Thursday, September 15, 2011

watercolor salt demo

Last weekend I had the pleasure of hosting a demo for a group of women from Windy Brushes, the IL chapter of the Society of Decorative Painters.  Because autumn in IL is such a beautiful and colorful time of year, but also short-lived, I wanted to take advantage of the changing colors in the autumn leaves for the project I was demonstrating.  Each student left that day with a set of 4 watercolor cards with matching envelopes.  I selected Canson Monvant 140 lb. 5" x 7"cards, which come with matching envelopes.  Below is a tutorial I put together for students who paid for the class, but could not stay.  I thought I would share it with you here.

As short as autumn is, I suggest you go out and gather up some beautiful autumn leaves and try this technique now.  These cards can also make beautiful place cards for guests at your Thanksgiving table.

Salt Textures for Watercolor Painting

This simple technique is easy
to do, but can produce stunning effects.

Here is your palette:
Students collected autumn
colored leaves prior to class.
Leaves are sketched lightly with
a pencil on watercolor card, or you may trace an outline of the leaf if you do
not have good drawing skills.  You
may choose either a vertical or a horizontal format.

Next, use a brush to wet the
paper inside the drawing of the leaf.
I mainly used size 3 and size 5 round sable brushes for painting.  Next, loosely apply watercolor directly
into the wet areas of the leaf, and allow the colors to blend into each other
on the paper.  The beauty of watercolor
is that it can be unpredictable, so do not try to control or overwork the
colors in your leaf.  You may put
down a light base of color, and apply more colors as you work.  Applying transparent layers of color
over other transparent layers is called “glazing”.  This is the best way to keep your colors looking fresh.

While the paint is still
damp, sprinkle a little salt (kosher or regular) into random areas of the
leaf.  Allow the paint to dry
completely, then brush off the salt.
You may keep adding glazes of color and work with more salt until you
achieve the values and hues you desire.
Once your leaf is dry, you may decide to add a drop shadow, or
completely paint in a background around the leaf.  I have included several examples.

(card with matching envelope)

(card with painted background)

(card with drop shadow instead of painted background)

 As you can see from the
examples, we also applied the technique to the edge of the envelope to make a
matching card and envelope set.

You may also want to check
out this video I found on YouTube, where an artist demonstrates the technique:

I thought these leaves turned out so nicely, I decided to stick them in my Etsy shop.  Click here to browse.


Concetta Flore said...

Thank you for this demo, the results are stunningly beautiful. I have tried this technique but the results weren't so brilliant.
Salt is also used in etching, did you know? As a kind of rough aquatint.

Kathleen Rietz said...

Thank you, Concetta. I think the key to stunning effects are not to try to control the paint too much, and use salt sparingly. The grains, are tiny, but the textures they create really spread out. If the wet paint is entirely caked with salt, it ruins the effect. I am finally at a place as an artist where I am trying less to control the paint, too, and let it just flow where it wants. This keep the colors pure and fresh. The nice thing about this technique is, it is relatively inexpensive and also does not take long. If one work of art does not turn out, you can always move on to the next.

I have not done etching since I was a kid. Last night I was wondering what other ways salt can be used to create effects in art. What a wonderful natural resource.

Thanks for your comments.