A Balloon Rainbow

After my last watercolour attempt, that I thought was only so-so, I decided to get serious about making a traditional watercolour piece, using traditional watercolour paints, that I was happy with. My father has always said “a worker is only as good as his tools” and, while he wasn’t referring to making cards, he may be spot on when it comes to my watercolouring abilities.

I thought it high time to invest in a decent brush made of the best, Kolinsky red sable. They can be very expensive but I was able to find a reasonably priced size 4. The brush holds its shape beautifully, much better than the cheaper red sable brushes I had bought in the past.

I also broke out my Arches watercolour paper I bought years ago and had saved for special occasions, so special an occasion it never got used. And, I already had a set of Kuretake Gansai Tambi watercolour paints. I had only used them a little in experimentation and then shelved so as not to be wasted on failures.

I decided this card would become a special occasion. The occasion of me getting the art of watercolouring right. When I think of all the times I’ve tried and failed and, subsequently, thrown out my work. I could have just “bitten the bullet”, spent some well invested cash and used the quality supplies right from the start. Who knows, after 13 years of carding, I could have been a master of watercolour by now. Pinching pennies was just not worth it!

I’ve had this card concept stuck in my head for a while now. I wanted to emulate the rainbow queen, Laura Bassen, and make a “balloon rainbow”. I went to my stamp stash looking for my My Favorite Things Party Balloons set, thinking it had an outline stamp I could quickly start with, and found only solid stamps. I didn’t have any balloon outline stamps. My own memory failure meant this card was not going to be an easy make! I love that balloon stamp set and to come up with a card concept, that happens needs an outline stamp was just frustrating.

I was determined to make this card, somehow. I wasn’t going to wait for weeks while an overseas online order, with just the right outline stamp, meandered across the globe getting to me. I needed to get this on to paper, it was blocking me. So I decided to get creative and fix my dilemma, before it sent me mad.

I also have the matching die set to the Party Balloons stamps, so I cut myself a stencil. I made it from the cardboard packaging the dies came with. It was quite sturdy and easily coped with me using it as it stencil. I won’t be throwing it away either, it will still work just fine for die placement.

Homemade stencil made by recycling the packaging.

To start my card, I positioned the stencil and traced the balloons with a water resistant pen. The only black, fully waterproof pen I had on hand was a Sakura Gelly Roll Aqualip Pen (black #849). The pen didn’t give the raised edge on this watercolour paper, like it would on acetate, but it did give me a great bold outline to watercolour in. I hand drew some strings on each balloon and allowed it to dry.

I then taped the watercolour paper to a small piece of craft board with painter’s tape. I find this tape is the only tape that lifts off cleanly, including when die cutting. Other tapes tend to stick too well. I find even micropore tape can be hard to remove. 

Once taped down, I completely wet the paper with clean water. To do this, I used a 3/4″ Tim Holtz Collage brush and its lovely soft bristles held water nicely. This step was one I hadn’t been doing properly. The paper is wet enough when the water remains sitting on the surface and it then needs to be blotted off before starting to paint.

I began painting the background using a light blue. I watered down the paint quite a bit on a pallet before laying down thin washes and drying between each layer. This is something else I had been doing wrong. I had been trying to use the paint straight from the pan and, for me, it is way too strong. I was really surprised at how little paint I actually needed to add to make a wash.

I then started on the balloons with well watered down colours. I re-wet each balloon before I started, making sure I kept the water inside my lines. Again, I painted each balloon in several layers, building up the colour with each layer. I dried each layer with my heat tool before moving on. 

Once I’d finished and the piece was completely dry, I removed the tape correctly and trimmed the piece down to fit a 5″x7″ card base, allowing room for a thin black border, to frame the finished piece. Before gluing the watercolour to the black cardstock, I went around the edge of the black with my Spectrum Noir Clear Overlay Sparkle Pen so that it would match the sentiment I was planning to make.

The sentiment was made it two parts. The first part was from the Altenew Halftone Happy stamp set. I stamped it onto black cardstock, using Versamark Ink, and heat embossed it with Wow white embossing powder . I then used the My Favorite Things Stitched Sentiment die set to cut around the completed sentiment. I love how these dies allow you to get the placement of the sentiment right when die cutting. 

For the second part of the sentiment, I used the Winnie & Walter “happy” die cut to cut 5 words out of black card and used Ranger Multi Medium Matte Adhesive to glue them together, to form a stack. I covered the top of the stack with Spectrum Noir Clear Overlay Sparkle Pen and, once dry, a layer of Glossy Accents.

To finish off, I glued the sentiment pieces into place with Multi Medium Matte Adhesive and added some enamel dots, using Tsukineko IrRESISTible Tuxedo Black Pico Embellisher.

While not a technically difficult design, I think this was a great way to practice using traditional watercolour paints properly. I now feel happy to attempt another watercolour project in the future. No more dreading traditional watercolours!

In fact, I’m so happy with my improved watercolour abilities that I have decided this card is good enough to enter this card into to the Simon Says Stamp Wednesday Challenge for the week. These challenges are just fun!