Friday, July 11, 2008

Stretching Watercolors - Finally!

Alright, so I'm not painting trees yet as promised. I overdid things physically in the energy department early this week so I've been laying pretty low for a couple of days. However, I did manage to accomplish something I've put off far too long. I bought a 3'x4' sheet of plywood (good one side if you care) and some 1/4" staples. Last night I stretched both Sorrento II and Sorrento III (see July 7 & 8 posts for images). Today I stretched 5 more paintings... and I have a bunch more to do. I'm afraid that I've just kept painting and those that I've given away were stretched, or not, by their new owners. It's remarkably easy to stretch these paintings, which were all painted on either Arches or Winsor-Newton 140 lb paper. I must say that stretching the first two was quite a nerve wracking experience for me last night. I was concerned that I'd destroy what I'd worked so hard to paint AND it was quite noisy. The dogs ALL ran for cover - I had to go hunt Kassie out from the back of our big walk-in-closet upstairs when I was done! So, for those of you that have an interest the process is spelled out below. For the rest, see you here tomorrow! I will have a tree study done which, regardless of the outcome, I will share here (how's that for motivation?).

I'm sharing this information because I found it helpful AND because I didn’t see anything like this described when I googled. All I found were instructions on how to stretch watercolor paper BEFORE you paint. That's not what I'm talking about here... This method is for stretching completed paintings that have a ¼ to ½ inch border reserved for stretching (see photo above) . Sharon Williams shared it with our class so credit goes to her. When you stretch only successful paintings like this you save time AND when you paint you are much less worried about making a mistake. The paper is less precious and therefore you can unlease your creativity more freely.

One disclaimer – you do this at your own risk and I recommend you practice with a painting you are not terribly attached to until you get the hang of it. And now, the steps:
  1. Place painting face down on an absorbant towel. This is critical as the towel will catch any excess water that may otherwise run on to the front of your painting and ruin it.
  2. Wet a sponge (my hake brush worked well too) and apply clean water to the BACK of the painting. The watercolor paper will absorb that water easily and you will need to reapply water several more times to ensure a good wetting to the BACK side only. The painting will not dissolve and run off the paper as you fear [I did]. The towel will keep that from happening.
  3. When the paper is thoroughly dampened from the back, turn it over on to a horizontal, flat, clean piece of plywood [I used good-one-side fir]. Your painting is now right side up and unscathed.

  4. Place a staple approximately ¼” in on the centre of one of the long sides (position 1 on photo) of your painting. Now, carefully lift the opposite side (position 2) of the painting and stretch gently. Place a staple to hold that position.
  5. Next, staple the centre of the short side (position 3) of the painting... and stretch that length before fixing the staple on the other side (position 4).
  6. You will need to staple approximately every 2 inches all around the painting. So, follow the process described above first stapling on one side of the painting and then gently stretching the opposite side of the painting before placing a staple to hold it.
  7. Ensure that all corners have been stapled so that the corners of the painting don't curl up as it dries.
  8. Leave the board FLAT overnight and let the paintings thoroughly dry. Then, remove the staples CAREFULLY to ensure you don’t tear the painting. I used a thin, flat screwdriver to tickle under the paper and lift gently to loosen the staple. Another thing that worked for me is a very delicate plier to pull the staples up.
  9. You’re done! The painting is now ready to frame. Good luck!
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Joanne said...

wonderful explanation Cheryl. Your readers will be delighted.

Cheryl said...

Thanks Joanne. After my last batch dried I promised myself to make the taped off borders on my paintings at least 1/2". Much easier that way...