Many people – collectors and artists alike – have asked me how I seal my watercolor on paper paintings that I then mount on stretched canvas.
An artist friend of mine, Janet Fons (oil pastels), and I both began experimenting with methods for sealing our artwork about a year ago. Neither of us liked the glass we had to use since it created a such a barrier between the art and the viewer. We were also just plain tired of dealing with glass (and for me, I was tired of the whole framing idea – it was making me a bit clausterphobic to have my watercolors so entombed).
After much experimenting, here’s how I seal my watercolors:
1. After I complete a watercolor painting on paper, I seal it with 3-4 coats of Krylon GLOSS UV-Resistant Acrylic Coating. I don’t like the finish of the MATTE coating (plus, it dulls metallics). I use light coats and let each dry at least 30 minutes before applying the next coat.
2. I let the painting dry over night after the last coat of Krylon spray.
3. Meanwhile, I embellish my stretched canvas with acrylic paint. I use 1.5″ deep “gallery wrapped” canvas so that I can paint the edges and finish my piece without a frame. Usually I apply 2-4 light, watery washes to the canvas, often using metallic acrylic paints. I then add deeper highlights to the canvas edges or corners.
4. Once my canvas is completely dry, I use Liquitex Fluid Matte Medium to glue the watercolor on paper to the canvas. I apply the matte medium to both the canvas and paper to help bond them together. I then (carefully!) turn my canvas over and press on the back of the canvas to remove air bubbles. I use cut plexiglass and weights to compress the back of the canvas for 1-2 hours.
5. After removing the weights, I clean up any matte medium that has oozed out around the edges of the paper. The whole thing then dries overnight.
6. Finally, I apply 2-3 coats of Liquitex Gloss Varnish Flexible Surface to the entire piece using a soft brush (I use hake brushes), allowing each coat to dry 2-4 hours. I’ve found my own “formula” achieves the finish I like best – a mixture of about 3/4 Gloss Varnish + 1/4 Matte Medium + a bit of water. On large pieces, I sometimes spritz the surface with water to help relax the brush strokes.
Some folks have asked me about the archival quality of the process I’ve developed. I’ve actually corresponded with Krylon and Liquitex about this. While no one can really say how long acrylic coatings/varnishes will ultimately last, the best information I have is that there should not be any color or surface finish deterioration for 75-100 years. I can’t imagine that, with proper care, my watercolors mounted on canvas won’t last 2-3 times that long. I sure want people to enjoy my art at least until we have flying cars and are living on Mars!