Minnesota State Fair Prep—#11: Paper Selection

August 26, 2009


Above: 9 x 7 inch trial journal card made of 300 lb. Fabriano Artistico Extra White hot press watercolor paper. Wild Turkey sketch using Faber-Castell Albrecht Dürer Watercolor Pencils.

It’s time to make decisions—get paper and other media ready for sketching at the Minnesota State Fair. Yes I've been writing about this since August 12, but I still have some decisions of my own to make.

At the end of last week I was still thinking about what paper I wanted to work on. Since I had already purchased several sheets of 300 lb. hot press Fabriano Artistico I was hoping I liked it as much for the Faber-Castell Albrecht Dürer Watercolor Pencils I had decided to use, as I do for ink sketches (which I typically do at the Fair).

During this first test above (which also counts as more warm up sketching!) I didn’t quite like the feel of the paper, coming off the delicious way Old Folio handles colored pencil. (See yesterday's post.) The pencils didn’t have quite the bite on this paper.

I did decide on a final card size—9 x 7 inches. That’s larger than I usually will take, but I thought it might encourage me to work a little larger and maybe do more scenes instead of just close up views—we’ll see. 


Above: watersoluble colored pencil sketch on a matboard scrap. This is a small sketch approximately 5 x 2 inches. Notice the wet spots where water sank into the board level the turkey's breast and just below the beak.

I put the 9 x 7 inch turkey card down on my drawing table and happened to walk by a stack of paper from which a scrap of matboard was sticking out. I grabbed it and ran back to the computer where I had photos of wild turkeys (taken on my bike ride) up on my screen.

I really liked how the pencil worked on the tooth of the matboard. It had a rougher look yet was smooth and easy going on. Of course matboard isn’t sized for wet media so when I applied water to the background there were areas that got a little spotty from water soaking into the board. I decided I could live with that, but was it so much better to work on the matboard than the watercolor paper? It was almost a flip-a-coin situation.

I decided to go with the stack of watercolor paper I already had purchased. That paper will allow me to move the wet pigment on the surface of an appropriately sized paper.

090820LastTurkey Left: A 1 x 9 inch scrap of 300 lb. watercolor paper on which I did an additional test of watersoluble colored pencils. This time I used some Schmincke gouache in the background below the bird's chin, and also in the bird's body. I also did a little spattering with orange gouache at the base of the image.

Two more decisions needed to be made: should I prepaint the paper with a background color? And how do I like using gouache with the colored pencil? I took up a small strip of waste 300 lb. watercolor paper and did another test sketch with the watercolor pencils. Then I painted into the bird and the background with some Schmincke gouache. And finally I spattered it a bit with some orange gouache. (Well I have to get my texture in there some how.)

Now it looks like for the first year in many I’ll be going with white cards and no prepainting. Of course I could decide the night before my first trip to change my mind, prepaint my sheets, and take only pen and ink. For that reason I won’t be cutting my cards until then!

Note: I don't know the matboard brand because it was an unlabeled scrap. Since I decided not to go with matboard I didn't
take it in to be identified so I could buy more. I'm betting it was
a Cresent mat. Light Impressions carries a range of matboard that I have used for framing and also for wax colored pencil work. Order matboard sampler packs and test them out for your needs.
  1. Reply

    Yahoooooo, Roz, I found a friend to go with me to the zoo to paint – we’re both a little intimidated but we’re excited! I sent her your blog so she could get some good tips – she doesn’t do this type of thing much either. You’re blog has really gotten me fired up to get out there and do more plein air painting. We’re going next Tuesday – I’ll let you know how it goes – I’m sure I’ll do some posts on it – hopefully I’ll remember to take my camera.

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