My absolute least favorite part of painting is applying fixative and varnish. I have never been very good at it and it is part of the reason that I pretty much quit working with acrylic on wood years ago. I’m sure that part of the reason I tend to mess this step up is because I lack patience. I hate waiting for the varnish to dry completely before adding another coat or handling the piece. This usually results in smudges, smears, and other unpleasant blemishes that end up driving me nuts.
And then there’s the smell.
Spray fixative is stinky, which means having to find a suitable, well-ventilated area in which to apply it. My studio definitely does not fit the bill here. That leaves my basement (you know, the Kingdom of Canine Hair), the garage (I’m sure the spiders running across the wet fixative would add an interesting textural effect), or the front porch (which is the perfect place as long as it isn’t raining, humid, or sweltering outside). Today, I opted for the front porch since we are finally getting a break from the stifling heat and humidity. As long as no huffing teenagers catch a whiff of what I’m doing, I should be good.
This is the first time I have ever used fixative on watercolor. Typically, watercolor pieces are framed under glass, so there isn’t much need for fixative (although, I have heard of people using spray fixative and varnish and then framing watercolors the way oil paintings are framed – sounds interesting, but I have yet to try it). Because I’m working with watercolor on wood, a fixative and a layer of varnish are necessary to not only protect the piece, but also to help bring out the true colors, which tend to appear a bit faded once they dry. I chose Krylon UV-Resistant spray, which I will then cover with a clear matte varnish. So far, the fixative it going on well (just finished my third coat). It is definitely a slow process, but I am happy that there hasn’t been any change in the integrity or texture of the piece, which was my biggest fear. As long as I get enough fixative on, hopefully, I will be able to brush the varnish on without affecting the painting.