My artwork often involves combining several techniques and materials. Ampersand Claybord is great for this kind of work because of its versatility. The strong, rigid panel can take the pressure of an image transfer process without bending or tearing. Its smooth surface allows for a clean transfer and collage materials make a perfectly flush connection. The fact that Claybord is an archival surface is an added bonus.
I’ve spent the last few years in quest of more brilliant reflective color and luminosity in my paintings. About two years ago, I paired the most satisfactory combination of materials to date. Working Ampersand Art Supply’s Aquabord™ with Daniel Smith watercolors, I have achieved the deepest, richest color I have ever painted. Painting on the Aquabord surface in watercolor is a joy since the surface is responsive and cooperative. On the Aquabord surface, the watercolorist can easily accomplish many of the more difficult watercolor effects created on paper. This museum quality panel has the absorbency of the standard cold press paper, without its limitations. Moreover, the surface allows the artist to control washes and color, and when finished, present the painting without glass! There is a smooth surface similar to a hot press paper, but I prefer the textured surface of Aquabord. It works best for watercolors. One of the assets of Aquabord is the bright reflective quality of the white clay and the color that can be achieved on it. Previously, the watercolorist accepted a loss of brilliance in some colors as the pigment was absorbed into the depths of the paper. On Aquabord, the artist can create paintings of deep, radiant colors. This new surface allows the painter to create the softest washes, typical of those possible on cold press papers, as well as vibrant colors and textured patterns that are possible on hot press paper or bristle board. This fine art panel is also pH neutral and acid free. After drawing the design on the Aquabord, begin by painting lush pools of water on the surface. If the value of the color is to be dark, use wet color rather than clear water. It is not necessary to wash the entire surface of the board with water, but rather choose to work in smaller areas. When wet, the natural surface darkens to a light taupe. This value change easily allows the painter to know which areas are wet and which are dry as the work progresses. The bright white color of the clay returns when the board dries completely. Apply the water in thick splashy puddles, adding heavily pigmented color into the water as needed. With Aquabord, you need to work with your brush loaded up with pigment. Try not to go back into the wet area but allow color & water to drop down into the clay surface. Mix the color darker since the additional surface water will lighten the pigment value. A good, natural bristle, soft brush is useful for these applications. To achieve the best effect, keep the brush tip within the water layer rather than dragging it on the board’s surface. This application results in an even, flat, layer of color as the pigment settles on the board. The Aquabord surface has a subtle tooth that is evident in the finished work. The texture, however is finer than that of a rough or cold press paper, creating fewer shadows on the surface and brighter color. My palette consists of many colors. However, because I like working with the character of each pigment as it stays suspended in water, I will choose to use a pigment that will create the effect I want rather than manipulate the pigment, possibly destroying characteristics or color. A good example is created when Quinacridone Coral and Quinacridone Rose are richly mixed together and dropped onto the wet or damp surface. The two colors will move and separate, enhancing each other as the warmer red, Coral floats next to the cool red, Quinacridone Rose. Both pigments are transparent, intense colors of the same value and hue. Yet when mixed together, they create a subtle and sensuous transition that can only be achieved in this manner.
Try the following exercise on a small piece of Aquabord. Draw a couple of leaves onto the board using a hard lead pencil. Wet the board so it is damp as explained earlier. Apply cool green colors to your drawing while the board is damp. Let the water and color absorb in the surface and reach a slow crawl. Then wash Cerulean Blue across the area. After drying for a short time drop Hansa Yellow we into wet, onto the areas that are to be lightened. See how the warm yellow pushes the blue back and brightens the leaf. Now lift wet color with a soft, mostly dry brush in order to regain the whites.
As colors stack and the painting develops, return to areas and lift pigment. This allows altering of glazes, changing of values, and the creation of the desired textures and patterns. The surface of the Aquabord permits the careful lifting of layers of pigment value and hues to those colors below, bringing out sparkling underpainting for emphasis and contrast. Several tools can be used on Aquabord for lifting. A traditional round or flat nylon watercolor brush can be used. The nylon brush offers more resistance against the surface than a mixed bristle brush or a natural bristle brush. When more lift is required, a hog bristle acrylic may be used. Allowing the board to dry between each removal of color will offer a clear, more controlled lifting. You can also use tools such as sgraffito knives to cut into the surface and create sharp highlights such as on the edge of a petal.
When the painting is complete and totally dry, seal the finished artwork with several layers of Krylon® UV Archival varnish or other final spray. Even though the pigments used may carry the highest permanency ratings, all artwork should be protected against the damaging effect of light and the pollutants in the atmosphere. First, spray the painting with two to three layers of varnish in order to seal the pigment and prevent it from moving. This is enough to protect the painting. However, for a more even finish, brush two to four layers of Golden Acrylic UV Filtering varnish on top of the sprayed varnish. This varnish come in a matte, satin or gloss finish and can be used according to individual preference. The complete artwork is framed much like a canvas might be without glass! I use silk liners on my paintings. I find the silk is more compatible with my style with a texture suited to water color. The liner provides the visual space around the painting much like that of a matted watercolor. Have fun experimenting.
Written by Karen Vernon ~Karen Vernon is known for her phenomenal rendering of light and color in her watercolors. Her paintings have been featured in museums and galleries throughout the country and are represented in such notable collections as the Amoco Corporation. A retrospective of Vernon’s work was done for PBS and she has been featured in American Artist Magazine. An exceptional teacher, she has taught watercolors over the last 30 years. One of her students says, “every time I finish my class with Karen not only have I learned a ton of new techniques, I actually can see my skills improve.” www.karenvernon.com Click here to explore the full selection of Ampersand panels and tools.
“The translucency of the wax mixed with oils allows light to penetrate into the paint body giving it richness and vibrancy of tone.” ~Ginny Herzog
Minneapolis-based artist Ginny Herzog has been an invaluable Ampersand enthusiast for many years. This past year at NAMTA in Minneapolis, we were honored to have Ginny in our booth demonstrating her work on Ampersand panels. Ginny shares with us her mixed media work process on Encausticbord™.
I have been using Ampersand’s panels for my mixed media paintings since they first came on the market in 1994. Until recently, I worked mainly in watercolor and collage on the Aquabord™. But over the past several months, I have fallen in love with a new medium: Daniel Smith oils mixed with Dorland’s (cold) Wax Medium. I practiced my first attempts on Aquabord™ and Gessobord™, but found that the new Ampersand Encausticbord™ was a more outstanding surface for my new medium especially since it is tailor-made for wax, oils, collage and mixed media. It provides me with a rigid, smooth and consistent, archival surface that withstands the abuse of various methods that I use to achieve my textural effects.
I began by adhering the collage sections with Daniel® Smith’s acrylic gel medium.
First, I take digital photos of architecture, both interiors and exteriors, manipulate them in Photoshop®, frequently eliminating objects or distorting the context of the original image. I print the photos on archival laser color paper and then use the prints as collage elements in my paintings.
Then, I added the oils mixed with Dorland’s wax medium using the Colour Shaper® tool.
I collage my photos onto the panel with Daniel Smith Ultimate Acrylic Medium (matte) by brushing it onto the back side of the photo copy with an old flat paintbrush, then placing it onto the panel and rolling over it with a rubber brayer to make sure it has adhered completely to the panel and that there are no air bubbles.
I blotted the painted wet surface with wadded up plastic wrap to get this soft textural effect.
Next, using Artist’s Masking Tape, I mask out the edges of the photo collage that I want to protect from the oil paint. I apply Daniel Smith Oils mixed with the Dorland’s Wax Medium using tools such as palette knives, Colour Shapers (shown) or dough scrapers. After a few applications of the paint and cold wax, I remove the artist’s masking tape so that successive layers of paint blend well around the crisp paper edges of the collage.
The wax medium also enables me to build up more textures by blotting the painted surface with plastic wrap (example shown in yellow areas), papers or other textural materials in an additive method, as well as gouging, scraping and using odorless thinner in a subtractive method.
I frequently include architectural references as the painting begins to dry, adding linear detail by drawing into the painted surface with dental carving tools, oil sticks and Derwent® Inktense pencils. It’s nice how cold wax paintings dry and cure faster than pure oil paintings and that I can use polishing cloths to buff the painting when it is dry. I use both the flat and cradled panels. Generally, I apply three coats of ebony Minwax® stain to the cradle with a foam brush, wiping between coats and finally buffing after the last coat.
I added the architectural elements with a ruled triangle and a dental tool
Patricia Baldwin Seggebruch is known for her dynamic encaustic approach and inspiring instruction. When Ampersand first came out with Artist Trading Cards in Encausticbord™, Patricia jumped on board to try them and demonstrate a project for us. Ampersand first won my heart when I began translating my creative bent from mixed media work into encaustic on Claybord™. The luminous white surface, solid foundation and delectable option of a 2″ cradle all married beautifully with the ancient, yet contemporary feel of encaustic. Imagine my delight when I learned that Ampersand improved on this near-perfect relationship with new Encausticbord™ that offers the best of two worlds: R&F’s encaustic gesso paired with Ampersand’s expert wood panels and advanced coating technology. The use of ATCs or “Artist Trading Cards” arose a few years ago as the next big art movement. Exploding on the scene, potentially as the next ‘here today, gone tomorrow’ trend, ATCs have managed to gain a permanent foothold. Ampersand has embraced this tradable palm-sized art form and I find myself embracing these miniature delights right back. I jump with both feet into Ampersand’s delicious Encausticbord ATCs! I adore R&F’s encaustic paints and mediums and put them to task here, along with Daniel Smith’s luscious oil paints. By choosing this triune of materials: Encausticbord, R&F Encaustic and Daniel Smith oils, I have assuredly set myself up for success! To begin these paintings, and any paintings in encaustic, I first prime the board, though not in the traditional sense to which you may be accustomed. The priming is done with an initial layer of encaustic wax medium fused to the substrate with heat. Before applying this prime layer, I warm the Encausticbord first so that the wax will flow more evenly over the surface. This can be done by using a heat gun or by placing it on a hot plate/palette until the panel is warm to the touch. Use a natural bristle brush to quickly cover the panel with long smooth strokes that slightly overlap each other. Then, heat or “fuse” the whole surface to an even “wetness” and until there is a perfectly even film of wax covering the ground. Each layer of wax should be fused in this way before applying the next. For a few more basic tips on encaustic, visit: www.encausticcenter.com
For this project, I worked on multiple ATCs at once which gave me the opportunity to hang them as a multi-storied group or to hand them out as individual ATCs (fig.1). After applying the initial priming layer, I placed chip board die cut letters over the entire group of 12 ATCs and sprayed alcohol inks over them to create stencil effects (fig. 2). Once the ink dried, I removed the letters. Then, using a natural bristle brush, I applied a layer of R&F’s encaustic medium (made from beeswax and damar resin) (fig. 3). I decided to paint stripes of R&F encaustic color across all the boards to unify them. I masked off the stripes with tape, painted them in with R&F color, then removed the tape while the wax was still tacky and then fused the layer (fig. 4). I collaged in Daniel Smith decorative papers (encaustic medium being its own wonderful glue) and then I fused again. For soft glazes of color, I rubbed on Daniel Smith oil paints and then wiped them away to show relief texture. Lastly, I dropped a touch of metal fleck glitter inside simple metal circles and melted them into place (fig. 1) This collection was inspiring to create. Enjoy! Remember that Encausticbord, along with Claybord, Hardbord, Gessobord and ALL the Artist Panels are now on sale through the end of September. Find a participating retailer near you: www.ampersandart.com/retailers
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Jennifer Redstreake Geary, both a full time mom and full time graphic designer is also a prolific artist who is highly sought after for her work in watercolor and pastel. Her work as an artist began before kindergarten, and she found solace in drawing throughout high school and college. Only recently, did watercolors found their way into her repertoire when a friend introduced Aquabord™ to her as an alternative surface to paper.
“Savanah With Green Gloves”, 8″ x10″, 2011, watercolor on Aquabord
Poor materials turned Jennifer off to watercolors years ago, when her first workshop included flimsy paper, poor brushes and a cheap watercolor pan. So turned off in fact, she refused to try another class or to ever use watercolor again. An admirer of Jennifer’s pastel work suggested she try again, but this time using Aquabord and much better paints.
“I was skeptical,” Jennifer explains. “How could this be any different than painting on paper? I took it home along with a palette full of Daniel Smith watercolors that she squeezed for me to try. I painted a cactus fruit. It was ‘love at first brush stroke’, so to speak.” It was the color and control Jennifer had over the working surface and paint that drew her into painting. Since Aquabord is rigid, the surface doesn’t wrinkle like paper and with an absorbent surface, the paint glides on, layers easily, and is simple to remove in subtractive techniques. “Using Daniel Smith watercolors along with Aquabord is the perfect marriage, to me, of mediums. I feel as if I am creating ‘GOOD’ artwork for the first time,” Jennifer shares. To finish her pieces, Jennifer uses 3-4 coats of varnish, a Krylon Satin Varnish, sprayed evenly in opposing directions for ideal coverage.
“Golden Eyes”, 9″ x 12″, 2011, soft pastel on Pastelbord
Since Jennifer also teaches classes in her spare moments, she has introduced her own students to Aquabord. New artists can really benefit from using quality supplies when they begin with a medium. Unlike Jennifer’s own first watercolor class experience, her students walk away with a successful piece, and they return to her classes.
Long before Jennifer started using Aquabord, though, she was using Pastelbord™ and Hardbord™. Since it was drawing and soft pastel that first drew her into arts, she found her way to Pastelbord via the advice of another good friend. Hardbord was another natural gravitation for her collage and mixed media work. The Hardbord surface takes gesso well, after being sealed, and is a perfect solution for mixed media. The cradled frame is ideal for these pieces as they are ready to hang when complete and sell quite well for her at art festivals and on Etsy.
If you would like to experience Aquabord firsthand with a seasoned painter, Jennifer teaches watercolor classes at the Tullahoma Fine Arts Center in Tullahoma, TN. To join the class or learn more about her work and commissions, contact her via her blog or website: www.redstreakeart.com.