Salt, Watercolour, Frost and Fractals

So first off for the summer holidays  is a technique I read about which uses salt on a watercolour painting.  It’s really interesting because the salt draws the pigment into itself and so leaves these beautiful frost-like patterns on the paper. Basically you do a background wash in a range of colours – I chose Cadmium Red, Burnt umber and Cadmium Yellow.   Then while the paint is still wet and just becoming less shiney you put some salt onto it.  Apparently you can use table salt or rock salt for different effects.  I only had table salt so I used that.  Then you leave it to dry and then rub off the salt.  After that you can then incorporate the beautiful pattern it leaves behind into your painting.  The pattern on the one I did looked like a cross between frost and a fractal called the Julia Set. This is how my painting ended up: saltwatercolour1_FIN_WEBIt’s only a small picture but I really like the effect and the colours.


Fractals have always interested me.  They are basically a set of complex numbers which can be represented as a pattern.  The most famous is the Mandelbrot set which looks like this: m1 m2 m5 m4 m3 m6I think thay are incredibly beautiful and really they are just a set of numbers!  I love it too that these patterns relate strongly to nature and natural physical effects, like frost and lichen growth and anywhere really where natural patterns form. The Julia set is also a set of numbers and also makes beautiful patterns: j1 j2ng j3The thing that’s most amazing (from my point of view) with these sets is that if you zoom in an dhave a closer look you can see more and more patterns.  Theoretically you could go on getting deeper into the pattern indefinitely.  It’s amazing.

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4 thoughts on “Salt, Watercolour, Frost and Fractals

  1. I’ve read about the salt technique, but can’t recall seeing a painting that used it. Yours is quite spectacular! The fractals made me nostalgic for the kaleidoscope tubes we’d bring home from carnivals. Yes, endlessly fascinating. Your work is both diverse and excellent. : )

    Liked by 1 person

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