Friday, March 29, 2024

PWCS plein air painting at Valley Forge

 I'm thrilled to announce new painting demonstration coming up in April! On April 18th, I will be demonstrating plein air painting at Valley Forge National Historical Park for the Philadelphia Watercolor Society during their Spring Paint Out. This event is free and open to the public, click here to register

PWCS plein air at Valley Forge, April 18, 2024

All artists will receive FREE samples of Hahnemuehle watercolor paper and a free tube of paint! There will be lots of door prizes for other art supplies, too! 

Annie Strack painting en plein air

This event is generously sponsored by Hahnemuehle who is providing watercolor paper for to give away to all the artists. 

posted by Annie Strack @ 11:11 AM   0 Comments

Saturday, March 23, 2024

More Exhibitions!

 This week I'm framing and boxing up more paintings to ship off to juried exhibitions around the country. My painting "Weight of the World" is juried into the Illinois Watercolor Society International Exhibition. 

Weight of the World, 9x12 watercolor by Annie Strack

I'm thrilled that my painting "Every Which Way" juried into the Society of Watercolor Artists International Exhibition in Texas. 

Every Which Way, 12x16 watercolor by Annie Strack

And I also learned that my painting "Disconnected" juried into the Watercolor USA Honor Society exhibition in Missouri. 

Disconnected, 14x20 watercolor by Annie Strack

And in other news, the National Watercolor Society begins accepting entries for the 104th International Open Exhibition on April 1st! Get ready for another great exhibit in San Pedro, California in October and November of this year. We have lots of exciting activities to go along with the exhibition, so be sure to put it on your calendar. 

posted by Annie Strack @ 5:22 PM   0 Comments

Thursday, March 7, 2024

All About Paper, Part II - Sizing

 All About Paper -- Part II – Sizing

Sizing is an additive to watercolor paper to make it a more durable surface for painting. It reduces absorbency and adds stiffness to paper. Without sizing, it would be like painting on a paper towel – the moisture would soak in and spread throughout the paper. Sizing can be added to the pulp vat for internal sizing, or it can be applied to the surface of the paper, or both – some papers have sizing added to the surface and also internally. There are two common products that are used for sizing, and there are pros and cons to each of them. 

The Collection, Watercolor Paper by Hahnemuehle

Vegetable sizing is STARCH, and animal sizing is GELATIN. Think of a vegetable starch, like a cornstarch -- it can be easily and quickly dissolved in cold water. Gelatin, on the other hand, is much harder to dissolve and requires boiling water and a lot of effort. That's why it is also used as a glue and as a surface preparation for oil painting (in it's form of rabbit skin glue), as well. 

Annie Strack pulling handmade watercolor paper in Fabriano, Italy

When dried, the starch products are easily reconstituted but the gelatin products require much more effort to reverse or dissolve. So, as a paper sizing, vegetable sizing will not hold up to a lot of "abuse" -- scrubbing, multiple layers, lifting, masking, over-working, etc., whereas traditional gelatin sizing is much more durable. 

testing different mediums on a paper

Vegetable sizing is much brighter, whiter and doesn't discolor, while gelatin sizing often causes a warmer tint. Gelatin is a byproduct of meat production (animal hides, usually bovine) so vegans and some religious doctrines avoid it. These are the pros and cons to consider for each, and it’s up to the individual artist to decide which is best for them. 

Read the other articles in this series: All About Paper - Part I - Surface Textures


Annie Strack is an industry trained expert in the uses and properties of artist materials. She is a Brand Ambassador for Hahnemuehle Paper and several other companies, and teaches at art centers, art supply stores, and workshops around the world. 

posted by Annie Strack @ 11:32 AM   1 Comments

Wednesday, March 6, 2024

new car old car

After weeks of online research and shopping, we finally bought a new car this week. This is Brian's new ride -- not quite as nice as his old car, but it's new and he likes it, so we're happy.  

It's replaces the lovely silver Mercedes that I bought eons ago. That car would have lasted forever if he hadn't wrecked it. 

In other news, my dryer quit right in the middle of washing sheets. It's been raining steady for weeks, so I had to hand the sheets up in the garage to dry until Brian could order the parts and fix it.  

The laundry was piling up and I was happy when the parts came and he was able to put it back together again. 

posted by Annie Strack @ 7:07 PM   0 Comments

Saturday, February 24, 2024

More juried exhibits

I shipped off my painting "Sharing Secrets" that was juried into the Arizona Watercolor Association National Juried Show, earning my Signature Status in AWA! 

Sharing Secrets, 12x16 wc by Annie Strack

I'm totally thrilled to learn that my painting "Shallow Dance" juried into the Georgia Watercolor Society 45th National Exhibition, earning my Signature Status with GWS -- this is the 30th Signature that I've earned! 

Shallow Dance, 12x16 wc by Annie Strack

Both of these paintings were painted with my favorite art supplies; Sennelier watercolors and Dynasty Brushes on Hahnemuhle paper, because it takes great art supplies to make great art. 

posted by Annie Strack @ 7:32 PM   0 Comments

Tuesday, February 13, 2024

Proper cropping for entry to juried exhibits

The entry period for the National Watercolor Society's Member Exhibition is in full swing, and as the Exhibition Director I see all the entries - both the good and the bad. Some entries won't proceed past the initial vetting process and are culled for various reasons, such as being outdated, concerns over originality, or the payment of fees. The most common problem that is encountered is the insufficient cropping of the photograph. It is absolutely imperative that the photo shows only the painting, with no background, frame, mat, or other distractions. 

I've posted a few examples here to help other artists understand the difference between what is acceptable, and what is not. 

This first photo needs cropping on the right side - you can see a sliver of background on the top right. Although it's small, the juror will see it and will score this painting lower. The sliver of background is dark and this will show terribly if it is printed in an exhibit catalog. This image is unacceptable as an entry, and will declined if entered into a juried exhibit.  

Needs cropping, upper right

The next photo is cropped correctly, and ready to enter.  

properly cropped and ready to enter

Another example: This photo below needs to be cropped on the top edge. It is lighter, and might not be noticeable against a light page, but it will be glaringly obvious against a dark background. Again, this photo can not be accepted for entry to any art exhibit.  

needs cropping on top edge

The bottom photo is cropped correctly, and ready to enter.  

properly cropped and ready to enter

Proper cropping of images is a screen-out element for almost every juried exhibit. It is the most common reason for entries being declined. An imperfect edge might not be that noticeable, but curators and jurors will notice it and decline the entry. 

posted by Annie Strack @ 12:31 PM   0 Comments

Thursday, February 1, 2024

Free Online Demo - how to mount paper onto boards!

 I'll be demonstrating how to mount watercolor paper/painting onto boards and framing them in my next online demo for Art Chat. The demo will include how to adhere the paper to the board, seal it, and frame it. This technique can be done with finished watercolor paintings on paper, and also with blank watercolor paper that can be painted after it's been mounted. 

I mastered this technique many decades ago, long before it became popular. As an experienced and trained Art Materials Expert, I can explain why certain materials are used, and why some materials should NOT be used in this process. Many untrained artists have been teaching improper methods, and I will dispel some of the myths and demonstrate the correct procedures to produce archival results. 

To attend this free online demo, click HERE to register and get the link. The demo will be recorded but will not be public - only people who have registered may watch the recording. You won't want to miss this exciting and informative demo -- I hope I see you there! Feb 8th, 7 pm Eastern Time. 

Listen to Me, 12x16 wc, Annie Strack

And in other news, this is my most recent painting. I demonstrated how I painted the background in the live online demo that I did for Cazenovia Watercolor Society, and then while that dried I moved on to a different painting of seagulls to demonstrate my techniques for painting the birds. This has been a fun series of demos, and paintings! 

posted by Annie Strack @ 10:33 AM   0 Comments

Friday, January 12, 2024

New painting and another boat!

 My online watercolor demo for the Cazenovia Watercolor Society was a great success, although we were only about halfway through it when the power went out due to the storm. The lights had been flickering, so I warned everyone that we would continue the demo at the same time, on the next evening. Thankfully, the power came back on the next afternoon and I was able to resume my demo on time! It lated just long enough for my demo, however, and went off again early the next morning. It's back on again now, but more extreme weather is forecast tonight and again next week, Well, at least this one is done! Painted with Sennelier Watercolors and Dynasty Brushes on Hahnemuhle paper. 

three faces of Annie, 14x20 watercolor

While I was waiting for the power to be restored, I went out shopping. I got this really nice kayak at the Goodwill store for just 19.95! 

There are several places to put in and paddle around here, and it's light enough for me to pick up and load it onto my car by myself. 

posted by Annie Strack @ 2:03 PM   0 Comments

Tuesday, January 9, 2024

All about paper. Part I - Surface Textures

Everything you need to know about watercolor paper. 

Part I - Surface Textures

Watercolor paper comes in three basic surfaces: Hot pressed, cold pressed, and rough. Rough has the most surface texture and hot pressed is the smoothest, with cold pressed providing a surface that is in between the two.

Hot pressed paper is pressed with heat, which steams away much of the moisture in the pressing process and results in a paper that is not only smoother, but also denser because the fibers are more compacted. The paper will be stiffer and thinner from this action, as well as smoother. This results in a surface that is less absorbent, allowing the paint to dry on the surface and soak in less. Because it is the least absorbent of papers, it is fairly easy to lift and remove paint from the surface even after it has dried. The smooth surface allows for more precise and finer details when drawing and painting. 

Watercolor on Hot Pressed Paper, by Annie Strack

Watercolor on Hot Pressed Paper, Annie Strack

Cold pressed paper is pressed without heat, so it’s not as compacted nor as smooth as hot pressed paper. As a result, it has a bit of surface texture and is more absorbent than hot pressed paper, but no where near as absorbent as rough paper. It is the most widely used paper because it is a useful compromise between the extremes of the hot pressed and the rough papers. 

Watercolor on Cold Pressed Paper, Annie Strack

Watercolor on Cold Pressed Paper by Annie Strack

Rough paper is made without the extreme pressure of the press – just enough to remove the excess water. It is dried more naturally, which results in a paper with heavy texture and maximum absorbency. This absorbency means that lifting or removing of paint is more difficult and can even be impossible. The texture makes it difficult to paint small details, but on the other hand, it is prized for the tendency to let more of the paper show through a painting when a light touch of brushstroke leaves paint on only the high spots of the texture -- leaving sparkles of white paper showing through the paint. 

Watercolor on Handmade Rough Paper, Annie Strack

Watercolor on Rough Paper, Annie Strack

To fully illustrate, imagine ironing a shirt. If your iron is hot, you will get the smoothest, stiffest, and most compact surface. If the iron is cold, your shirt will not get as stiff and smooth, and if you hang the shirt up with out ironing at all then your shirt will be even softer and more wrinkled or “textured.”

There are pros and cons to each of these surfaces and it’s up to the individual artist to choose the correct paper that will work with whatever techniques she wishes to employ on a specific painting. 

read the next article in the series: All About Paper - Part II -- Sizing Matters 


Annie Strack is an industry trained expect in the uses and properties of artist materials, and is an Artist Ambassador for Hahnemuehle paper and many other companies. She travels around the world to teach in art centers, schools, and artist supplies stores. 

posted by Annie Strack @ 12:20 PM   0 Comments

Thursday, January 4, 2024

More online painting demos!

 Here's my painting from yesterday's demonstration for the Delaware Watercolor Society, painted with Sennelier watercolor and Dynasty Brushes on Hahnemuehle paper. I haven't chosen a title for it yet, so let me know if you have any suggestions! 

My next painting demonstration is Tuesday at 7 pm for the Casenovia Watercolor Society. I'll be doing something similar, showing new techniques again and painting with Sennelier watercolor and Dynasty Brushes on Hahnemuehle paper. 

And in other news, the annual National Watercolor Society Members 2024 Exhibit is now open for entry! Check it out at 

You must be a NWS member to enter, but you still have time to join for 2024. I'm thrilled to be the Exhibition Director for National Watercolor Society and I'm looking forward to seeing everyone's entries! 

posted by Strack @ 12:15 PM   0 Comments

Friday, December 29, 2023

Live Online Painting Demo

I'm demonstrating painting LIVE online at the Delaware Watercolor Society on Monday, with Sennelier watercolors and Dynasty brushes on Hahnemuehle paper. 

I'll be showing some NEW techniques, so you won't want to miss it! DWS will be sending out the link to members before the event on Monday. 

posted by Strack @ 3:37 PM   0 Comments

Thursday, December 7, 2023

demo painting

 My finished painting from tonight's demo and paint along. Painted with Sennelier watercolor and Dynasty brushes on Hahnemühle waterocolor paper. Linda will send the link to the recording in a few days to all participants, so you can take your time to watch the video and paint along. Thank you all for coming tonight! It was wonderful to see so many old friends! 

Junior, 6x6 watercolor

posted by Annie Strack @ 9:21 PM   0 Comments

Saturday, December 2, 2023

Tis the season

 It hardly feels like December with the temperatures in the fifties today and more rain in the forecast. It would have been a great day to be outside painting! I would normally be going out every week to compete in plein air events this time of year, but I need to get caught up on my work as webmaster at the National Watercolor Society so I'm staying indoors and doing computer work for the next few weeks. 

On Thursday I will be doing a LIVE demo on online, starting at 7pm eastern time. Be sure to register for this free event so you can tune in and paint along with me! In addition, I will be giving away a set of Sennelier Aqua Mini watercolors as a door prize during the event, so you don't want to miss it! Details are in the previous blog post, so just scroll down and to see it. 

And in other news, I'm thrilled to get this lovely certificate of Signature Status from the Northeast Watercolor Society! 

In addition to the online demo on Thursday, I have a few more online demos coming up in January. If you're a member of the Delaware Watercolor Society, be sure to watch my LIVE online demo on January 3rd, 1 pm eastern time. 

And if you're a member of the Casenovia Watercolor Society, I'll see you when I so a LIVE online demo on January 9th, at 7 pm eastern time.  

posted by Annie Strack @ 3:36 PM   0 Comments

Monday, November 20, 2023

plein air and more

 I had a wonderful time painting en plein air at Winterthur during the Wine Tour and sold several paintings while enjoying perfect weather for painting. 

Koi, 12x16 watercolor by Annie Strack

And in other news, I'm thrilled to learn that my painting "Tug at my Heart" juried into the Missouri Watercolor Society International Exhibition, and earned Signature Status for me in MOWS -- which makes it the 28th Signature that I've earned! 

Tug at my Heart, 20x14 Watercolor by Annie Strack

posted by Strack @ 1:47 PM   0 Comments

Saturday, November 11, 2023

Online Painting Demo

 I'm demonstrating watercolor painting online on Thursday, December 7th, at 7 pm Eastern Time. This will be on Art Chat, hosted by Linda Fisler of Artistic Harmonies Association. I will painting this sailboat, live, and you are all welcome to paint along with me! You can download the reference photo and copy or trace my drawing to get started. 

Sign up for this free paint-along demo HERE!

My drawing on 6x6 watercolor paper

reference photo

I'll be applying masking fluid and letting it dry before I start my online demo. This is a small painting, just 6"x6", so I'll be using some very small brushes -- #4 or #6 round, a tiny round for the details, and maybe a small mop for the background. 

I'll also be giving away a door prize to one lucky participant! Register in advance and be sure to be present to win a set of Sennelier Aqua Mini Watercolor Half-Pans! 

I'm using my favorite art supplies for this painting -- Sennelier watercolors, Dynasty Brushes, and Hahnemuhle paper! 

posted by Annie Strack @ 12:07 PM   1 Comments

Saturday, November 4, 2023

shows and awards

 I'll be exhibiting new plein air paintings for sale at the annual Unionville Art Gala at the Unionville High School November 17 - 18. 

I'll also be painting en plein air at Winterthur for the annual Wine Trail event on Saturday, November 18. 

I'm thrilled to learn that I won Merit Awards for my paintings in the Montana Watercolor Society 41st National Exhibit and the Kentucky Watercolor Society 48th National Exhibit. 

Last week I went out to paint en plein air with the Philadelphia Watercolor Society at Grace Vineyard in Pennsylvania. I had a lovely time painting with friends, and afterwards I gave my painting to the owners of the vineyard to thank them for their hospitality. 

In other news, I'm getting a LOT of inquiries about where I'm going to take artists to paint in Europe next summer. I'm thrilled that everyone wants to travel with me, but I have to tell you that I'm taking the year off - 2024 - of international travel, so I can devote more time to my work as Exhibition Director of the National Watercolor Society. I will be planning a trip for 2025 soon, and I will probably go back to France (unless I can find a tour operator for the Caribbean) -- so just hold your horses for a year and stay tuned for details ;) 

posted by Annie Strack @ 11:19 AM   0 Comments

All images and content copyright Annie Strack 2023. Although I occasionally receive compensation for some posts, I always give my honest opinions, findings, beliefs, or experiences on those topics or products. The views and opinions expressed on this blog are purely my own.