Creativity Workshop: Process Experiment

Avoiding the Pits
(watercolor on paper, 10½x16) by Nancy Collins

I often used to wonder, “What good is hot-pressed watercolor paper anyway?” It’s soft, uncontrollable, unforgiving, hard to manipulate and frequently an all-around pain. But recent developments have led me to reconsider my position on the topic. While painting a floral illustration on 300-lb. hot-pressed paper, I became so frustrated with the slippery surface’s tendency to wick outside of the area I was trying to paint, that I decided to conduct an experiment: I burnished the painting between each application of paint in the hope of bringing some control back into the painting process.
    The results made me a true believer in experimentation. I came upon a new process that brought a spark of creativity and energy to my work—and I learned how to make the reflective subjects I love to paint really shine.
    To burnish the painting, I took a stainless steel spoon and applied it in a circular motion to the dry surface of the painted paper, smoothing and bonding the paint. Burnishing is a simple way of giving the artist more control over the painting surface. It also creates an interesting effect: The pigment literally shines. The end result is a lacquered look, with a rich luster and engaging glow. In order to avoid smearing the sediment in the paint, I use only staining, transparent colors and I dry each application of paint with a hair dryer so that I can begin burnishing each layer immediately.

Try It!

Bring new energy to your work by experimenting with a process or a surface. Select subjects that mirror the qualities you’d like to explore with your choices. For example, if you’d like to experiment with a burnishing process as I did, select subjects that will be enhanced by a shining surface. Learning through trial and error can be challenging and it can also reap unexpected rewards. It’s all about finding what works for you—and running with it.

Send us your Creativity Workshop Activity for a chance to win a $100 gift certificate from Jerry’s Artarama. Send a JPEG image (with a resolution of 72 dpi) of your painting to or send a disc to Watercolor Artist, Creativity Workshop, Experiment Activity, 4700 E. Galbraith Road, Cincinnati OH 45236. The new extended deadline for entry is May 10, 2008.

To read the full column, purchase the April 2008 issue of Watercolor Artist. To see more Creativity Workshop Activities and a gallery of reader responses, click here.

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