Dec 10, 2015

Adding Salt to the Mix - Watercolour Technique


Oils have their palette knifes and heavy brush strokes for texture;

Don't think Watercolours are left behind!

Different textures add life and interest to your work, I love to incorporate it in both my graphite and watercolour work.  However, like all things in watercolour, it can be created but not controlled!! There will be surprises.  (But isn't that half the fun of watercolour?!)

Steve and I had a spring holiday on the west coast of Vancouver Island, which is even more of a rainy spot than the southern mainland. As we hiked through a forested area, I was really attracted to the mosses, covering the ground and draped over the trees.  I wanted to paint them.  I needed a star for my show and chose a Stellar Jay, a friendly face often scouting around our campsite.  To get some interesting texture for my mossy look I decided to use some salt.  No, the salt is not mixed with the paint.  It is a step of its own. The salt is the large coarse salt that has large crystals.  

Step 1 - tape paper to a support with the picture drawn out.

Working with salt requires a wet surface, with colours floating so I put frisket over the jay. I didn't want the colour flowing into that space.
Picture laid out with the Stellar Jay covered in frisket

Step 2 - mix your colours for the background.  Paint should be in the mid value range for the background.  Colour can be lifted for the lighter areas and glazed over for darker ones.

Step 3 -  wet the paper - not dripping and puddled but with a nice shiny look to it

use a wide brush to wet the paper down. (note the shine on the paper)
Step 4 - drop in the colour.  I try not to push it around too much but drop it in and angle my paper so colours flow and mix but still leave some pure colour.  I have my reference in front of me so I know where I want light and dark colours areas. Work quickly.

drop your colour in - notice the paper is shiny
Step 5 - If areas are drying a bit, spray them lightly with water. You want the paper still shiny when you drop in your salt.  Again I refer to my reference to see where to put it. 

colour is on and salt is dropped into place
Step 6 - The salt is down so move away from the painting and let it lay flat. (so tempting to fiddle at this point.)  At first it looks like nothing seems to be happening.  Just wait.  I usually leave my picture overnight to be sure everything is dry and had a chance to mix. 

close up of the salt and water - notice the salt is starting to draw the pigment and move it around

Close up of the salt and paint - after 10 minutes - move movement

Close up after 20 minutes - some colours move more than others
The next morning - lots of action happens when you are not looking!

Detail - Notice how some pigments have really been moved and others not so much.  
Step 7 - the next day, use your hand or a soft brush to rub the salt off the painting. You are ready to go.

Your new texture is ready to be left as is or glazed over.  I have done both with my pictures.  Here are some examples of my 'salt paintings':
a. My painting "Caught in the Light" of a barn owl has examples of the salt texture left as is; some glazed over lightly; and other parts have dark glazing so only a bit shows through. 
b. My painting "Fuchsias in the Sunshine" has the salt texture left as is.  I used the large coarse salt for the large "textured areas" and smaller table salt for the subtle "textured area" in the upper left background.  

Sometimes when you use the frisket the paint does not make a nice clean edge next to it.  Since it is the background you can glaze a few light layers to tidy up the edge and if you keep the edges of your glazed area soft it will read as a darker area in the background.  Do a sizable area rather than just a little dab to correct the area.  To see the corrected area in the finished picture go to Jan 14, 2016 post: Have you Considered the Light? - Art Tips on Using Multiple Photos.

No worries if paint is funny around the edges of your subject - glazing will fix this.
So get out your salt and have some fun!!

Extra Note: February is Marketing month for Artists and I have 2 Marketing Workshops scheduled to help you get your art business ready for the year.  Spots are filling up fast for both days so get your registration in now.  For more information see - workshops 

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Have a great artful day, Wendy


Brenda Hill CDM said...

Can't wait to see this one finished Wendy!

Wendy Mould AFCA said...

Yes, I am quite excited about this picture. Things are coming together well. Should be finished in the next few days!!