Painting of Chocolate Point on Claybord

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Original Chocolate Point Cat Art

Chocolate Point Siamese on Floral Carpet

Acrylic on Textured Claybord

For this portrait of a Chocolate Point Siamese, I wanted the cat's blue eyes to stand out against the warm background.

I usually paint watercolors, which are delicate and need to be framed under glass. But this painting had to be framed without glass, so I decided to use acrylic paint. I experimented to see how closely I could make this acrylic painting resemble a watercolor painting, by building up layers of thin glazes of color.

Watercolor paint can be diluted with water as much as an artist wants. But if acrylics are diluted too much, the polymer binders won't adhere to the painting surface properly. I decided to try acrylic airbrush medium to dilute my acrylic paints. Acrylic paints are known for drying quickly and leaving hard edges: the airbrush medium also extended the drying time, giving me more control over the edges.

textured claybord by ampersandart

Because I was trying to mimic the feel of a watercolor painting, I didn't want to use canvas, which is usually used for oils and acrylics. Acrylic paint works fine on watercolor paper, but then I would need to frame the painting on paper under glass. I had a piece of textured Claybord left over from a watercolor experiment years ago. Claybord is a 1/8" thick hardboard panel coated with a granular clay texture (I'm not sure Ampersand is still making Claybord with a textured surface). I personally didn't like Claybord for watercolor, but it worked perfectly with acrylics.

sketch of Chocolate Point Siamese on Ampersand Claybord
Rachel M Brown

Claybord is hard, so although the texture resembles that of cold press watercolor paper, it definitely has a different feel. It erases easily so I could draw and erase directly on the board. I love when watercolor pigment granulates, but acrylic dyes are blended into binder. So granulation just wasn't going to happen for me, despite the textured ground.

However, with the airbrush medium, the acrylic paint was beautifully transparent, just like watercolors. The wet paint lifted off easily with a soft edge when I used a damp brush.

In watercolor painting, the glazes of paint gradually soften the pencil sketch underneath. I usually don't even bother to erase the pencil lines when the painting is finished. With this painting of the Chocolate Point, it didn't occur to me that the pencil sketch would be permanently set by the polymer of the very first glaze. But there it was, in its full glory. If I planned to keep the paint translucent, I couldn't hide the pencil lines under opaque paint. At least I had used my magical 314 Eagle Draughting Pencil (from the 1940's: they don't make them anymore) so the lines had a nice sketchy quality. I decided to embrace the pencil lines.

I also decided to embrace cat fur and lint. The glazes of acrylic paint lacquered every stray strand into place. If I saw it quickly enough I could pick the lint off with tweezers. If the glaze had dried, I had to scratch the fur off with a craft knife. The best solution was obviously to keep Tickles away from my work area. She had also developed a strange affection for this particular painting, and would sprawl on top of it if I left it unattended on my work table. But Tickles is just so adorable; how could I lock her out?

vintage wood frame with flower pattern

Between glazes, I started work on the vintage wood frame. The Chocolate Point is a small painting, but I could make it seem larger if I extended the color out from the floral carpet. I sealed the frame, let it dry, then brushed on between the raised flower borders. This gave the wood a similar surface to the textured Claybord. Actually, if Ampersand doesn't make textured Claybord anymore, you could just use Daniel Smith Watercolor Ground on your own sealed panel…perhaps I'll try that next time!

After the watercolor ground dried for the required 24 hours, I built up the color with glazes of the same artist grade acrylic paint mixed with airbrush medium. I sealed the completed painting and frame with matte acrylic varnish.

Tickles the black cat on the new rug by Rachel M Brown

You may recognize the Chocolate Point Siamese's carpet from another painting on I painted this watercolor back when the carpet was fairly new. Our house--where no one takes their shoes off after working in the garden, and our cats' plentiful black fur sheds like steady rain—is just incompatible with the light pink and cream colors of the carpet. I changed and darkened the colors of the carpet for the Chocolate Point Siamese painting. Not to hide the dirt so much as to give more contrast, so that the cat looks more three dimensional.

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