Close Shave

Today’s watercolor experiment:

I don’t know when the idea occurred to me. It was some time after I started using the rough-surfaced watercolor block. I thought, “Wouldn’t it be great to have a surface that was both rough and smooth in places?” I probably thought of this while I was shaving. I use an old fashioned safety razor that uses a double-edged blade.

So I started today’s watercolor with a shave – of the rough paper. It wasn’t as easy as I thought. Not like shaving, at any rate. The blade skipped around on the paper, missed places and gouged out chunks of the paper. Ok, the latter part was like shaving, a bit.

The insulted area of the paper encompassed a more or less diamond-shaped area in the center.


I am still enamored of the earth tones. I applied Van Dyke brown and yellow ochre to the dry, really rough surface.  Below the dry-brush earth-toned strokes, I painted in the greenish Prussian blue; above, the more red-toned cobalt blue.

After drying, I re-shaved the previously ‘smoothed’ surface and used burnt sienna to paint all but the apex of the diamond, to again expose the white of the paper.

Watercolor: Abstract - earth tone triangular shape surrounded by blues

9″x12″ 140# Rough Watercolor Block


This study began as an experiment with the surface medium. I wanted to see how modifying the substrate affected the final look of the watercolor. In this case, the granular, earth tone pigments were applied to the dry surface. The pigment did not soak into the shaved areas.

I can think of several other ways to experiment with modified surfaces. For example, I could pre-wet the shaved areas and apply non-granular pigments; I could add to the surface with gesso and combine the rough and smooth areas by that means.

Now I just have to think how this can expand my range of expression, which after all, is the name of the game.

2 thoughts on “Close Shave

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