In Context: Looking at the Arteza Watercolor Book Part 8

June 26, 2019
A 9 x 12 inch page from the Arteza Watercolor Book I’m testing. Sakura Pigma Professional Brush Pen FB and watercolor.

Again I didn’t write anything on this journal page, so it’s a bit weird for “In Context” but it’s one more in my series of mini review comments on the Arteza Watercolor Book.

What I enjoyed on this spread was the manner in which I could get some delicate wash techniques. I was using a large mop brush (which I’ve discussed in other blog posts).

What you might not enjoy from this paper is was the way that the paper buckled when wet. I’m including this image in my series because it clearly shows the issues with buckling.

I get a lot of questions from blog readers. A huge percentage of those questions involve the search for a watercolor sketchbook whose pages don’t buckle when wet.

The reality is that all watercolor paper, all paper, buckles a bit or a lot, when wet, depending on what type of paper it is what weight it is, what sizing is used on it. So unless you are going to work on loose sheets you tape to a board in the traditional watercolor fashion your paper is going to buckle. (One exception I know of is Strathmore Aquarius II which has synthetic fibers which help the lightweight watercolor paper resist buckling.)

I wrote about this earlier in my series—or I was just talking to my students about this? It all melds together because it seems that I’m always being asked about this.

In this detail callouts point out buckling and other points of interest discussed in the post’s text.

Here’s the scoop for people who don’t already know this—paper is made up of fibers which swell when they get wet because they absorb the water applied to them. This swelling distorts the paper because the fibers are no longer in the alignment they dried in when the paper was made. This results in buckling.

If you tape the paper before it gets wet it will dry flat as the moisture leaves the paper through evaporation.

How much or how little a paper buckles depends on a lot of factors—the absorbency of the fiber(s) used to make the paper is key. Also key is the sizing put into and onto the paper to keep ink, pigment, and water from penetrating the paper. Watercolor papers typically have sizing (external and/or internal) which keep the papers from absorbing the pigment right away. They actually keep the water and pigment floating on the paper longer so that you can move your wash about with your brush. And by doing this the pigments settle on the paper as the water dries and sparkle. They don’t sink into the paper and become dull. 

(For instance I love painting on printmaking paper but they are sized to work with press inks. When you paint on printmaking paper the washes resist movement even when urged by your brush. And the pigments tend to sink in a bit more. I still love to paint on printmaking paper like Stonehenge Drawing and Printmaking paper, but compared to a watercolor on watercolor paper the pigment on the Stonehenge Drawing and Printmaking paper will look a little more dull. You can use my blog’s search engine to find Stonehenge Drawing and Printmaking paper pages. Search simply for Stonehenge and then ignore any references to Stonehenge Aqua. When I started the blog Aqua didn’t exist and that’s not the paper I’m writing about in this paragraph; but there was no need back then to make a distinction and add the full Drawing and Printmaking to the Stonehenge name.)

In the detail image you’ll see at callouts A, B, and C the paper has buckled. You know this because in the scan the paper buckling has cast a shadow. I point this out because for many people getting a perfectly flat scan is important. I’m one of those people too. It seems I don’t mind paper buckling when I paint on it but I like it to scan flat.  This page was weighted during the scan and even that didn’t flatten it out. Just be aware of this if that matters to you.

At E and D you see me teasing out pigment from my wash edges. I point this out because they might look like shadows as the pigments are in the brown/gray range. But they are actually something I want to have show up on the image. The fact that I can’t get the sheet flat even when I weight it means that these areas where I am working delicately can loose any impact I wanted them to have.

Just more stuff to keep in mind about this paper when matching it to how you like to work.

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