Sunday, 5 June 2016

Can you varnish watercolours: Experiment II

My experiment with watercolours on canvas and working with varnish has gone a step further and I'd love to share my experience because it has a couple of great advantages!

I had a small exhibition coming up and I thought it would be a good idea to present some varnished watercolours there... After the first experiments I knew it could work and I chose 2 existing works (on Arches 300 grs torchon paper) that would look good without a passepartout (= mount, or mat). I also created 2 new watercolours on the aquarelle board that I mentioned in my previous post (read it here) about the subject and I prepared a canvas (normally used for oils or acrylics) with Aquarelle Primer.
Schmincke aquarelle primer

After I finished the paintings, I used the same procedure for all of them: for 3 consecutive days, I sprayed them with acrylic glossy varnish (I am told by experts that glossy varnish is stronger). I used the brand 'Gallery' (bought in Destock Grasse). And later Rubens (bought in Géant des Beaux Arts - I didn't experience much difference, the Rubens is slightly more expensive) I was careful, I was patient and let the varnish dry very well. Although it was glossy you couldn't see it: probably absorbed by the paper. With the board and canvas you could see the gloss somewhat.
4x varnish that I used for this project: Gallery and Rubens spray and Lascaux glossy and matte to use with brush.

The 4th day I varnished the backs of the watercolours on paper with a brush, to make them waterproof on both sides. To my surprise they didn't buckle! With the aquarelle boards and canvas I have not done that, assuming that they already are waterproof...(I hope that is true) Then I started varnishing the fronts with a brush - scary because if the spray varnish is not strong enough, the paint will smear. But it went great - and the good news is that it refreshed the colours! They showed as if they were wet. Much brighter. I loved the effect. I gave my paintings 3 layers (in three days). With the ones on paper I used matte varnish for the last layer. They are now as strong and waterproof as placemats - but they still look like they are 'normal' watercolours! The ones on board and canvas I brush-varnished with gloss varnish. Then I put them in different classic frames and took them in two, feather light bags to the exhibition. In frames with glass they would have weighed around 25 kilos... 

I had a great day with my varnished watercolours! and not without succes: the Valbonne Artothèque wants two of them to rent out or sell. 
And I definitely had a story to tell the visitors...

I'm happy with the effect - and now of course time will tell if they stay fresh - or will yellow... To test I have one varnished watercolour, half protected with tape, stuck to my atelier-window on the Sunny South. And as always I will present you with the results later. There will also be a summary blog one day!
We tested this varnished moodboard, spilling coffee, rosé and tuna salad on it, then let it dry in the sun. Then washed it with a sponge... No Damage! That's promising!

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