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Can You Use a Canvas for Watercolor Painting

While this concise sentence has gotten me through the worst of times, it’s also applicable to the lighter side of life. For example, there’s a reason that my sister-in-law lets her cupcakes cool before icing them: so the icing doesn’t melt. In art, there’s a reason that many artists use paper as a substrate for painting with water colour (to make use of the medium’s transparent, luminous qualities).

But sometimes the standard practice doesn’t give you the effects you’re going for. And that’s when it’s time to break away from the norm and play around with different methods. Maybe I want the icing to melt and be as smooth as a calm lake. Maybe you want to see what happens when you paint on a surface that isn’t known for playing nice with your media. Helen Birch, author of Just Add Water colour: Inspiration & Painting Techniques from Contemporary Artists, addresses how to get away with using water colour on canvas in this exclusive excerpt.

Canvas is the common choice of artists working with acrylic and oil paints. It’s less commonly used with watercolors, thanks largely to the fact that its surface is nonabsorbent. Before watercolors and canvas can be combined, the canvas must be coated in gesso and watercolor ground to increase its absorbency–a process known as priming.

Colors was produced through a combination of washes, lifting, and the use of Sumi-e ink to define details. Several coats of a spray varnish were then applied to fix the paintings and protect them against damage.

Tip: Ready-made gesso can be purchased from well-stocked art supply stores. It’s usually white, but can also be bought as clear, coloured, and black. Remember that only opaque colour will work with the darker versions of gesso.

With such a variety of art styles and techniques, you’re bound to learn quite a bit in Just Add Water colour. Get your copy at North Light Shop, and while you’re there, discover a preview of three more tips on creating highlights, shifting colour, and more.

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