want to try this out.