The painting medium that has been known as “watercolor” since the latter half of the 1700s has remained constant. Powerful, yet subtle, striking and versatile, watercolor is (still) so revered, that famous works routinely fetch tens of millions of dollars at auctions from Christie’s to Sotheby’s. Artists are perfectionists, however, so this means, even the most celebrated mediums and works might receive the occasional tune-up or a few technique tweaks here and there. This is especially true as artist tools and supplies continue to evolve.
Fortunately, there are a number of notable artists on the scene that know a thing or two about tweaks. One such artist is Tom Lynch. A prolific watercolor artist for more than 45 years, Lynch has a few tips and techniques that can help make any watercolor artists’ painting experience that much better. Let’s begin with tone and color. According to Lynch, to get the most vibrant coloring from the start, choose paint with the highest pigment load. The colors are brighter and more intense, so you won’t get “dirtier colors as fast and darks won’t get chalky or opaque,” he says. “Color brilliance is key” if you want to use color as a way to “entertain the viewer.”
Next, Lynch discovered that the newer watercolor canvas, particularly Fredrix watercolor canvas, encourages color and contrast over paper. “Fredrix developed a way in which the binders of watercolor will stick to canvas,” says Lynch, which is great for artists that love lots of color and contrast in their artwork. With Fredrix watercolor canvas “the paint doesn’t soak in. It lays on top, which creates brilliance of color, rich and bold,” he says. The color doesn’t absorb into the canvas like paper, so it will look a lot brighter.
And here’s the tip: Fredrix sells small watercolor canvas panels, which are great for preliminaries. For larger paintings in his studio Lynch says, he will use stretch—the same canvas but stretched around wood, which makes it lightweight and easy to handle. Whether using a panel or stretch canvas, “watermarks and blossoms won’t happen on watercolor canvas like they would on watercolor paper,” says Lynch. Lynch doesn’t stop there. He has dozens of watercolor tips and techniques, but there are just too many to list here. We chose a few more of our favorites for you to enjoy below. When you’re done, take a look at Lynch’s four part series Tom Lynch at Art Creations: Tips & Techniques on YouTube.
More Tom Lynch Watercolor Tips & Techniques
T&T: Tom Lynch says, “after painting and color has dried on Fredrix watercolor canvas, when you’re putting a second coat down, apply with one brush stroke and leave it alone. If there was color underneath, nothing would happen.” If you keep brushing with a lot of “little scratchy brush strokes,” he says, “the dry color underneath will come off.” As long as you don’t paint this way, you’ll be ok!
T&T: Here’s a technique that Lynch discovered after painting for a year or more on watercolor canvas. Pour a cup or cups of water on the canvas and rub it down. This forces a little moisture in as it dries. You can use a hair dryer to dry the canvas. When you paint on it, there’s no skip and bounce. Simply put, color will lay down a little easier.
T&T: You will never throw away a painting on watercolor canvas because you can always wipe off the color and repaint, whether it’s a small corner, object or the entire painting. You can edit, fix correct, and later on as long as it isn’t sealed. And once the painting is complete and you have sprayed and varnished it to seal, it’s archival so you don’t need glass.
T&T: Finally, because it doesn’t need glass, it’s easy to add dramatic frames to the final painting. In addition to a stunning finished piece, there’s no worry about distortion, glare, reflection or breakage. Prefer to go frameless? Because stretched watercolor canvas allows you to paint on all four sides, you can hang the piece without a frame.
About Fredrix Watercolor Canvas: Fredrix Watercolor Canvas is an authentic 100% woven cotton artist canvas with a special coating that performs similar to a cold press or rough watercolor paper, yet it provides a distinctive look that can only be achieved on canvas. Fredrix Watercolor Canvas will accept all water-made and mixed media techniques. For example, transparent and opaque watercolors, acrylic and watercolor inks, fluid acrylics, and watercolor pencils. Fredrix Watercolor Canvas works quite well with acrylic paints in different viscosities. Find out where to buy Fredrix Watercolor Canvas here.