Sunday, July 17, 2011

Painting Watercolor On Plate Finished Bristol Board

When I attended the High School of Art and Design in New York City I learned to paint in watercolor on plate finished bristol board. The instructor, Irwin Greenberg taught how to paint on this non traditional surface after examining the works of David Levine and Burton Silverman.  I believe there were also some students who had taken a class with Burton Silverman and had begun to paint on this paper in Greenberg's class.

The slick surface allows for paint to be lifted up with a brush and clean water so that its easier to push the paint around and make corrections that would otherwise be impossible on traditional watercolor paper.

Its been a long time since I painted on this surface. I had wanted to explore the watercolor medium and make personal choices about the equipment I used.  I spent money and time on different brushes, paint surfaces and paints, as well as continuing to learn about the other artist who use the medium.  I decided to start from scratch and learn to paint on traditional watercolor surfaces. This gave me a chance to better understand the medium from the place Greenberg, Levine and Silverman would have started from.

There are so many kinds of brushes that behave differently according to the surfaces you use.  I like using squirrel hair brushes because they hold so much paint and water and they can make very broad washes as well as fine lines, but they are too soft for rougher surfaces.  I began to build up a collection of brushes; sable, squirrel, synthetic.  I also tried different surfaces; rough, cold pressed, hot pressed.

Recently I purchased a pad of smooth bristol board, ( I realized later I should have purchased some Strathmore plate finish 5 ply bristol board), and got to play around with the surface again.  The result was the painting on the upper left and the self portrait below.  I did them so I could get reacquainted with the paint surface.
On the left is the start done with a large squirrel hair mop brush made by Isabey. The right is a detail of the initial lay in.

On the left there is a point in the painting where I began to push the paint around and lift the paint up (not too much lifting because the paper surface wasn't exactly the same as the Strathmore plate finished bristol);  below is the finished painting.


  1. Lovely stuff.Joe D'Esposito and I take the credit for being THE student that brought that paper to Greenie.I was studying with Burt at the time but years later when I was with Levine I found out her DIDN'T use plate paper.
    Joe Rubinstein

  2. Burt actually never used 5 ply.He said it bubbled but did use 4 ply.David never used the plate finish and wondered how Burt did.David used Strathmore and a Sargent board they don't make any longer.

  3. Thanks for the info Joe. When I learned to paint this way in Greeny's class we mostly used 2 or 3 ply plate bristol, but latter I chose to get 5 ply.

  4. how did you get those dark skin tones?

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  6. Beautiful, Man!! Ballin' the Burt Style!!!