Watercolor Pumpkin, Part I

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Made by Rex Winn

This pumpkin was painted using watercolors. My best friend came to visit and half-teasingly and half-hoping I asked him if he would try watercolor on this air-dry clay pumpkin. We have had a few comments on this site about watercolor, but I don’t remember if anyone has ever tried it. Being a watercolorist for 40 years, I wanted someone to try it!

Note: To see how Rex makes his pumpkins, click here.

Over a week later he brought the pumpkin back. I’ll try my best at hearsay about what he told me. After our discussion, my answer would have been “No. Don’t try it.”

The pumpkin was covered in gesso, but the watercolor paints ran badly. I asked him if they ran in a pretty way that watercolors might do, but he said no. He added watercolor ground (which I did not know about but have ordered) and tried painting it again. That didn’t work because the colors underneath showed through. He put gesso on it again and then added watercolor ground. The painting was difficult, and mostly what you see is using dry brush. I got the impression you have to work slowly and be patient. I’m showing the bottom of the pumpkin with the intent to show how the watercolor paint tended to run or settle on the bottom of the piece, making it a bit darker than the top.

When he gave it to me, he warned that anything wet would make the colors run. I opened a bottle of varnish and with a tiny brush painted a dot on the button. The colors immediately disappeared leaving a white spot. I was depressed about getting ANY coating on it. He told me what colors he used on the pumpkin, and I tried to repair the spot.

A few days later he gave me a can of Krylon “Workable Fixatif,” which is a spray that protects drawings of pencil and chalk. The can says it can be used on watercolor. I took the pumpkin outside and sprayed from a far distance, but finally followed directions to spray from 6″ to 9″. The paint did not run. After it dried, I painted it with varnish, which worked. I could send it off to my niece for her three-year-old!

My friend had an idea about experimenting with watercolors, so I made two more pumpkins and asked him which one he wanted, in jest. I thought we were through with this experiment. He asked me if I could make another one for a friend to experiment with us. That’s why I named this Part I, but I fear it may be some time before the three of us comes around to Part II.

As of now I’m making four pumpkins for experimenting. Three are made with the air-dry clay and one is Apoxie Sculpt (which I’m not familiar with). If anyone has any ideas, please let me know!

Happy Holidays!

Pumpkin made with DIY air dry clay

18 thoughts on “Watercolor Pumpkin, Part I”

  1. I have thought about using water colours on my paper mache but at the moment only have acrylics. I will say though that I use a lot of acrylic “washes” on my projects and find that they work very well. You just have to use a little at a time and have paper towel handy. I do also use gesso as an undercoat on all my projects which I think helps the wash process. I absolutely love your pumpkin!

    • Thank you for your comments. My two friends and I are, I think, almost through with this round of experimenting. I need to talk to one and then need to write a post.

      Paper towels are definitely a necessity, and I’ve learned I can’t paint without baby wipes.

  2. Love the depth of color you achieved. Question – are you using watercolor because that is what you have? Or for the effect? Was wondering if you could use a watered down acrylic?

    • Watercolor because that is the medium I have been using since 1980! Acrylic is new to me. It’s not that I don’t like it, but watercolor and paper seemed to be a match. The experimentation is moving along!


  3. If you use apoxy sculpt, you can make your pumpkin for outdoors, But not sure about using water colors on it for indoors and especially outdoors. Apoxie sculpt will take colors while mixing the two parts. If you have liquid tints, like tints all or you could use acrylic paint, you can add these while mixing the two parts. I’ve used acrylic Paint with this when doing small add on areas to a piece. Apoxie sculpt has a long working time, too, but don’t mix up too much at a time. It only takes a few minutes to mix up, so it’s better to mix up more later than to have a bunch you can’t use because it got hard. Wear gloves when mixing and using. A little bit of water on gloves and areas will help with smoothing.

    • Sharon, thanks for the tips and interest. I just finished making an apoxie sculpt pumpkin. (It’s a new medium for me, so it has been a challenge.) I tried putting watercolor on it, without gesso, because so far watercolor has run on gesso. I have two friends and we are experimenting; results will be in a later post. But you are right, the watercolor came off on everything, even the gesso I tried to put over it. Basically a mess. If I had put a color in the Apoxie sculpt as you suggested, I’m sure it would have been much more pleasant to the eye! Thank you for your interest and information. I appreciate it.

  4. I really like your pumpkin! The shapes are great and I do love the painting. I have to find where you show how you made these, I read somewhere that you made a lot of them.Keep up the good work!

  5. I tend to paint pumpkins brilliant yellows, oranges, and reds. The thing I liked about this one is the more “sophisticated” look. (Can I say that?) A different artist, and I appreciate him doing it.

  6. REX, I have printed your “experiment” with watercolor, Pumpkin 1 ,I’ll keep it for reference. .and the Pumpkin looks great!

    • Thanks, orlando! Always love your stuff. I’m in the process of making four more pumpkins for experimentation. I don’t know if the three of us will get it finished before Halloween!

  7. You could try the watercolor on the air dry clay without gesso. The air dry clay will absorb the watercolor and you might get a fresco look. I’m pretty sure the epoxy sculpt will be like painting on plastic.

    • Oh, thanks. I’m about finished making the next pumpkin and would probably have put gesso on them by Friday. Thanks for helping with our experiment. Not so good news about the epoxy sculpt, but it sounds right. Appreciate your comments.

  8. The pumpkin looks nice with watercolors though! Despite all the difficulties you ran into :)
    No experience with apoxie sculpt, but like to know how that pumpkin turns out as well!

    • Okay. I’ll get the whip out to see what we can come up with. (You are the best. I admire your talent very much.)

  9. Hi Rex,

    As far as I can see, I think it looks great and authentic. Perhaps, the watercolour, which always tends to have a mind of its own pooled all in the right place creating the tones and patterns like a pumpkin.

    All the best with your continued experiement.


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