Torn to Pieces

Q. I was working on a watercolor painting on 140-lb. cold-pressed paper that I was really proud of. When I went to remove the tape that was fastening it to the easel, I accidentally tore the paper. Now there’s a big, ugly tear straight through the middle of the work. How do I fix a torn watercolor?

A. This is really too bad. Short of taking the painting to a professional conservator, the only thing you can do is fix the tear using a product called “document repair tape.” This material is sold by such suppliers as University Products or Light Impressions, but it might not work because of the size of the rip. It might be a better idea for you to just do another painting.

Next time, instead of using a stubbornly sticky tape to hold down the watercolor paper, try a tape such as simple brown paper tape that has a water-soluble gum adhesive on the back. It takes a bit more effort to stretch watercolor paper with it, but with the patient application of water you can soak this tape off a finished painting with little problem. You could also invest in one of the several types of stretching frames made for watercolorists—these take the pain out of preparing your papers for painting.

Artist and workshop instructor Jerry McClish of Bradenton, Florida, has designed and built several boats, and skippered many more. He’s president of the International Society of Marine Painters.

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