The Thinking Woman's Almanac

Colorful apron

Gift from and photo by Gail Addiss


If Goldilocks had been a watercolorist, she might likely have selected cold-pressed paper as her favorite surface when she attempted to paint the home of the Three Bears. I can imagine her in her neighborhood art supply store, fingering the beautiful pale 30" x 22" sheets of watercolor paper, thinking, "This surface is too smooth. And that surface is too rough. I think I'll work on this nice one in the middle."

And so she did, with results yet to be discovered by art historians combing the annals of 19th-century British plein air painting.

Before I continue with my tale of turning two failed watercolor attempts into a satisfactory landscape in gouache, let me offer a quick tutorial on watercolor papers:

The industry standard, at least in the USA, is 140-pound, cold-pressed paper. Most instructors use this combination of finish and weight of a sheet of paper in communicating basics of watercolor techniques.

Cold-pressed refers to one of the three most commonly sold finishes for watercolor paper. It has a slightly textured surface, and was also the choice of Goldilocks. Hot-pressed paper is quite smooth, while rough is just that, having a more definitely textured surface than cold-pressed paper.

 A ream of paper is 500 sheets. The standard size of a piece of full-size watercolor paper is 22" x 30." 500 sheets of paper designated 140-pound will weigh 140 pounds on a scale, while a ream of 300-pound paper will weigh 300 pounds.

Unlike Goldilocks, I happen to prefer either hot-pressed or rough paper, and this predilection sometimes leads me into studio trouble.

Here are the current back and front of a sheet of 300-pound rough watercolor paper. Side B, as I now think of it, shows a failed watercolor attempted in recent weeks; I began by cutting the sheet down to a 22-inch square, stapling and taping it to a watercolor board for ease of handling. Then I applied a substance called masking fluid to selected areas that I wanted to preserve as pale areas for what should have been a bank of September flowers. Normally this is a successful strategy, but in this case, it was not.

The masking fluid, of a brand that shall remain nameless, was older than I thought it was, and, once dried, absolutely could not be peeled off my big, beautiful watercolor sheet, in spite of all efforts with my thumb or a rubber cement pickup, either of which would normally have done the trick. 

The remains of a failed watercolor garden view marred by stubborn masking fluid.

Solution: since the paper is 300-pound, a seriously heavy, durable creation, I turned the sheet over and began again, re-stapling and taping, this time without masking fluid, but just estimating the areas that I wanted to reserve for those flowers.

Well, so much for my pride. Attempt #2 was a failure compositionally, and so, in a fit of pique, I removed my 300-pound-weight square from its board, immersed the sheet in my bathtub and washed off as much watercolor pigment as possible from both sides of the paper, re-taped and re-stapled it to its board.  

Take 3: inspired by recent viewing of the autumn foliage of the American elms growing on The Mall in Manhattan's Central Park, I tried to capture the sight on paper. Sadder but wiser, knowing that I could not successfully cover the existing substrate of pigment with watercolor pigments, I switched over to gouache, watercolor's more opaque cousin. Finishing touches were supplied by watercolor crayons, and this is the final state of this piece of paper.

Central Park in Autumn Dress: The Mall, gouache, 21" x 21," 2022


At the most recent monotype party at the Salmagundi Club, I decided to try for a print depicting a trio of leeks. Shadowed by my current assistant Mai Schotz, who kindly documented the process, I got to work on a 5” x 10” plexiglass plate.

The models

Beginning to remove unwanted ink from the plate

Wiping off excess ink

Work in progress (note left-right reversal of the reference image)

A colleague runs the monotype press

First impression: Leeks at Play, monotype, 1/2, 5” x 10”

Second impression (a.k.a. the ghost): Leeks at Play, monotype, 2/2, 5” x 10”

Monotype parties are held monthly at Salmagundi, on the first Tuesday of each month, from 6:30 to 9:30pm. These parties are open to the public; please join us for the December 6 event:


Third-place winner Rumination, now home from pARTy 'Til the Cows Come Home show in Northport, Long Island.

Martin Hannon Memorial Award winner from the Salmagundi Club Fall Auction exhibition, Elephant Garlic. Shown here being claimed by its new owner, Barbara Genco, who says of the print that it epitomized what a monotype should be. “I can see the artist’s hand at work,” Barbara said.

Manhattan Arts International Special Recognition Art Award, selected from “The Healing Power of ART: Resilience 2022” exhibition presented by The Healing Power of ART & ARTISTS online gallery platform. “Annie received this much deserved accolade for her superior art work with an expansive portfolio that demonstrates a range of skills and her many art career accomplishments.”

Read more of Renee’s kind words here:


Lush Garden, St-Michel-de-Cuxa Cloister, watercolor, 21 3/8" 21 3/8"

Garden, St-Michel-de-Cuxa Cloister, watercolor, 29" x 21 3/4"

And another kitchen companion from November’s monotype party.

Artichoke, monotype, 1/2, 10” x 5”


Focused but sociable, students work in watercolor and other mediums. 

Classes are always ongoing. Call or email to inquire about space in one of the classes:, 212.464.7519.


Please contact, to schedule an appointment. 


Please stroll through my Etsy Holiday Store for art-full gifting and watch for a special holiday edition of the Thinking Woman’s Almanac, coming in a couple weeks. 

Treat yourself or a loved one a gift bundle, which can include playing cards, greeting cards, or mugs decorated with my work. Available on Etsy while supplies last 


Annie Shaver-Crandell products at


If you're interested in taking a class with me please email my assistant, at

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Annie Shaver-Crandell

Advice to timid new painters: "Make a mark. Now make one you like better." AESC