I taught Primary children (5 to 12) for many years. One of my goals was to encourage them to be lifelong learners. Not necessarily in academia, but with skills and information that helped build upon their passions. And I certainly do what I encouraged; I love to learn new things ~ skills, information, hobbies.
My latest is how to stretch watercolour paper. The most interesting thing I learnt was that watercolour paper is pretty tough. You can add a good deal of water to it without it going pulpy, probably because it is made of cotton rather than wood chips.
Let me show you the “Anne Lawson Way” of stretching paper. There will be other ways, and probably better ways, but this works for me.
Why do you need to stretch watercolour paper? Many artists wet the paper before they begin and tape it down on a board. This keeps the paper flat as they lay down washes of water and paint. My painting method is different as I begin on dry paper that is not taped down. As I add water and watery paint the paper buckles because it dries at different rates. If I am doing a botanic art subject I usually only work in small areas, such as a leaf, and the paper isn’t as affected. However, now that I am experimenting with looser washes I am finding the paper is buckling quite a bit.
I needed some gummed tape, brown paper on one side, gummed on the other.
I also needed a buckled painting.
The unused shelf of the computer desk was perfect for the job and it easily fits two A4 works. I also rounded up an old towel, a container of water, a clean cloth and some books.
The first job was to lay the painting face down on the towel and to use the cloth to saturate the back with water.
I learnt not to be stingy with the water, as the paper can take a lot. However, I was careful not to use so much that it ran off. Water on the front would damage the work. The towel absorbs any extra moisture. I left it for a few minutes to allow the water to absorb into the fibres. My paper was quite damp and bendy ~ perfect.
I don’t have a photo of the next step, as it is a two-handed job. I held the paper at the top and gently but firmly pulled. I moved down the sides, pulling and stretching the fibres and repeating for the shorter sides. You can actually feel the paper give a little when you do this. It would be possible to rip the paper, but it seems to take a surprising amount of pull.
Then I laid the painting onto the board. If you do this, make sure your board is clean and dry ~ no point going through all of this only to have the painting damaged by carelessness. after wiping the adhesive side of the tape with a damp cloth, I carefully put the tape about 1 cm along one side of the paper.
Then repeated for the other three sides. As I put them down I stretched out the paper some more so that it was as taut as possible.
I ran the damp cloth over the paper again, just to be on the safe side (!) and left it for about 10 minutes. When the paper was damp, not wet, I put down a paper towel and piled on some heavy books. Then I left it for a few hours.
When it is ready the tape easily peels off the board. However, it doesn’t peel off the paper. So far I have only cut the tape to the edge, rather than risk tearing the paper. The centimetre strip of tape will not affect the painting at all, and would be easily covered by a frame. I will investigate soaking the tape off though. (Any thoughts?)
It is a very useful skill to have learnt. I can create puddles and have great fun with water, knowing that the paper can be flattened!
I will leave you with a video from a watercolour paper manufacturer, showing how they make the paper.