I started on just plain newsprint. Cheap, plentiful, and it does absorb water/watercolor/ink the way a good ink painting paper should. It is NOT sized the way printer paper or, even more so, watercolor papers are, to allow the water/ink/liquids to lie on the surface and be spread. It is absorbent and sucks up the ink/paint/water like a sponge.
Practice "rice" paper, which isn't made of rice, but is made of nice, long fibers, came next, and machine made rolls are relatively cheap. $10 for 600" is pretty darn tootin'. But then I found a roll of ten sheets of 13 1/2" x 57" (I have NO idea who came up with those dimensions) Double Sheun in my closet. It's a two-layered paper that's been pressed together, and it's thicker and more absorbent, but oddly enough that allows for better water control as the fibers allow the paint to be laid down and there's more thickness to just take the water straight down and not allow it to spread.
The last set of paintings, with Gabe's Japanese iris, Genevieve's bamboo, and Akuni's hummingbird were all on the double Shuen. It made a difference in both the color and the control I had over the colors and ink. It really sucked everything in quickly, and I had to adjust the amount of paint and water and really overload my brushes for the bamboo attempts. I hadn't realized, until I found and used that paper that I was finally at that point where the quality of the paper really makes a difference in my results.
Today I found a roll of the single, or Special Sheun in my closet. In a moment of either hubris or pure cheapskatedness, I'd bought a whole roll of ten sheets of single Shuen, which is the same paper, but only one layer. Nothing to absorb the excess water. Nothing to keep the paint from just spreading wildly. And it shows the colors applied absolutely, the moment you touch the brush to the surface, it takes it, brilliantly, beautifully when done right. Horribly if one has too much water or hesitates or goes over it or, for heaven's sake, *pauses* in the middle of a stroke. The hesitations show. Some professionals call it "Honest Paper". I had a few other choice words for it. *laughs*
I took one of those sheets, roughly tore it into two pieces and did these. Apologies for the lack of quality photography, I just wanted to get these up. I may have to take them in the daylight as my lighting wasn't actually adequate to the originals themselves. Both are done in the style of Chi of the Brush and while I used the book for reference, I actually didn't paint anything that was exactly as they showed in the book, either. I think it's kind of funny to do the painting and then add outlines to kind of bolster the illusion of the items in the painting, but... I kind of like how it worked out on the iris.
On both the pictures I used a little GIMP-y magic to repair the torn paper... as I was pretty rough on it, 'cause I was scared of it. But the results... yeesh... the results...
First the wisteria:
I'd been thinking of doing wisteria for a while, but I hadn't gotten good enough at color blending on the brush. Now I think I am. The gradations on each petal just... happen, now. Every gnarl in the branch just shows. It's amazing to me how this paper shows those so *well*.
And then the monster Bearded Iris:
Uhm. Yeah. The falling petals had a three-color blend on them... light purple, dark purple, and then black ink, all blended to do the color variation on each stroke for the petals. It was... fun. *laughs*
I still need to work on the structure of the bearded iris one a bit more, but I think it's getting there. *grins*
I think I could get addicted to Single Shuen.