Monday, 2 February 2015

'Right' or 'wrong' side of paper to paint on based on watermarks

Ann Harris recently heard that a supplier of art materials visited the Arches factory in France, where she learned that the watermark was randomly applied to Arches paper. Since we often use the watermark to determine which is the 'right' or 'wrong' side of the paper to paint on, Ann did some investigating and her correspondence with Michael Ginsburg from Legion Paper follows. Let us know your experience or if you have any more to add to the debate.

Hello Ann

First let me say this - there is no right or wrong side to paint on. As it pertains to the HP surface of the Arches Watercolor and how the watermark reads - I have heard some time ago that there were inconsistencies in some of the makings of the Arches Watercolor range in general, that the watermark read backwards on what is known as the felt side of the sheet as compared to the opposite side of the sheet which is referred to as the wire side (this side is what kisses the wire screen part of the paper machine). It is more difficult to discern which side is the felt & wire side on an HP surface because both sides are smooth. In general terms the felt side will always have more texture than the wire side which will be slightly smoother. Obviously easier to tell the difference on a more textured (CP or Rough) sheet than an HP.

That said in my experience working with professional watercolorists and fine art focus groups, all have worked on both sides of a watercolor sheet with equal success - and I am not only referring to Arches. This is true of Saunders Waterford, Lanaquarelle and Fabriano. I guess you can say it boils down to which side of the sheet gives the artist their best results - the felt side or the wire side. Trying not to get too technical but the fact is that regardless of the watercolor grade - not withstanding whether the watermark reads correctly or backwards - both sides should have all the same characteristics with regard to sizing and the ability to take watercolor well.

Hope this helps. If you have any further questions or concerns please email me directly.

Michael Ginsburg

Dear Michael,

Thank you for your prompt and comprehensive reply. We here in South Africa are a fussy lot and this explains some rare inconsistencies noted. We like to work on the wire side of the paper which we find has a predictable paint penetration, which we are all fine tuned to appreciate. The water mark was used as a guide for people who were unable to identify the 'wire side' through either feel or sight. I will adjust my instruction notes as regards your paper. We did note that the blocks of Arches 300gsm HP were packed inconsistently - wire side up or down - and caution people against it, as having to first remove the paper to turn it over defeats the practicality of having them pre-stretched. We are fond of the blocks for field work, workshops and travelling. That said I personally was lucky in my numerous purchase of different sized Arches blocks, which have consistently presented with the wire side up.

Ann Harris

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