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MITRA Forum Question Details

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  • Watercolor Paint LossApproveRejectUn-ApproveSubscribeUn-Unsubscribe
    Question asked 2017-07-13 10:14:14 ... Most recent comment 2017-08-18 12:41:36

    A student recently showed me some watercolors of his that have a problem, hoping I could decipher it, but I don't know what's going on. Throughout several paintings there are areas where the paint is  (in his words) "disappearing" - initially the paint went on fine, but over time there are patches of paint loss that look a bit like a bug has been nibbling; or, another way to describe it, looks like someone pressed a paper towel with a squirrely pattern to areas of the paint while it was wet, lifting the paint (although, as mentioned, this problem didn't occur until after the paint had dried). Neither of these are the best description of the problem…I have photos, if there is a way to share images.  The paint loss is not limited to a single color and has occurred on several paintings with different types of supports.  All I could think of was minerals or salts in the water, precipitating out?  Any other ideas?




    Koo Schadler

Answers and Comments

  • EditDeleteModerator Answer

    ​Hi Koo...there is a way to add images. If you can do so that would be very helpful!

    Kristin deGhetaldi
    2017-07-13 11:00:53
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    2017-07-13 12:35:30
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    2017-07-13 12:36:20
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    2017-07-13 12:37:06
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    2017-07-13 12:37:36
  • ApproveRejectUn-ApproveUser Comment

    ​Hi Kristin,

    Four images uploaded - hopefully they came through, and hope you can interpret them.  Thanks, Koo

    2017-07-13 12:38:31
  • EditDeleteModerator Answer

    A couple of things I notice upon examining the photos: One of the images appears to show a canvas-like texture in the support. What is the support material? Is it paper, and if so, which brand? Also, it looks like the "vermiform" pattern manifests over both paper and the masking tape at the edges. That makes me think there may be an issue with the binding power of the paint. Do we know which brand of colors, and what the specific palette is? Are some colors more affected than others?

    Matthew Kinsey, Utrecht Art Supplies
    2017-07-13 14:22:42
  • EditDeleteModerator Answer

    ​Hi Koo,

    That is a strange situation.  I'm wondering if there is something on the student's brushes?  Are they using a fixative?  Is the student painting in a studio where you can observe them?

    Gillian Marcus
    2017-07-13 14:32:22
  • EditDeleteModerator Answer

    ​Hi Koo -  

    First there's a pun in that "short" greeting which I will leave untouched but it does make me smile :)

    When you say it happened sometime after the paint was applied, can you give a sense of how long the period was? And how were the pieces stored or kept during that time? Anything in contact with the surface? And as was mentioned, knowing the particulars of the brand of paint and the paper would help.

    Sarah Sands, Senior Technical Specialist, Golden Artist Colors
    2017-07-14 12:41:46
  • ApproveRejectUn-ApproveUser Comment

    ​Hello All,

    "Vermiform" was the word I was looking for - thanks for that descriptor.  I sent the student your various questions; his replies are in italics.

    1.  One of the images appears to show a canvas-like texture in the support. What is the support material for the watercolors? Is it paper, and if so, which brand?

    I believe the support in question (watercolor of pears on a green cloth) is Fredrix archival watercolor canvas board.  The other painting is on 300# Fabriano Artistico cold press watercolor paper. 

    2.  Which brand of watercolors?

    I'm not sure.  The pears on green cloth was the oldest of those I showed you and then I had some Academy and Cotman watercolors.  I have gotten rid of my ""student" grade watercolors and now use W&N professional, Daniel Smith, and Holbien watercolors.  The second painting (cherries on blue background) was W&N and Daniel Smith of higher quality.

    3.   What colors?

    The blue paint in cherries painting was a mix of W&N and Daniel Smith, indigo and Prussian blues, crimson red and mars black. 

    4.  Any other relevant info?

    Daniel Smith masking agent was used and removed.  But, the pattern doesn't have a relationship to the use of the masking areas. 

    I use W&N series 7 brushes that were cleaned (at that time) in tap water.  The tap water was used for paint mixing as well.  I thought the water was suspect because it is high in iron and other minerals.  The pH runs slightly to the alkaline.  I've since gone to distilled water for all.  However paintings with this same problem were done in other locations with different water sources.  

    I noticed the tracks after a couple weeks, progressing from the corners into the center.  The board was set on an easel in a vertical attitude.  Nothing was on the surface.I have not found a common denominator for the malady.  

    Thanks for your help,



    Haiku.  Japanese

    poem or friendly greeting?

    Could be both, Sarah.


    2017-07-15 13:16:51
  • EditDeleteModerator Answer

    ​Hi seems that this problem has stumped a number of us moderators. There are so many variables here...and reassure your student as he seems to have been trying to tackle them one by one (moving away from tap water to distilled water). I think at this point the only words of wisdom left to give is to simply encourage your student to continue down that path. I am sorry that we could not really find a solution here but please keep us updated if you can.

    Kristin deGhetaldi
    2017-07-30 12:27:54
  • ApproveRejectUn-ApproveUser Comment

    ​Thanks for checking back, Kristin - I'll let my student know  the panel was stumped and, on my end, if the student figures out anything more specific I'll let you all know.


    2017-07-31 12:02:28
  • EditDeleteModerator Answer

    Is the student using anything other than water to thin colors? I have read about paint loss in watercolors due to excessive use of additional Gum Arabic. ​

    Matthew Kinsey, Utrecht Art Supplies
    2017-08-01 20:57:47
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    ​Hi.  I just got an email (in italics) from the student with the watercolor problem - perhaps the mystery is solved.


    I just finished another WC workshop with Laurin McCraken. I mentioned the missing paint dilemma to him, as it was a painting that I had done in his class two years ago.

    He said "I know the problem, it is the ox gall coming out solution of the watercolor paint."  He says that he has seen this happen before where the paint was laid down very heavy.  After the paint dried it appeared to have "snail tracks" through it.  

    Lauren suggest that putting down a heavy coat of watercolor, as in the dark fold of cloth or background, that while the surface is wet that you take a dry brush and 'scumble' the surface to enhance the watercolor mix on the paper.  This might give the ox gall a chance to cure with the rest of the elements.  I think the article in hand print ( supports this idea.

    2017-08-18 12:41:36

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