Here I’m posting some of the steps of mounting a canvas and starting a tempera painting.
Here is the stretched and primed canvas on the easel ready to use.
In the spring there’s a lot of light and colorful motif, but it all goes away when the fall comes in. That’s the season I prefer to do tempera painting; when it’s not too hot.
This is the first step; stretcher bars.
Make sure the corners are squared.
Step 2; Canvas Material.
This is called Duck-Cloth. It’s made of good quality cotton and is inexpensive. After stretching the canvas, it is sized with glue. I use rabbit skin glue ( in the white coffee cup) brushed on the canvas lightly with a wide brush.
Once the canvas has been sized and is completely dry, it is primed. It’s made by mixing 3 equal parts of zinc oxide, calcium sulfite and rabbit skin glue. I buy these ingredients here in Madrid; most art stores have these products.
It takes about a day and a half to stretch, size and prime a canvas because of the drying time.
Charcoal drawing on canvas
I made a quick charcoal drawing on the canvas to put everything more or less where it belongs.
Mixing the Emulsion
Here is my set up with newspaper, brushes, spray bottle, pigments, water container. This is a water-based medium.
Pigment mixed with emulsion and water container
When the emulsion and the pigments are mixed together, they should stand up, not run to meet the surface of the table.
Session 1 Light egg tempera under painting
This is the first session.
Session 2 Building up Color
Session 2. Building up Color.
This is the 3rd session. One of the things I like about painting is that I don’t know exactly what it will look like when it’s finished. This painting is still in process.
The Agrupaciòn Española de Acuarelistas (Spanish Watercolor Society) in Madrid went to the beautiful village called Olmeda de las Fuentes to do some open air watercolor painting. There were more than 40 of us painting out doors in this small pueblo.
A view at the edge of town
The morning was overcast. I walked to the top of the hill with two others, a couple, and looked for a nice shady place, ready for a hot day.
The morning was overcast, no shadows. I waited til the sun came out to paint the cast shadows on the ground.
When I got to this point in the painting, a man who lives in the village pulled up in his car… It was obvious that I was in his parking place; the only shady place left :).
He was so nice. Before I could say anything he said that I didn’t have to move.
Hazy June Morning in Olmeda de las Fuentes 2016
He Parked his car in the sun and asked us if it would bother us. ‘If it would bother us?’ I mean how nice can you get.
Any way, this is how this painting called ‘Hazy June Morning in Olmeda de las Fuentes’ turned out. We all got together for lunch.
The food was delicious.
We showed each other our drawings.
Argentina with her watercolor
Argentina found a beautiful little corner to paint in the village.
Jose Maria Ysmer
Jose Maria Ysmer always picks the perfect place to paint and his watercolors turn out so picturesque and painterly.
Olmeda de las Fuentes 2016
After lunch, we painted for another three hours and then returned to Madrid. It was a lot of fun, just like in April. We all went to Trillo to paint outdoors.
In March the Cherry Plum and Almond trees are full of Pink and White Blossoms. I like to paint them because they brighten up the room and do the same in a watercolor.
Starting out with a light grid and drawing.
I’m starting out with a grid here to keep my parallel lines even with the picture plane. The grid helps me fit whatever I want wherever I want on the paper.
Marking angles as I paint
The grid controls the Talvera vase so it is not lopsided. There are a lot of branches and blossoms to paint, so I don’t draw them one by one, I cast lines in the direction of the branches and mark some of the pink flowers that stand out the most.
Working around the picture plane
I’m working around the picture plane trying to treat everything with the same importance, background and foreground.
The white blossoms
When painting the white blossoms, I leave the white of the paper. What I do is paint around them leaving a blank silhouette. This is called respecting the white of the paper.
Building up and Looking for Detail
I work around the paper emphasising some details. I try to be careful not to make any area heavier than other areas.
Looking for Contrast
When I’m pretty sure everything is where it belongs, I start in with a la prima, putting in the dark contrasting color in one shot in order to bring out the light.
I’m finishing up here. This is the moment when it can gain or lose. It’s the point of no return. I try not to get to that point, but it really is hard to decide when to stop.
Pink Blossoms in Talavera Vase March 2015
I painted just a little bit more and stopped. I don’t have this watercolor anymore. Next year I hope to make another one in the spring.
This watercolor belongs to the series of My Favorite Bottles.
Here are a few steps in the painting and a tip for watercolor painters at the end about sending watercolors through the post.
It was raining outside, but there was a lot of light, so I thought it would be a nice opportunity to paint my favorite bottles in the Rain.
I don’t always start with a drawing or a grid, sometimes I want to get straight into painting like in this case. I mark the top and bottom and let everything else fall into place.
Here is a detail in the stage of building up.
I started matting my watercolors to have them ready for sending through the post for shows or a sale. When matted, they are protected from bending.
There is something that I’ve learned about sending watercolors through the post and would like to share with other painters.
Recently I’ve sent some large watercolors in the post, so I had to protect them with sturdy cartons to ensure they didn’t get damaged. I realised that I could mat them myself for a bit more and send them through the post protected with a professional finished presentation.
I have a blog which explains how to mat a watercolor; the finishing touch is to cover it with a plexiglass. I’ve also learned that before you mat, the watercolor should be flattened by spraying the back with water, rubbing it down and putting it between two pieces of matting board with weight on top (books). Let it dry over night.
I’d love to hear your comments and questions. If you have better advice, I’d like to hear that too; one never stops learning.
Using a grid while painting from life helps you put the model in perspective.
Whenever people see that I have a grid on my paper to paint in watercolor, I’m always asked why I do it since I’m painting from nature.
I like painting directly without drawing because there is a looseness to it; it’s not that I don’t like drawing or am lazy or something like that. I like drawing too.
If you have a preliminary grid on your paper, it’s easier to place the model into space quickly. Your mind knows the proportions and where everything goes in space.
You are reading this blog, you paint or draw, so you are familiar with a grid.
Take out a piece of paper, make a grid, put a model in front of you whether it be figure, landscape or still life and try it with any medium. Try it as an exercise. I’d be interested to know how it went.
ps The penciled grid is easily erased if you are using watercolor.
This year, the spring was like an explosion of colors. We had a lot of rain and the flower season was abundant and long-lasting.
When I start a watercolor, I point the paper at the model. The paper is thick, 640 GMS. I tape it down with normal carpenter’s tape because I will finish this watercolor before the sun goes down and the light changes drastically. I wet the paper with a brush, wait til it soaks up the water and wet it down again. I don’t always do this, but I want the flowers to blend in with the background.
The paper is completely wet, but not soaking to the point where the paint runs. Then, I start laying in color where I see it, trying to get the form as exact as possible.
When I establish where the vase and blossoms go on the picture plane, I focus on my favorite part, respecting the whites and emphasising color.
Here, I start paying attention to detail, painting a la prima from here to finish of painting.
Spanish Spring Blossoms in Talavera Vase 2016 on Easel. It is still taped down. When the tape is taken off, it has a white border which gives it a nice touch if you let it show in a mat.