Bell Museum Sketch Out: Part 2—and Some Thoughts on Stonehenge Paper

February 3, 2010

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.

100131BGoose Left: Snow goose sketched with a Pentel Pocket Brush Pen on a pre-painted background of fluid acrylic paint. Gouache was then added. See notes below.

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.)

Above: Sketches of a Raven and a Grouse, using a 0.7 Staedtler Pigment Liner.

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.

100131CRavenDETAIL Left: Detail from the Raven Sketch. Read the text below for a discussion of the callouts.

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.

100131DSandhill 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.

    • annebanan
    • February 3, 2010

    I’ve made books with Arches WC paper and have had that cracking problem too. But I’ve found that Fabriano Artistico watercolor paper folds pretty nicely as long as you score it first. You still have to be careful when you sew it, but at least it doesn’t crack. I happen to love the soft press version of that paper – very nice for watercolor and smooth enough for other media like pencil, pen, even colored pencil.

    • Carolyn
    • February 3, 2010

    I’ll have to come back to read this when I have more time, but just want to say that the sketches are wonderful!

    • Roz
    • February 3, 2010

    Anne, I agree Fabriano Artistico has been my watercolor paper of choice since 1990. However they’ve had changes in the line and the most recent of those changes—the grain direction, you can read about it on my page

    Well that makes it more difficult to use for some class situations I have. (For some structures of certain sizes.)

    I have found it easy to fold and tear at the 140 lb. weight without scoring.

    I always found it a lovely paper. I will continue to use it for my some of own journals and for certain class projects that it will suit, but the OTHER problem, besides the change in grain direction, is that it is an expensive sheet.

    This is especially true when you consider that to make certain sizes of books you have to take the waste off the sheet before you even get started tearing and folding. And so you will not get as many pieces from a single sheet and need more sheets to make a book of a given number of signatures, etc.—all keeping the cost up.

    One of the things I try to do in my classes is keep materials costs down so that students can make quality books that will do what they want, but then I also spend time talking to them about other paper choices so that they can make choices based on their own economic situation as well as their artistic preferences.

    Some students don’t paint at all and the cost of the Fabriano wouldn’t be justified to them.

    Because of the recent changes in Fabriano I no longer stock a whole drawer of it that I could pull from if a class filled at the last moment. While it is a popular paper and sold by many local vendors if I were to need it at the last moment that leaves me using a lot of time and gas to go around and buy the quantity I need at varying prices—quite a mess as you can see. And now with some of the vendors carrying old stock, well I can’t have some students working with a paper one way and the others working with it another way in the same class as I push them all very hard and we have a lot to get through!

    I have continued to use my stock of Fabriano Artistico for my watercolor paintings and a couple books of it are still on my “blank book” shelf waiting to be filled.

    But I have been looking into other watercolor papers as well and am currently quite fond of Winsor & Newton’s 90 lb. hot press. But it’s very difficult to get.

    If people take the grain direction issue into consideration I think they will still have fun making books out of Fabriano Artistico, but I have to find other options for students who want more economically priced solutions. Stonehenge costs about half of what Fabriano Artistico does, in the same sheet size.

    All that said, I have had particularly pleasing results with large accordion folded constructions using Fabriano Artistico. When folded with the grain it can be a very useful and sturdy paper indeed!

    I just need more economical options.

    • Roz
    • February 3, 2010

    Chris, how to explain Dinkytown.
    Hmmm. Well the U of M Minneapolis Campus is bounded on two sides by neighborhood shop areas that are like mini-downtowns. The one that is closest to the health center and close to where the Stadium USED to be and is again (it was torn down and now only recently has been rebuilt—don’t ask, I’m still mad about all of this) is called Stadium Village.

    The other such mini-downtown is at the north end of campus and it is called Dinkytown. I don’t know why it is called that. I should ask my folks. It was called that when they went to school here!

    You can find about about it here:

    But on this page of that website you’ll find a discussion of possible reasons behind the name

    Regardless of the origins of the name it has always been a place where there are restaurants which cater to the student population and their parents. Some restaurants and landmarks do die. Tell someone direction and mention Gray’s Drug, or Campus Drug, or the Loring Pasta bar, and you’ll know when they went to school here. But happily some restaurants that were here when I was in graduate school remain. And Annie’s Parlour is one, and they have damn fine fries, hamburgers and MALTS that are to die for!

    • Roz
    • February 3, 2010

    Thanks Carolyn, I hope you can come back and read about Stonehenge.

    • Jenny K
    • February 4, 2010

    I am new to journalling and fairly new to bookbinding, and I am finding your blog archives a wonderful source of technical information. Thank you!

    “Some students don’t paint at all and the cost of the Fabriano wouldn’t be justified to them.”

    Do you have a particular paper which you suggest to those students? I am starting journalling with a commercial spiral-bound watercolour sketchbook, and I also have some Artistico to make a journal later, but I don’t expect to use a lot of watercolour, except perhaps to pre-colour pages. I do want to use technical pens, liner-type pens, pencils and crayons (probably including water-soluble), and also to do some collage.

    • Roz
    • February 4, 2010

    Jenny, I’m glad you’re finding the blog useful, and I’m glad you’re starting to bind your own books.

    If you are just using dry media in your journals there are lots of drawing papers, available in large sheets that you can use. All pretty much economical and all pretty much readily available. But they are all pretty much too lightweight or not sized in a way that will allow even the little bit of wet media you are thinking of using.

    For that I would suggest, if you are not going the route of watercolor paper, to check out printmaking papers.

    Some, like Rives BFK Heavyweight can be as expensive as watercolor papers, but have the advantage of coming also in larger sheets which when torn down for books yield larger book formats without waste and therefore become more economical. Rives BFK is not a watercolor paper but I watercolor on it (indeed there is quite a large group of artists who use this paper for watercolor, outside of bookbinding) and use all the media you mention.

    Other printmaking papers, as I’ve mentioned are also suitable, but you have to consider the cost.

    An economical printmaking paper that I have used and written about a lot on the blog is Folio. It is available mail order from Jerry’s Artarama and Talas. It is not the OLD FOLIO which I love and adore, and have also written about:
    talks about drawing on this paper
    mentions the change in Folio

    And there are other numerous mentions all through the blog (have to find a search engine for this thing!).

    Here’s one page where I paint on it

    If you watch for sales you can get great deals on it, sometimes as low as $1.50 a sheet, which for a 22 x 30 inch sheet is pretty spectacular. (Though that low price may be a thing of the past—you’ll have to hunt and see.) You get the idea though, it’s less expensive than a watercolor paper.

    You might also take a look at yesterday’s post because after talking about the Bell Museum I mention Stonehenge and write about the working properties I’ve found with it. There will be another post on it tomorrow.

    It runs under 3 dollars a sheet which puts it below the price of watercolor papers. It comes in a variety of colors and, well, as you can see from the posts about it, it’s totally usable.
    is my original post on my first test of Stonehenge.

    I recommend that you purchase a printmaking paper sampler from someone like Daniel Smith and test the papers in the sampler for the characteristics YOU desire, based on how you work to achieve the look you want. It seems like an expense to do this, but it is actually an investment that will save you thousands of dollars over the course of your bookbinding life.

    Legion Papers also has sample boxes (8 1/2 x 11 inch pieces of their papers) and these would be useful for you to check into as well.

    Good luck with your bookbinding and journaling.

    • Jenny K
    • February 4, 2010

    Thanks for such a detailed answer, Roz! I am in the UK, so I need to find the best UK online sourses for these papers or, better still, local stores. Both our art shops closed a few years ago, and the craft store doesn’t have many papers as loose sheets. Someone reminded me today that the local university shop may carry art supplies, and if it does they will probably be cheaper there, so I have to check that out. I’ve found a UK online source for Stonehenge already, but not yet for Folio. I’ll keep looking though, and I’ll keep reading your blog, of course.

    • Roz
    • February 5, 2010

    Jenny, I’m glad your friend suggested University shops because they do tend to have inexpensive materials for the students!

    I didn’t know you were in the UK. You may have difficulty finding Folio there. I was told that Folio was developed as an inexpensive substitute for Rives BFK in the US, so it may be difficult to find elsewhere (though I’m not sure this is a true story!).

    My friend Wendy loves Schiller paper and she does mixed media work on it. It’s a lighter weight paper but it comes in large sheets so if you can find it (and I think it has perhaps a greater distribution) you might want to check that out.

    There might be some UK papers we don’t get that you could rave to us about!

    • Jenny K
    • February 5, 2010

    Thanks again! If I find any, I will let you know. 🙂

    • Roz
    • February 5, 2010

    Jenny, I’ll look forward to hearing how it goes!

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