This is part four in a multi-part review of Stonehenge Aqua Watercolor paper. Please click here for part one and work your way through the series.
When looking at papers I think it’s useful to compare things side by side. I suggest that you open each of the images in this post in a separate window so that you can compare the washes on the cold press and the hot press watercolor paper from Stonehenge Aqua.
Both of the examples are monochromatically rendered using complementary colors (with perylene green dominating). I began both portraits with a few light graphite pencil outlines.
Remember I’ve already stated in early parts of this series of reviews that this paper is draggy. This is true in both the hot and cold press versions of this paper, but what you’ll now see is visual artifacts of that dragginess in the hot press paper.
What is important to note is that as with most lines of paper it’s easier to hide strokes on a cold press and more textured paper.
In this line of papers the cold press paper isn’t very textured, think Fabriano Soft Press watercolor paper perhaps for a reference if you’ve used that paper.
Because the cold press version of this paper is fairly smooth and the sizing on both papers is draggy you may find that you have to concentrate more to get some of the smooth results you achieve on other quality watercolor papers.
In general I found, however that it was easier to layer on the cold press paper. It was also easier to drop darker values over died layers without disturbing the under layers.
Note: All the washes on these two paintings were allowed to dry before additional glazes were added.
For a host of reasons, one being the speed at which I like to work, and the other being vision issues which are requiring me to work looser and looser, I find that the “strok-i-ness” of this paper isn’t an issue. But a younger Roz, interested in smooth washes would move on to other papers.
Even without enlarging the hot press portrait example you can see the streakiness of the washes. I’ll have more to say about that in a moment.
Additionally I used Nichiban artist’s masking tape on this surface and it tore up after only being in place for less than an hour. (I will have more examples of tape usage on this paper in a later post in this series.)
On of the things that immediately struck me when using the hot press paper was that the sizing was not uniform across the sheet. I use large brushes when working and that typically helps minimize streakiness on hot press paper, but when there are problems with the sizing those problems will trump your efforts.
Here is a detail of the hot press version on the right.
At A you will see that there are circular defects in the sizing to the right and above the letter. Follow the line going upwards from there and you’ll see addition defects. These are not the result of water droplets, these are areas in the sizing that didn’t take the wash, struck only once, evenly.
Below at callout B we see an area of disruption cased by reworking the wash in that area while the wash was still wet. This move is not generally advisable on any hot press watercolor, but on most artist quality watercolor papers when you do this it “hides” better than this.
I found that in both the hot and cold press versions of the paper even my softest brushes seemed to every so often seem to cut into the wash.
At D you will see attempts to lift at the throat and at the clavicle. While the paper doesn’t start to pill it does become instantly cloudy. This is problematic for me.
At call out C I’ve laid in the darker layers over the first initial light values. There are three layers of paint here. I found that by the time I got to the third layer, without even being aggressive with the paper, the paper was not happy. The sizing seemed to be exhausted and too much paint was absorbing into the paper. This in turn was disrupting the earlier layers. (That last isn’t not readily seen in the hair, but it can be observed in the darker value areas of the nose.)
Most frustrating for me was the way in which the paint washed in on the cheek area. While the final darkest layer wasn’t applied until the surface was completely dry the wash pushed earlier paint layers out of the way and my very light (and normally effective on other papers) up and down strokes across the check can be clearly seen. This leaves a splotchiness in the glaze on the cheek that I am not a fan of.
The lighter area on the chin line is lifted out. In this instance a very light lifting effort resulted in a very mottled look.
On the throat above the collar, since things were not going well elsewhere, I went for broke and allowed myself some layers of wet over wet to see how the paint puddles on this paper.
The surface is so draggy that you have to push the paint around with more force than on the gelatin sized papers and some of the starch sized papers that I routinely use. While the model is lovely I feel that the paper doesn’t allow the paint treatment to mirror and support that loveliness.
One can always learn to adapt one’s painting style to a new paper. Given the sizing imperfections I found in the hot press watercolor paper I don’t have any desire to try to adapt to this paper. I have other hot press papers that will suit me.
I actually found that the cold press paper was more reliable and resilient in this line.
One More Example of Sizing Issues
Before leaving the monochromatic paintings and this discussion of the sizing on the hot press Stonehenge Aqua watercolor paper I wanted to show additional an additional example.
Here at the left is the full painting. You can clearly see the streakiness of the background wash. On the right a second darker valued wash was added to help hide some of the streakiness.
I’ll show you a close up in a moment, but it’s a shame that this is happening to the paper (with very little working of it) because you can see the crisp lines of the hat detail values. As long at the areas you work in are small enough the sizing issue isn’t going to be as visible.
That means you’d have to decide in advance which types of paintings you want to execute on this paper, and I prefer to have an all around useful paper.
Here is the detail of that image. If you look at the left side you will see long streaks running vertically in the background by the hat. These were made when applying the wash with light pressure strokes, and yet the paper seems to have been damaged by the hairs of the brush! This is what I mean when I say that the sizing on this paper is not consistent and reliable. I can’t remember another time when I’ve had this happen on a watercolor paper.
When you look closely at the enlargement (click on the image) you’ll see that there is also an area of patchiness there. Definitely something going on with the sizing.
I have one more post about Stonehenge Aqua hot press watercolor paper coming up. You’ll see examples of field work, and additional wash work on the hot press paper.
I found that I had the best results on this paper when I worked loosely with large flats and embraced the disruptions of the sizing surface as a “feature.” If that’s not something you’re willing to do I would recommend you focus on using the cold press paper in this line, or stay with the watercolor paper you’re already happy with.