Thursday, October 2, 2014

Cabin Fever and the Call of the Wild (Tools of the Trade #13)

Well, it certainly has been fun turning my hand to creating and publishing enhanced iBooks (and, with 2 new books already in the works and one very special project in the planning stages, I'm definitely not done with this "new" medium). But, after four books in as many months, I'm feeling a bit of the artistic "cabin fever" and am longing to answer the call of my favorite muse -- Nature.

On top of that I have a new adventure set for the new year (more on that in next week's post) and it's time for me to begin my annual reevaluation of my "kit" (to make certain that old favorites are still the best choices for the field work ahead, and to see what new materials may have come out since my last round of field tests).

So, for the next few weeks I'm going to be taking advantage of the mild autumn weather to pack up my day bag, stretch my legs, renew my relationship with nature, reawaken my observational eye, and test some papers/journals/pens/pencils/etc. And, with your permission, I'll share my findings and observations with you here.

Lanaquarelle 300gm HP 10,5x14,8cm Watercolor Block

Rather than do a superficial treatment of an overwhelming number of papers I thought I'd do an in-depth write up, replete with illustrations and the odd demo, of 2 or 3 papers each week and give readers an opportunity to savor each.

We begin with my go-to paper for postal art from the field -- Lanaquarelle's 300gm 4"x6" (that's 10,5x14,8cm to the rest of the world) HP watercolor blocks! The French Lana company has been making artists' papers since 1590 and this paper reflects all the knowledge and expertise the company has accumulated over that time. It is heavily sized both internally and on the surface, has a texture that is a delight to the touch, and handles mark making (and repeated corrections) without complaint. And, due to its size, the block fits perfectly into jacket or cargo pants pocket.

with a Lanaquarelle block in one pants pocket and pencil box or small w/c set in 
another I'm always prepared for every sketching opportunity

While this is technically not a sketchbook/journal (and that's perfect for me since these very stiff sheets usually head out individually via the postal system to friends and family) the paper takes marvelously to being bound as an accordion structure -- should you end up creating an interesting series during your next travel adventure, or should your spouse wish to put a collection of postcards together as a keepsake. (If this sounds appealing to you but you're not familiar with this simple bookbinding technique leave a comment and I'll see about doing a future post on accordions and cover options.)

Clairefontaine 90gm 14,8x21cm Journal ("Douceur de l'écriture", "Papier Velouté")

I'm not sure that this paper by the famous French stationary maker is technically intended as a drawing paper, but I am so in love with its silky touch, how pencil and pen glide across it effortlessly, and how it handles fountain pen without feathering or bleeding through.

even vintage flex nibs glide across this paper without scratching or feathering

This is probably the thinnest paper I use but is absolutely perfect for longer hikes afield (when your back and legs are going to feel every gram by the end of the day) and you want to be certain that you won't run out of paper while you're still miles from base camp. (This soft-bound volume is just 1cm thick yet contains 96 sheets/192 pages!)

red arrows splint out the location of faint show-through from the next page

This paper is also the brightest white of any paper I use, providing both a delicate foundation for pencil studies and dramatic contrast for pen and ink. And, for such a thin paper, it handles light watercolor washes particularly well (all-in-all a marvelous choice for my finely detailed botanical and entomological field studies).

show-through (but not bleed-through) is most evident when looking at the back of a page

Note: show-through is not necessarily a bad quality (unless you wish to work on both sides of every sheet). In fact, I find it useful as it allows a line guide to show through and facilitates my writing in straight lines. (And, of course, I can simply dispense with the guide when I want my writing to follow a more serpentine course.)

Next week I'll add two or three new illustrated paper tests. (I hope you'll join me then.)

the papers in this test series (minus 2 specialty papers I couldn't squeeze into the photo) -- 
upper row: Stillman & Birn (Epsilon and Zeta Series), Exacompta Sketch Book, Strathmore (400 Series Softbound Watercolor - Landscape & Imperial 300gm)
lower row: Strathmore Softbound Toned (Gray & Tan), TWSBI Journal, Clairefontaine Douceur de l'écriture, Lanaquarelle