Saturday, September 29, 2018

Large Scale Watercolors: Part 3, trimming the stretched paper

We finished building the substrates for the huge watercolors! Thanks to Aspen Ski Co for letting me build in the Pines Locker Room at Highlands, we could not have even contemplated this project without the gift of a clean, dry, large, open space.

Here are the final touches to finish stretching watercolor paper onto a 4' x 7' substrate, and a tally of cost, days and man hours. To see the entire process, scroll down for the previous two posts.

After pulling the plastic off of the top sheet, offset the top board by 2" at least on two sides so you can cut cleanly. When we pulled the plastic off, the paper was still damp in the center, but was dry around the edges, so it could be cut. 

Press the paper down along the edges to make the crease into a guide that you will cut along.

Cut a notch out of one side so you have a clean edge to follow. Use a NEW blade every TWO cuts to get the best, cleanest cut possible. 

With medium speed consistent movement, cut along the edge of the substrate following the crease you made in the paper. The trick to a clean cut is getting the knife to run in one long smooth movement. 

The finished product! Clean, crisp, supported watercolor paper trimmed neatly to the edges.
We ended up with seven usable panels, only TWO of which were flawless, the rest have corners here and there which pulled up and which will need re-soaking, gluing and pressing. The trick to this one is to make sure that the paper is trimmed to within 2" once it is mounted and before it dries. Excess paper curling off the edge made the corners and edges peel away even in the press. The other problem we encountered was not making the paper wet enough. The two panels which were perfect were the last two we mounted paper to, and the paper was very wet.

Final Expenses:

$240 MDF
$256 Sheet Metal
$325 Paper
$200 Misc Supplies at ACE Hardware (drop cloths, painter's tape, exacto and blades, rollers, trays, bondo, sandpaper, shop towels etc)
$35 gesso
$29 PVA glue

Total expenses: $1085 (not including paint, brushes and stuff to make the actual art work)
Per panel: $136

Man Hours: about 46 hours of work spread over four sessions spanning two weeks. (Two 48 hour drying times for metal to wood and paper to gesso'd metal, plus life interrupting.)

I would like to say a HUGE thank you to Megan and Hags and Katie for putting their heads together to come up with a space for me to work, to Tom and Carlie for donating over 20 hours of work to this project, to Ethan and Bodhi for diligently helping lift, cary, sort, sand, spray and what have you. This project took five of us to do easily and was a lot of fun.

Pros: This is about 1/3 of the cost of doing this on large pre-fabbed aluminum substrate panels.
Cons: Time is double the investment at least, the panels are about twice as heavy as they would be if they were aluminum composite.

Did you give this a try in your own work? Let us know what you did and how it went!

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