Pre-Fair and Post-Fair Preparation—Materials Experiments Part 2: Kilimanjaro Watercolor Paper

September 14, 2015


Above: Quick sketch of a sheep using a Platinum Carbon Black felt-tipped pen, light washes of gouache, and Montana Marker. (12 x 9 inches, Kilimanjaro Watercolor journal, wire bound on the 12 inch side.)

Originally, while getting ready to go to the 2015 Minnesota State Fair, I thought that I would like to take real watercolor paper. I got two different types of watercolor journals—both with wire coil bindings. 

One of those journals was Cheap Joe's Kilimanjaro 9 x 12 inch Watercolor Paintbook (portrait style so the binding was on the 12 inch side, and the above sketch was actually made when the pad was turned on its side).

This is a BRIGHT white, cold press paper. The journal is filled with this 140 lb. watercolor paper interleaved with 70 lb. sketch paper. (There is a flimsy cardstock cover with labeling on this journal, and then beneath that a sheet of 300 lb. watercolor paper for you to paint as the cover of your finalized journal. Frankly I'd rather have the true heavy weight covers from the American Journey Line of Cheap Joe's journals.)

I thought the bright white of the paper would be fun to work with, along with the cold press texture—which is a good deal more texture than I usually deal with.

I also thought that the sketch paper would be good for doing sketches when I didn't want to get the paints out at the Fair.

150816_SheeponKilimanjaroBDETAILLeft: Detail. Click on the image to view an enlargement of the detail which shows the texture of the paper.  

When the sketchbooks arrived I got out some video from last year's Fair and played it on my computer. I did this sheep sketch from that video.

I used a wide (2 inches) flat brush—something I could never do at the Fair, because I couldn't stand and paint as I usually do and constantly bend to deal with water sitting on the barn floor. And there is little opportunity to sit in the barns. 

But I did enjoy trying various experiments on this paper about 2 weeks before the Fair started.

First it was fun to work on real watercolor paper after a long break. I love the bright white color of this paper, and while I'm not a fan of cold press watercolor paper I enjoyed the way the texture of this cold press paper accepted the washes and created interesting puddles and paint textures.

The Platinum Carbon Black ink bled ever so slightly on this paper. (See the eye on your left—the line at the top right bled into the lavender paint. Then, coming down from the eye to the muzzle, I laid in a neutral glaze of paint, and if you look closely at that, you can see the pen ink bleeding into that wash.Though I wasn't surprised about that as there is a lot of ink scribbled in that area.)

This means the sizing on the paper wasn't letting the ink dry fast enough. But on the other hand, the bleeding was so minimal, that I know I'll use this pen on the remaining pages in days to come, simply because the pen tip felt good on the paper.

I decided against taking this paper to the 2015 Minnesota State Fair because I thought it was too rough for all the writing I like to do. And I wanted to use some bold lines and the Pentel Pocket Brush Pen took a longer time than I like to wait, to dry on this paper.

I had hoped to do lots of color experiments at the Fair, and this image was practice for that. But I realized, on that first day at the Fair, that I needed big brushes to do this, and I only had the standard Niji waterbrushes. Maybe some day I'll go to the Fair and find a barn corner where I can set up a chair and a container of water and use a two-inch flat brush with big washes of gouache or watercolor, but it wasn't this year.

We can have plans, but we need to be flexible. We can want to focus on color experiments and then find ourselves working instead mostly with pen, and mostly with new pens.

Sometimes our plans fall apart because we default to our "comfort zones" or our comfort materials and tools. Other times we have to adjust while all the days of thought and planning get tossed simply because of which pen we pulled out of the pocket first. And we get into a groove we decide to run with faced, with the actual conditions on the day.

Someday I may take one of these "paintbooks" to the Fair, or on a trip. I know I'll be happy with the paper.

Yes I thought I'd experiment with bold color (which I ended up not doing after all), but I also thought I would use color pencil and I found the surface of this paper stiffer and more resistant to color pencil than I enjoy. I also worried that I'd end up doing a lot of small sketches on the drawing paper and that some of those might migrate to the watercolor paper. The texture didn't seem right to me for small sketches.

If you like working with 140 lb. cold press watercolor paper (you can get Bright White or Natural White Kilimanjaro, depending on your preference) you might want to give this paintbook a try.

I'd love it if they made the drawing paper 90 lb. instead of 70 lb. It would be more opaque and fun to draw on. But I can live with the 70 lb. paper.

I have more tests with different media, done on this paper, that I'll show on another day when the pages of this journal are scanned.

Recommendation: The metal coil binding it comes with is flimsy and doesn't join properly at the back, so when you open and close the journal a gap opens in the binding coil. Pages can actually start to come out at the back. I noticed this in the testing phase. I solved this tendency by taking a length of 3-ply waxed Irish linen thread and sewing in and out of the coils at the back, to hold the approaching edges of the curved coil together with the thread. Problem solved, accident averted.

Note: I started a new category "sheep" with this post. There are lots of other sheep on the blog before this post. Those you'll have to find by using a key-word search for sheep or Minnesota State Fair. You can use the blog's search engine at the top of the left-hand column. I just really thought I should start a category for sheep going forward.

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