Thursday, April 8, 2010

Playing In Puddles . . .Paper

I wasn't going to Play in Puddles until next week, but a look at the calendar convinced me to post this now while I have a chance.
Last time, I referred to watercolour "board", so lest there be some misunderstanding, I will explain my use of the term. Watercolour paper and Illustration board are two very different things. Illustration board is excellent for graphic artists and designers. It will accept gouache, acrylic, graphite, ink, and to some degree, even watercolour, although it can make washes difficult and it can be hard to build up layers of colour, but this board usually has a very slick surface and often is not acid free. It is not something that I use for my watercolour paintings.
Watercolour paper on the other hand, is made expressly for watercolours, although it can be used for other purposes. It comes in different weights; 90lb, 140 lb, and 300lb are the most common. The 140lb is heavy, more like a light board than a paper, and the 300lb is definitely a board. Most professional watercolour painters use the 140 and/or the 300 because of its strength, versatility, and because unless you are going to soak your paper, you needn't stretch it or tape it down. I use a style that uses less water than normally used in traditional watercolours, so I have found there is no need for me to tape or stretch my paper.
My favourite paper/board is Arches Hot Press. I've talked about it before and I probably will again. This "paper" has no paper in it. Arches is 100% rag content and is acid free. It has been used with confidence by watercolourists for over 500 years, ever since it first appeared in 1492. It comes in COLD press, a paper with some texture, and this is the most popular choice. It also comes in ROUGH texture, something that appeals to artists who love the unexpected effects this board gives you. I like their HOT press best, a sheet that is very smooth, but not slick. This paper absorbs the colour well, allows for almost endless washes and build up of colour, allows great detail, and takes a lot of abuse.
I've tried a lot of different papers/boards, including one that uses an acid free paper laminated to a non-acid free hard backing. I've liked many of them and found them to be really good papers and many of them are the preferred choice of a lot of artists, but I've settled on Arches for all its great qualities and its reliability, and because I love the way the paint flows across the surface. Its one drawback is that the heavier weights are quite expensive, but quality is worth the price.
My little 8 x 10 watercolour "Encounter" was done on Arches Hot Press.