Thursday, March 10, 2011

Comparing Watercolor Papers

(untitled - any suggestions?)
8" x 10" watercolor on Arches paper
©2010 Stacy L. Rowan

Ever since I first started painting with watercolors, I have used Arches 140lb Cold Press watercolor paper. I think I chose this paper because the instructor of the first watercolor class I took recommended it. And it has never given me any reason to switch.

But I kept hearing other artists talk about different papers that they adored. I tried to ignore their enticing stories, after all I was in a committed relationship with a paper I loved, but curiosity is a temptress.

One of the papers I've often heard lovely things about is Fabriano Artistico watercolor paper. So I did the unthinkable and bought myself a sheet. I stored the paper away in my flat file and there it sat. And sat, and sat, and sat.

The problem was that I didn't know how paint would handle on the Fabriano paper, and I was afraid to use it for any painting for fear that I my inexperience with the paper would lead me to mess up the painting.

I kept waiting for a painting that I wouldn't mind sacrificing in the name of learning and that painting never came. It was like contemplating sacrificing one of my children. Not gonna happen.

But I really wanted to try the new paper.

Then it came to me... the idea to paint two simultaneous paintings - one on Arches and one on Fabriano. So that's what I did. You can see the results in this post.

Sweet Dreams
8" x 10" watercolor on Fabriano Artistico paper
©2010 Stacy L. Rowan

Visually I think the paintings are very similar except for a few minor changes in color choice. (I found that I wanted to make some changes along the way and have them not be completely identical. I just couldn't help myself.)

I enjoyed trying out the Fabriano Artistico. It did handle paint differently than the Arches. The biggest difference was the ability to lift dry paint. It is much easier to lift the paint on the Fabriano than on the Arches.

In some cases this is a benefit, like when I wanted to soften edges but was a little slow at getting back to them. At other times it was a little frustrating, like when adding a wash to an already painted area. Occasionally the dry paint would lift causing the two washes to physically mix. I found that water control is very important when painting over a dry area.

I actually found that painting on the Fabriano was similar to painting on Aquabord. If I hadn't had experience with Aquabord I might have been more frustrated working on the Fabriano paper the first time.

My verdict - I will definitely use the Fabriano paper again. Although, given my comfort level with Arches paper and the fact that the stuff is nearly indestructible, I will probably still reach for the Arches more frequently. For me Arches is like that old pair of shoes that fit so comfortably. And since I've never had any problems with it or been dissatisfied, I don't feel that I need to make a change.

That being said, I do think it is good to have more than one option when it comes to supplies. So I am happy to now have two papers which work well for me.

Arches Watercolor
Fabriano Artistico

Note: I was not compensated for this review in any way.


Jennifer Rose said...

i use the fabriano paper with coloured pencils and with neocolors. really like the paper. haven't used it for watercolour yet tho. haven't used arches paper, but its on my ever growing list of paper to try.

you are right, its always a good idea to have more than one paper option. you never know when something might get discontinued.

Robyn said...

Stacy, what patience and dedication you have to do the same painting twice.

I always feel deprived because it is extremely hard for me to get Arches paper here in Italy. Fabriano is all over the place, of course. The main reason I chase Arches is because I love bright white paper for watercolour and Fabriano leans towards the panna (cream).

Now I look at both your delicious watercolours, I can't help thinking I love the Fabriano version best. So I should just stop complaining ;)

Stacy said...

Jennifer, it is a bit nerve wracking when you hear stories of papers being discontinued. It is so easy to have a materials habit turn into a rut. I try to remember to branch out, but probably don't do it as much as I should.

Robyn, I don't know if it was patience and dedication as much as a lack of courage. :D Even though Arches has bright white paper I often use the natural white. Although I think I might have purchased the bright white last time I got it. I'll have to double check.