Spencer Meagher’s tips on framing watercolors

Framing a watercolor painting without a mat or glass? How can that be successful? A watercolor needs to be protected.

I would like to share with my readers a concept Spencer Meagher picked up from notable artists at plein air events last summer. He said he would love to take credit for developing this; however, he met a couple watercolor painters out east who were already doing this with great success. He asked them if it hurt their sales, they said to the contrary. It actually helped their sales because it didn’t have the glare of the glass.
In a nutshell, this is his technique. To see Spencer’s art visit http://www.spencermeagher.com

1. Cut 300 lb watercolor paper or watercolor board to fit the frame, i.e. 16×20 inch.

2. Tape off your paper or board to create a white border (in lieu of using a mat) with a painter’s tape the desired width of faux mat. Painter’s tape is easier to remove without damaging the paper and if pressed firmly to the paper will make a good “seal” around the inner edge of the “mat.” The width of the tape can vary but for a 16×20 inch painting, usually a 2 inch tape creates a pleasing faux mat. If the colored tape distracts your eye, you can use strips of white contact paper around the edge of the piece to hide the painter’s tape while you paint and then remove it when you are finished.

3. Paint you watercolor on either 300 lb. watercolor paper or watercolor board. Anything lighter will buckle when you apply the fixative spray. Mirka glued her finished painting to foam core before she applied the fixatives and it buckled and lifted off the board so do not do this.

4. After thoroughly drying, usually less than an hour. Spray one coat with Krylon UV Archival Varnish. Spencer prefers gloss. Matte and satin will dull the painting after two coats. (Make certain it says for watercolor in the fine print.)

5. After first coat dries, (about 10 minutes) spray a second coat of Krylon in a different direction to make sure you get good coverage. As much as protecting the painting from UV rays you are also sealing the painting from the next step. You must make sure to get a good initial two coats.

6. Apply MinWax Polycrylic. It comes in spray or liquid quart and is available at Lowes. This coating is the water proofing aspect of the framing.
a) Spencer likes the spray because it minimizes the chance of lifting the watercolor paint (more on how to use the liquid later). Spray two coats in different directions, again to make sure you achieve a good sealing of the painting. Now you are all done and ready to frame in the usual way, but without a mat and glass or Plexiglas.
b) If you use the liquid quart version you have to roll it on in thin coats. Use a white 4 inch foam roller – white so you can see if you are picking up ANY residue of the watercolor paint. You don’t want to get any in your white mat area. Work very fast as this will dry in about two minutes. You want to avoid leaving any ridge where the acrylic squishes out at the edge of the roller. You get a heavier more protective coat with the roller, but it is a little more work than applying with a foam roller.

Spencer talked with the Kentucky Watercolor Society about entering a painting without a mat or Plexiglas. At the time he spoke to them they refused it but said they were going to re-evaluate and maybe allow it next year. Spencer thinks it is a coming trend in the watercolor arena.

2 thoughts on “Spencer Meagher’s tips on framing watercolors

  1. I actually watched him do this. He applied the final product with a brush application. I bought the spray can thinking it would be easier. I don’t think I shook the can long enough. It kind of spit out the product and consequently didn’t look as good as Spencer’s did! Defenitly practice before you try it on a final painting!

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