“Revamped” Magnani Portofino Watercolor Paper Part 2

May 18, 2022


Today here’s another portrait I painted on a piece of Magnani Portofino Watercolor paper.

I’m not one to give up a fight easily.

With so many quality art paper mills being bought up by non-paper making conglomerates who evidently don’t understand what watercolor artists want to do with their papers, I have to push to use papers that are marginal all the time. Who knows what we’ll eventually be left with.

So despite the fact that I was not having any fun painting on the “revamped” Magnani Portofino watercolor paper (see original review in Monday’s post) I kept trying things out on it.

Also, besides not giving up easily I’ve never seen an 18th or 19th century wig that I didn’t want to draw. So here’s a pen and watercolor sketch of actor Martin Clunes, in a 19th century wig in an episode of “Vanity Fair” (viewed on Amazon Prime).

A detail of the washes on the face in today’s sketch. Look closely at the bridge of the nose (red) and the side of the face on the right (brown) and you will see the paper giving out, the sizing allowing some fibers in the paper to absorb too much pigment and while others don’t. This creates a sort of very fine dotted, stipple-like look in those areas. In both those areas of the sketch there was no overworking of the washes, simply a couple colors glazed down in a traditional manner, to which a quality watercolor paper needs to be able to respond. 

First, sketching with the brand new, very inky Tombow Fudenosuke Brush Pen was very draggy. There is much more line restatement here than in my typical quick portraits based on contour line.

If you look at the jacket washes at the bottom, and in patches in the face, especially our right, you’ll see the beading up of the watercolor. You don’t see it in other areas because I reworked those areas to smooth them out (yes, me who loves texture). But “smoothing” out watercolor is hazardous as you all know. and I find it renders the color very dull. 

Reworking pushes the color deeper into the paper. Traditional sizing (like gelatin sizing) floats the paint on the surface until it dries. This allows the light to move through the color layer and hit the white paper and then bounce back to our eye, giving us the brightness we love in 19th and 20th century watercolors done in a traditional transparent method. 

Keep in mind the reworking in my sketch of Clunes wasn’t glazing, lightly applied—the new color had to be rubbed over vigorously on this paper.

You’ll also notice on the left of the forehead and at the throat where I had to rework earlier passages of paint that with very little additional work the paper is giving up in those areas, resulting in a visual splotchiness.

The hairline at the left is splotchier still—resulting from a little go at lifting, when the area was dry. 

The paper really wants to be left alone. 

The background is strokes of watercolor (very streaky), they wouldn’t flow together. (I used Schmincke and Daniel Smith watercolors and don’t have this problem typically on other papers I use.) 

There is some granulation in the background color mix which comes from the use of Cobalt Azure from Schmincke—a granulating color. And that effect is not due to the paper.


If  you’re saying to yourself “Roz, this just looks like your loose brush work from other portraits and I don’t see it” please open this sketch I did here of one of my Wizards. Click on the image in that post and place the enlargement side by side to today’s portrait.

In the wizard portrait you will see that the strokes flow onto the paper (note especially the face). That additional glazing wet on wet or wet on dry, intensifies color rather than dulling it.  The strokes in the shirt are made in easy, fluid motions, sometimes overlapping, other times not but there is an EASE in those movements as the brush moves over the paper. That ease is left as an artifact on the page. It is NOT a scrubbing, pushing struggle like the washes in today’s portrait. (You will also see in this Wizard painting that there is granulation in the areas where I made violets or purples—again this is a function of the Schmincke granulation Cobalt Azure, not the paper.)

And the paper I sketched that Wizard portrait on? An inexpensive watercolor sketchbook from Arteza! (A paper I don’t usually recommend because it doesn’t provide the full watercolor painting experience of paper interaction I’d like my students to learn from and enjoy. 

I’d take a lifetime supply of Arteza as it is/was two years or so ago when I bought those books.

But who knows, maybe Arteza has changed as well in its current form. I hope not.

In some ways Magnani’s Portofino watercolor paper reminds me very much of Stonehenge Aqua, which you’ll remember I did a 5-part review of a couple years ago. I didn’t find it fun or useful to work on.

More on this paper later this week.

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