The above painting was done on a surface that I kind of made up myself. I have long admired paintings done on backgrounds that have been disturbed in some way, maybe by other mediums or by textures added with paper, etc. I studied several different journal artists’ videos and a couple of water media artists’ videos in order to come up with this. I like backgrounds with glued-in and sanded papers but was not able to come up with a background that the watercolor worked easily on. Those backgrounds seem to require some use of acrylics, also. I wanted to avoid that since I teach watercolor and I wanted my students to be able to experiment with this.
If you are interested, I have outlined the steps we took for creating a grunge background for our portraits.
We began by splattering or brushing on coffee. We dried this stage with a hairdryer before moving to the next application.
Next, we splattered and brushed on gesso. We did this in two different ways. We watered down some of the gesso 50/50. That was so the marks would only partially show through the watercolor pigment. We, then, applied some of the gesso straight, knowing that our paint would slide off of it and reveal the white of the gesso. We then dried this, completely, before moving to the next stage.
In the next step, we watered down waterproof black ink and splattered that onto the paper. We could soften some of these marks by spritzing them with a spray bottle. This stage is better when you follow the less is more policy. Allow this stage to dry completely before proceeding.
After preparing the surface, we all looked for a portrait that might work well with the background we had come up with. We chose portraits just because it is a portrait class we are in right now. This kind of background would work for any subject. Once we found our portrait reference we wanted to use, we turned our splattered paper around until we found the best imagery in the splatter for what we wanted to paint on it. Note that I turned my paper around 180 degrees for my subject. We drew the portrait on in graphite.
The above is an example of my first washes. We just begin painting the portrait as we normally would.
When I arrived at this point, I began to make decisions about placing more darks and bringing the image of the toy and girl out of the background more. I really liked how the gesso and the ink added abstract effects that I had very little control over. We were able to go back in with gesso, coffee and ink if we wanted to. I was getting good results with just what I had. We also knew we could collage and use colored pencil or wax resist in areas we may need to.
The above is my finished portrait.
I hope this gives you something new to try or consider when you sit down to paint. I decided I would not be so hasty, in the future, to throw away a stained or soiled piece of watercolor paper. It may just be that it would add to a painting rather than detract!