From the GreatArt Materials Blog: Basic Watercolour Canvases

by Jo York

“This time I’m taking a look at some new canvases, specially prepared for use with watercolours!” – Jo

Key Features

  • The canvases are tight and durable which makes them ideal for most work in watercolours, gouache, and mixed media.
  • You can also use acrylic inks, fluid acrylic and standard acrylic, as part of a mixed media approach, but heavy acrylic layers would not be advised as the lightweight canvas and stretcher would not provide a suitable long term, stable base.

  • The are ideal for artists who like to use experimental approaches including scratching, scraping and collaging which can be tough on conventional watercolour papers – the canvas support is tougher and will stand up to much more artistic punishment!
  • The are lightweight which makes framing very straightforward, and you have more options than when framing a conventional watercolour on paper- for instance you can use ‘tray’ frames with a shadow gap, and other framing types without the need for glass. If you decide to go glass free, it is advisable to use a watercolour spray varnish to protect your work, or alternatively a cold wax finish, which can be burnished to create a soft, warm sheen.

“As usual i started with some simple tests, using a range of water-based media to see how the canvases perform. In the same tests above, I experimented with watercolours and gouache:

Row 1: First I tried working with watercolours in washes on dry, wet and damp surfaces. They all worked fine, but it does take a while to get used to the different handling of the watercolour canvas compared with the traditional watercolour papers I’m used to. The main difference I found was that the appearance of the watercolours is slightly more granular appearance, which would be great for applications where a textured fee is needed. Exciting effects can be obtained using a light spray of water, on top of areas of intense colour.

Row 2: Here I experimented with gouache paint, used both undiluted and as washes.  This worked well in both cases, and gave a smoother, less granular feel than the watercolour. Interesting results can also be achieved with gouache and light sprays of water. At the bottom you can also see some dry brushing with gouache, which I particularly liked on the canvas surface.”

“On the next larger canvas, I began work on a loose study, based on a sketchbook page. In this case I used a mix of watercolours and Liquitex inks. In the photo above you can see that I sprayed the canvas to create a wet surface and then worked quickly with both acrylic inks and watercolour washes, embracing the runs and drips that happen when you tilt the surface. Here the canvas is easier to wrok with than paper, which can be tricky to tilt when wet!”

“In the photo above, I’m building up vigorous washes in layers-deliberately using very quick and expressive brush marks. I also added texture, using coarse salf sprinkled on areas of wet colour. This can be knocked off and rubbed away when thoroughly dry, leaving a really interesting broken surface. In this image you get a good idea of just how wet the washes are- the canvas really worked well in absorbing all the water, without losing the strength or colour. I’m delighted with the way the canvas performs, especially for these more experimental techniques!”

Jo’s Top Tip

“The watercolour canvas surface is quite rough, and I prefer a slightly smoother finish, so before working I rubbed the surface down very lightly with a fine sand paper..this gave me a surface that worked perfectly.”

Final Thoughts

  • “Great value for money and tough and durable too, especially for mixed media and experimental approaches – they stood up really well to everything I threw at them!
  • Personally I prefer them with the surface very lightly sanded for a smoother finish.
  • Very useful for allowing a wider range of presentation and framing options for watercolour based work.
  • For a more traditional approach using graded washes, my personal preference would still be for a heavyweight watercolour paper, but as I tend to go for a more modern experimental approach, these will become a regular choice for me!

To read the full blog post, visit The GreatArt Materials Blog

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