Using Watercolor on Wood - from guest blogger Ashley Beyer

Posted by Holly Buhler on

As most frequently used art mediums, water color is no stranger to commonplace myths about its uses and ability to create truly unique pieces. Watercolors are a water soluble paint with transparent properties that allows for a fluidity of layers of color which result in subtle shades within those layers. While many artists might claim watercolors are purely for watercolor paper, I am here to tell you that is not the case and paper is only just the beginning…


Now you might find yourself saying “well who are you to tell me what’s right or wrong?”, which is a fair wonder to have; so let me give you a little overview of why I know this to be true. My name is Ashley and I am the owner of a small woodburning business named firecrafted serenity (@firecrafted_serenity for those who want to go check out my page for themselves). Being in this business for over two and a half years has only made me want to broaden my expertise within this craft. In this never ending search of knowledge I have found one thing to be true… 


Watercolors are for so much more than just watercolor paper. They can turn the simplest of woodburnings to a masterpiece and a stunning work of art to something entirely out of this world. Watercolors have many uses on wood - from adding a focal point to a wood burning, giving it a new dimension to a wide variety of colors, all gorgeously shiney adding new depths to the woodburnt pieces. While many assume water might ruin the wood, that is where they go wrong. Adding a touch of water mixed with a touch of color only lightly absorbs into the surface level of the piece and with proper dry time, no water is ever apparent. Pre-sealing the wood is another common misconception one might have when it comes to wood burning and watercolors. While every artist must decide what kind of effect they want out of their watercolors, pre-sealing the wood can actually diminish the effect of watercolor acting as a color ‘stain’. This stain effect can actually be super beautiful and be built on layer by layer, adding more color each time in doing so. As shown in this photo, using watercolor as a ‘wood stain’ creates a unique way of coloring your work without losing the wood grain beneath. 


For the purposes of these blog posts, I will always be specifically talking about Smiling Hippo watercolors (and will name the used colors/palette when I am able). Adding an extra drop of water to these pigmented homemade watercolors, allows for more control in how much color you’re adding to your wood pieces and furthers the beautiful effect watercolors add to wood. 

In this example, I wanted to show you the true visual difference alone in how adding watercolors of various layers impacts the piece. Starting off, you have your blank canvas of a woodburning design. In this example, I have a little mandala design woodburnt out, just begging for smiling hippo watercolors to be added! While this blank piece is still beautiful, it has so much potential that is untapped without the added color.

Taking the time to delicately add color to the parts of the mandala, starts to breathe a new life into the piece. In the photo above, you can see how color has started to be added, noticing the different use of colors and shades of colors. Pictured above is “Cloud 9,” a beautifully pigmented blue that has a shine unlike any other I have used and made the middle of the mandala pop! Something I constantly remind myself during the creation process and any other artists I connect with is to “trust the process.” You are going to second guess the end result or if it looks good, as I did with the piece pictured above. That is A-okay!! But remember to trust the process, trust the vision (or no vision) you have and just see what magic happens! 

As you learn how watercolors behave on wood and the manner in which they interact with the grain of the wood, you will get better at controlling the color and layering or mixing them as well. Start off with something simple like a mandala, and fill it in with all different types of colors and glittered colors. Play with mixing them and break out of your comfort zone! 


Once all filled in, making note of some needing more layers of color then others, you start to gain the appreciation of how watercolor can change a simple piece into a true work of art. I layered color after color to get the same shine on each mandala petal for a cohesive overall look. I decided I wanted different focal points within the piece which is why I mixed light with darks within the flower as well. This piece was all about experimenting for me and seeing how the mystery samples would blend with one another! Overall I think it turned out better than I could have expected, however it is not done just yet. The final step with any watercolor on wood is to seal it. Watercolor being water soluble means even the slightest bit of moisture could make the color run or fade so sealing it in prevents this from happening. I personally find it is always a good idea to seal all burnings to protect the integrity of the art but with watercolor it is a MUST. The best sealant to use with these watercolors is polyurethane in light layers, making sure to let it dry fully between each layer. Once sealed, your piece is good to go and you can show it off!


Without breaking these commonly believed myths about art forms, we limit our possibilities before we even get started. Think of how far you can go using all of the available colors and the way mixing those into burnt pieces opens up a whole new world. Grab your nearest piece of wood and start experimenting for you never know where it will take you and what you’ll discover! Whether you add a ton of color like the piece above or just a pop of color, it adds so much more to them. Get experimenting friends!

 


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