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Materials and process for Endico watercolors.
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In 1976 Mary Endico received her Bachelor of Fine Arts  from Boston University. This was a milestone in a quest for self expression that she had pursued throughout her childhood. 

As early as four years old Endico was richly involved in drawing, painting and developing her passion in watercolor. Her skills were later enhanced through study with local art teachers. Accolades had already begun by the time she entered college and her B.F.A. was conferred after completion of an exhaustive series of studio classes in drawing, sculpture, oil painting, composition and studio process along with a broad background in the study of art history. All of this combined to provide a firm foundation on which to build her career, leading ultimately to haute conduite watercolors.

The year after college graduation was spent looking for a venue in which to pursue her art. In 1977 she found Sugar Loaf, NY which was amidst a renaissance,  establishing itself as home to working artisans providing one of a kind, top quality hand-crafted work to collectors everywhere.

Sugar Loaf provided the perfect environment in which Mary could build her studio and bring watercolor art to a new level of excellence. She embarked on the refurbishing of a pre-Revolutionary house and turned it into a combination studio/gallery. It was the perfect setting in which she could work while being open to the public. Thousands of people were thus able to take advantage of a rare opportunity to engage the artist in the surroundings of her working studio.

Mary knew that in order to establish her work in a highly volatile marketplace, that work would have to exemplify the highest standards both in artistic and technical excellence.

Of course "artistic excellence" encompasses a variety of elements. Cultural significance, historic style, group taste and personal judgment all come to bear. This broad aspect insures that a concise, clear textual definition is practically impossible. The act of taking hold of the broad question, "What is art?" then coalescing a viable solution is the prime work of the artist. In Mary's case this is accomplished through the execution of individual watercolors. 

Each singular piece becomes an intrinsic articulation of the artistic sensibility that she has  carefully developed over decades while working as a full time professional artist. Mary's work is rife with profound and profuse arrangements of assimilated iconography that both accept then promote her own expansion and refinement of the artistic lexicon. Therefore description of this aspect of Endico art is outside the purview of  a white paper.

However "technical excellence" is a function of underlying material and techniques, so it is immanently amenable to definition. 

This white paper therefore provides descriptions of the material and techniques that Mary has chosen along with the reasons for choosing. Though to summarize, the driving force behind these choices is the absolute need that each finished piece must embody robustness and longevity. 

For a work of art to endure, it must first of all last.

The preceding sentence may seem so obvious (and cute) it need not be stated. However it embodies an idea that is often overlooked—that a work of art, charged with projecting a message down through the ages, must first and foremost be durable enough to survive those ages.

No matter how commanding, unique and instructive a work of art is, if it is not implemented using materials able to withstand the effects of time, it will soon fall apart and disappear, taking its message with it. Therefore Endico haute conduite watercolors are created by combining the finest paints, paper and protectants in order to preserve their intense character for centuries. They are as long lasting as oils on canvas.1

Under constant assault by: airborne pollutants and natural chemical processes, stresses of changing temperature and humidity, sand blasting effects of both natural and artificial light, not to mention possible wear and tear from thoughtless (or even rough) handling; all physical objects are in dire peril. This is especially true for ground breaking works of art that bring their material components to the finest edge of artistic excellence.

In large part the strength, beauty and impact of Endico watercolors is a result of the precise control of color passages, balanced and contrasted, often with great subtlety, supporting in every way the underlying composition and design elements. The paintings are striking when viewed from a distance, and their emerging details are ever more meaningful as one comes closer. Finally visible: patterns found within patterns, small fully realized compositions intertwined in the larger perspectives. This is not an accident.

The full meaning of these paintings will be lost if the purposeful detail of fine brush stroke and precise color placement are obscured by the degradation of aging. Print reproductions may exist, and digital archives may allow these to be reprinted indefinitely, but these are only copies that cannot hope to match the brilliant reality of the originals. The historical record of the level of control possible with today’s watercolor will be meaningless if the originals fade. Therefore struggle for longevity is at the heart of the Endico creative process.

Haute conduite watercolor is accomplished using highest quality acid-free (neutral pH) 100% cotton rag paper. Heavy 140lb cold press is chosen because of its physical durability along with its specific drying and water retention characteristics.

No gouache or acrylics are used. Only AA/A artist grade watercolor paints are used to provide the fluid expressiveness of pure aquarelle media while avoiding fugitive colors (those that fade easily) from lesser quality paints.

Distilled water is used as a bar to chemical contaminants in the water source.

Paintings are executed under 5000K color corrected daylight fluorescent bulbs that provide a standard reference, plus a promise that hues chosen under them will diverge gracefully when viewed using various other light sources. Bulbs are monitored electronically and replaced when they deviate from a specified range.

The completed paintings are mounted using tapes, mat and backing that match the specifications of the paper. They are single-hinge mounted to neutral pH archival matting with acid-free glue and linen tape. Then painting, mat and foam core are assembled and circumference bound to UV protective glazing using acid-free framers’ tape. The whole is protected in a non-corrosive rigid aluminum frame.

The single-hinge mounting method allows the painting to breathe and adjust to changes in temperature and humidity while the mat holds the painting away from the glazing, safe from possible condensation. Each of the framed paintings also bears care and handling information which is itself printed on acid-free paper and affixed to the outside of the foam core backing with archival double sided tape.

Earlier Endico works, and those outside of the haute conduite style, may be created using slight variations on the techniques and materials described here. However Mary has maintained a long standing tradition of using the highest quality materials available.

For information about preserving your Endico watercolor see: Care and Handling


1.     Mayer, Ralph. The Artist's Handbook of Materials and Techniques. New York: Viking Press, 1970.

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Endico Watercolor Originals, P.O. Box 31, 1386 Kings Highway, Sugar Loaf, NY 10981-0031

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