Monday, December 28, 2009

Frozen watercolours




Living in a cold winter climate, sub zero temperatures are usually the norm for the long winter months and I'm not a winter person.  However, I have decided that rather than fight winter, I will make use of it in creating my art. This is the rationale behind creating images using frozen watercolours.

I had read some time ago about someone using ice crystals as a technique in watercolour and thought that I'd experiment and see what I could come up with.  Early this morning while it was still cold enough I wet a piece of watercolour paper and added pigment, then  while it was still very wet, put it outside in the garden.  I weighted the edges with stones so it wouldn't blow away, then after about 30 minutes or so, I went out to see what nature had painted for me.

Ice crystals had formed beautiful, delicate, feathery patterns on the wet paper, pulling the pigment into the shapes and blending them.  I took the paper inside to let it dry completely and this image is the result. If you click on the image, you can enlarge it to see the pattern more clearly. I have deepened the colours a little so that the patterning stands out.  I tried a few more pieces, but the temperature rose today and it wasn't cold enough to freeze the water on the paper.  I also put a piece in the freezer, but that didn't have the desired effect.  Air and natural cold seems to work best.  There is scientific research behind how ice crystals grow and at what temperatures at A Snow Crystal Primer.  This morning's temperature was around -2 or -3C so it will be interesting to see what changes in shape take place as the temperature drops.
For example, we see that thin plates and stars grow around -2 C (28 F), while columns and slender needles appear near -5 C (23 F).  Plates and stars again form near -15 C (5 F), and a combination of plates and columns are made around -30 C (-22 F).   
Furthermore, we see from the diagram that snow crystals tend to form simpler shapes when the humidity (supersaturation) is low, while more complex shapes at higher humidities.  The most extreme shapes -- long needles around -5C and large, thin plates around -15C -- form when the humidity is especially high.

I now have to wait until New Year's Eve when the daytime and night time temperatures are predicted to be well below freezing again.  Just when I want it to be cold, it won't cooperate! But that's ok, it will give me time to plan various pieces with this new technique.

19 comments:

Billie Crain said...

Well, this certainly answers my question. This is awesome! I gotta try this myself! Our temps have been well below freezing since Xmas Day with colder temps in the forecast so it should work. Love your idea AND your results, Jeanette!

Jeanette said...

Isn't it neat Billie? I can't wait to see your results. Bet you're putting a piece outside tonight... :)

Billie Crain said...

I can't tonite.:( We've had high winds and blizzard conditions with more in the forecast tonite. Was it snowing when you put your paper out? I think the only day we aren't supposed to get snow is Wednesday but the temps will continue to fall so hopefully I'll get some intersting results then.

Jeanette said...

No, it wasn't snowing when I put my paper out. I think it would work best on a cold clear day or night.

Jo Castillo said...

Very neat and interesting. Doubt I will ever get to try that. Beautiful. You do try different techniques!

Cathy Gatland said...

That's amazing Jeanette - another facet of wonderful watercolour. I won't be able to try this either, except possibly in about 6 months time at around 4am when the temperature occasionally drops to those levels. Look forward to seeing how you apply this.

Julie Broom said...

Hi Jeanette, this is wonderful! You do post the most fantastic ideas. I must have a go!

Jennifer Rose said...

that is so cool :D I'm going to have to try this if it gets cold enough tonight (of course its supposed to warm up now :/)

Jan Pope said...

Me too! I will be trying this soon. We're supposed to have some 20's degree nights around the first of the year. I'll be up early trying your techique. I'm thinking about using some masking fluid around a drawing and letting the frozen watercolors become a background. Have you tried it with dark colors to see if you get gradations? Thanks for posting this. I have wondered about this kind of thing for a while.

Laureline said...

Wow! I'm going to try this this weekend!!! You are always trying something new and interesting! This is beautiful.

Valerie Jones said...

This is awesome! Thanks for sharing this with us. I'll have to try it sometime.

tracywall said...

How interesting is this?!?!?!?!? You are one of the most resourceful artists I know!

I'm no watercolorist, but you can bet I'll be trying this in these cold Colorado nights! Thank you so much for all that you share!

Jeanette said...

Thanks for all the comments on this technique. I am so pleased that so many of you will be trying this as well and I'd love to see your work when you do.

I only had time to do this one piece as the temperature warmed up and it hasn't been below freezing since. Now I'm waiting and planning and waiting for it to turn colder. Tomorrow and the next they say.

I'm sure there are many ideas floating around with this one. Masking off sections and letting the ice crystalized section become the background (or vice versa) would be just one of them.

black bear cabin said...

very pretty...what a great way to brighten the winter blahs away! I should have tried that her a few weeks ago when we had two weeks of Super Chilly temperatures. Well, i guess we always have January :)

Pat said...

Hi Jeanette, Happy New Year!
I have my piece of paper in the freezer right now. That's about as close to freezing whether I am every going to see. I will let you know how it works out. Other than having to make it flat, I won't have to worry about wind.
I am so glad I found your blog. Thank you for this year’s posts and your wonderful art work. Your blog has brightened my year.
Hugs
Pat

Sorcha said...

Wow, it looks like you painted a pile of feathers, and the technique is so unique (sorry I really didn't mean to rhyme there).

Do you think if you timed it right you could capture actual snowflake imprints?

Jeanette said...

blackbear cabin, I'm sure there will be no shortage of colder temperatures to practice this with!

Thanks Pat. Happy New Year! I hope your experiment with the freezer worked out, do let me know. My freezer wasn't cold enough I don't think.

Sorcha, I don't know about snowflake capture, perhaps if they were big enough, but it would likely just be a blob on the paper when it hit the liquid water.

Your temps would be perfect to experiment with other crystal formations. I shall have to get you playing with it!

Chris Beck said...

Very intriguing!! Almost makes me wish I still lived in Wisconsin!! I wonder what would happen if you masked off part of it and used this technique as a background for a still-life or something similar -- would masking fluid survive freezing?

Jeanette said...

Chris, I'm working on something now that uses this technique as part of the image.

I didn't mask anything in it, just working around it, but I don't see why masking wouldn't work as it doesn't take that long to freeze the surface water.