Friday, April 4, 2014

Let's talk about paper

There's a lot of brand fetishism when it comes to materials - and I sometimes have a problem with this. (No kiddding.) I especially have a problem with this when the product is not lightfast but is priced for the pro, and when we, as a community, take the kool-aid and pass it around gleefully like it's the best beverage of the century.

If you are going to call yourself an artist, stake a claim to your creativity, and "grow wings" and all that - why would you not want to put your money into serious materials that cost only slightly more and sometimes much LESS than the toy of the moment?

Roz Stendahl's excellent excellent blog has outed some of my favorite materials as NOT lightfast.

Benefit from the wisdom of Roz's lightfastness testing here.


Spoiler alert: bad news about my favorites and probably some of yours: inktense and graphtint pencils. They are Dye based and fugitive. 

Now I use these like crazy - but every single time I use them I get out my scanner - and it's that illustration that I consider the finished work - the original is not something I would sell.

 I like the characteristics of these pencils too much to pass them up entirely.  But they are seriously fugitive - if you aren't scanner happy I would not use these. Period. Check Roz's tests!

If you are scanner happy like I am, and if pixels not paper are your "output" while you still do analog work, then you may be interested in my next statement.

If you want to save money - save it on pigments.  Don't save it on your substrate. Journal from the gut on any paper - but work seriously on good paper. 


Now why would anyone apply fugitive cheap ass media to excellent paper that's just going to be scanned anyway? I have a good reason.

Answer: the behavior of media on the paper is completely different from what you're probably used to.  Get ready for lively marks, happy accidents that you don't have to push and shove for, bleeds and drips and subtleties you just can't get without a fight on mediocre paper.

Part 1 : Watercolor.

Fabriano Studio Hot Press versus Uno (Rebranded as Artistco Soft Press Ultra White)

The Fabiano Studio hot press is nice, if you want a sheet of high-grade bristol, but expect your pigment to just dance around on the surface of the paper.  I like Fabriano Studio for collage, sheet journaling, and experimentation. It's not super cheap, but I think it's a bit more freeing than the pressure put on me by a Moleskine, and the paper is solid under glue and paint.

When I applied my relatively crappy (admit it they are!) Koi watercolors to the Uno - holy poopsicles, people.   My Koi colors suddenly rose to the occasion and started to behave like they had delusions of being Holbeins. The warm colors especially - got dreamy.

 Uno is discontinued, but I'm told that Fabriano Soft Press paper is the same thing. At 12 something bucks for 3 sheets via Blick,  the average mixed media junkie is thinking "you're kidding me" - well you'd be right except that would be 12 odd bucks for 3 22x30 sheets.

Don't worry, you don't even need a guillotine. If you've ever folded and reverse-folded and torn a great sheet of paper, you know how easy it is to get 12 small sheets out of 6 mega sheets.

Arches Pads versus Fabriano Studio

A lot of watercolorists insist on Arches. It's only marginally more expensive than Fabriano product and often priced the same. Now, in the studio-grade taped pad category, the Arches is significantly better and less Bristol-like. I love my hot press pad at about 10 bucks for 12 sheets of 9x12 hot press. The Fabriano is about 5 bucks for a pad of 8x10, a size I actually like using. Arches shoehorns you into 9x12. And with pad paper, forget about tearing smaller.

I've had the better Arches in block form, and honestly, I don't care for it remotely as much as Fabriano Artistico.  Your preferences will vary.   Arches is top notch paper, obviously.

 I'm a fan of sheet over block, I've found that it always seems as if some of the budget of a block goes into the block construction and out of the paper.

No Way.

If you just can't stomach this kind of pricing, you could go for the Fluid watercolor blocks by Global Arts, but do the math on the sheets of Artistico and you'll ask yourself why bother, other than convenience.  I think the Fluid is OK - it's better than Strathmore or Bee which I won't even use with watercolor.  (Both are awesome journal papers though.)

Small blocks for fast little works are decent enough.   You will get some of the flow and absorption that is missing from cheap paper - you probably won't step backward if you're doing water media.

Part 2 :The BFD with BFK


Acrylic? Gelli Plate? Drawing?  

Rives BFK has your back.  Again, BFK is pricey, but it's about 100 bucks a roll - think what 5 ho-hum paper journals run you.

Rag papers like these pick up a variety of mark making that other papers won't.  They hold up under erasure more. They wound in interesting ways when you scratch or over-erase them. They catch an amazing amount of subtlety if you're a gelli plate person, but you gotta treat them a little differently.  I'll show off some gelli stuff on BFK lighweight next post.

PLEASE don't do anything but collage in deli papers - monotype doesn't have to be a throaway free for all - you can take pride in your prints enough to put them on decent papers and consider them real works!

If you're dying to try something else, I'd do all my serious drawings on Legion Lenox 100 and that's that.  I haven't done much printmaking with Lenox, and I'm not sure it'd be great with gelli, perhaps I should see.

Thursday, April 3, 2014

A little behind in being a good blog buddy

Your comments are making me so happy - I hope that every visitor is enjoying him or her self, and that there's at least a little useful information tucked away here for everybody.

I'm so behind on blog visiting! I'll make a point of doing some tonight.

Here's a little fast fun in watercolor, inktense and graphtint pencils, and a brush. On Fabriano Studio Hot press - which is like bristol that doesn't suck for wet media. Lovely!

 One of my less frustrating moments.