The many colors of white with Karen Vernon

As an artist, I have loved painting in the delightful medium of watercolor, enjoying the flow of the pigment as it passes across the surface. For decades I worked on paper as so many watercolorists do. But for the past 20 years I have worked on Ampersand’s Aquabord which allows me to do far more than I ever dreamed of doing on paper. Not only does it give me more luminous, vibrant color, but it allows me to present my works with no glass. I can create intimate 1x1 pieces up to large 42x90 paintings. Or pieces to be framed traditionally or to present cradled with no frame at all.

Recently, I created a painting that focused on the beauty of all the colors to be found in white. Aquabord is the perfect substrate on which to create this painting. Not only does the surface allow me to create gentle washes, but it also allows me to lift and easily subtract color as needed. First I do a value sketch for the painting, designing the movement through the painting by planning the lights and darks.
Then the light to mid values of blues and violets are washed, damp on damp, into the shadows on the flower. Soft yellows are added as the shadows move toward the light. As in all watercolor, the white of the surface is left by leaving it dry, allowing the colors only to flow in the areas that are damp. Painting damp into damp rather than "splash wet" works best on Aquabord.
The flower will appear to be a blue flower. Other details and colors are added. (Note the warm violet that has been added in the shadows.) Each area of color is allowed to dry so the pigment doesn’t flow into areas where I don’t want it to flow. Aquabord is great for this. It dries like a heavy paper will dry. However, if a color migrates into an area where it’s not wanted, Aquabord lets you simply lift it off with a brush stroke leaving no stain behind. You can stack color on color (glaze), first making certain that the underlying colors are completely dry. (Feel free to use a hairdryer if needed.)
Now, using nice dark greens, blues, and violets, the background is washed in. The flower should be completely dry. Wet the background and at "high sheen" rather than damp and start dropping the color onto the surface. Let the water do the work of creating the flow.
Drop yellows, red violets, or water into the darks to create soft, out of focus illusions of flowers or leaves in the background.
Drop yellow wet-in-wet on top of greens and cooler colors, pushing the cool colors back and making "color blooms". Lift any color you want to remove or lighten and to create detail in areas. Use a shader paint brush or any nylon brush. Old brushes with worn tips work better than new pointed brushes. Bristle brushes will take too much color off but can be used if you want to go back to the original white of the surface. Lift out details, like the flower's stamen in the center and the reflected light and texture on the bud. If desired, you can re-glaze local color or values on top after lifting. The image above shows how the little light values were removed in order to create depth and texture in the flower’s center.
Add your own details and colors and the painting is finished. There is no need to use masking fluid, but Aquabord allows the use of masking fluid if you wish. I rarely use it because I can lift back at anytime and find little need to mask out areas.
Upon completion, seal the painting with, first, Krylon UV Varnish (a spray) followed by Golden Acrylic’s Polymer Varnish with UVLS (a brush on varnish). No glass is required for presentation; there is no more glare to disrupt the image and everything is totally archival and museum quality!
Light Dancer, 16x20, watercolor on Ampersand Aquabord


Artist Bio:
Karen Vernon has worked in watercolor for over fifty years and has taught workshops throughout the United States, Europe and Canada for more than 30 years. Her paintings have earned notable awards and developed a worldwide market. They currently hang in museum and corporate collections in Europe, the United States and throughout the world. She is a member of Who’s Who in American Art and Who’s Who in America and holds signature memberships in several prestigious art societies. She is the founder of ACT, Artist Changing Tomorrow, and was one of fifty recognized artists selected to be a part of the national museum touring exhibition, “Sea to Shining Sea.” Vernon has expanded her career focus and is now working in pastels and oils as well as watercolor. As well as being an active, producing artist, Vernon has been a noted jurist for exhibitions for 3 decades. Vernon and her husband, Ken Muenzenmayer each continue to teach art business and painting workshops across the nation.

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