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Sunday, October 18, 2009

Kids Art: A Study in Masking

In the beginning, paints were just paints in my tender mind. Then around middle school, I discovered poster paints, watercolors, fabric paints/acrylics, oils; and, crayons weren't just crayons anymore, oil pastels, charcoal and such entered into my toolbox.

frisket liquid mask watercolor technique maskingBut, I didn't quite learn about how to get the best out of the various mediums until I also learnt about the various art papers available.

And then, I promptly got busy with getting my education and set aside anything that wasn't directly required for it.

A dozen-odd years ago, life opened up that door which I thought might remain permanently shut for me. The accessibility of library books and art supplies kindled my interest enough to start learning some simple watercolor techniques.

I used to meticulously do the practice exercises in the book, step by step, to get some sense for the power of subtly executed watercolors. Flat wash, graded wash, wet-in-wet, dry brush, masking, wax resist...

It is quite a challenging medium to master, for me at least, and am still in basic lesson 1, it feels like...

Masking is a basic technique in watercolor where selected areas are masked off first so the light/white of the scene can be preserved. Simple as that. Nothing to get excited about, or so I thought...

Usually, latex-based masking liquid (frisket) is used, which can be brushed on like paint into the areas we need to preserve, and allowed to dry. I remember using it for some Still-life exercises.

Once it is dry, the scene can be completed without worrying about colors running into those areas. When done, just rub with hand and the mask peels off leaving a crisply preserved white/light space.

Wax resist is another watercolor technique, as in batik dyeing for fabrics, that is easy to do but requires a bit of planning to get the most out of it. Crayons or plain candle wax can be used to preserve certain areas in the scene, but, as opposed to masking, the wax stays in the canvas and integrates with the painting usually.

I was interested in introducing Ana to a simple masking technique. I liked the idea of the mask coming off to reveal the white space preserved in the canvas after covering the areas with arbitrary shapes and then painting over as usual.

masking tape watercolor technique masking kids art

Rather than start with the slightly more expensive masking liquid, we used the good old masking tape which comes in many widths and colors. I had ¾ inch handy as it is quite useful, so we decided to work with it. It is designed for this purpose - and goes on easy, comes off easy.

Scotch tape - the magic/invisible kind that doesn't rip the paper off when removing - might work, but, I prefer masking tape. At about a dollar a roll for a fairly huge roll it is quite inexpensive, and has other uses around the house, especially for D.

And, as this is just a study, we didn't use the expensive watercolor paper, just card stock.

Items used: watercolors, paint brush, water, masking tape, card stock (or water color paper if handy), mini/travel blow-dryer (optional)

kids art watercolor masking technique

At first, to illustrate, I applied masking tape to the edges of the canvas and asked Ana to color as she liked. Then, to speed things up I used the blow dryer to dry off the watercolor. Then, showed Ana how to carefully remove the masking tape.

She seemed suitably impressed. So, I started a window pane pattern of mask for her and she went with it.

After that, she seemed keen on doing her own - to tape off patterns on her little canvas and paint away. It was interesting to sit back and watch her work confidently.

Being just 4½, I didn't want overload her, but she seemed have a lot of fun in the process... and, her genuine, "Wow! This is cool, Amma!" convinced me that such indulgences as these are worthwhile.

I am sure we'd be revisiting this technique on and off... maybe make non-straight-edged shapes (thinking pinking shears) for masking, then start on non-linear masking areas on the canvas and graduate to more intricate patterns... Oh, the possibilities!

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At 8:39 PM, Blogger sathish said...

wow! that was really nice. the fact that you started practicing exercises definitely gives me also a lot of impetus to work towards that..

At 5:25 AM, Blogger Lavs said...

you never cease to amaze me. I am yet to meet this multitalented person. Now I am kicking myself for letting go of that opportunity!!

Hope you had a good diwali

At 3:29 PM, Blogger Sheela said...

Nice to hear from you, Satish! From the few glimpses I have of your sketches, I am looking forward to your relief-style artwork in your upcoming debut publication - possibly in the fantasy children's lit. genre :)

Lavs, Thanks! Too bad I missed the opp. to meet you - well, this gives me something to look fwd to in my next trip!


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