See the full post for the review.
It seems to me that the more papers I test the more I like my old favorites. But since companies get taken over and felts burn in fires (or simply wear out) and for 10,000 other reasons I have to keep looking.
So despite the fact that I’ve tested more papers than I care to this past 12 months I plunked down my money for the Canson Mixed Media XL Series wirebound sketchbook. I got the 9 x 12 inch version. (I frankly don’t recall if it came in other sizes and I dislike the paper so much I’m not going to waste more of my time looking it up on the internet to see. You’ll have to find that out for yourself. I will provide you no links today.)
It cost $13.55 for 60 perforated, wirebound sheets that are 98 lb. weight. The covers are stiffer than most sketchbook covers, but they are covered with ugly packaging logo and type.
Let’s get right too it. See all that shadow area throughout the image? I tore my test page out and put it on the scanner with weights on top of it and it still was severely buckled.
I wasn’t even using a lot of water.
• So besides buckling severely, even when I don’t use a lot of water on it, the paper performs in the following manner:
• Washes settle where you first touch and don’t move easily over the surface. This surprises me because the paper is rated as a Mixed Media paper for acrylics, watercolor, and pen and ink and pencil.
Let me pause for a short rant: It seems to me that paper companies are so used to artists making due with inferior papers so we can make our journal art, that they have come to believe we’ll work on anything. What they really need to do is realize that what we want is a high quality paper with watercolor capabilities. Start there, work from there. Give us something that is a joy to use. Frankly I have already adapted a whole pile of other non-watercolor papers to my wet media and bookbinding use and I don’t need them to make inferior papers they push off on us as “meeting all our needs.” As artists we need to be very vocal about what we think mixed media papers should be able to do. And if any mixed media papers (from any mill) don’t meet those criteria we shouldn’t reward them for producing an inferior product by buying it. I will have more to say on this at a later date. Canson is not the only company doing this.
At the same time I think artists need also to instruct themselves on what a great paper is, and what they can do on one, so that they can adapt their working methods to alternative papers (great papers, fine art quality papers such as many print making papers, which nevertheless can stretch to the demands of the artist’s technique), or even, upon occasion inferior papers. It means expenditure of time and effort and also money to buy great paper, but if you don’t take yourself and your work that seriously to do that then you probably have picked the wrong media to work in. But that’s a whole other rant perhaps.
If artists don’t start being this vocal we will soon be presented with shelves full of paper created by non-artists with only economy in mind. I really don’t want to become a paper maker in my lifetime. I want to paint. If you don’t want to become a paper maker either, wake up and speak out.
• Repeated washes on an area, wet on wet, wet on dry, leads to pilling, without any great friction.
• Washes look dull and flat, absorbed into the paper.
• Washed areas on one side led to heavy puckering on the opposite side of the sheet.
• The paper, when wet, smells like wet sheet rock, a clayish heavy smell that is unpleasant. Also there are tones of wet wood in the aroma. Not a paper for people with allergies or asthma. (It actually doesn’t smell that nice dry either.)
• The opacity of the sheet is marginal. Brush pen and watercolor clearly show through. Writing with a Staedtler Pigment Liner did not show through to the same extent. I’m talking about work being VISIBLE on the flip side of the sheet, not bleed through.
Bleed through is when ink or paint wicks from one side of the paper to the other. I didn’t experience bleed through with this paper, that’s something in its favor.
• Crummy cover graphics, wirebinding, and perforated pages make this a sketchbook with no pretentions for journal work. I don’t like perforated pages in my sketchbook. If something comes out of my sketchbook I can trim it neatly. Perforations always fail at the oddest of times.
• Heavy weight (if ugly) covers.
• Working with the Pentel Pocket Brush Pen on this paper is fun, if you like a bit of drag on your brush tip and like to get dry-brush effects. (See “Issues” above, however for opacity issues.)
• Writing with a Staedtler Pigment Liner or other similar type marker is pleasant on this paper. Sketching with markers might pose problems for marker artists used to a smoother surface and a less absorbent one.
• The slightly textured surface is receptive to dry media such as graphite and colored pencils.
I won’t be purchasing any more of this paper. If you want a mixed media paper in wirebound form that really will take wet media I recommend you try the Strathmore Journal Series’ Mixed Media Journal. At least it will allow you a little fun with your watercolor, smells nice, and you can tear off their garrish “journaling” label packaging and have a plain (if oddly textured) cover. I think the price is comparable, though I can’t find a price tag.
The Great Canadian Sketchbook also contains superior paper which will take light wash work well. I recommend it, though its cover is wimpy—it is just a sketchbook. However they have an even heavier weight paper version that comes with two heavy black board covers. Look into that. I use this type of sketchbook in life drawing as it allows me to use pencil, pen and ink, and also add watercolor washes if I choose. Alternately I can use watersoluble colored pencils to sketch and then bleed out some shading with a Niji waterbrush.
I think that if you’re looking for a SKETCHBOOK to take to life drawing and you like to work primarily in dry media with a little bit of wash, and you don’t mind perforated pages and want the convenience of wirebinding for folding your book back on itself, and how your paper smells doesn’t matter to you, then this might be a useful book for you. If you’re looking for anything else, skip it. Keep looking.