Notes on the MCBA Visual Journal Collective and some thoughts and comments on Stonehenge paper.
Above: My first page spread from Sunday's sketch out. My current journal is one I made using Stonehenge paper. The journal is approximately 8 inches square. On this spread I had pre-painted the background with rubberstamp ink smeared over a moving stencil. The main drawing was a sketch with the Pentel Pocket Brush Pen. I find that I was a bit tentative making this sketch as I was still judging how PPBP would work on this paper and I wanted to be sure to fit the entire bird on the page, so I started with sort of a "constipated" attitude. The additional sketches at the right were with the Staedtler Pigment Liner. Writing on this paper with the SPL is very pleasant. There is just the right amount of comfy push.
Sunday eleven sketchers gathered in the warm gallery halls of the Bell Museum of Natural History (on the Minneapolis Campus of the Univerity of Minnesota). Beginning and seasoned artists observed, overheard, and filled their journal pages. The sketch out ran from noon to 5 p.m. but only two of us we able to stay the entire time. (And Marsha and I enjoyed a declicious dinner—with a vanilla malt for me—at Annie's Parlour in Dinkytown.)
We had two meetings to check in—2:30 and 4:40. In this way, those sketchers working alone, were able to see what other artists were focusing on. (To me it is one of the great joys of sketching in a group that you get to see someone else's interpretation of something you have looked at before, and perhaps even sketched before, if not sketched moments before.)
If you are thinking about joining the MCBA Visual Journal Collective, or simply coming along on one of our sketch outs, I encourage you to do so. It's a great opportunity to practice your sketching skills, fill journal pages, meet new people who also enjoy journaling, and in general take a mini-vacation of the visual sort. Our meetings are free and open to anyone who is interested in visual journaling. (There may be entrance fees at some sketch out locations—but we try to plan with the budget in mind. Sunday is the free day at the Bell. I hope people who atttended yesterday had so much fun that they will join the Bell and return. A membership pays for itself in 6 visits. It's a great value for anyone looking to improve their sketching skills and study nature.)
Some Thoughts on Stonehenge Paper
As I work through the current journal I will be posting some pages and commenting about Stonehenge paper. I know this is a well-loved paper. Keep in mind that my comments are meant to alert you to characteristics of this paper that may matter to you in the way you bind books or work in your visual journal. Something that I find might be a negative characteristic might be just the characteristic you're seeking. No one can do all your experimenting for you—what's the fun in that!
So in no particular order, some thoughts about this paper.
1. Several friends love this paper, which is a printmaking paper, for pencil work. I mean they rave about it for pencil work. I don't mind working with graphite on it, but I don't do much graphite work in my journals so I won't say much about it. I happen to dislike working with Prismacolor, Derwent, and Faber Castel brands of colored pencil on this paper. It feels resistent to me. I don't feel that the surface allows me to lay down the multiple layers with small strokes that I enjoy doing in my colored pencil work.
2. Working with a brush pen is actually pretty fun on this paper. It has enough surface drag that you can get interesting brush texture strokes. The ink was not all completely dry however, when I finished my sketches. Since I paint immediately after sketching this means that there was a bit of bleeding of the ink as I applied the washes, in SOME places. It seems rather random. Since this isn't a deal breaker for me I'm not very concerned. Read a previous post for more of my thoughts about whether inks are waterproof.
3. It takes quite a while to dry after a wash has been applied.
4. The paper takes stamp ink (as in the first image) very nicely.
5. I found it impossible to lay a layer of zinc white down on my goose head, over the prepainted background. It would of course have been more useful to have some titanium white, but I didn't, and I've never had this problem with zinc white on a paper before. I applied 5 washes of white, letting them dry, and each dried and evaporated in a mysterious way. (Nothing seeped through to the backside of this page.) It's still a mystery.
6. Writing with the Staedtler Pigment Liner, as mentioned above, is quite fun on this paper. I like a little give on the paper, but I don't like too much wear on either the paper or the felt tip of the pen. This is very comfortable paper for my hand to write on with this pen. (I will be using other pens, such as the Nexus and dip pens on future pages, and will report on those.)
7. The space between the first and last pages of signatures in the case bound book are held together by a bit of glue (and tapes if you use tapes). After testing the first such join in this test book I decided that the paper was soft enough that with a little bit of working it could become delaminated. I added decorative paper (see the Raven spread above) at this point between the signatures, just to stabilize things before they pulled apart. This is not ideal for me, but it also isn't a deal breaker. Sometimes with totally trustworthy papers I will do this between signatures because I enjoy working over such decorative papers and because I know I will be collaging a lot in a book and subjecting it to additional strains. The decorative paper is simply a strip of Canson Mi Tiente's which has been smeared with copper Brilliance Rubber Stamp Ink.
8. I found sketching with the Staedtler Pigment Liner frustrating. I was working with a 0.7 nib. Typically I will sketch with a 0.3 or 0.5 at this size of final image, but one of the things I like about the SPL is that you can use the edge, and light pressure and achieve a variety of lines even from the thickest nib. When I got to the Bell Sunday I realized I had a 0.7 and three 0.1 pens! I had no choice but to work with this thicker nib size. My problem with Stonehenge is that I was not able, as I generally am, to make multiple hatchings without getting blotches and "soakings" of ink. I would be going along merrily, and things would be coming together and then there would be a blot where the paper had reached its limit and suddenly given way to the ink. Since this happened randomly it was frustrating and annoying. (I'll report another day on the use of finer SPLs and other pens as I have time for more experiments.) The callouts in the detail from the Raven image show A. Below this letter where strokes at the same pressure suddenly took on a heavy thick aspect and the paper gave up with fibers starting to pill—and we are talking very light, though repeated pressure; B: to the right of this letter blobs that started to form; C: to the left of this letter, in the throat area, another example of the random forming of blots.
Left: Final sketch of the day was a sketch with the 0.7 Staedtler Pigment Liner and some light washes of gouache, which I stoped at the throat because one of the participants came up to say good-bye. I thought it was a good time to stop.
9. Working with washes on this paper isn't like other printmaking papers I use, and definitely isn't like watercolor paper, so people with specific needs for watercolor paper characteristics should to be aware they'll need to change their methods on this paper. This might be a fun adventure. Let's just say it is less forgiving and you have to be totally keyed in to how wet and mobile your wash is at any point if you wish to avoid edges in your washes. On the other hand, though surprizingly not helpful, the paint takes a long time to dry on this paper. I guess the real issue I'm getting at is flow. You'll have to work at it. (I'll have more to say about this after other experiments.)
10. One thing that has always bothered me about Stonehenge, and why I abandoned experiments with it in 2000, is that it always cracked when I folded it WITH the grain. It wasn't horrible cracking of the type I had and continue to have when folding Arches watercolor paper, but it was cracking. With so many other great choices other there it seemed rather a bother to put up with that. Well, this time around my batch of Stonehenge didn't crack when folded with the grain. I don't know why this is because if anything it's a dry time of year and it should crack more. It's something I'll watch.
11. The reason I'm experimenting with Stonehenge again after almost 10 years is that I need a broader range of economically priced papers that are also readily available in town, that I can use for classes. Sometimes classes don't fill until the last moment and there is no opportunity to purchase paper mail order. Purchasing vast quantities for paper for a class that might not fill is also not a long-term option. Having recently had supply issues I'm searching again for options. If you are looking for an economical sheet that is sturdy enough for collage, takes mixed media, and binds up into a serviceable book, Stonehenge deserves a place on the list, even if it might not be at the top of that list.
I'm two signatures into this four-signature sample book. As I discover other working properties I will let you know.