Sunday, June 8, 2014

Art Collector Tip #1 - Watercolor Papers

I've posted quite a few Artist Tips here (27 so far - you can find them by searching for artist tips in the search box in the right column of this blog), and announced them all in my Fine Art Newsletter.  I hope that not only my artist friends, but also those who are mainly interested in collecting art, have read them and enjoyed learning a bit about what we artists struggle with.  But I feel it's time to include some Art Collector Tips to address more directly some of the questions I hear from my collectors, about both art collecting in general,  and my art in particular.  This first tip is a short tutorial on the watercolor paper I use - typical sizes, surface finishes, and its archival qualities - to help collectors better understand the materials in the paintings they may purchase.

I employ both Arches and Saunders Waterford artist-grade watercolor papers.  I purchase these in full sheets, which are 22x30" in size.  (I do have some larger sheets, but haven't painted on them in awhile.)  I usually tear these sheets into smaller "standard" sizes of half-sheet (15x22"), quarter sheet (11x15"), and eighth sheet (7.5x11").  I also sometimes tear them "the other way", to produce a longer, thinner shape: 5.5x15", 7.5x22", and 11x30".  The smallest of these, the eighth sheets, are what I usually use for my weekly watercolors.  In addition, when I've completed a painting, it sometimes turns out that it can be improved by cropping - cutting it to a smaller size to emphasize the successful parts, get rid of the unsuccessful parts, or move the center of interest.  So a finished painting may turn out to be just about any size.  This is one great advantage of watercolor paintings - it's quite easy to crop a completed painting to improve it - as simple as cutting a piece of paper!

Watercolor paper typically comes in three different surface textures - hot-press (HP or smooth), cold-press (CP or "NOT" - meaning not HP), and rough (R).  HP paper  takes paint very differently than the other two finishes, and I don't like the results I get with it, so I don't currently use it.  I do use both CP and R, depending on the size of the piece and the subject matter.  It's easier to get smooth washes (large areas of fairly uniform color) on CP paper, while it's easier to get vivid dry-brush strokes on R paper.  These papers also come in two colors - natural (light cream) and bright white - and I use both.

This artist-grade watercolor paper is paper only in the most general sense.  It is actually made of 100% cotton fibers - not of wood fibers like "normal" paper.  (The acid in wood-based paper causes it to brown and disintegrate with age.)  The watercolor sheets are mould made, acid free, and sized either inside or on the surface (or both) with gelatin to make them less absorbent - otherwise painting on them would be like painting on a blotter.  They are of archival quality - they will last a long, long time without yellowing or deteriorating when framed behind glass or plastic.  Despite some opinions to the contrary, there is absolutely NO scientific evidence that the canvas typically used for oil and acrylic artwork is any more long-lasting and archival than modern artist-quality watercolor paper.

In a future Art Collector Tip, I'll discuss the physical qualities of the paint I use.

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