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All Things Ampersand

Aquabord 2.0 Revisited

Aquabord™ has undergone a number of important changes a few years ago due to a change in one of the raw materials we use to produce this unique surface for watercolors. We saw this challenge as an opportunity to make Aquabord even better than before. While the newer Aquabord is in essence, the very same, it does have a few differences: 

Above: New Version
Below:  Older Version

1. The new Aquabord™ surface has a flatter, more even texture. It’s less pebbly and feels more like a cold press watercolor paper.
2.  The new surface is slightly softer. You need to use less pressure when wet-lifting paint just like you would on paper.
3.  The new surface is more absorbent and emphatically more like watercolor paper (see helpful tips below).
4.  The new surface requires less water for washes and blends. It behaves more like a cold press watercolor paper now, so you don’t need as much water for wicking the paint across the surface – the paint moves more freely and blends beautifully.
5.  The vibrant color you’re accustomed to still applies.
6.  The lovely eggshell color of the natural clay you’re accustomed to is still around.
7.  You can still seal your watercolors and frame them without glass.

The new Aquabord surface is very porous. You may see some air bubbles come up when you apply very wet washes of color. To prevent this, flush the surface first before you start painting. Take a flat brush and apply big washes of water across the surface. Allow all the air bubbles to release. When the surface reaches a damp stage, then you can start applying watercolor to the surface. By allowing the air to escape first, you are basically opening up your surface to accept the pigment. This process will prevent those tiny air bubbles from affecting the consistency of the smooth transitions in your washes. 

More than a dozen professional watercolor painters and avid Aquabord users repeatedly tested our trial runs until we had the surface they felt worked best. We think the newer Aquabord is well worth the changes and we hope you do too. 

Above:  Washes on Aquabord
Below:  Washes on watercolor paper

We greatly appreciate thoughts about the reformulation, and you are welcome to share your feedback with us. We make Aquabord for you and it matters to us that you have a successful experience with our products.

Ampersand Aquabord™ panels are now available in both 7/8in and 1.5in Cradle Profiles that offer more flexibility for hanging and framing your work. Featuring a 7/8in and 1.5in total panel depth, these new cradle profiles are handcrafted with premium grade 13-ply birch plywood, designed to fit both standard canvas and floater frames. The cradle can easily be painted or stained to complement the artwork or primed in order to wrap the image around the edges. As with all Ampersand Museum Series panels, this product is eco-friendly, artist safe and made in Buda, Texas from US grown renewable wood sources. Other available options include a 1/8″ flat panel and 2″ deep cradle. 

All things Ampersand, 
Karyn Meyer-Berthel 
Artist & Social Media Specialist 
Ampersand Art Supply 

Click here to explore the full selection of Ampersand panels and tools.

Featured Artist: Lori Wolf Grillias

Andy’s Story

I have tried your other boards, but hands down, I find Claybord to be the most sensual surface I have ever painted on!!  The smell, the silky surface and the way, no matter how I lay those watercolors down, there are always unexpected surprises that arise.  I feed off of being in the moment, responding to the mediums and the physicality of the materials.  Other boards just don’t provide the variety that Claybord offers me.”  ~Lori Wolf Grillias

Class Management

California artist, Lori Wolf Grillias, is both a full time teacher and a full time artist, working her own art and magic primarily when she has teaching breaks.  Lori works full time in 4 elementary schools plus at the Children’s Creative Project and at the San Luis Obispo Museum of Art.   When she isn’t teaching, Lori works on Claybord, in mixed media.


Lori’s inspiration is the world around her, the physical surroundings, the people, history, dreams and thoughts.  Lori’s work is a reflective journal of her world that she carves out of what otherwise might be seen as an abstract piece.  She explains, “When I start a piece, and I usually work on 4-5 at a time, I use watercolors, wet on wet.  After several layers, I use acrylic and scrape it away, rather than using a brush.  For me, this technique gives me a much more irregular surface.  When the painting feels like it has been formed by natural forces, rather than made by the artist’s hand, I know I have reached the next step.  I use Caran ‘dache water-soluble wax pastels to draw into the piece, bringing figures, machines and structures into the forefront.  Once the narrative between all the figures ‘make sense’,  I go back to acrylic and define even further.  The materials are a HUGE part of this art adventure.”

Eagle Rising

Lori met Catherine Eaton at the young age of 12.  It was then that she knew she was an artist herself, meeting such a talented artist and wonderful person.  Lori shares, “She took the time to help me understand acrylic paint, how to use the tools the right way and dream big!”  Lori’s formal studies in college only heightened her passion, where she had encouraging professors and learned to find her own voice.  It is no wonder that Lori loves what she does as both an artist and instructor, having good teachers in her path.  

Lori will be showing at the Architectural Foundation in Santa Barbara in 2015, and 
this summer, Lori will be teaching a class on the versatility of Claybord at the San Luis Obispo Museum of Art; you can find more of those details on their website.

To see more of Lori’s work and resume, refer to her website: loriwolfgrillias.com/home.

All things Ampersand,
Karyn Meyer-Berthel
Artist & Social Media Specialist
Ampersand Art Supply

Click here to explore the full selection of Ampersand panels and tools.

White Own

Featured Project: Deena Ball

Pennsylvania artist, Deena Ball is both a full time artist and an art teacher in the North Philadelphia school system for the underserved.  She also teaches her own adult and children’s workshops.  Recently, she took her teaching to a much larger scale and applied for the artist in residency program at Erdenheim Elementary school.  Not the typical residency, Deena had to apply with a project laid out to create and display the art of the student body.  She found a creative way to limit the budget and display all 692 works of art in the school hallways for permanent display — by using Aquabord™.

The school had originally planned to collage some of the work and frame it under glass.  But Deena wanted to show every student’s work, and have every student complete their own piece so they would have some ownership.  She knew of Aquabord and had used Claybord in some in her own work, enjoying the contrast of the smooth surface with the acrylic gels she uses in her painting.  It was a logical choice to purchase cradled pieces so there would be no need for framing and cut down the cost.  

When Deena showed up for the beginning of the residency, the students had completed their simple line drawings and then the process with her began.  The students transferred the works to the boards, and then used acrylic gel and acrylic gesso to create layers of texture, hills and valleys.  Since the texture needed a bit of drying time, Deena had some volunteers take the pieces away to blow dry them.  While the texture was drying, she spoke to the students about watercolor paints and how to use them.  When their boards came back dry, she showed the students how to apply the paint.  Students used Winsor Newton watercolors and Daniel Smith luminescent paints; some even used watercolor pencils.  The pieces were finished with Lascaux UV finish and hung in series in the school hallways.  

The August 2013 issue of Watercolor Artist magazine shows a step by step tutorial on how Deena completes her paintings, which is the same process she shared with the students.  You can see a video preview of the magazine on the ArtistsNetwork website.

Deena has upcoming workshops listed on her website, and you can see her work in person at the Hardcastle Gallery, Wilmington, DE, the Earth Wood & Fire Gallery in NewTown Square, PA, and the Frame Station Gallery in Berwyn, PA.  

All things Ampersand, 
Karyn Meyer-Berthel 
Artist & Social Media Specialist 
Ampersand Art Supply 

Click here to explore the full selection of Ampersand panels and tools.

Featured Artist: Sandy Delehanty

“For my work, archival quality is key.  People spend good money to purchase my paintings, and I want them to out last me and the collectors who buy them. As I tell my students, when it comes to art supplies you get what you pay for.  A cheap surface is awful to work on and even more frustrating for students just learning to work in watercolors.  Ampersand’s Aquabord performs so well that even my least experienced students can create paintings they are proud of.”  — Sandy Delehanty

Birds Back to Back

Internationally acclaimed California artist, Sandy Delehanty has an extensive resume in both oils and water media as well as a full plate as a workshop instructor world-wide.  Sandy claims she is obsessed with painting and never runs out of ideas, which is evident in looking at her growing portfolio.  With a BFA from California State and numerous studies under renowned artists, Sandy’s design and style in all her work are uniquely her own and beautifully rendered.  

Sandy has spent decades refining her work and business and came to Ampersand Aquabord™ in 2008 during the crisis time before a show opening.  With three short weeks left and three paintings to complete and frame, a friend handed her a piece of Aquabord with cradles.  “I painted a zebra portrait with a red background and zebra stripes around the cradle edge creating a fun built in frame.  I was done in just two days.  I painted two more watercolors on Aquabord.  The show went well, and the three paintings on the Aquabord were the first to sell,” Sandy explains.   Those bold colors inspired my next series of watercolors on Aquabord– tropical flowers.  In August 2009, when the California art market was at its worst, I had a show of watercolor flower paintings at Elliott Fouts Gallery in Sacramento.   We decided to test the market for watercolors on Aquabord.  We hung sixteen new flower paintings, eight watercolors on paper framed under glass, and eight watercolor paintings on Aquabord with the cradle edges painted black.   We sold eight paintings; seven watercolors on Aquabord and one watercolor on paper.  Gallery owners always say that it is far easier to sell works on canvas or panel than works on paper.  They say collectors complain about glare on glass, and they just don’t seem to appreciate the value of works on paper.   Now that I paint my watercolors on Aquabord the gallery owners are actually asking for my watercolor paintings as well as my oils.”

Tongue Tied

Sandy purposefully chooses her subjects for their bright colors, and the subject dictates the medium she’ll work in.  “Tropical flowers look best when painted in watercolor on Aquabord™ because of the intense color that Aquabord makes possible.  I started my Aquabord adventure with a zebra painting, and I still choose watercolor on Aquabord to paint animals.  Tongue Tied my giraffe painting was so much fun to paint on Aquabord because I used wet in wet, slipping, sliding, pouring and spraying of watercolor to create the background.”  Tongue Tied recently won the second place award in painting at the 8th Annual “Animal House” Open juried show at the Sacremento Fine Art Center.  I also chose Aquabord when I painted Venetian Masks because I wanted to use a lifting technique to create the feathers and no watercolor surface lifts as well as Aquabord.  I used iridescent watercolors on the masks to add sparkle,” she explains.

Venetian Masks

Besides the plein air and studio work that Sandy accomplishes stateside, she travels extensively for small companies on art workshops.  Her next trip is with French Escapade to Spain, an 8 day trip beginning August 31.   Sandy works in watercolor on her trips, but she is open to other mediums that students bring along.  Besides the Spain trip, Sandy is teaching numerous other workshops; you can view her summer 2013 schedule here:  www.sandydelehanty.com/workshops
All things Ampersand, 
Karyn Meyer-Berthel 
Artist & Social Media Specialist 
Ampersand Art Supply 

Click here to explore the full selection of Ampersand panels and tools.

Understanding Aquabord™

Having a Ball with a Red Lily by Jennifer Redstreake Geary

Aquabord™ is a clay coated hardboard panel that gives watercolorists unprecedented freedom and control. Comparable to watercolor paper, this multimedia panel simulates the absorbency and texture of cold pressed paper but allows color to be lifted back to white easily while also leaving the richest, most vibrant color possible. 

What sets Aquabord apart from watercolor paper?

❖ Watercolors and gouache, when used on Aquabord, are richer and more vibrant than when used on paper. 

❖ Aquabord is also very forgiving. If you make a mistake – just wash it off! 

❖ The surface is pH neutral and acid free and when sealed, it will last forever.

❖ Don’t worry about lint residue, torn paper, or using masking fluid because Aquabord is very forgiving and durable and will hold up to repeated wetting and scraping.

❖ You can even add fine lines and details with a scratch knife or other Claybord Tools which will bring back the white of the board.

❖ To create natural looking highlights and bring the light back into your painting, use a wet sponge, cotton swabs, white erasers or a clean brush to lift and remove colors with ease. 

❖ Paint as heavily as desired because Aquabord won’t warp, crack, or bend like paper when using heavy paint applications.   

How to Begin:
A Bunch of Gourds by Jennifer Redstreake Geary

This museum quality panel has a soft, absorbent, mineral coating with a unique granular texture. You may notice small “pin-like” protrusions once you lay down your washes and you will also see tiny bubbles forming on the surface. This is normal. We recommend “flushing out” Aquabord before beginning your painting by simply applying an even wash of water with a large brush over the entire surface. Let the air escape. Once the board is back to a damp stage, you can begin working on it. Beginning with this method will result in a more even wash. The sponge-like granules absorb the water and pigment allowing incredible control over color and washes. The surface’s clay-base holds colors in suspension, allowing them to flow into each other to create seamless washes when the board is wet or dry. 

How to Seal:  

Seal finished watercolors or gouache with several light coats of spray varnish (or fixative), being careful to spray outdoors during warmer months or in a well ventilated and heated area during colder times of the year. We recommend the Krylon® UV Archival varnishes.  These spray varnishes offer advanced non-yellowing protection against fading, dirt, moisture and discoloration. The Krylon® UV Archival varnishes contain superior levels of UV light absorbers and are removable for conservation purposes. For additional protection against scratches during transport and also ultraviolet light, follow the application of Krylon® spray varnish with Golden® MSA UVLS or Golden® Polymer UVLS varnish. About 4 coats brushed-on, provides a very durable archival finish and is also removable for conservation purposes.