Arches Huile is an acid-free, mould made 140lb (300gsm) 100 per cent cotton deckled-edged archival paper created especially for oil painting.
'If you have used oil painting papers previously you may be surprised to discover that this one isn’t trying to be canvas with a woven effect texture,' says Haidee-Jo Summers.
'It is the same attractive warm soft white of traditional Arches watercolour paper with a Not surface which is neither too smooth nor too rough'.
The paper is treated on both sides with a bleed-proof oil barrier that absorbs solvents evenly while allowing the colour to stay on the surface. If you were to use oils on an untreated paper the paint would soak into the paper fibres and the colour would become dull.
Ready to be painted on straightaway, there’s no need to apply gesso; just cut the paper to size and you’re ready to paint.
Don’t worry either about which is the right or wrong side to paint on as both are fine.
Arches Huile is strong and durable yet lightweight and easy to cut, use and transport.
When a painting is dry the paper can be rolled for storage without fear of cracking or smudging.
Using the paper
I was surprised at first sight because the paper looks just like watercolour paper and unlike all oil painting papers that I’ve used previously.
It’s not possible to see the special barrier and I must confess to feeling sceptical initially.
I taped off an area of the sheet with masking tape expecting that after painting I would see ugly marks of oil seepage around the outer area but peeling off the tape revealed nothing at all, except a delightful clean edge.
I started to apply the paint directly without adding any medium or thinners and found it easy to move and spread.
I had imagined that the oil paint would dry quickly but it actually takes the same length of time as it would on board or canvas, which makes it easy to rework and blend areas.
I think that anyone new to oil painting but familiar with water-based media on paper would find this surface a useful and familiar transition.
Arches oil paper can be bought in 22x30in (56x76cm) sheets and cut to any size and shape you require then taped or clipped to a drawing board.
This format negates the need for a drawing board of course and I can see the pads being useful for a plein-air sketch or taking along to a life drawing session.
Suitable for all techniques
No matter what techniques you enjoy using with oil paints, this paper can take it all.
From washes and glazes with plenty of turps or glaze medium to thick impasto paint applied with palette knife, this paper is incredibly strong and durable.
When you think of combining drawing materials such as pencil, charcoal, pens or coloured pencils with the oil paint the possibilities for experimentation with the paper really begin to unfold.
Arches Huile bridges the gap between traditional oil painting supports and the quality paper one usually associates with watercolours.
Easy to use, strong and portable, it will be a useful addition to my range of studio materials.
I think it offers any seasoned oil painter the opportunity to explore the exciting space between drawing and painting, traditional practice and new mixed-media techniques, whilst offering those new to oil painting a comfortable and familiar territory in which to start.
Working alla prima
For my first attempt using the Arches Huile paper I decided to try an alla-prima approach, working a painting in one sitting with colours used straight from the tube.
I expected it to be hard going, that the oil would be sucked from the paint into the paper thereby making the paint immediately feel dry and difficult to spread around. In fact, I was very pleasantly surprised.
The paint moves easily on the paper and continues to blend, staying just as moist as if freshly laid onto primed canvas.
I then decided to try a much larger painting exploiting a range of techniques, based on a plein air piece from my recent trip to Venice.
My initial inspiration was the contrast between the high key colours of the buildings in the sunlight on the far side of the canal together with their golden reflections and the darkness of the gondolas moored in the shadow.
Demonstration: Across the Grand Canal, Golden Reflections
I started with a loose wash of cadmium yellow deep diluted with plenty of turps and dammar glaze medium, adding a little cadmium red in places.
The paper accepted the wash beautifully. It was akin to starting a watercolour painting yet without having to think about reserving highlights.
I had the paper loosely taped to the floor and it didn’t even begin to buckle but coped admirably and stayed flat.
I then used a rag to rub and spread and blend the coloured wash, and to lift out and lighten the colour in some areas.
Again, the surface of the paper was completely unfazed. I feel it could take many layers of such treatment without suffering any ill effects and some wonderful glowing glazes could be achieved.
Using darker colours but still thinned with turps for ease of flow I next plotted in the posts and gondolas, and went on to apply thick paint to the sky area with a palette knife and hog brush.
Across the Grand Canal, Golden Reflections, oil on Arches Huile paper, (40.5x40.5cm)
From then on I switched to synthetic brushes using paint of a buttery consistency with a little painting medium added for ease of flow.
I put a little more information into the distant buildings such as the terracotta roofs, moving from there to break up the water area with dabs and dashes of reflected sky and the dark gondolas.
The original warm yellow wash was left to show the golden reflections of the buildings.
When working with the paper on this scale I could really appreciate the smooth firm surface.