Most large original paintings are rendered on stretched canvas or linen. However, it is possible to paint very large watercolor paintings on paper, as I did with my raccoon painting.
First, buy a roll of 100% rag watercolor paper, at least 140 lb paper with a rough finish. Cold press is also OK, but I prefer a rough finish. It is more forgiving when the artist wants to make changes as the painting progresses.
First, the roll of paper must be 42 to 51 inches wide or tall. The roll of paper must be ten yards long. The length of the roll allows you to do several paintings that would be 42 to 50 inches in one dimension and several feet, as wide as you want in the other.
One of my large originals is 38”x 78”. First, I cut the 1/8” fiber board to the size I need, in this case, 38”x78”. Then, I cut three pieces of the watercolor paper the same size as the board.. You can use an inexpensive paper for the first two pieces of paper.
Then, I paint YES glue on the board. YES glue is archival and really sticks great. You do need to mix the glue with a small amount of warm water and mix it to the consistency of cream.
After coating the board, fill the bathtub with a foot of warm water. Then take the first roll of the cut WC paper and submerge it in the tub for a few minuets. Roll the paper a few times to make certain that it has been completely saturated.
Then, take the wet roll of paper by each end and tip it and allow it to drain off the excess water.
Then with a helper, start at one end and roll the paper on to the board, carefully making sure that it is even on all edges.
After the first sheet of paper is rolled onto the glue, take a dampened paint roller and carefully roll out all the bubbles.
After that, wait five or ten minuets, then do the same thing again, painting the glue on the first sheet of paper.
Finally do the same thing again with the final watercolor paper, this time using the more costly paper.
Then, with a helper, after laying down two sheets of Kraft paper on the floor, Turn the board over, face down on the floor. Weight it down with every thing you have with at least 100 lbs of weight evenly distributed over the whole board.
Leave it weighted for at least two days. Then, using gesso, paint the whole back of the board. Weight it down again. Wait one day, Then glue wooden braces to the whole outside edge and then every two feet or so to the back of the painting. Use fir or structural lumber NOT pine as tremendous forces will be generated by the paper as it dries. Weight it down again for two more days. Then, screw corner braces to all corners and the center braces also gluing them first. Weight it down again for one day. Then paint it all again on the back with gesso. Weight it down again for one day.
Then turn the board over with a helper. It will be somewhat heavy now. Put two large easels side by side and put the board on them using picture wire to hold it to the easels.
Next, plan the painting.
I will discuss getting the painting composition worked out in my next blog.
We enjoyed the nightly visits of the raccoons on our deck for most of the summer. I put water out on the deck in the dish pan. We thought that feeding them would allow us to take some photos for a raccoon painting. Each evening, the raccoons would come up on the deck, splash around in the water and get wet.
One evening, we had the door open a little later than usual. Our little dog, Cassie the Papillion was out on the deck enjoying the evening. Suddenly, she started barking and then yelping.
I raced outside to the deck and saw a swarm of fur. Cassie was mixed up in the middle of six baby raccoons, trying to escape back to the safety of the house. The mother raccoon was a bit confused as to which one was the small dog and which were her babies. That was lucky for Cassie, as she did not get injured; only scared. And so ended Cassie’s brief experience as a baby raccoon.
After returning from a trip, we were surprised to find a mother raccoon on our deck. We knew she was a mom because she had six adorable baby raccoons with her. They were tiny bundles of fur and very cute.
I proceeded to take many photos and enjoyed the frolicking raccoons for many weeks thereafter, all the while thinking they might become the subject of a raccoon painting.
We got to know the different raccoons after a while and saw that each one was unique and had different personalities.
The babies were very trusting and would come up to the French door and press their nose to the glass. I had a plastic dish pan that had water in it. It was hilarious to watch the babies all try to fit in at once.