Sunday, 7 April 2013

Post script to Bluebell Wood

Peter's comment about the fact that he liked the photo taken before the trees were darkened and the shadows added, got me thinking about the paper quality and an old painting friend of mine.
We had already discovered that the hard surface of the paper prevented the paint from being too much absorbed below the surface, and how easy it was to lift the paint when necessary. (See Blue Blossom, 28th March)
Now Brenda, this painting friend, was often dissatisfied with her watercolour efforts and she regularly put the whole painting under the tap to remove as much surface paint as possible, just leaving a very pale underpainting, which she proceeded to repaint.

Now this post is not about producing a lovely painting from sludge, as I have never done this before, so it is an experiment about seeing what is possible with this sort of paper, when the results are less than satisfactory! So lets see if Brenda's way would work for me.

Now, if you looked at the previous post you will recall that the finished painting looked like this....

Something dreadfully wrong with the shadows and I had created a very dull area in the middle.

I put a few inches of water in the bath, and then held the painting under the tap, using a soft brush to take off as much of the surface paint as possible. I then laid the painting in the bath and using a hogs hair brush I gently scubbed at any stubborn areas of  shadow coloured paint.

When I was satisfied that I could not scrub any more without taking off the surface of the paper, I laid the painting on the work bench and left it to dry completely. It did curl slightly at the edges, but when dry seemed none the worse for its bath.
Now my painting looked like this.....

All the lightness and delicacy had been restored and the trees were much less dominant in the painting. An added bonus was the lovely texture in the tree trunks created by the surface of the paper.

I decided that it was possible that the surface of the paper had been compromised a little, so I repainted it almost entirely by splattering, so as not to disturb the surface more than necessary. I used a variety of brushes to vary the texture, and went from dark to light, letting it dry between the various colours.

I do not claim in any way that this painting is now perfect, but I just wanted to share the possibilities with you, should you wish to have a go at getting back an overworked painting, but do beware that all papers do not stand up  this sort of treatment!

'Cornwall' paper by Hahnemuhle
450g rough


  1. Interesting experiment. I remember reading somewhere that Turner was a fan of the occasional total immersion. It may explain some of the ethereal qualities in paintings like Norham Castle and Blue Rigi.

    1. You are right Mick. It is always good to try out these things so that we get a wide range of strategies available.
      Was not aware of the Turner info, but again you are probably right about hew qualities of some of his paintings.

  2. A wonderful tip! I would like to try with one of my many overworked paintings. Thank you for sharing your experience.

    1. Yes, useful and great fun too,Celia, but I suspect the results will vary enormously depending on the type of paper one uses.If you have a go let me know how you get on.

  3. I've washed paint off a few times and actually got it rather lighter than your Bluebell wood painting. I'm not saying it is ideal but it can be done when a disaster beckons! I think I used a sponge but not sure.

  4. Thanks for the comment Peter. Maybe I could have got it lighter, but I was a bit afraid of taking off the surface this time. Maybe I will do it a bit more if I ever need to do the process again.