Ink Wash Portrait: I Miss Gelatin-Sized Watercolor Papers

August 23, 2021

This is another comic guest from “As Yet Untitled with Alan Davies.” I’m sorry I don’t remember his name, the book is in storage. A lovely 8 x 7.5 inch journal that always seems a perfect size to me.

I used brush pen and ink wash on this sketch. And I did pause the TV for this sketch (unlike the previous post), because I wanted to take time and play with the washes and establish the values in a more orderly fashion.

While it’s certainly still possible to make nice ink washes on the current Fabriano Artistico watercolor paper, now that it’s made using vegetable sizing you have to work harder to get the smoothness. And so here I made that work for me by making deliberate stroke-i-ness on the collar. (I bought this paper after the change was made, not knowing until I used it that the sizing had been changed. It sat in my flat file for years until I finally bound it into journals for quick sketching.)

Regardless of the paper you’re working on there is something really fun about monochromatic drawings.

Be sure to let your paper manufacturers know that you LOVE GELATIN sizing for watercolor and wet media papers. Fluid 100, ThSaunders/Waterford, and Arches all still use gelatin sizing (as of this posting—it could change in a flash). If we don’t speak up, it will disappear, and with it, a tradition that’s hundreds and hundreds of years old (introduced by Fabriano in the middle of the 13th century); and common to papers of the great age of watercolor—1775 to 2000.

    • Paul
    • August 23, 2021

    Roz, I suspect the shift away from gelatin sizing is at least partially related to reducing a paper mill’s carbon footprint, expect gelatin sizing to disappear in the near future. As much as I like gelatin sized papers too, I’ll gladly do without to help avoid the worst effects of human induced global warming. Love the monochrome sketch👍👍.

    1. Reply

      Paul, you know I love you, but you aren’t a watercolorist so you don’t have any skin (no pun intended) in this particular game. If you’d grown up watercoloring on gelatin-sized paper I know you’d still have your great scruples but any thoughts in this vein would be a good deal more tortured.

      I believe there are ways to continue to have gelatin sizing for watercolor paper without destruction of the environment. It should be on the table to discuss and work out, especially since people universally haven’t shifted to vegan lifestyles there are still bi-products and waste from raising animals. The material used for gelatin is a bi-product of the animal husbandry industry so using those materials is actually a way to have less waste.

      I think it’s a matter of non-art companies buying art materials companies and caring only about the bottom line in cost of producing materials, and in their public face for the world community, especially non-artists, or people who haven’t worked with other materials and don’t know the difference.

      I know that it will be more and more difficult to get gelatin-sized watercolor paper as my life winds down to its conclusion. And my grief over this is not just selfish, that I won’t have more paper to use, but for artists I’ve trained and those coming up behind them, who will never know what it’s like and will be several more degrees removed from the creation of art they might enjoy viewing in museums. I think it’s very very sad.

      But then I sobbed very audibly throughout the Linotype movie.

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