Painting: Water Colour Vs Tempera

Water Colour

Water colour paint is a unique and interesting medium. This is useful to know if shopping for an art print on canvas. It should not be confused with tempera, which is sometimes mixed using water. Water colour is a translucent medium. This means that pencil marks and dry paint from earlier sessions can be seen through recent layers of water color. This unique quality of water color makes it a natural for such things as creating paintings of water, including rainy days seen from a window.

As a wash, which is pigment mixed with a great deal of liquid, water color paint can create a light colored sky, the main colour of forest or field, or the surging surface of an ocean. More thickly mixed paint can be blown or patted over the still-wet surface and allowed to blend naturally. This quality of water color gives a more liquid appearance to a painting, while at the same time creating a surprise element for the artist since it is not always easy to control.

Water colour can be mixed thickly, so that it is nearly opaque and used to brush on lettering designs. It can also be dry brushed over previous applications of paint to create grass, leaves or shading. A tooth-brush can be dipped in the surface of thick water color, and then scraped with a stick to create a spatter effect. This is best done with stencils to help control the location of the spatter.

Crayons can be used with water color to create and effect known as a resist. Details of a picture can be drawn on a surface. Because the crayons are wax, they will resist the water paint, causing it to bead up and roll to another part of the picture. This is a great way to do trees, fields and even some animal pictures. The technique can also be used when decorating eggs with young children for spring holidays. Egg dye is, by its nature, a type of water color. Even when tempered with vinegar, it will still roll off the crayon marks. In fact this is the basis for the making of the beautiful Ukranian Pysanky eggs. Beginning with a clean white egg shell, designs are drawn on the shell using plain wax or a white crayon. A layer of dye is added, then more wax, until the complete design is finished. This same principle is also used in creating batique patterns on fabric.

Water colour is a good first paint for children. Although not 100% non-toxic, it is a fairly forgiving medium. It will usually wash out of clothing, which is an important point for young artists who manage to paint themselves as well as their paper. Red and black may sometimes leave stubborn stains, so it is a good idea to soak the fabric in cold water, then apply a bit of pre-wash stain remover before laundering.

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Tempera paint is not as forgiving a medium as water color. However, it allows students to experience the difference between translucent and opaque paints. Although it can sometimes be mixed with water, it tends to stick better if it is mixed with a paint medium, egg yolks or oil. If mixing with anything besides water, the artist should be prepared for some stain possibilities. Send a note home with students before embarking upon  project that may involve a lot of mess, giving parents a chance to plan to send their child to school in play clothes rather than something that will be a problem if it gets a stain. If possible, use paint aprons. Head and arm holes cut in plastic bags make good impromptu paint aprons.

Good picture types for tempera paints are bold impressionist-style paintings or Mondrian pictures. Tempera that is mixed with egg or oil has good sticking qualities, and modern paint powders maintain vivid colors  It is a good idea to do most of the paint mixing before the students arrive, and the instructor should work in a well-ventilated area. Avoid breathing the tempera powder while mixing the paint, as some health problems have been associated with this.

If the art room does not have running water, have some containers of water, a container for waste water, and a couple of tubs for washing hands and brushes after the project is over. If the budget allows, preserve a few of the students’ efforts as an art print on canvas. Imagine what a conversation piece it would make for parents!

WORDS BY:Geoff Jackson works for Fotoviva Art Prints, a leading supplier of canvas prints in the UK.