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Watercolor and Gouache on Claybord

Discovering the Most Versatile Surface for Watermedia
Watercolor and Gouache on Claybord Textured™ - An Illustrated Demonstration by Stephen Quiller

Since the late 1960s, I have been painting in watermedia. By nature, I am fairly experimental, painting with watercolor, gouache, acrylic and casein applied to a variety of supports including paper, canvas and Masonite™.

In the last few years, I have been working with a fairly new support called Claybord Textured™ and am now using it for many of my studio works, including some large paintings. This unique support is a 1/8" hardboard panel that is coated with soft, absorbent kaolin clay. When a medium such as watercolor is applied to the clay, the paint takes on a beautiful and luminous visual quality. Subsequent layers of paint can be applied as well, even with very heavy impastos. Ampersand Art Supply, the manufacturer, produces a number of different surfaces for art purposes, and the one I use most often is Claybord Textured™. I have chosen this support for many reasons:

  • It is archival, pH-neutral and acid-free.
  • The clay surface accepts the paint beautifully.
  • The board is very sturdy.
  • The surface is very forgiving, and soluble paint such as watercolor and gouache lift easily.
  • The surface is most versatile for watermedia.
  • The surface can retain a watermedia look.

I have painted this small beaver pond during the summer, autumn and into early winter for many years. I am inspired by the rhythm of the aspen patterns that surround the water, their leaves and reflections. Using watercolor and gouache on Claybord Textured™ for this study gives me the freedom to paint through and lift back to white aspen shapes rather than carefully painting around each tree or branch.

I did the finished study in watercolor to complete the aspen bark and textures. Then, I used a slightly neutralized whitish-blue opaque gouache to paint the snow patterns around the water pockets.

I added the aspen reflections with transparent watercolor. I like the visual qualities of both the transparent and opaque media; the solid opaque sets off the vibrant transparent color. The Claybord Textured™ surface makes it easy to play with these mediums. This is primarily an orange and blue complementary color scheme.

I used a variety of Jack Richeson series 7000 flat and round brushes.


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