An hour or two with Glenda Goldberg

Many artists use standard watercolor paper measuring 22 x 30 inches to create full sheet, half sheet, or quarter sheet paintings. If an artist wants to paint on paper  with any dimension greater than 30 inches, one option is to buy a roll of watercolor paper.  But listen.! I don’t recommend buying a roll of paper. I did and it is exhausting.

The paper is thick and it arrived rolled tightly in a box. It has excellent memory and strenuously resists all efforts to unroll it and whack off a chunk to paint on. I’ve tried weighting the leading edge of the roll with 25 cans of soup, beans, and juice from my pantry. The minute I start to unroll it, the end of the paper manages to lift like a wave nearing shore and those cans start surfing.

Recently I decided to sneak up on that roll of paper to lop off a mere 16 inches for a painting that will be 15 x 33. My 85 year old mom was here to help me, and I told her to be nonchalant when I brought the roll of paper out, as if we were just going to admire the surface of it and do no cutting. Our ruse didn’t work, and we manhandled that paper 15 minutes to cut what I needed. Whew! And that was only the first hurdle.

Like many artists I wet the blank paper until it has absorbed enough water to be limp, then staple it to a “painting support” such as Gatorbord, a lightweight foam board with waterproof paper on both sides. This presented the second hurdle. Gatorbord is sold in sizes for standard watercolor paper, and my curly paper was a bit too long.

With a bit of thought, I came up with a Rube Goldberg solution.  I abutted the edges of two pieces Gatorbord, wet 4-inch wide strips of watercolor paper, and stapled them over the joint on both the front and back surfaces. Voila! The paper shrank as it dried, pulling the joint tight and solid. But when I wet the curly piece of paper from that argumentative roll and stapled it  to the board, the added pull on one side as it dried tugged at the joint until it is angled slightly. Consequently I’m painting in a bit of a valley toward one end of my painting.

Rather than being impressed with my resourcefulness my artist friends started ribbing me, addressing me as “Glenda Goldberg.”  And as I painted on my paper- that- turns- a- corner, I started wondering just who Rube Goldberg was and what he did that causes us to remember him and invoke his name.  You might be curious too.

Rube Goldberg  n. a comically involved, complicated invention, laboriously contrived to perform a simple operation – Webster’s New Dictionary

Have a look at to learn more about Rube Goldberg  and see an art gallery of what he did to make his name an entry in Webster's Dictionary - an entry as a noun that is defined not as the man himself, but as something remarkable he did.

So after that bit of research, I’m proud to be called Glenda Goldberg. And even though one end of my paper and support are a bit uphill, it works. Thanks Rube!