A Fluid Drawing Tool

Flow enhancers, like Golden’s Acrylic Flow Release, are designed to allow any water-based paint to flow more readily across the surface of the paper or canvas and to keep the paint wet longer. But I’ve found that they’re also a great tool for breaking up flat areas of a painting. A few drops of a flow enhancer in wet paint produce random shapes and fanciful images, which often jump-start my creativity. I also use it to add whimsical or organic marks and symbols in my work. Where I don’t want the distinct mark of a stencil or a stamp, I make freehand drawings in the paint with a needle-nose bottle filled with flow enhancer.

The flow enhancer breaks down the paint’s adherence to the paper and creates a “line of resistance” in the paint. The keys are to use it sparingly (it won’t dry if used too thickly) and only in very wet areas of paint.

On the advice of one of my students, Jan Ellenburg, I tried using Jet-Dry Sparkle rinse agent and Cascade Rinse-Aid as flow enhancers with my watercolors and acrylics, and I?ve been getting wonderful results (see Intercessions, mixed media, 30 x 40, above). All flow enhancers carry a health warning, but if I can use Cascade Rinse-Aid to wash my dishes, I’m not going to worry about using it to paint with.

Scott Zupanc was one of the top award winners in the 2000 Watercolor U.S.A. Honor Society Exhibition.

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