Sunday, November 22, 2009

Plein Air Watercolor,using 19th C techniques, Oyster River, Jan Blencowe

copyright 2009, Jan Blencowe, Connecticut, USA
Oyster River, en plein air, watercolor, 5x7

Last week end I went to a demonstration and lecture given by David Dunlop. He shared something I had never heard before.  Painters in the 19th century like JMW Turner soaked their papers in glue or varnished them before painting in watrercolor. Think about that for a moment. Treated or prepared paper isn't absorbant. Modern watercolor techniques depend on absorbant paper. That's why so many wtaercolorists like 100% cotton rag paper.  It's also why watercolor can be so tricky, it's hard to lift color once it's put down and whites must be pre-planned and saved either by carefully painting around the area or using a masking fluid or tape.

Here's a Turner watercolor:

When you paint with watercolor on a non-absorbant prepared paper you can handle your watercolor a lot more like a thinned oil paint, they way you would begin an oil painting, with brushy strokes and ragging out to pull up color. After all these watercolor studies were meant as preparatpory sketches for oil paintings and artists would want the painting techniques to be similar.

Here's a watercolor by John Constable circa 1820's

For even more beautiful early watercolors check out Watercolor Essentials

What's of particular note is how different these watercolors look from modern watercolors. I always wondered why that was and how they achieved the effects they did. Now I know they prepared their paper so it was sealed and not absorbant and handled their watercolors like the first stage of an oil painting! 

David Dunlop suggests using acrylic gloss varnish to seal your watercolor paper.Above is my first exploration into this way of using watercolor but it will not be my last!  I really enjoyed using watercolors this way and intend to do more (many more!) Stay Tuned!

The first 140 Hours Twitter Art Auction took place a few weeks ago and due to the gigantic success of this amazing new event a second 24 HOUR ONLY auction is taking place beginning at 12:00pm, NY time on Friday the day after Thanksgiving, until 12:00pm NY time on Saturday Nov. 28, 2009

140 Hours is redefining the world of fine art auctions for the 21st century! Please visit to view the artwork and to bid on the 27th. All the easy instructions for joining Twittter and participating are there.

This is a fabulous opportunity for you to purchase my painting Sky & Marsh, 16x20, acrylic on linen

The opening bid is $300, this size painting would normally sell in a gallery for $1500, so you can see what a great opportunity this is!

Scroll down to yesterday's post to see the wonderful promo video for this event! Share it with one click on Facebook , Twitter and more or get the code and put it on your own blog or website!


Roxanne Steed said...

I am really loving this wc effect & technique - beautiful!

Jan Blencowe said...

Thanks Roxanne, always fun to try something new!

MarcoPolo said...


It looks like the link here has changed
For even more beautiful early watercolors check out Watercolor Essentials. and you are right there are beautiful watercolor paintings to see there