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Try something different: painting with sponge

I decided that adding some new technique wouldn’t disturb. Why not to give it a try?

This time it was application of watercolor using a sea grass sponge. It worked well with acrylic (I will post these pictures separately), it seemed it could work nicely with watercolor, as well.

I could see after the first attempts that it is advisable to test colors first. There are lots of brands, many types of paints, it’s hard to know whether the chosen colors will or won’t mix well. The big fear was not to overdo right at the beginning. Sponging sort of takes away easily, and it takes no time to lose focus and to forget where exactly was I intending to place any particular paint. I did not plan for these paintings, I just got straight to sponging. I would advise anybody who is trying this technique to plan a small bit ahead. Sponge allows to create beautiful watercolor backgrounds, like distant trees or forests, it is amazing how quickly some spots get textures, and it is a fantastic for layering watercolor paints. Simply don’t forget to test your colors.

It seemed that Hooker’s green light and dark in combination with French ultramarine, Cobalt blue, Payne’s grey, Lemon yellow and Burnt sienna or Burnt umber worked better than Sap green in any combination unless I mixed only 2 or 3 colors in all layers.

Sea grass sponges are inexpensive and available at any art store, that’s at least where I got them. Every sponge is slightly different, so will be textures created using these sponges. I cut my sponge in smaller parts, and used every time that part which seemed to be the most fitting. Sponge has to be made wet at first, and we should squeeze out all excess water before picking up the paint with it.

Sponging works on wet paper (wet in wet application), and we can paint nice distant backgrounds this way. It creates thicker layers and attractive irregular shapes when applied on dry paper. It is possible to create the entire painting this way, and it looks especially great when we combine different techniques.

Generally speaking, application of a sponge helps loosen up, and sponge is a good tool to vary paint application techniques.

These paintings look somehow better not photographed. The light hasn’t been too suitable recently, but regardless of how hard I tried, I did not get the balance on photos which is present on paper. This might be due to the distinctive number of layers at each part since camera sees everything not in the same way as the human eye sees. These things were tough to photograph, it was almost as bad as taking pictures of pastel drawings.


First layers of watercolor using a sea grass sponge

Different colors and textures: watercolor forest painting with sponge

Layering quite a few colors with sponge is interesting: we never know how it will look at the end!

Spring forest painting: watercolor

Simple sponge painting exercise

The distant forest is painted using sponge: the darks in the background look much darker than on paper, like I said before, camera picks out some spots and reflects colors differently from the human eye.

Sponge painting with watercolor

Sponge applied for background and some spots in the front

sponge work and winter csene 012

Spring forest: watercolor painting using sponge

4 Comments Post a comment
  1. Distant Forest with the flowers in the foreground totally rocks. I assume that the flowers were done with a brush? and the background with sponges? I read the piece, but was not sure. Great effect and nice work. Yes, photos are very hard to capture what is actually being said. That’s why one goes to galleries and museums. 🙂 Maybe we can only hope the values stay the same. Not always though.



    February 22, 2014
    • Thanks again! Some spots were done with a sponge and some with brush and washes. I feel very bad sometimes because the real painting looks good and there is no way to recreate it in a photo. Galleries are obviously the best option for viewing one’s art. It’s tough for me, though, to get some art in a gallery because the representation cost is just terribly high, I mean extremely high in a good gallery, and who wants to be in a bad gallery which does not bring in any returns? Well, everything is going down the pipe, and especially true values and high living standard. Just look at all the stuff we are offered: it’s been getting worse and worse all the time, up to the point that it doesn’t make sense to buy many things any more. Quality has been lost along the way. Cheaper is not a good option if there is nothing more.


      February 22, 2014
  2. Oh, Inese, I’m so so sorry. When I said ‘value’ in commenting about photography, I meant it in the way colors are portrayed against each other. Color theory stuff. – You know this obviously, but not sure if that was understood. Maybe it was.


    I’ve taken photos and slides of the few works. I’m not a pro, but understand that the work looks very different in life.

    From what you’ve been telling me today, you have seen a lot, and so when I talk about museums or galleries, well, for some simple examples…

    I love Van Gogh. I went to Amsterdam for the sole purpose of visiting the Van Gogh Museum. Just like you, I know what you see in a book or a photo, is never what one sees in life.

    I introduced a friend to one of my favorites, Pissaro. Love Pissaro. She wasn’t familiar with his work, but showed me a photo of a piece that was unusual, as it had not been shown in his life time. I found another photo and the colors were completely different in the second. The only thing that held true were the values of the colors, they didn’t change. I could see that in comparison. That said, I have no idea what the real painting looks like. That’s what I meant by visiting. I would plan a vacation, not to see a beach, but more likely a work of art. Can I have both? Sometimes. 😉

    I went to Wilmington, North Carolina to see a set of Mary Cassatt wood block prints.One of only a few in existence. They are a group of 12 in a local museum and have not been broken as a set. That was on the beach!

    Perhaps that might restore a little of your faith, but yes, as in anytime in history, some people witness the change of the decline of what has been known, and have front row seats. It may have been the first droughts that turned ancient Egypt’s fertile lands to deserts, or the coming of the last ice age 10,000 years ago, or one of the many wars that plummeted lands where generations of young were raised with nothing but peace. Through it all though, there have been people like you who produce art. It may be in the end, the only thing that ever had any real value. It is certainly the only thing that we can be remembered by as a whole people, if we are to be remembered as more than just warriors. Museums are in a way shrines to those few who could do what is possible. Showing us at our best. You do that.

    On your point about representation and good galleries. Yes! The cost of being an artist is high. Since you mentioned that you like to write, you know the various types of editors one should have, then someone else to do a cover, etc… $$$ Akkkk!

    Thanks for sharing so much with me today. You’re the coolest! I mean that. 🙂


    February 22, 2014
    • What a great comment that is! Thanks for taking your time! I do believe that promoting cheapness we are rolling downhill very fast. There are things which should be never priced or which should never be measured with a retail price. When we look at the art for sale, we can find anything between 10 bucks and many millions of dollars, let’s just take the contemporary art. If artist has lots of money, he or she obviously can afford effective advertising, hire some good sales specialist with contacts, get represented in the best collectors magazines and buy the gallery and show space. I was recently contacted by the Southwest Art Magazine. Well, they were putting together special issues, and I could be included in a few of them. Just a tiny thing was missing: I was not willing (was not able to afford) to pay 750 and more dollars for the inclusion in one month issue, that would be half a page. The pricing of art is such a strange thing, too. Books at least are sold based on the value of paper and printing expenses as a physical printed entity, and the fame of a writer is measured by number of the sold books. It’s simplified nowadays too by just putting everything online and making it available at hardly any price. The popularity is a strange thing, as well. I’ve been reading some stuff which was praised so much, and, quite honestly, there was nothing of a really good writing, and sometimes simple comment like yours above, can be so impressive. Basically, I have been doing less large watercolors and stopped doing pastels at all because I cannot frame them right away, and after a while being stocked in a pile, they just get damaged. Pastels are my favorites because I’m very good at drawing, but they are the most fragile, as well. Secondly, I have to make quite a lot of money to pay bills and to buy my extremely expensive medications. I have to type that medical stuff some nights until I fall asleep at computer, just to make ends meet ends. Well, if I was rich, I could at least only paint. Unfortunately, there’s no way to survive like that for the reasons mentioned before (no money for gallery space, good shows, framing, participation, advertising, etc.). This is like a vicious circle.
      I think first and utmost people who paint or write, or compose songs and do other arts, do it just because it is the way of their existence. They are aware of consequences, but do it anyway. And you’re right: the stuff what stays and is explored after many centuries is not the money what was in circulation at that time or list of rich people, the stuff which tells about our achievements and losses is art, books, manuscripts, poems, statues, musical writing, songs, illustrations and carvings on the walls of a cave.


      February 22, 2014

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