Sunday, December 14, 2014

Tip of the Day - Golden Absorbent Ground

That Leslie Saeta is sneaky. Sneaky in a good way. Sneaky in a way that forces me to write down a  technique I've been developing (though I know I'm not the first to explore it). I've done two paintings this way, and it's still a work in progress.

The Product


First it involves GOLDEN Absorbent Ground. 
Though it is an acrylic gesso-like product, it has a porous quality. You can use watercolor or acrylics (in a watercolor consistency) on it. Watercolors do retain their solubility and so the finished painting should either be framed under glass or sealed with a polycrylic (more on that later).

(I should give a little credit at this point. Several years ago, I watched [an amazing] artist Bennett Vadnais at Chelsea Mansion in Muttontown demo a plein air acrylic technique with Golden Absorbent Ground & other Golden products. In this particular demo, he used the acrylic like watercolor. I immediately went down to Utrecht and bought some.)
Bennett Vadnais, demo at Chelsea Mansion, Muttontown, March 2011

My Process 

This is the subject. The creek at Sunken Meadow State Park

Wooden panel - lots of companies make them in various sizes.

I paint three coats of the ground on the cradled wooden panel.

It is recommended to put a gesso ground down first when painting on a surface such as wood or masonite, though I confess, I haven't done that. I have sanded the board a little with rough grade sandpaper.

Then I just sketch right on it with pencil. Draw lightly because you can dent the surface (not a BIG deal, because you can fill back in). If you have trouble erasing, you can just paint over the area with a little of the ground.

Now, you can  proceed to painting as usual. The paint does stay where you put it more than on paper, but you can blend for longer periods of time. You can lift out color very easily without harming the surface. The pigment doesn't really flow like on paper. If you really mess up, and the paint has stained the area, let it dry and paint over the mistake with the ground. (You can also paint over any pencil lines (or whatever) you don't like showing, then paint the spot with watercolor.)


I continued to build depth in the foreground grasses with watercolor and colored pencils. The colored pencil sets up a little bit of a resist to the watercolor, so I can really push into the overlapping layers of grasses.

Finishing up

To finish and seal, I'll share a technique that my friend (and fabulous artist and teacher) Lois Levy told me about. 
First, I sprayed with Krylon (or similar) Matt Finish. Follow the instructions. Hold a few inches away, spray in a back and forth motion, cover, but don't make the surface wet (like a puddle). Be sure to do outside or in a well ventilated room. Let it dry for at least an hour or two. Lois likes to wait overnight. I was pushier.

From Lois: "Once this is done (I do it twice with appropriate dry time between each spraying) you are now ready to proceed with varnishing with a brush since the pigments are totally sealed in with the spray varnish. I use Minwax Polycrylic {Note: I used Benjamin Moore} water based varnish (see can image below).I brush it once gently horizontally, let it dry overnight then once vertically. Let it dry."

Note: DO NOT SHAKE the can, you must stir gently to use otherwise you will have a milky white finish due to air bubbles !!  Gently brush on one coat in one direction and then when dry apply second coat in other direction. Done!"

Ta Da!!! The Finish!

The layering and varnishing really adds to the depth  and luminosity. 
I painted this for The Art Guild's 10x10 Fundraiser and it sold immediately. Everyone was fascinated that it is watercolor and NOT on paper. They think it's oil. I've been sharing my process with lots of people in the past week or two.

I still love the look and feel of watercolor on paper but I like the final product with this technique and the versatility it gives me. I look forward to working with and exploring this technique in the future. 

I hope you enjoyed the demo. Please let me know if you have any questions.