Many artists I know consider Arches to be a top-of-the-line brand of watercolor paper. I became more focused on watercolor painting this year and decided to purchase both the Hot Press and Cold Press Watercolor Blocks. The blocks are natural white paper made in molds that are cut and tape-bound into blocks. (Carefully remove each with a thin metal spatula to avoid tearing.) The sheets are 140 lb (300 gsm) weight, with 20 sheets per block. I love doing abstract panoramic landscapes in both horizontal and vertical orientation so I got the 3.9″ × 9.8″ for experimentation. This post discusses my experiences with Hot Press. I’ll do another post later about the Cold Press.
To be frank, I was disappointed with my abstract watercolor paintings using the Hot Press. While they weren’t terrible, the smoothness of the paper, combined with the subtlety of the watercolors, resulted in somewhat bland images.
Had I seen the Artists Network’s article discussing the different grades of watercolor paper beforehand, the results would have made more sense. The article says “Hot pressed is not adequate for general watercolor painting” and further states that very little pigment penetrates beyond sitting on the surface. I do not know enough about watercolor science to produce an explanation, however, I’m theorizing that maybe penetration aids translucency? The translucent aspects of watercolor are part of its charm. More research is needed.
So, being cheap and not easily daunted, I resolved to find another media for this special paper. I had given up oils about 20 years ago due to my reaction to turpentine, however, I still had a large stash of Windsor Newton oils that had maintained their quality. After taking a class with Deborah Paris of the Landscape Atelier, who works in oils and uses liquin instead of turpentine for glazing, I decided to give them a try again.
I feel the resulting artworks turned out extremely well with the combination of oil paint and liquin only as a glaze/thinner. They retained their high chromatic colors, which I feel work well with abstract landscape paintings. And, I was able to add some texture which resulted in the illusion of depth. They were still extremely smooth, but attractively so.
I am still researching the reason WHY the oils performed so well with the Hot Press paper (suggestions appreciated) and will update this blog post when I have hard data. Going forward, I plan to enthusiastically use the Arches Hot Press Watercolor in my oil paintings.