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  • Writer's pictureJoel Popadics

Real Men Use Magic Eraser

Updated: Mar 1, 2019

I always say, "Real men (real watercolorists) don't use white or art masking fluid." I work in a "pure" manner, and I don't...well hardly ever. So I was delighted to hear about Magic Eraser from a student.

An ongoing debate exists - what constitutes working in a "pure" manner? Some artists think, it's completely acceptable to mix with white paint in watercolor, many disagree. Still others think you should never use art masking fluid, rubber cement, wax or any other material to preserve your "whites" - never ever. They feel, simply using the white of your paper and your skills as an artist to create your lights is the only proper way to work in a pure manner. In my conversations with other artists, Mr. Clean Magic Eraser seems to have completely changed the rules of watercolor.

Mr. Clean Magic Eraser is a household cleaning product made by Proctor & Gamble. It's great at cleaning all sorts of things around the house. It can remove a marker stain from a wall, clean bathroom grout, and get rid of any scuff mark. But, it's also great for use in watercolor.

If you've ever tried, you know how difficult it is to make something lighter in a watercolor. Sure, you can take a wet brush and try to gently go over the area, but that method doesn't always work on some of the staining colors. Or, you can rub the paint off really hard with a terry cloth towel, but that usually damages the paper to the point that the surface can't be repainted. Magic Eraser makes it possible to remove paint at any time during the painting process. It will completely lift dried paint off a sheet of paper without harming the surface.

Correcting a mistake, such as a bad shape in watercolor, is nearly impossible. Your options are to start over on a fresh sheet, or to work around the mistake. Using Magic Eraser, I've been able to wipe up a mistake right down to the white of the paper. And if you carefully cut out a stencil from a piece of drafting tape, you can lift up any white shape, eliminating the need for art masking fluid.

The rays of light in my painting "Sunrays" were created by a lighting technique. Magic Eraser makes it possible to remove dried paint at any time.

Magic Eraser is made of a melamine foam, which is a sort of a super-fine microscopic sandpaper. The eraser breaks down as you use it, and the first time I tried, I thought it was the watercolor paper coming apart. Yet the tiny fibers on my paper were just little bits of the eraser breaking off.

To use the magic erase, moisten it with clean water and wring out the excess. I have a paper towel handy, so my wet fingers won't drip any water on the painting. Then, gently rub or dab the dried color to completely lift off paint or lighten an area. It is important to work with only clean parts of the sponge; otherwise, you will re-apply the removed paint. Don't rub too hard or you might harm the watercolor paper.

I prepare smaller pieces of magic eraser, so it's ready to use when I'm painting on location. It can be cut with scissors, or easily broken apart. I put them into a ziplock bag stored in my backpack. I also bring along some mailing labels and artist's tape to create a stencil shape with a pair of scissors. It's terrific for making a mast on a schooner or a sloop. And I've even used it to lift out very complicated shapes.

I tried all sorts of lifting techniques and masking products, yet this is by far the most promising tool I've ever used.

Do you work in a "pure" manner or do you have a special technique for preserving your whites or repainting an area in your watercolor? If you do, I'd love to hear about it.

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