Ask Our Expert

SAA PA Steve Williams is a mine of useful information about art techniques and products, and here he suggests some solutions to your artistic dilemmas

Q I was interested to see a product in the Home Shop catalogue called Aqua Fixative Spray for watercolours. Does this mean you can get away with no glass cover for watercolour paintings, as with oils and acrylics?
Sara Kionga-Kamau

A Fixative sprays are generally used to protect a painting, especially with pastels, where a couple of coats of thin sprayable lacquer helps seal the pastel particles to each other. When you use Fixative Spray on a watercolour, it’s for a similar reason, to protect the surface of the painting from finger marking and dust, with some protection against surface humidity. Fixative Spray can also be added to watercolour paints as a kind of medium, to ‘waterproof’ the painting, in much the same way as Gum Arabic, though care needs to be taken to maintain the brightness of the medium.

For both watercolour and pastel, the underlying reasons for ‘fixing’ the surface are to allow safer transportation and storage. However, this only offers temporary surface protection, and if you want to permanently protect your paintings - whatever the medium - you need to display them framed, under glass. Perhaps a better use for a watercolour fixative spray would be on the new watercolour canvases, which don’t need to be framed or mounted? Full details can be found in the Home Shop

 

Q I would like to try acrylic and have a lot of brushes which people have given me as presents. But most are sets bought from bargain stores – are these suitable for this medium, or can I use my watercolour brushes?
Mark Webster

A There is nothing wrong with cheap bargain store brushes to get you started, but you will soon find faults with some of these, because they generally use very coarse bristles which are not well bound into the metal ferrule, and this leads to an annoying loss of bristles. Also, the natural ‘spring’ is less than a better quality brush designed for use with acrylics. My advice would be to buy your brushes from a reputable supplier - you don't have to pay the earth for these, but they are a world apart from bargain store brushes, and if they have been designed for specific use they can be more confidently loaded with paint, and offer a better, smoother spread on the support.

I have ‘road tested’ the new SAA Acrylic Brushes, and found excellent results for loading, spring and smooth laying. But don’t use watercolour brushes with acrylic paints! They have finer bristles, suitable for use with water as a medium, and not the thicker, more sticky acrylic system. If watercolour brushes are used for acrylics, their fine tips will gradually get worn away, and eventually lose their spring because residual acrylic resin can cause the base of the bristles to matt together. Finally, don't throw out cheap bargain store brushes, but use them for mixing or for heavy impasto areas, to extend the life of your better quality acrylic brushes.

If you have a question for Steve, please email expert@saa.co.uk or write to Head Office marking your envelope ‘Ask our Expert’


Ask Our Expert

SAA PA Steve Williams is a mine of useful information about art techniques and products, and here he suggests some solutions to your artistic dilemmas

Q I was interested to see a product in the Home Shop catalogue called Aqua Fixative Spray for watercolours. Does this mean you can get away with no glass cover for watercolour paintings, as with oils and acrylics?
Sara Kionga-Kamau

A Fixative sprays are generally used to protect a painting, especially with pastels, where a couple of coats of thin sprayable lacquer helps seal the pastel particles to each other. When you use Fixative Spray on a watercolour, it’s for a similar reason, to protect the surface of the painting from finger marking and dust, with some protection against surface humidity. Fixative Spray can also be added to watercolour paints as a kind of medium, to ‘waterproof’ the painting, in much the same way as Gum Arabic, though care needs to be taken to maintain the brightness of the medium.

Fixative Spray can also be added to watercolour paints as a kind of medium, to ‘waterproof’ the painting, in much the same way as Gum Arabic, though care needs to be taken to maintain the brightness of the medium.

For both watercolour and pastel, the underlying reasons for ‘fixing’ the surface are to allow safer transportation and storage. However, this only offers temporary surface protection, and if you want to permanently protect your paintings - whatever the medium - you need to display them framed, under glass. Perhaps a better use for a watercolour fixative spray would be on the new watercolour canvases, which don’t need to be framed or mounted? Full details can be found in the Home Shop

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