Arches Oil Paper

The Arches mill in Northeast France has been producing paper since 1492. Their paper has endured as a standard for artists working with watercolors, drawing, and printmaking. After hundreds of years, they have recently started producing a paper specifically for oil painters.

Superficially, Arches Oil Paper bears a great resemblance to their watercolor paper and it is incredibly absorptive with the application of thinner-laden paint. In my view, the greatest thing about it is you can paint on it immediately, with no preparation or priming necessary. Oil painting on other kinds of paper has always presented the difficulty of either not being very archival because of a lack of a properly-primed surface or primed-paper having issues of brittleness and cracking.

Right now, I'm working almost exclusively with Arches. It is offered in small pads, rolls, and sheets of 22x30in. In the photos below, I am working on a piece that is 22x15in, torn from a 22x30in sheet. In these large sheets, the paper has deckle edges, so I don't like to simply razor cut portions from it, but rather I will score it, and fold the score back and forth until I can carefully tear it in two. 

In my process, I first do a charcoal underdrawing, which I spray with a fixatif before I move into the underpainting stage.

From there, I do a very thin underpainting. The fixatif appears to have no affect on how absorptive the paper is. If you wish to work on a non-asborbent surface you can treat it with an acrylic medium or gesso first, but I have not experimented with this yet.

As you can see in the photos, I use binder clips to hold the paintings in place, affixed to a thin piece of mdf as a sturdy, but portable work surface. The paper stays remarkably flat, even with large amounts of thinner applied. It is only when thicker paint is applied to the surface unevenly that it will warp at all. This can be rectified to some degree by clipping the sides in place as well. In my experience, the paper never warps to any degree that will be of significance when it is framed.

This particular painting, part of a triptych of the filmmaker Werner Herzog, I completed the painting in one nearly continuous 17 hour painting session, taking it from the underpainting all the way to what is pictured above. I painted this primarily with M Graham oil paints, but it was one of the first paintings I used RGH Oil's Cremnitz White. I feel the quality of the flesh was very much elevated by the use of the Cremnitz White. 

When it comes to presenting paintings done on Arches Oil Paper, I'll defer to the literature, which states:

A finished oil painting can be mounted to a backing board or stapled to stretcher bars and framed. If the artist wishes to display the finished piece as a work on paper then then it would be framed in one of two ways under glass: mounted to a backing board and covered with a mat board or float mounted so the edges of the paper are exposed.

While I miss the grain and give of canvas, Arches Oil Paper is a great substitute. It allows me to paint in a frenzy without having storage issues and while I do like to ship work ready-to-hang, transporting works on Arches at least has the benefit of being highly portable and economical.