Thursday, January 26, 2012

Buckling paper on Watercolor blocks

QUESTION:  Susie, I have a problem. Almost a year ago I bought 140 lb, cold pressed, 16"X10" 'The Langton' block by Daler & Rowney. I stored it well for 11 months. yesterday when I tried to paint on it the paper buckled up also it dries very fast and is almost like bloating paper. I never had this problem before.
I sent a mail to D&R about the problem but no reply yet. It's been 11 months since I bought it so the dealer refused to replace it. .
Tried to stretch it. I didn't sock it for 10 minutes but sprayed some water until it's fully wait then wiped it and taped it to the board. Didn't work at all. Is there any other way?  
Colombo, Sri Lanka
SUSIE'S REPLY: Thanks for writing.
You say you haven’t experienced this problem before, have you always used this same type of paper? Or is this a different paper brand?
Just because it is 140# CP doesn’t mean it will work the same or is equal to other 140# CP brands.

I’m not as familiar with the 140# Langston block as I am Arches 140# papers but perhaps I can offer you some suggestions.
Please forgive me if these points sound basic or over simplified but since I have no way of knowing how much you know I’ll approach these hints as if you were a beginner minimal experience.
  • ·    When watercolor paper is wet the fibers expand and if the paper is tacked down or sealed around the edges it will wrinkle or buckle.
  •      Many artists soak and stretch their watercolor paper as a way of dealing with this issue.
  • ·    Watercolor Blocks are designed to paint on without stretching the paper. Watercolor Blocks are sealed with a glue around the edges and are designed to paint on without stretching the paper. Because there is no allowance for expansion when the paper is wet (causing buckling) blocks work best when using dry brush techniques which require less moisture thus less expansion/buckling.
  • ·    For best results for painting on watercolor blocks (by any paper manufacturer) use techniques requiring less water.
The traditional recommendation would be: If you will be working wet in wet, remove the paper from the block, fully soak the paper by submerging it in water then stretch it by tacking and taping the edges so it dries taunt.
My personal choice: I don’t stretch my paper, I prefer to keep it loose so I can rotate it as I paint and I do work wet in wet without buckling. When the paper is loose it can expand and contract at will. If it is tacked down (without being stretched-including glued edges as in the wc block) it doesn’t have room to expand when you wet it. I might use a clip or tack to hold the paper in place if needed.

I’m not sure I helped with the buckling issue you experienced when working wet in wet. I do believe you can use the paper if you use less water and more dry brush techniques.
Every type of paper, every brand of paper, has different traits and personalities. Not every type/brand is suited for every painting style.

I hope that helps.
Keep on painting!

PS. Joan asked: Concerning the buckling problem, couldn't she iron the one she is concerned about? Since she can't fix it any other way. I would use a towel maybe dampened a bit to try and get it to lay flat.

Thanks Joan! Yes, a medium warm iron will help to flatten the buckles. I usually dampen the back of the entire painting using a damp paper towel, making sure I also get the edges damp not just the middle where the wavy area might be more obvious, allow the paper time to expand. The wc paper will be limp and a little floppy. Then protect the wc paper with a layer of paper such as a brown paper bag torn open to a single layer when you start to iron the wc paper. The heat from the iron will help the fibers shrink back into place evenly. Using gentle pressure helps the process too. 


thepoetsjacket said...

Thank you for providing solutions to this fact watercolor paper does get warped. I'm using the Arches Cold Press blocks and they have stayed flat until I'm finished. They do expand, now that you've gone into detail about this, which I didn't consider much since it always seems to contract more.
Do you have any experience with wetting the paper already in a block? This is something I have not done, but should it be with a cold press block?
Thank You.

Susie Short said...

It's been my experience when painting on a watercolor block that using less water is better than using more water. When painting on a watercolor block if I want to paint a wet-in-wet passage I use limited water and actually dampen the paper rather than soak it. I only dampen an area that I can deal with effectively before it dries then move on to the adjacent area, etc.
For me personally, if I only use a block of watercolor paper when I'm painting outside on location for convenience. I use loose watercolor paper in the studio. Susie