I didn't know this was possible a couple years ago because watercolor is a fairly fragile artform and is usually protected using a mat and frame. Which can kind of get expensive, especially if your art is large or a custom size or shape.
|A tub of Dorland's Wax Medium|
Why else do I like it?
- Like I said, it's less expensive than traditional framing methods when the art is large or is an odd size or shape (such as square -- it's so hard to find square mats and frames!).
- I love the immediacy, the accessibility, of the art for the viewer. It's no longer behind glass or acrylic.
- This method provides a clean line and look to the art. There is not the bulk of the frame around it. I do still enjoy the look of matted and framed art, but this has an attractive aesthetic as well.
1. The video that first introduced me to the idea was by Annie Strack. The video demonstrates the usefulness of this method for tryptics: https://youtu.be/rMAJnDhTpDc
2. A more recent video, also an excellent demonstration with a lot of detailed information, is by Angela Fehr: https://youtu.be/XHeDltkj9_M
These two videos are pretty consistent with each other in their process. The one thing Angela does (that I do not do) is to first spray the painting with an acrylic varnish before applying the Dorland's Wax for an extra measure of protection.
Your watercolor painting! One tip is to make the painting slightly larger than your wood panel. After you mount your painting to the wood panel you will use a craft knife to cut the paper flush with the panel; this results in a clean edge and a more professional look. It's not required though, I have mounted paintings that were smaller than the panel. This is okay as long as the paper has a nice clean edge (or nice deckled edge, if that is your taste).
20x30" painting smaller than the panel
- Wood panel. I like cradled wood panels with about 1 1/2" depth. I have ordered 6x6" panels from Dick Blick (I like the Blick Studio just fine), but I have a local friend who hand makes panels for sale and I like to use them too when I need larger sizes. You have options for finishing the wood panels. I have left them to a natural wood finish (coated with the Dorland's as I coat the painting itself) or painted them with wood stain or acrylic matte black spray paint before mounting the painting onto it. A good breakdown of your finishing options is on a blog post by Ampersand.
- Gel medium. This serves as an acid-free glue to mount the painting onto the wood panel. I am currently using Liquitex Matte Gel Medium. I use an inexpensive brush to apply.
- Brayer. Assists in mounting the painting flat to the wood panel.
- Heavy books. To ensure the painting dries flat to the panel as the gel medium dries.
- Exacto knife. Used to cut the painting flush to the wood panel once gel medium has dried. As Angela does in her video, I smooth out the edge of the painting with sandpaper (400 grit) as needed.
- Dorland's Wax Medium. The magic stuff to seal and protect your watercolor painting. When I was first trying out this method I bought the 4oz jar, and when I got hooked on this method and finished the small jar I bought a 16oz jar.
- Hanging hardware. I drill holes 1/4 to 1/3rd distance from top, insert screw eyes and attach picture wire. A video I like about attaching the picture wire is here: https://youtu.be/0YTdphzDHTY
I highly advise you to watch the process videos I have linked, but here are my basic steps for the process:
1. Make your painting. As I mentioned, it is helpful to paint it slightly larger than your panel (on the order of 1/8-1/4") in all dimensions. That way there is a little lip of paper that can be trimmed flush to your panel after you mount it. Another tip, I paint with my paper taped to a support board, or use a watercolor block. This helps prevent warping of the paper which is helpful for mounting it nice and flat to the panel. If your paper does warp or buckle, it seems like it'd be good to flatten your painting before trying to mount it.
2. I like to mark an outline of the panel with pencil onto the back of the painting. This helps me position it more accurately when it it's time to glue it.
3. Brush the gel medium evenly onto the top surface of the panel. Be sure to get the corners. Wipe off any excess that ended up on the sides of the panel. With the painting facing down, I place the panel onto the backside of the painting, using my penciled-in outline as a positioning guide. I press down gently, and wipe off any excess glue I see that has seeped at the edges with a paper towel.
4. Carefully flip the painting + panel so the painting is up. Use the (clean!) brayer over the surface of the painting to flatten it and ensure contact of all the painting to the panel. Start generally from the center of the painting and work your way out to all edges. As Angela demonstrated in her video, I like to push the edges of the paper down, bending it slightly over the edge. I want good glue contact especially along the edges and corners.
5. Carefully flip the painting + panel back upside down. Check again for any gel medium seepage along the edges and wipe off. Next is to stack books on top of the panel to provide some weight to ensure good contact as the gel medium dries. For each of these small 6x6" paintings I recently mounted, I used a hardcover book, then stacked a 15 lb dumbbell on top of that. Let sit for several hours, overnight is recommended.
6. Once the gel medium is dried I trim away the lip of excess paper around the edges using an exacto knife and a cutting mat. You'll discover why I mention wiping away glue that has seeped out along the edges; paper is easier to cut through than a blob of dried glue. It's hard to be super precise with the knife, that is why it's handy to follow up with a bit of sand paper (about 400 grit). Be careful to not sand away your stain or paint on the panel sides. It doesn't usually take much sanding to get a smooth even edge. Wipe away any dust from sanding.
7. Apply the Dorland's Wax Medium. Angela uses a lint-free cloth, but I like to use my bare fingers so I can get a better sense of how much I am applying, and can feel if I have good even coverage. I dip my fingers into the jar for a dollop of wax, at least a marble-sized amount. I then rub the wax over the surface of the painting in mostly circular motions, as well as the sides of natural or stained panels (ones painted with acrylic don't need the wax protection). You only need a thin layer, but you want it all covered. You'll be able to tell by feel if you have all surfaces covered; you'll feel some resistance under your fingers for the areas lacking wax. There is a slight milkiness to how it will look, and you will see texture from your strokes. Don't worry. As the wax cures it becomes fully transparent and becomes more smooth. Allow several hours to cure as you did for the glue. If you want a more glossy shine, you can buff the surface with a cloth, but I never do. You can do a second layer, but I never do.
8. The last step is to install the hanging hardware to the back of the panel. Then...ready to hang!
I have also used this mounting and sealing technique onto 3" wood disks for ornaments, it's pretty cool!
I hope this post has opened new avenues for displaying your art. It provides an option that perhaps you have never considered before. While this method is certainly more work than traditional framing techniques, the results in my opinion are very beautiful.