Saturday, October 8, 2011

How to create Gallery Wrapped Watercolours... a step by step guide.

Many of you have been asking me how I create a gallery wrapped watercolour so I hope this blog entry will give you the information you need to have a try yourself. Its enormous fun and has been very popular with buyers.

First select the size of individual stretcher bars that you want for your painting. Individual stretcher bars can be purchased easily from most art retail outlets e.g. Currys, Dick Blick, Dan Smith, at a very reasonable price in many different lengths.


Assemble the individual stretcher bars together and then smooth off the corners with a file so there are no sharp edges.

Seal the wood on all sides that the paper will come into contact with using the varnish. This will prevent any chemicals from the wood affecting the paper in any way. I use a roller to apply the varnish quickly and evenly but you can use a brush if you would rather.


Cut a piece of acid free foam board exactly the same size as the stretcher bars. Use some double sided sticky tape to secure the foam board to the stretcher bars as in the photo below.

Make sure you have a staple gun ready filled with staples (you don’t want to run out half way through the process) and a large bowl of water and a brush


Cut your paper to size. I use Arches 140lb cold press.  It will need to be 4 inches bigger than the stretcher bars both in length and width for the Standard 7/8" Profile stretcher bars. This is to allow for enough paper to fold over the side of the bars and onto the back. (If you are using the deeper gallery style stretcher bars, profile approximate 1.5" depth and width, allow 6 inches extra paper.)  On the back of the paper mark a line two inches in on each edge for the standard 7/8 profile stretcher and 3 inches for the gallery style’. This will give you a guide for where to place the stretcher frame once your paper is soaked.

Stretch your paper. Many people stretch the paper in a bathtub or sink. I simply create a puddle of water on a table that my paper sits in for about 5 -10 minutes. If you choose this method simply choose an appropriate surface to work on and then pour the water on the front of your painting. Use the brush to evenly spread the water around. After a couple of minutes carefully turn the paper over and wet on the other side. Your paper should now be standing in a pool of water. Let it soak there for a further 5 minutes.


Place the stretcher frame on top of the paper lining it up with your markings. Because the paper has stretched the rectangle you created on the back will be slightly larger than your frame so just place the frame evenly within these guideline markers. Fold over the two long sides and secure in the middle with a staple.


Repeat with the short sides. This will just help to avoid uneven stretching of the paper. When you fold the edges over pull tightly but don’t over pull (the paper will shrink during the drying process and do the tightening for you)


Generously staple along both long sides



Carefully remove the staple on one of the short sides and fold the edges as in the photo below


Fold over and staple the short edge.


Repeat the above folding and stapling steps with the other short side.


Alternatively you can make a small cut in the paper and fold as shown in the photo below


Then staple the side as before.

Once all sides are stapled turn the ‘canvas’ over and use some paper towel to soak up any excess water.

Remove the paper towel and leave your ‘canvas’ for 24 hours to completely dry before painting.
Then have fun. You will have all the joy of painting on the paper you love that behaves as you expect it but the finished look of a canvas without the need to mat and frame under glass or acrylic. Don’t forget to paint the sides too for that real gallery wrapped effect.



Once you have finished your painting and the paper is completely dry, fix the painting with a fixative such as Prismacolor fixative and allow to dry as per instructions on the can. (make sure you use well ventilated room for this or preferably fix outside as the fumes from the fixative as very overpowering)

Then varnish the paper with an acrylic varnish such as liquitex satin varnish. You usually need to apply about 2 or 3 coats of varnish to create a smooth varnished look.



Once dry you are now ready to hang your painting. Or alternatively you can frame the painting using a canvas floater frame.

Have fun and please don't forget to share any gallery wrappped paintings you do this way with me. I would love to see them!

Ona

28 comments:

  1. Wow, thanks for this great information. Don't know if I'll ever try this but it's sure is interesting. I'd have never thought this could be done. Awesome!

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  2. Ona, thank you SO much! I am going to try this out for myself, as I love the look of the gallery wrap, and no glass to deal with!!
    Linda

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  3. Very nice tutorial Ona .. I can hardly wait to make some of these..Thank you for doing this for us.. You are so talented !!
    Carol

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  4. Thank you so much Ona, I'll definately give this a try very soon.

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  5. Looking forward to seeing all of your gallery wraps:)If you do one send me an e mail to let me know ona@onak.ca :)

    Ona

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  6. Ona, this is the best explanation I have seen of this process (there are several on You Tube, etc). None that I have seen have thought of sealing the stretchers, nor of packing with foam core. I am sending a couple of shots of efforts I produced before reading your blog entry. I will now change my procedure! Thank you.

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  7. Thank you Tony. I felt it was important to create something that was more durable and would last which is why I have chosen the method I use. Thanks for sending photo's of your efforts with the preveious method. I would love to hear your thoughts once you have tried this way. Please pass this link onto to any fellow artists too.

    Ona

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  8. how fascinating. thanks for this info. You might even get me back into watercolours with this idea!

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  9. I am SO excited to give this a try!! Thanks for laying it out in simple directions so that people like me, who don't build anything, might be able to do it!

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  10. I hope so Jackie:)

    Yes, have a try Alisha. Its great fun!

    Ona

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  11. Thank you Ona for sharing. I was very much interested in pursuing this approach to watercolors. This is the most complete explanation I have seen for preparing the support.

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  12. Hi Alex, I'm glad you found it useful. Hope you will share some photo's of your gallery wrapped painting with me if you do one.

    Ona

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  13. Omgoodness you have such precision in your work. I am impressed. thank you for your generous spirit in showing this how-to
    Lyn

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  14. Ona, I've gone over yopur detailed instructions and there's one thing missing for me. The watercolor paper is folded over the back and stapled into place. How do you finish the back side. Do you paint and varnish it as well?? Or is it left in its original state
    Thanks

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  15. The stretcher bars are varnished before hand and the paper is stapled onto the back once its been folded. I then tape the edges to the wood with acid free tape. The edges are painted and varnished but not all of the back.

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  16. Ona, Thanks for your explanation. This acid free tape, what brand and where does one buy it from.
    thanks

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  17. most major art stores have it in stock. Just ask for white acid free artists tape, or google acid free artists tape.

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  18. I am very interested in trying this. framing is so expensive and i have a wall to fill oppisite a bank of windows that I liked to not have a reflection.

    I was wondering tho, I've never seen it done this way with the foam board. I love that to give extra support while working, but does the foan board ever warp from being wet?

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  19. Hi Carmella. It doesnt really warp much at all on the small to medium sized ones that I have done

    Ona

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  20. Ona
    Whats happening to this approach of varnishing watercolors. There was quite a bit of interest initially but it seems to have died down.
    Are you still varnishing some of your watercolors and are you still going to release a DVD of your method
    Thanks

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  21. Hi Alex,

    Yes, I still do some of my paintings using this method ad offer it as a option for commissions which is popular. I had a busy time this past fall so am just starting to work on the DVD/video now.

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  22. This is exactly the information I was looking for but I am wondering if you can stretch WC paper over a blank primed canvas?

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    1. You can do and I know of several artists who have but two have reported to me that their paper cracked after a couple years. I can't report personally though as I have never tried wrapping over canvas

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  23. Fascinating! I really enjoyed reading about this process. I just might try it some day. Thank you.

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  24. Oh my goodness. So beautiful. You've just saved me a bundle! Thank you so much for sharing. I discovered a thread about this in the Wet Canvas forum and then followed up by searching for you in Google. Gathering supplies for a fresh start in beloved watercolors!

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    1. Glad it was useful Tina. I don't tend to do it often but its great to offer for commissions :)

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