The term art on paper is used to describe drawings, watercolors, and all types of printing that use paper as the support, just as canvas or panels are the support for paintings.
In China, where paper was invented in the 2nd century AD, silk strips were soaked in water, beaten to form a pulp and thinly spread in an even layer on a woven screen. The water was allowed to drain away and the dried fibers formed a sheet of paper. Japan, then perfected the art of paper making using raw plant fibers and continues today as a thriving industry.
Pressing and sizing were the last steps in the process of determining the characteristics of the paper. Sizing determines the absorbency of the sheet. Without sizing, all paper would be as absorbent as a blotter.
In the 18th century, wood pulp was found to be suitable and large quantities of wood pulp papers appeared. Cotton and linen rags were still used for expensive, high quality fine art papers and boards.
Papers now called “acid-free”, “archival” or “pH Neutral” and may be made of 100% cotton rags or purified wood pulp. The term pH refers to the balance of acid and alkaline in a substance. It was not until the development of sheet glass that framing art on paper was practical.
For many years the value of art on paper such as watercolors did not compare to the value of paintings. That was thought of as only pulmonary works for a painting, although this did not diminish their artistic value.
This type of print can be made from most any type of artistic media including oil paintings, watercolors, acrylics, etc.