Tim Fisher reports on how well a range of Hahnemühle watercolour papers performed using a variety of watercolour techniques.
Discovering a reliable watercolour paper can prove to be quite a challenge for many an artist. A good-quality paper is the foundation of any watercolour artwork, both for the beginner and the more experienced painter. Hahnemühle Traditional Artist papers are produced using high quality 100-per-cent cotton rag, which results in a robust, reliable surface that is a pleasure to paint on.
About The Collection
Relatively new to Hahnemühle is a range called, The Collection, which features a group of papers with weights of 300gsm and 640gsm. These papers use carefully chosen strong cotton fibres and natural filler materials, which has resulted in a durable surface of very high quality with fibres that do not lift or dislodge, even when subjected to multiple layers of watercolour paint. They are vegan, resistant to ageing and acid-free. To review these new surfaces, I chose a range of the papers to see how they reacted to my way of watercolour painting.
There are three types of paper finishes available: Cold-pressed, Hot-pressed and Rough. Cold-pressed or NOT is a popular paper to work on, which has a subtle finish with small bumps and dimples on the surface. Other artists prefer Rough, which has a more pronounced texture, while Hot-pressed paper has a smoother, more silken surface. It dries more quickly than the other papers, as there are no pockets on the surface to hold on to the moisture. This can result in a patchy finish if you’re not used to it.
- High-quality 100% cotton rag, ensuring a robust and reliable surface for watercolour painting
- Fibres in the papers do not lift or dislodge even under multiple layers of watercolour paint
- Vegan, resistant to aging and acid-free
Where to buy: Art Supplies with Painters Online
Tower Bridge, watercolour on 640gsm Hot-pressed Hahnemühle paper, 8x13in. (20.5x33cm).
To paint Tower Bridge (above), I decided to work wet-in-wet, and therefore chose the heavier 640gsm Hot-pressed paper. The wet-in-wet process overcame any drying issues and the heavier paper remained flat whilst at the same time retaining the moisture. I thoroughly soaked the paper with clean water using a large oval wash brush. Turning the paper sideways and vertical, I introduced Naples yellow and French vermilion to the middle ground, followed by washes of ultramarine blue mixed with a little French vermilion to the top and bottom of the painting. The pigment applied was stronger than usual to help keep the paint in place when added to the wet surface.
Turning the work the correct way up, I applied a line of thick ultramarine and Venetian red into the wet horizon upon which the various buildings were painted. As the surface started to dry, I painted the structure using a No. 6 flat synthetic brush. This brush holds less moisture than a Round and helped to reduce any bleed. After allowing the surface to dry, detail was added to the bridge. The foreground was rewetted with the wash brush and strong pigment applied just below the horizon and allowed to flow down. Better flow for reflections was achieved due to the smooth Hot-pressed surface.
Painting en plein air
Looking at the Cold-pressed 300gsm paper block, I decided to paint en plein air. If a lot of water is used on this weight of paper, stretching is sometimes necessary. The advantage of working on the gummed block, however, is that the work is held flat and stable throughout the entire painting process.
Tim worked en plein air using Hahnemühle 300gsm Cold-pressed watercolour paper to paint Washstones Lane.
My set-up was a camera tripod onto which I attached a small drawing board. This had a groove all the way around into which I inserted an aluminium plate where I placed my steel palette, held in place with magnets. I like to use an ink drawing pen to capture the subject and prefer doing this on the NOT surface. I found that this paper responded very well to my ink line and I quickly mapped out the subject before me.
The finished painting Washstones Lane, watercolour on Hahnemühle 300gsm Cold-pressed watercolour paper, 11x15in. (28x38cm)
Using a small squirrel brush, I applied watercolour over the surface. The paper is nicely sized, which helped to keep the water and paint standing up, rather than soaking in (as would happen with inferior papers). I also found that the texture tended to inhibit the bead of paint from breaking away and running down the paper. Once the work was finished, the painting was easily removed from the block by inserting a knife into an un-gummed section located at the top of the pad.
Finally, I decided to paint a subject that needed a lot of layering and over-working techniques. When using poorer quality papers, this way of working can cause the size to break down and result in soft, spongy edges. I wanted to paint this oak-lined lane for some time and using this paper provided the ideal opportunity. Working with another gummed pad, I chose the 640gsm Rough mounted on a block.
Oak Way, Cold Overton Lane – stage one.
After a careful pencil drawing to indicate the main tree structures and the hedge-lined lane, I placed ultramarine blue over the entire surface, starting at the top. When I was near the bottom, I switched to a mix of primary yellow and ultramarine and added the hedgerow and verge. The lane was added with mix of blue and Venetian red. The distant hills and main shapes of the trees were suggested using a combination of primary yellow and ultramarine blue and allowed to dry. I then built the tree shapes in layers, starting with the tree farthest away down the lane. More trees were overlaid using stronger mixes of paint and with a little extra Venetian red added into the trunks. The smaller branches were painted with a fine brush (seen in the illustration, above).
The finished painting Oak Way, Cold Overton Lane, watercolour on Hahnemühle 640gsm Rough watercolour paper, 11x15in. (28x38cm)
Once complete, the hedgerows were added. I started with primary yellow and a touch of blue, then painted stronger colours into the wet paint. I was pleased to see that the rough texture of the paper helped the paint to granulate and suggest the textures of the hedgerow. I applied a glaze of blue over the road then finished the painting by adding small dots of white and yellow gouache to complete the verges (above).
‘I found The Collection to feature high-quality, responsive surfaces. There was no loss of performance as I washed out and corrected many passages during the creation of my paintings, and these papers certainly worked for me!’ Tim Fisher