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Wednesday, February 27, 2019

Framing Art Without Glass

Lately I’ve been looking into framing options. I don’t always want to use a mat, glass/acrylic. I am entering more shows that have oils and acrylics. These show do not have the same standards as watercolor societies and do not require a mat or glass/acrylic.

A word of WARNING…Most watercolor societies DO NOT allow a painting with any kind of varnish in a show. If you decide to explore these options you may not be able to enter the painting in a desired show…do your homework first!

After reading an article in Watercolor Artists Magazine I realized Claybord might have more possibilities that I thought. The product is made by Ampersand and has been around for a while. Claybord comes in a couple different surfaces.

Let me show you what I learned. I did two small pieces to explore the surface. I used the 5 x 7 Claybord, Textured. I used my inexpensive brushes since the surface felt rougher then watercolor paper. And the surface isn’t absorbent so I didn’t need a brush that held a lot of water.

The rooftop scene in Santa Barbara was done by wetting the Claybord first and letting the paint float on the surface in the same fashion as wet into wet. The surface does not absorb like watercolor paper and it takes longer for the surface to completely dry. It has interesting qualities that I like. 

 With the Persimmons I left a lot of the Claybord untouched and let the white of the Claybord exposed. I like how the paint moved on the surface and the colors remained bright. The surface has very little absorbency so the paint remains on the surface. It was easy to glaze on and get the results I wanted. I specially like how easy it was to lift paint and reclaim whites.

It’s important to seal the surface so the image has a barrier from the elements (dirt, smoke…) and light. I used KRYLON UV-Resistant, Acrylic Coating. I applied 3 or 4 coats. Let thoroughly dry between coats.
 In the video below you can see a side by side comparison of the matte and glossy finish.

You can stop here or go one step further.  My painting “Kettles & Cups” (below) has the addition of Dorland’s Wax. Read below…

When I want a special finish I use Dorland’s Wax. It is non-yellowing and adds a soft glow to the surface.

Step #1 Seal surface of painting with a couple light coats of UV-Resistant acrylic varnish
Step #2 Scoop out a small amount of wax with a lint free cloth and apply it in a circular motion.  As soon as your cloth "drags", scoop out more wax.
Step #3  Allow coat to dry 24 hours.
Step #4  Using a clean, dry and lint free cloth, buff the surface.  You'll see a very slight sheen.
Step #5 Apply a second coat, let dry 24 hours and buff to a slight sheen.

Kettles & Cups

There's a lot of information available on the internet when it comes to researching products. I won’t pretend to know it all but I can share what I’ve learned along the way.

Have you seen the April issue of Watercolor Artist Magazine? I have an article called "All Toned Up". You'll see my demonstration that became the painting above, "Kettles & Cups". Hope you check out the issue and read my complete article.
The painting was selected to be in the California Art Club, Gold Medal Exhibition. Opening reception this weekend. I've been busy!

Happy Painting!



  1. Thanks for the info, Brenda. I also want to try painting on clayboard. I have mounted a watercolor painting to a clayboard cradled panel using gel gloss, then protected it with Golden Archival Spray varnish. It turned out great, but as you pointed out, that kind of work is not eligible to be in a watercolor show. It's great for selling work, though, since the cradled panel eliminates the need for framing. I tried the Dorland's wax without much success. Maybe I wasn't doing it right. :-(

    1. Stevie, Which gel did you use to mount your painting to the Claybord cradle? I would like to try that, too.
      I've had wonderful results with Dorland's Wax. I wonder what happened with your piece. Was it put on too thick or not completely dry before buffing?

  2. Replies
    1. Elaine, Your always so positive. Love your feedback!

  3. I have painted on Aquaboard by Canson. Have you tried that?

    1. Nancy, I didn’t know Canson had an Aquabord. I only knew of Ampersand Aquabord.

  4. Hi're always so great at experimenting. Such a neat approach...and I hope to see this piece in person soon.

    1. Hi Sherry!
      Hope we get a chance to paint together...soon. My workshop schedule has been crazy busy.
      Happy Painting!

  5. Hi Brenda , this was a great article but I was wondering. They sell the clayboard cradled or flat so should I assume the the textured o e you used is the cradle ?
    Hope one day to take an out of town workshop with you.

    1. Claudia, I painted on the claybord surface. It also comes in a cradle. Ive seen other mount WC paper to the claybord.

  6. Brenda, I am new towatercolor but have been an oil painter for 50 years. I love much about watercolor but what I don't love is the lack of sheen to the finsined poduct. Just my preference. I just read about the wax application in this blog. Does that just apply to the clayboard paintings or could it be used on just paper? I am very adventurous and like to try new things and think outside the box. I am willing to give it a try.

    1. Juliette,
      YES..You can use it on watercolor paper. You'll still need to apply a UV spray/sealer. If the paper is lightweight you'll need to mount to a cradle or board.

  7. Brenda, your persimmons are gorgeous! I just painted a persimmon for the first time this morning. While it's not the best persimmon I'll ever paint, it will go up on my food blog in a couple weeks anyway!