This is a plein air watercolor done on Second Beach on the Olympic Coast in 1986. I`m posting it because the paper was one I had used, literally for decades.
Meridian 100% Rag Drawing Paper by Pentalic was thin, tough, heavily sized and took watercolor beautifully. Until it didn`t. The formula was changed and it became more like blotting paper. This tragedy sent me on a long lonely search looking for something comparable. I discovered Yupo in my wanderings. Daniel Smith sent me lots of samples to try but none were right. I was like Odysseus just trying to get home.
Last month I posted some of Georgia O`Keefe`s watercolors and mentioned my interest in the paper she used. Local artist Betsy Chang wrote to say she had been curious too and had asked the Museum of Modern Art for information. She got a boat load and passed it on the me. Mystery solved! It was cartridge paper, whatever that was?! Sarah Fincham of the UK stumbles on my blog, reads my question and writes to say;
"Cartridge paper is what we use for drawing here in the UK, it comes in various weights and is usually sized for wet media, these days at least. And yes it does take watercolour pretty well, depending how heavy it is. You get a lot of granulation and it is good for wet in wet I find. Also good to draw on over the colour.
Often it is named for counties - for example I use Norfolk cartridge 210gsm - and it's named like this because originally it was used to wrap gunpowder for muskets, and would have presumably been made locally.
As for what it's made of - well these days I don't know if it can be made of linen fibres but I doubt it, it's usually made of rag and wood pulp, and is inexpensive for that reason.Texture wise it's almost the same as what is described as vellum in the USA."
Then she sends me some!! And a couple of others as well! What a love!
First I do a test;
Seems very promising! Then I do a 'real' painting;
watercolor 11x7.5 [Norfolk Cartridge Paper #3]
I like this paper! Yet I can see it is not going to take a lot of reworking. Best used in simple compositions in a very straight forward manner. Like O`Keefe`s beautiful Evening Star series. Then I try Sarah`s other gifts;
watercolor 8x6 [Khachi Smooth Rag]
This one is so sumptuous, I barely do anything and I`m seduced by color and watercolor magic and just stop. Going to get some more of this!
Next I try a rough handmade little sheet;
watercolor and oil pastel 8.5x6 [Hahnemuhle Bamboo]
All these papers trigger my fetish so then I go online to see what I can find. A paper with the weight, durability and texture of American currency has been an obsession for quite some time. In the New York Central Art Supply paper pdf catalog I think I may have found it. Ruscombe Mills began in Britain 25 years ago and have since relocated to France. They specialize in handmade [and expensive] papers made from cotton and flax like those from earlier centuries. Creamy colored crisp sheets like Turner would have used.
watercolor 7x5 [Ruscombe 'Machine Age' Compatible Cold Cream Wove]
This little piece below, from last year, I include because it`s painted on a new American paper called 'Fluid'. It`s acid free and neutral ph but not rag. It`s cheap, loves watercolor but has a limit as to how long you can work it. Much like cartridge paper but USA made!
This is blooming in my yard and it smells like heaven, anyone know what it is?