Arches Oil Paper

Happy 2013, everyone! To kick off the new year, I’m posting something related to one of my goals. Go, me!

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Mt. Rainier in Green by Meg Lyman

~8×11″ oil on paper

$100 – e-mail for purchasing info or visit Etsy

I bought some Arches Oil Paper after hearing about it somewhere or another. The product is specifically made for oil painting and requires no preparation. I don’t know what chemical magic they did, but I wanted to give it a try. I liked the idea of using it for studies, not only because it requires no preparation (which can be said of gessoed boards), but because of its texture. The surface feels like a velvety mix between nice watercolor paper and cloth. It’s not gessoed – it’s just really nice paper that you can oil up as much as you want. The tooth is nice too, but without being all bumpy and plastic-y like gessoed surfaces can be.

So, in order to try it out, I picked a subject from my goals list that I have obsessed over since I moved here: Mt. Rainier. We’re 40 miles from the summit (as the crow flies), and although I can’t see it from my house, I can from a block away. It’s huge and ominous and fascinating and dangerous and coy all at the same time. On the days I can see it, I’m always craning my neck to catch a glimpse. It has a sketchy history and an uncertain future. I love the thing. I’m sure I’ll be painting it a lot.

This first try, I had a photo I took at a stoplight (I wasn’t driving!) and some leftover oil paint piles. I also had been wanting to try some old tubes of acrylic rescued from my grandma’s basement that she used for a class in the 60s. I put down some purple acrylic to define the shadow areas. I let that dry (worked fine on the paper, although the paint’s age made it sorta… chunky) and did the rest wet-in-wet all in one go. I used a heck of a lot of oil on some areas, and true to its claims, the paper took it just fine.

Those areas were I used a lot of oil dried shiny, and the others dried matte. I haven’t decided whether to try varnishing this – unlike canvas and gessoed board, the paint doesn’t come off easily once dried, so varnish may not be required. And it’s going to need a frame anyway. But if I do varnish it, everything will be shiny and it won’t matter. If I don’t, the two finishes will have to coexist in harmony. You can’t see the difference unless you hold it under the light a certain way.

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Shiny! Even when dry.

The only thing I don’t like about this paper is its propensity to attract fuzz, and there is a lot of the stuff in my house. Sprocket’s fur in particular floats around on the slightest breeze. Because the surface is soft and velvety, it holds dust and lint like it’s going out of style. There’s not a lot you can do about it – brushing if off doesn’t work – so don’t leave it sitting out flat uncovered until after it’s dry.

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Bits of fuzz and fur everywhere. You can see the surface texture too.

This isn’t my favorite finished product, but it was a great test of the paper, the acrylic, and a good motivation to paint more Mt. Rainiers. You’ll see more in 2013!

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