Getting a New Slant on Painting

Cheap Joe's Artist Tip: Getting a New Slant on Painting

By Christopher Schink Adapted from The Palette Magazine
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Watercolor is not easy to control. When painting, if you tip your board up high, the paint runs off the paper and onto your shoes; and, if you lay your paper flat, the paint settles into something that looks like toxic waste. In order to have some control, most painters have learned to tip their board at about a 20-30° angle, just enough to allow the paint to flow downhill a little without creating too much excite-ment. They'd rather be safe than sorry.

Almost all the professionals I know keep their paper and board at an angle close to vertical, probably for the same reasons I do: so they can better see what they're doing; so their students (if they teach) can see what they're doing; but, most of all, so they can achieve the maximum movement and intermingling of paint. And it does make painting an exciting event.

Here are some of the advantages and disadvantages of the different angles at which you can set your board.

Flat Angle Example

What's your angle?

Most beginning painters don't think much about the angle of their board. They just lay the paper on their dining room table, pull up a chair, and start painting. And if they lose control and everything settles into muddy puddles, they give it up and check to see what's on T.V.

Unless you're working very dry and careful-ly, keeping your board flat can lead to problems. When you add paint to wet areas, it will run in all directions creating "blooms" or backwashes. Try these alternatives.

45 Degree Angle Example

80-90 Degree Angle Example

Try varying the angle of your board


A Combination of Angles

You might try varying the angle of your board as you proceed through a painting, starting with it high to get the maximum flow of paint, then lowering it in stages to achieve greater control of smaller areas and details. Different angles are required for different techniques. I often lower my board to a 30° angle when I add glazes on top of my earlier washes. And I raise my board to 90° at regular intervals to judge the progress of my painting. Experiment with painting at different angles. If you don't have an easel and don't want to invest in one, you can use a large, cardboard box cut at a slope to hold your board. You could get a new slant on painting.

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