Weekend Wonderings: Watercolor and Various Papers

Diana Trout has been an inspiration to me for several years now.  I love her book Journal Spilling and the class I took with her at JournalFest 2010 in Port Townsend, WA was one of the most enjoyable classes I’ve taken.  I was SICK AS A DOG (I later found out about a month later that I had walking pneumonia!  Good grief!!) and being literally a continent away from home, it was a bit disconcerting and worrisome.  Diana was extraordinarily kind to me and made me feel at home, letting me choose my work pace with no pressures.  Her genuine caring demeanor and occasional checking on me during class made a real impact on me in my state of vulnerability and it is a gift of kindness received that I will not soon forget.

Despite my less-than-normally-functioning self I learn a LOT of things in that class that I still use today in my art journals.  I think possibly the most valuable thing I have learned from her is that IT IS OK TO PLAY!  Not everything is going to be perfect.  Experiment.  Have fun!  Life is WAY too short to be stressing out over a collection of pressed and dried wood fiber!  LOL!  I still struggle with this concept but I have greatly increased my skills in this area and every day I choose to just play my skills increase and become engrained a little deeper in my psyche…

That being said some watercolor exercises Diana talked about on her blog got me to thinking.  I have several types of journal paper that I use regularly and I wondered how those different papers would respond to watercolor media?  I decided to try some different papers and compare the effects of each.  I used watered-down acrylic washes on part of each paper group and watercolor made using Distress Ink Pads on the other part of each paper group.  Below are the different paper types and the results when exposed to watercolors.

Artist's Loft WC 140#

Artist’s Loft WC 140#

Canson WC 140# Cold Press

Canson WC 140# Cold Press

abriano Artistico 140# Hot Press

abriano Artistico 140# Hot Press

Strathmore 140# WC Cold Press (400 Series)

Strathmore 140# WC Cold Press (400 Series)

Strathmore 140# Mixed Media (400 Series)

Strathmore 140# Mixed Media (400 Series)

Canson 98# Mixed Media (XL Series)

Canson 98# Mixed Media (XL Series)

Bee Paper 93# Heavyweight Drawing Paper (Professional Series)

Bee Paper 93# Heavyweight Drawing Paper (Professional Series)

Not surprisingly, the Fabriano Artistico Hot Press had the bet quality and durability and could be used in a number of ways.  (A BIG thank you to Teesha Moore who introduced me to is several years ago…)  It didn’t pill overly much when worked repeatedly and stood up well to my abusive, unskilled watercoloring hand.  I was also impressed with the Strathmore Series 400 WC paper.  I just recently purchased this paper before my vacation a couple of weeks ago and so I was not very familiar with its properties.  It performed very well and when I want a cold-pressed paper this will be my go-to in the future.  The Canson Cold Press did well enough and when teaching classes or having to create many multiples for a project (such as ATC’s etc.), this would be a lower cost alternative to get an acceptable watercolor look.  It also would work if you don’t happen to have your 40% off coupon to use at Michael’s to purchase the more pricey Strathmore version instead.  🙂

Also not a surprise, the Michael’s bargain student grade watercolor paper made by Artist’s Loft was not my favorite.  Even when profusely saturated (the third panel from the left in the photo) the watercolor still did not blend very well.  Also, it had a tendency to pill early in the brushing process and did not seem to be a good artistic option for normal watercolor work.  However, if you want a paper that absorbs and holds water-based media without blending or running, this paper is your brand!  LOL!  The far right panel was used dry to “mop up” the left over watercolor on my teflon mat pallet and as you can see, where it picked up the scattered and spattered areas, it stayed put.  It is a fairly thick paper as well and might make a hardy, inexpensive base for ATC’s?

Most interesting to me were the “other” papers in the experiment.  The Strathmore and Canson Mixed Media papers and the Bee Paper.  The Strathmore Mixed Media was very smooth.  The watercolor seemed to sit more on top of the paper and so it had a more smooth and less feathery blend.  It didn’t pill easily and it is a very luxurious paper to the touch.  Thick and hearty and I really like it for single page mixed media work that requires working outside of a bound book format.  The Canson Mixed Media paper (wire bound book format) didn’t have as much coating as the Strathmore Mixed Media and was thus quite a bit more absorbent.  It feathered nicely and looked pretty similar in its watercolor processing qualities as the Strathmore Coldpress WC.  It is quite a bit thinner, however, and buckled more with the application of water than any of the other papers.  Since it is going to be pressed flat in a book this will eventually relax over time but if you don’t like buckling with your wet medias, this is not the paper to use with heavy watercolor work.  The Bee Paper help up surprisingly well also.  Being less that 100# paper, it also buckled when wetted but not as much as the Canson Mixed Media.  It feathers nicely and blends well enough.  As stated for the Canson, it might not make the best choice for heavy watercolor use, but it stood up well to the application without excessive pilling and would be an acceptable choice for mixed media work.  It is the paper that this face was done on shown in an earlier post.

Clean-up Book Page

Even the clean-up book paper turned out nice and they all will make good tag and collage fodder in the future.  I hope this post was as informative to you as it was to me.  I enjoyed the exercise.  Being a chemical engineer in my “day job” I naturally like performing experiments and solving “problems” in my spare time.  It is only natural that some of that personality trait appear in my art world, too!

Have a great weekend!

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