Light Washes on Wave Paper: Another Short Review

March 8, 2014

Left: Quick two-minute warm-up sketch of the grizzly bear taxidermy at the Bell Museum of Natural History, using a Pilot Lettering Pen (number 10) and light washes of M. Graham watercolors on Wave paper. The tooth portion of the bear was sketched without pen, simply to see how drawing with a watercolor-loaded brush worked on this sheet. I was working with a Niji waterbrush which didn't have much of a point. If your habit is to simply use a fine-tipped watercolor round loaded with paint to create quick sketches this might be a suitable sheet for you as long as you keep in mind the paint stays where you put it. Read below for more details.

On March 3 I wrote a quick review of Wave paper and Pilot Lettering Pens (which referenced an earlier post on Wave paper which you'll find if you go to that post, but the essentials are in the second review).

In that review I mentioned that I had not tried doing washes on the paper yet. Then Thursday night I was at the Bell Museum of Natural History Sketch Night (more on this in an upcoming post) and I deliberately took out some Wave paper from Kunst & Papier to test the use of light watercolor washes.

Wave paper is a drawing paper and as such isn't sized for wet media in the way that watercolor papers and some mixed media papers are. As would be expected then the wash sits stubbornly on the paper and you have to drag it about, leaving streaks and edges. Edges which you can't go back and lift up without degrading the paper by over work.

But this lightweight drawing paper was surprisingly amenable to the watercolor washes all the same—if you keep in mind it's a drawing paper. By that I mean: 1. it didn't buckle horribly (it did pucker a bit wherever a light wash was added); 2. It did allow for restatements of color if you waited a little bit for the paper surface to dry off.

Everyone applies light washes differently. Within that continuum I have to explain that for me the light washes were diluted on the palette, not by adding more water to the page, except for the area under the bear's nose where you can see I smoothed out the grey tone. (In otherwords not only was my pigment saturation light but these were not very liquid washes, certainly not dry, but at that end of the continuum.)

The paint sank into the paper, part of the "I'm not budging from here" response of the paper. It didn't soak through the paper at any spot, however at the eye where I have the most layers of paint added the most furiously (while things were still wet) it came very close to soaking through—so expect that to happen if you aren't careful.

The paper can withstand light pressure and drag from a paper towel (see cheek) without pilling and falling apart.

My assessment of this paper remains pretty much the same. I don't find the surface draw with most media on it pleasant (though others might) so it will remain a quick sketch paper for me. The tooth is such however that interesting variety in line can be achieved with one pen and with several different types of pen. Light washes are possible, and one could achieve an interesting use of such watercolor washes or ink washes in quick sketches for life drawing for instance.

I like (and love) a lot of different papers, all for different reasons. I find it helpful to have different papers handy to use depending on how I think I might approach a sketch, or the type of effect I want to achieve, or the level of fun factor (result be damned) I want to enjoy. Because of all that I think Wave paper will have a continued presence in my life-drawing sketch bag (that bag that's ready to go at a moment's notice to a life drawing session). And I may just find myself reaching for a sheet while making quick sketches in the studio. The key is simply, as is always true, to accept a paper for what it is and then set about bending it to what you want it to do. When you find something that works even in a limited way it's worth keeping in your mental file of "possibilities."

Next week I'll post the larger more involved sketch (it's also very loose in approach) I did of this bear, immediately following the execution of this warm up sketch. That second sketch is 12 x 16 inches. Since it was too big for my scanner it's sitting in a computer file right now as 4 scans I have to knit in Photoshop. See you soon to discuss that.

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