Thursday, September 13, 2018


Debbie Cannatella 

Tom Schroeder introduced our artist and guest speaker for September, Debbie Cannatella. Debbie has painted full-time since 2005 when she retired as a highway and bridge designer.

She has opened two galleries in Texas, both are operating successfully, has served on the Board of Directors of local Art organizations in numerous states, and has enjoyed traveling, jurying and judging exhibitions, painting and teaching classes and workshops in transparent watercolor.

She is published in Artistic Touch 4; the Best of Watercolor, the Artist Magazine, Iris Magazine, the 2015 edition of Splash 16: Exploring Texture, and the 2016 edition of Art Journey Animals: A Collection of Inspiring Contemporary Masterworks, by Northlight Books. Previously, her work was selected for the 2010 Pennington National Balloon Championship poster, and was the featured October 2010 artist in Brush, Paper, Water.  She is a signature member of the Louisiana Watercolor Society, Artist of Texas, and a member of AWS, NWS, KWS, Women's Art Club of Cincinnati, the past president of the WSST, and the Kentucky Representative for the Southern Watercolor Society. This year she is included in the Third Annual Contemporary Exhibition at Palazzo Franchi in Assisi, Italy in collaboration with PRO VOBIS Art Residence. Debbie currently lives in Union KY with her husband and two rescue animals and has begun to hold workshops in her studio.

Debbie's background working in bridge and highway designs influenced her progression in watercolor. Her natural style is detailed and bold, and also uses the wet in wet techniques. We were encouraged to find our own style, loose or detailed, and to paint what we love.  She enjoys doing series of paintings, such as flowers, birds, koi ponds, and people.

Her demonstration began by wetting 260 lb Arches paper, 26 x 40. The whole dry sheet is torn in half and placed on a masonite panel.  The panel is smooth white on one side and unfinished plywood hardboard on the other. The paper is soaked several times using a wide brush,  not taping the paper down.

Her subject for this demonstration was koi fish. She used photos from the internet that were only used as anatomy references and shape references, and not copied into the painting. It is important to be careful not to combine side pictures of fish with straight down pictures of fish. Generous amounts of paints are mixed to the consistency of a little thicker than whole milk. Most yellows and all reds are staining. The majority of her paints are Windsor Newton and Daniel Smith, but uses a few other brands. The entire first layer of color must be non-staining, such as the Indian Yellow by Paul Jackson. This is done to be able to later lift out shapes needed. Staining pigments can go on top.  Opaque colors were used in conjunction with transparent. Some of the colors used were Windsor yellow, carmine red, ultramarine blue, Horizon Blue by Holbein, and eventually  Phthalo blue and Indigo. Generous amounts of paint are put on paper and allowed to flow around after each color is added.
 The background tells you where to start and let it morph from there. Lift the yellow and reds while wet, blues can be "dryer", not necessarily dry, though one can still lift ultramarine and indigo when dry. Synthetic flat brushes,1/4 inch, were used to start lifting fish in the small areas.

 Most other areas were lifted using the larger brushes in the Silver series. Constantly wet and dry brush on a towel. When details of fish are added, the paper must be bone dry. She emphasized  that the movement of composition needs to be coming into the painting, and not out.

Remember to put darkest dark against lightest lights in the focal area.  After removing paints in shape of koi, eyes and fin area were lifted. Detailing of fish is done on the dry paper. Debbie will finish this painting later and bring it in for us to see later.

Debbie showed us a koi painting previously completed.
The following is her way of flattening a large watercolor painting, written by Debbie Cannatella.
Use 2 clean masonite panels, which are smooth white on one side and unfinished plywood hardboard on the other. The panels need to be several inches larger than your painting.

Home Depot calls them Eucalyptus White Hardboard, and Lowes calls them White Hardboard Wall Panel.  One side is wood and the other is waterproof. One 4'x8' sheet ($10-15) can be cut down at the store to create 4-24"x36" sheets (for full size sheet), and 3-15"x24". (for half-sheet paper).

Lay the panels next to one another, one panel white side up and the other panel unfinished side up.  
Turn your completed painting over on top of the CLEAN white waterproof surface of the hardboard panel, and using a sponge or a large brush, completely saturate the back of your painting.  Do not flood it with water so that water leaks underneath to the front of your painting, merely saturate it well, brushing the water into the paper.  Allow it to absorb a few minutes, and go back over it with another layer of water. You want the painting completely damp on one side, all the way to the edges.

Turn the painting over, wet side down on top of the wooden side of the other panel.  The unfinished wooden side of the panel will help draw the moisture out of the back side of your painting.  Lift the edges and position it straight.  MAKE SURE THERE ARE NO WRINKLES OR BUBBLES.

Completely dry the white side of the first panel and lay it, white side down, on top of your painting.  The waterproof side must be against the painting

At this point you can weight the "sandwiched" painting down with anything heavy-a case of watercolor paper, books, etc.  Leave for a few days before unpacking it.  It should be dried completely flat.  There may be a light tan haze on the backside of the paper where the hardboard drew the water out, but that's OK.

Some of Debbie's paintings below:

Submitted by Sue Giegler
Photos by Sue Giegler and Amy Giglio

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