Ever since I was sent samples last year, I’ve been meaning to give Jackson’s Eco watercolour paper a proper trial. The textures are lovely, and I was really attracted by the heaviest extra rough paper. So I ordered a 22″ by 30″ sheet.
Before getting onto the paper, a word about the packaging. My lonely, solitary sheet came flat in a polythene bag in a huge box which was then stuffed with bubble packs. Honestly, it was a shame to unwrap it. Well done Jacksons.
When I eventually reached the paper it felt exciting in the hand; so tactile. I could imagine it would work really well as a base for a super large, rough water seascape, especially with the decal edge and warping preserved. Sadly, my watercolour confidence doesn’t stretch quite that far!
Physically, this has to be the thickest ‘paper’ I’ve ever come across. It came out fairly consistently between 2.5mm and 3mm thick. To be honest, at 560lb weight, calling it a paper is stretching the description a bit. To my thinking you should be able to fold a piece of paper with ease. That’s really not going to happen with this product. I think it would be fairer to call it a textured watercolour board. Semantics aside, for me the fact that it is so very solid appeals. It should be ideal to take out a set of small boards on a painting trip with no need to stretch or mount.
On delivery the paper is in a naturally ‘wibbly-wobbly’ state. Whether you paint straight onto it and allow the paint run as dictated by the random undulating troughs and peaks, or whether you flatten it is entirely a matter for personal preference. I prefer a flatter surface. So I sprayed both sides of the paper with water until just damp, sandwiched it between paper towels and laid a heavy slab of granite (a kitchen cutting board) on top. After a couple of days it had set nice and flat without altering the texture.
According to Jackson’s description the paper is handmade in India, and looking at it, I’m pretty sure it’s unbleached. Comparing it with my favourite watercolour paper, Saunders Waterford, it seems ‘greyer’, a little darker and cooler in tint. I did wonder how any highlights might play out.
It’s not immediately obvious whether the paper is sized both internally and externally. Washes seem to rest on the surface for a while before sinking, and I’m guessing that it is surface sized.
I often use low tack masking tape around my watercolour sketches to leave a clean white border, but I thought the surface of the Eco watercolour paper felt a little soft. Ignoring the obvious difficulty of defining any sort of clean edge over such a heavy texture, I tested it anyway. Sure enough, the paper stuck firmly to the tape and the surface tore free as the tape was removed. Not sure whether the same would be true of masking fluid. As I seldom use it, I didn’t try it here.
For my first painting I recreated an acrylic painting of Chun Quoit in Cornwall which I’d donated to #twitterartexhibit. After an initial coat of orange (Quinacridone Red and Cadmium Yellow) I worked the painting by scumbling undiluted paint across the surface, catching the highlights and sometimes working the paint deeper into the cracks and crevices. I really, really loved the paper for this way of working. So rich and vibrant, I got lost in the process. You can watch a time lapse video of the two hours it took to complete the painting.
For my second painting, I made this quick sketch of one of my cats in pure watercolour. I’ll be honest, I didn’t find it as easy as my acrylic effort. At room temperature (18-20C) heavy washes took a good 20 minutes to dry, and often remained damp beyond this. And, as the painting progressed, I think the sheer thickness of paper acted like a reservoir. If you want to work onto a dry surface this may be worth bearing in mind. Ironically, the texture which so attracted me when using acrylics, proved a little intimidating when I switched to watercolour.
For me, the bare paper highlights appeared rather muted, giving the whole a quiet aspect. Whether you prefer your whites whiter than white, or a tad more dialled down and subtle, is a matter for personal taste and your subject matter.
What I did like was the reaction of granulating colours like Ultramarine Blue and Burnt Umber. The deep texture encouraged separation of the pigments, leading to interesting passages.
My final painting was of a Cornish landscape, the Lizard peninsular as seen across Housel Bay. Again I worked it in pure watercolour, with no attempt to preserve the white surface by masking. Once again, the separation of pigment on this very rough paper was interesting.
I wanted to indicate white water and decided to scratch sections away using a scalpel. Personally, I don’t think think this was very effective on this paper. The surface tore away unpredictably under the knife leaving large gouges of fibre exposed.
In conclusion, I absolutely love this paper for acrylic and I’ll definitely be using it again, but I’m not so sure about for watercolour. However, I appreciate that this has far more to do with my watercolour ability and working style rather than the paper which is excellent. If you fancy trying something a little chunkier than normal I’d definitely recommend giving it a go, and at such a reasonable price what have you got to lose?