Painting on watercolour ground

Rhodedendron 6 ©KarenSmith
Rhododendron Flower on wooden panel ©KarenSmith

Using a wood panel for a watercolour painting

I’ve just finished a watercolour painting of a bright pink rhododendron flower on a wooden panel. Before I could begin, I needed to create a smooth white surface that I would be able to apply watercolour paint to.
I used a product called watercolour ground by Daniel Smith, essentially this is a thick acrylic fluid that can be painted onto non porous surfaces. I’ve tried this product on a few other craft projects, but none that required a flat traditional artwork surface.

My Process

Using an 8″ x 8″ wooden panel or cradle canvas, I painted two coats of Daniel Smith watercolour ground in Titanium white, as per the directions on the container, I left 24 hours between the two coats.
To create a neat edge to the wood panel, I wrapped low tack masking tape around the side edges of the panel, directly in line with the surface of the panel

Once dry, I found that the surface was very rough, and when I tried applying watercolour paint the pigment stuck to the gritty bits on the surface of the panel, in quite an unattractive manner, so I decided to create a smoother surface.

As the watercolour ground is a lot more resistant to water and pigment than normal paper, it was relatively easy to wash off the paint.
Once dry, I smoothed the surface with some very fine sandpaper, I washed off the powder residue and left the panel to dry

Painting on the sanded surface

I found the surface was smooth, but still pretty resistant to paint, so my normal watercolour method of glazing wasn’t very successful, my initial layers were fine, but subsequent layers just re activated some of the green and blue pigments and ‘lifted’ the colour from the surface.

I changed my method of painting to embrace these lifting qualities. I applied quite rich mixes of paint to the panel, and used blending techniques with the brush, and lifting techniques with a tissue to create dark and light areas in the painting. I used Artist Spectrum Lemon Yellow, Prussian Blue and Hookers Green for the leaves, Cobalt Blue and Lemon Yellow for the background.

The pink pigments seemed to fare better, though I’m not sure if it was because I painted the petals in a more delicate manner than the leaves. I was able to use multiple glazed layers to create the petals, using Artist Spectrum Permanent Rose and QOR Magenta.

Sealing the painting

I removed the masking tape from around the edges of the painting when finished, to reveal a very pleasing neat edge, and then sealed the surface with spray acrylic varnish, this is a really important step as the pigment sits just on the surface of this watercolour ground, and is very susceptible to any splashes of water. I used Krylon Kamar Varnish.

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