Salt of the Earth: Watercolors and Salt

I can't really show you what I'm working on at the moment, but I can share an aspect of it with you...

Probably one of my favourite art supplies has to be salt: just plain old sea salt.

I use it to create texture in my watercolours. When you sprinkle salt onto a wet watercolour wash, and then let it dry, you get the most amazing mottled textures. The salt crystals absorb the surrounding water, and push away the pigment, creating differently shaped white patches on the paper. When done in layers, it can create the most amazing depth of texture. I usually apply the salt in at least 3 or 4 layers.

It is very important to let the paper dry after each layer. Above you see the wet wash drying, with the salt on the paper. I seems to me that salt also makes the water dry slower. It's a great excuse for surfing the net while working in my studio. [I'm watching paint dry... honest!]

Once the wash is dry, use a large, soft brush to brush the used salt away. Sometimes it actually gets stuck to the paper, and you have to pull a few crystals off with your fingernails.

I've just discovered that the salt you have to crush by hand in a mill creates the largest crystal patterns on the paper, as the salt crystals are so much larger.

It is really, really fun to experiment with different ways of making marks on paper. Below you see a comic I did for a newspaper utilizing the salt technique.

And, here's a quote for you to think about while you're working in your studios:

The cure for anything is salt water -- sweat, tears, or the sea.

Isak Dinesen