Tuesday, November 11, 2014

The Intrepid Sketch Hunters: Strathmore Softbound Toned (or "Here There Be Monsters!")

I generally begin each new sketchbook/journal with an inspiring quotation.

The neat thing about sketching in nature (well, one of the many neat things) is that you always encounter surprises... if you're observant.

This week I'm continuing my exploration and evaluation of papers for journaling. And, whenever possible I'm doing it outdoors. (I know, it's a tough job. But, hey! somebody's got to do it.) The selected papers/sketchbooks will be joining me on a new series of field adventures in 2015.

Strathmore - Softbound

Strathmore is a name artists have been depending on for fine papers for 115 years. Earlier this year the company unveiled their new Softbound series. I have my eye on 3 journals in the series for use in in the 2015 project and am testing the 2 toned paper journals this week. (Watch for a separate field test and evaluation of the landscape-formatted Softbound Watercolor journal, and Strathmore's Series 500 Imperial watercolor paper in a future posting here.)

While artists still choose to create most of their drawings on white paper, it is also true that working on a mid-toned paper is the quickest way to produce a tonal/volumetric study of a subject. It's also true that, because works on toned paper aren't as common as those on white paper, toned paper has a visual impact, or "novelty", that white paper doesn't.

rendering volumes on toned paper is a breeze (if you simply 
remember to let the paper represent the middle tone)

Strathmore's Series 400 Toned Gray has a subtle vibrancy due to the inclusion of fine red and blue fibers scattered throughout its surface. The paper will work flawlessly with graphite or pen & ink. But, personally, I find a white and dark (either black or Indigo blue) color pencil particularly appealing for fast, bold renderings in the field or in the studio. Add to this the fact that the surface can easily stands up to repeated erasures without smudging or fraying and you have both a versatile and dependable tool.

toned paper is far more gentle on the eye when working with harsh reflected light 

toned paper can be invaluable for capturing unexpected or fleeting discoveries
(like this fossil I found at my feet while sketching on the fractured limestone above) 

tip - putting down a light wash first will increase the "tooth" of the paper's 
surface and make it even more receptive for color pencils

As with the gray, the surface and sizing of the Toned Tan paper is ideal for graphite, color pencil, and/or pen & ink. The 118gm weight of the papers also means both are quite tolerant of repeated light washes, experience minimal surface buckling, and show no sign of fiber lift.

a drawing on toned paper can offer a visual experience that white paper may lack


And remember, when sketch hunting it always pays to be alert -- even when not actually sketching (otherwise you're likely to overlook "monsters").

here there be monsters! 

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