A Life of Color: This Foundation’s Mission to Make Digital Watercolor Records

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Art and history go hand in hand. Throughout the ages paintings, drawings, and sketches have been used to provide us with accurate depictions of battles, reigning monarchs, political figureheads, and the landscape.

There’s an unrivaled beauty to the skill used in these works of art too. Modern photography and videography may be able to capture super clear images in the highest definition, but seeing the world through an artist’s eye gives us a completely different point of view altogether.

Paintings are also able to evoke a lot of emotion, arguably more than a photograph. And, in an ever-changing world, being able to look back through the ages and reference the planetary changes that have taken place can give us a clearer picture of how our daily lives have shaped the landscape.

However, as wonderful as these paintings are, there is a slight issue. Watercolor paintings in particular are susceptible to environmental damage, such as over-exposure to sunlight, and can begin fading over time, losing the important stories they are telling along the way.

It’s for all of these reasons that preserving these amazing works of art is more important than ever. But how do we go about doing this? Luckily, one man has the answer.

The Marandi Foundation

Javad Marandi is one of the joint-chairs from The Marandi Foundation, along with his wife Narima Marandi. They established their charity in 2017 with a mission to provide educational opportunities to disadvantaged young people and provide support for art and cultural initiatives throughout the United Kingdom.

This charity also provides core funding to The Serpentine Gallery in London to help ensure that public entry remains free of charge, giving everybody the opportunity to enjoy the art within.

The Marandi Foundation is also playing a key role in supporting the expansion of the art collection at the Tate Gallery in London through the European Collection Circle.

But how are they helping to preserve watercolor paintings?

Well, one project that Javad and his team wholly fund is The Watercolour World. This fantastic website sources watercolor paintings from all over the world and uses special technology to create a digital library of historical artwork, all of which date back to before 1900.

The Watercolour World

Let’s look a little further into the work The Watercolour World does, and the plethora of benefits that come from it. First and foremost, it helps to keep the image and the story that the painting is portraying safe from the ravages of time.

Each painting in their online digital library dates back to before 1900 and, as such, many of them have been placed in storage or displayed in dark, dusty corners of museums and galleries in an attempt to keep them protected for as long as possible.

But, by taking each one and preserving them digitally, these paintings are given a brand new lease of life. No longer are then confined to archives or albums. Instead, they can be used for their intended, educational purpose and displayed in all of their original glory.

Creating a digital library of these historical paintings also makes them accessible to everybody from anywhere in the world. This means that if there’s a particular collection of paintings on permanent display in a New York City library you’re incredibly keen on seeing, but you live in the United Kingdom, you don’t have to find the expensive airfare and accommodation. Instead, you can simply open your laptop and head over to The Watercolour World website.

Many of the watercolor paintings on display in the digital library are also provided by private collections. This gives you the opportunity to view some of the world’s rarest paintings – certainly not something you’d be able to easily do in person.

The Watercolour World is 100% free of charge and there is no membership or repeated subscription service needed to admire the paintings. It’s also Royally endorsed with its patrons being The Prince of Wales and the Duchess of Cornwall.

How is it done?

The process of preserving a watercolor painting digitally is a delicate one, but not one that is overly technical. The first task on the list is to source the painting that needs to be preserved. This takes a bit of research, but as the website’s popularity continues to grow this becomes an easier task.

Once the painting has been chosen, there are two ways of capturing it digitally, and the path that is taken often depends on the size of the painting itself. The most popular way to create a digital image of a watercolor painting is by passing it through a scanner. This shuts out any external light, picks up the detailed brush strokes, and gives a truer shade of the colors used in the painting.

Scanning isn’t really an option for larger watercolor paintings though. So, in this instance, cameras that are capable of capturing high-definition photographs are used instead. This is often done by taking smaller, close-up shots of the painting and stitching them together during the editing process to form one image of the entire painting.

Other than stitching smaller images back together, there isn’t a lot of editing work that goes into preserving a watercolor painting. The photographs or scanned images are run through special editing software, such as Adobe Photoshop, and then cropped in order to remove any blank edges picked up by the scanner.

Slight color adjustments might be made to keep them as true to the original painting as possible, and occasionally the need to adjust light-levels may be required if the watercolor has suffered some sun damage. This can help bring very old paintings back to a better level of quality.

Once that’s been done, the image is simply exported, saved, and uploaded to The Watercolor World’s digital library where it will continue to live on in its new digital format and educate us about the history of the world.

So, why not head over to The Watercolour World and take a look at some of these beautiful paintings yourself? With special collections, features, and even a search option to help you find something in particular, you’re guaranteed to be blown away by the incredible artwork on display.

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