Naturally as a watercolourist, when a manufacturer announces a new watercolour paper I want to try it out and see if it can withstand the scrubbing and many layers of colour that I normally use when painting with watercolours. The Canson Heritage L’Aquarelle Paper has just arrived at Jackson’s and having been sent some samples previously to test it out, I thought it would be useful to see how it performs.
The Canson Heritage L’Aquarelle Paper is 100% cotton and available in two weights (a standard 300gsm and a heavyweight 640gsm) and three different surfaces (Hot Pressed, Cold Pressed/NOT and Rough). Naturally acid-free, it has been treated to make it mould-resistant and does not contain optical brighteners so the paper and the colours that you use will have increased longevity and brilliance. The sizing that Canson uses says that it will allow for uniform washes without accumulation of pigments and will allow artists to lift paint and to scrub at the paper without deterioration to the surface. Canson Hertiage is available in blocks, pads and sheets.
Initial observations about the paper before colour has been applied
The colour of the paper is a a nice balance between white and ivory, which can be difficult to achieve with watercolour paper. I am used to using paper which tends to lean towards the ivory side so it’s a nice change to try something a bit brighter than what I am used to.
I received three samples of the 300gsm in the three different weights, Hot Pressed, Cold Pressed and Rough. As you would expect, the Hot Pressed surface is extremely smooth and has a nice feel to it. The Cold Pressed has a lovely dimpled texture that isn’t too pronounced and even the Rough still has a slight smoothness to it that would indicate that it will take colour and water well, along with scrubbing and lifting.
How the colour performs when first applied
I used a mixture of Winsor & Newton’s Professional Watercolours half pans and tubes from my ever expanding collection of colours. They are reliable workhorses that never fail me! I also used a size 8 Jackson’s Synthetic Watercolour Brush and a Pro Arte Brush from the Miniature collection.
The first thing I noticed with the initial application of colour is the amount of time it sits on the surface before absorbing into the paper/drying. It was much longer than I am used to which is great as it gives me a longer working time, allowing me to blend and manipulate the colour across the paper.
I did notice the vibrancy and clarity of the colours as they went on – and they remained as vibrant as when they were first applied when they dried. Normally with watercolour paper, you expect colour to mattify and dull slightly however I didn’t see this with the Heritage at all.
I also noticed how the paper diffused colour when used in a wash, it seemed to spread and dry evenly. It would be great if you were creating experimental, looser, suggestive works or if you wanted to mimic the appearance of hair or fur – great for animal portrait artists like myself!
Normally I work really dry with my watercolours but I wanted to test this paper with wet washes to see how the paper would perform, whether sizing would help the paper hold the colour on the surface and also allow for lifting and scrubbing.
I painted three small rectangles on the samples and left them for around a week before attempting to lift the colour off. This is to really put it to the test as ground in/dried colour is a lot harder to remove than lifting colour while it is still wet. I am really impressed with how much scrubbing the paper could take, the kitchen towel I was using to wipe the colour away broke down before I even saw signs that the top layer of paper was just starting to become furry/fibrous. It took about 10 attempts at scrubbing on the Cold Pressed Surface before the top layer of paper started to come away completely. This paper will be perfect if you incorporate lifting colour as part of your process as the integrity of the surface of the paper remains strong and will take a lot of scrubbing before the fibres start to break down.
Overall impressions of the Canson Heritage Paper
In terms of performance, I found the Canson Heritage really impressive in terms of colour intensity and vibrancy once colour had been applied and more importantly, dried. I was also really impressed with the amount of scrubbing and lifting it could take without really altering the surface of the paper too much. The paper has a lovely feel to it, although I only tried the 300gsm I can imagine that the 640gsm is even more durable. The only thing that I found to be unusual about the paper was the way that the colour spread across the paper creating almost a fibrous quality to the paint. This is something which artist Serge Di meo explains in this video by Canson:
I think this paper would suit a wide range of watercolourists, from those that work more freely and spontaneously with heavily saturated paper to those that work drier as you can still get detail and control over the paint, especially on the Hot Pressed surface.
Click on the underlined link to go to the Canson Hertiage Paper on Jackson’s Art.
Postage on orders shipped standard to mainland UK addresses is free for orders of £39.