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General Update May 2, 2008

Posted by Mitchell in Art, Home, Science & Technology.

Been busy. I test-fired the Death Star trebuchet at work and I was disappointed at first. The instructions said to fill the bucket half-way with gravel or sand (I used sandy dirt and gravel) and it had no oomph whatsoever. The clay ball only went 5 feet or so. Filling it up more did little to boost the distance really. One guy suggested putting coins in and he had a bunch of pennies so we put a bunch of those in on the dirt. We started to get some distance finally – 10 feet or so. Still, not the 20 as promised. Obviously we needed more weight. I dumped out the dirt and rock and put all the pennies he had and tossed in a few more coins. I cast around for more metal stuff and eyeballed my paper clips. Then I found my screwdriver/socket tool – ha steel! I threw the sockets and screwdriver heads in. Coin Guy had a small faucet head and I put that in too. That bucket was a lot heavier now. I set it up and let her rip. MUCH better! Big height too! Too high though. I was launching off the top of a long table and the ball was hitting a ceiling beam. I put it on the floor and launched from there and got a distance of 15 -16 feet. I was still getting a lot of hight that should be going for distance. I played around with the string length and by lengthening just a little bit I got a nice ballistic arc and BAM! 20 feet! Huzzah! No, I didn’t get any video of it because I suck. Soon though! Plus, I want to get it finished so it looks pretty for the camera. This weekend, I promise.

On the watercolor front: I did a couple and they suck. Oh yes. They will not be posted. I wrote earlier about stretching a half-sheet of the Arches 300 lb in my new frame and I was really eager about trying it out. I also dropped a chunk of change ($130) on new paints that finally came in late last week. I fooled around with color swatches on some small samples of the 300 lb paper I was going to use and had some disturbing results. The colors went on beautifully, but as they dried they kind of “broke up”. White specks started popping through. It was fibers of the paper. When completely dry the darker color swatches were shot through with white specks. They looked really bad. I could get rid of them by re-wetting the painted areas, but that’s not such a great thing when doing watercolor.

Monday evening I went in to class but forgot my paper sample with the swatches. I did some more on another piece and showed the problem to one of the other advanced ladies. She didn’t know what the problem was, but she never paints on 300 lb paper. The other lady who does didn’t show up. The instructor was busy with the class and didn’t have a much time to look at it. Well, I didn’t want to spend a lot of time and effort planning a real detailed painting where this was going to be an issue so I just quick sketched another tree (with foliage this time) and painted that. The sky went in ok but I was doing wet-in-wet there and didn’t have much of “The Problem”. The tree went in okay, but I went over it a lot. It was very smudgy by the time I got finished. Meh. I’m not getting the real quality I’m trying to get. I didn’t like the result. I didn’t have a lot of problem with “The Problem” in the rest of the painting either though. I think the soaking and the stretching solved a lot of it. It was a beautiful stretch job though – that paper was completely flat the entire time and came out that way with a neat crimped edge.

I threw a piece of 140 lb paper from my Canson block in the next night. It wasn’t long enough though so it didn’t reach the stretchers on the short ends. I did a quick non-tree painting with the new paints, mostly just playing around and trying some new things. I had buckling issues on the unsecured ends as expected. There’s no trace of “The Problem” with the 140 lb paper.

The lady who works with the 300 lb paper showed up that night. She didn’t know what “The Problem” was either, but she works very wet when painting. Nnnn. Actually, as I type this up I think I know what is going on here. In another post Weasel talked about problems painting on papers with sizing. I just remembered the other women mentioning a while back that she typically soaked her paper in the bathtub for an hour or so and then drying it out. Hmmm. Anyway, she gave me a sheet of another brand of paper to try – Kilimanjaro. It’s softer and smoother. I’m putting it into the frame now.

Well, that’s it folks! I’ll type at you later.



1. LemurKing - May 2, 2008

Hey Enas! I’ll try to catch up more later tonight, but for now, I was going to point you to a resource similar to what I had seen a while back (was trying to decide whether to build a trebuchet or a sundial, and did neither).


Have fun!

2. Lemur King - May 4, 2008

By the way, could you explain the difference between 150lb paper and 300lb paper? Obviously a sheet doesn’t weigh that much. I could try to infer all sorts of things but it is probably best to just ask you.

Even if say, 100 sheets weighed 150lbs is it just a matter of doubling the thickness or is there a textural difference as well?

3. Enas Yorl - May 4, 2008

Sure. You’re pretty close, actually. The standards are set by the weight of a ream (500 sheets) of 22″ x 30″ paper. Obviously a stack of thicker of paper is heavier and yah, it’s about double the thickness. The most typical weight is the 140 lb followed by the 300. There are others both lighter and heavier, down to 60 and even up to 500 lb (or so I’ve heard). Those are a LOT harder to find.

As for texture, that’s another thing. It relates to how the paper is pressed. Rough texture paper isn’t pressed. Cold Press paper is pressed with felt on one side when being made and has a medium tooth. Hot Press papers are pressed between hot rollers when being made and are very smooth textured. Most watercolor artists use cold pressed papers.

There are differences between manufacturers of course. Arches is rougher than Canson for instance, but paints softer, at least in the 140 lb class anyway. That caused a problem for me last time that I was hoping the 300 lb wouldn’t have and it doesn’t. This new problem is worse for me though.

4. Lemur King - May 4, 2008

Ok, now I see what the big deal is. Depending on the mfr and style of paper, a given stroke with a given amount of color/water will behave completely differently, right? So in theory you could get really really dependent on one type of paper and have to kind of go through a learning curve with a substitute?

Huh. With pastels and charcoal I just didn’t get exposed to that sort of thing. Then computers came along and raytracing (POV-Ray, 3D Studio, and Blender) kind of stole my soul – it was fun though.

5. Lemur King - May 5, 2008

So sorry, in re-reading post #4, I concluded that it could very well be taken as condescending and I wanted to say “I sure hope not”. Because it wasn’t meant that way. It wasn’t a sarcastic “the big deal is”… it was a “now I understand the importance”… what can I say? There were snipers firing at me when I wrote it.

6. Enas Yorl - May 5, 2008

Oh no worries LK. I didn’t take it that way at all. I’ve probably been making too much of this anyway. It just bugged me all the wrong way yannow? I re-examined the paintng I did on the stretched Arches 300 and it really wasn’t much of an issue. I should just pound these mountains back into molehills.

As for your original point – they don’t behave completely differently, but there is certainly a lot of variation. Then there are some papers that are complete crap. (I’m looking at you Strathmore, you ought to be ashamed.) Most artists like to find one paper that fits well with their style and generally stick to it. This way you can develop your technique with some consistency and not worry about paper variations. I’ve been jumping all over the place: Arches, Canson, Kilimanjaro, 140 lb, 300 lb, stretched, not stretched, Yupo plastic paper, canvas. Gah! It’s no wonder I’m struggling. Of course, it would help if I just painted more.

Speaking of (or writing of, rather) Kilimanjaro I started another painting and it’s going well so far. It’s another take on the tree dude. Stay tuned!

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