Sunday, January 24, 2010

Art Supply Lesson

Today I went to Hongdae to get some art supplies at an art / stationary store inside the Hongik University. When it comes to buying art supplies I tend to be very picky and brand loyal. Having left the great big art stores of San Francisco, sometimes it feels too disheartening when I can't find what I am looking for. But even though the physical stores here tend to not stock what I am looking for there is always virtual shopping to save the day.
What am I looking for? Paper

These days I paint in watercolor and thus I am looking for watercolor supplies. For the watercolor artist you have the following basic necessities:
  • Paper
  • Brushes
  • Paint
  • Paint additives (Gum Arabic and Ox Gal)
As opposed to Oil painting (which I love) watercolor painting is less toxic and supply-speaking less of a hassle. With oil painting you generally want to stretch your own canvas, prime it and paint in a setting that is ideal for oils (good ventilation). Watercolor painting set ups are generally less of a pain to deal with and clean up is a breeze.

Right now I have all of those supplies listed above, but if you have ever known an artist, or are one, then you would understand that "Paper" doesn't just mean one kind.

In watercolor painting the kind of paper you use determines the technical outcome of your painting. Here for you are the general terms used when speaking about watercolor paper:

  • Rough: The name says it all...for when you feel the paper it feels "rough". That roughness comes from a "tooth" in the paper, which is a textured surface. When the water hits the paper it flares out filling in those toothed surfaces. There is nothing wrong with "rough" but I tend not to like the look of the textured surface.

  • Hot pressed: As opposed to rough this type of paper is smooth and has a very fine-grained surface. Because of this the paint dries quickly which means you can make even washes of color. In other words, you can paint and know where the paint is going to go since there is less tooth to fill in. Currently this is my paper of choice and what I am looking for here in Korea.

  • Cold pressed: This paper's texture sits somewhere in the middle of Rough and Hot pressed with a slight textured surface. I guess because this type of paper has the capabilities of rough with the slight smoothness of Hot pressed that it is most favored amongst artists. After today's experience I can tell you that it is highly favored amongst Koreans. I don't mind cold pressed since using it is closer to Hot pressed than Rough paper. 

There are other factors to consider as well like the thickness and weight, which basically determine whether the paper will be able to carry heavy amounts of water. If not the paper tends to tear or buckle under the many layers of water. Let's just say the thicker and heavier the paper the more capable it is at supporting more amounts of water.

Today I was looking for hot pressed watercolor paper at the art store. But... they didn't have it and instead I went home with a watercolor block of cold-pressed paper. It's okay with me but I really wanted to find out whether Korean folks every buy Hot pressed paper.

Watercolor paper in the Korean Lingo:
After feeling defeated by yet another place in Korea that didn't have what I was looking for I figured that when JH and I got home we would try our luck at (Korea's "google")

Within our quest we discovered the Korean words for the different types of watercolor papers. Here for you are those words, because you never know there may be another soul out there looking for the same thing.
  • Rough = 황목 (Hwang Mok)
  • Cold Pressed = 중목 (Choong Mok)
  •  Hot Pressed = 세목 (Seo Mok) *Bingo
Korean Art Supply Websites and Navigation:
We went through several sites to see if anyone sold the 세목 version of watercolor paper.  I will share 3 sites that I feel are worth using.
  1. Ee Leo Hwa Bang: Sorry if I got that wrong...just call them the "Art Shop #1" since that is the English name on their site. Their choices seem to include all types of paper blocks and at reasonable prices. 

I like that they list their stock.
2. Homi Art Supply: This store has a location in Hongdae which I haven't visited yet. They too list a Hot pressed paper and seem to have other supplies for a picky artist.
3. Lovee: They don't appear to have hot pressed but their list of other papers is pretty good and I think this site offers competitive prices.

In the side menu of these sites are list of the type of supplies. For watercolor paper click:
Generally, if you are looking for other supplies I would click the menu options till you find what you are looking for and then make a note of what it means. As for getting to the purchase part this is where you will need some assistance from a Korean person.

In conclusion, I was disappointed to see that Hot Press paper is not popular at the art store but relieved to find Korean websites selling them. If all else fails I could buy my supplies from an overseas company and pay for the shipping. I think I wanted this post to show what it is like to go about finding specialty items here in Korea. Whether it is hand crafted cheese, a favorite clothing brand or in my case art supplies it seems one should not give up and find a way. And remember to be thankful for whatever you can find out here as we all know so many in this world live without the bare necessesities.


  1. I'm not a big art guy, but I do recall seeing a ton of art-supply stores in Namdaemun. I didn't really know what I was looking at, but they had tons of different sorts of paper, along with brushes and other artsy supplies.

  2. Good tip! I have heard of such places too there. I hope to check them out some day.


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