Ken Avidor on Toned Paper

February 22, 2013

Above Ken Avidor on Tone Paper video—if the embedded video doesn't play, see it at YouTube at this link.

Valentine's Day Minneapolis-based artist Ken Avidor talked about working on toned paper in a demo at Wet Paint in St. Paul. I was able to get some of it on tape.

Since I stupidly decided to avoid the highway rush hour traffic and go on River Road I got stuck in the exodus from the University! I arrived about 15 minutes late but then started right in taping at what I think you'll agree is a great moment to start!


Left: Roberta and Ken Avidor show off their new Brompton folding bikes in the concourse of the Union Depot in St. Paul, MN.


From talking with friends afterwards I think what I mainly missed was a discussion of some of his tools and his admonition to "always draw from life," and his repeated encouragement to "draw every day."

In the video some things are mentioned and the following links and information will help you in your search for the whole "scoop."

People Mentioned in Ken's Talk:

Ken mentioned the Minnesota Journal Project 2000 in his talk. Linda Koutsky and Mark Odegard were the original coordinators who started the project and I (Roz Stendahl) was brought on in the fall of 1999 as a coordinator. I helped bind the 50 journals we used for the project and helped with the various activities and exhibits. This project ran through 2000, with exhibits in 2001. Fifty Minnesota artists, writers, songwriters, actors, directors, graphic designers, and other creative individuals kept journals for the year 2000 and those journals became part of the permanent collection of the Minnesota Historical Society. (In 2010 the group held a reunion at the History Center and an additional journal containing work from most of the participants was added to the collection.)

Both Ken and Roberta were artists already known to Linda and Mark (who had hired Ken when they both worked at the Science Museum). I first met Ken and Roberta when we had our first meetings for this project. In a studio visit with them I grumbled about the bond paper Ken was using for his sketches and I have been nagging him ever since to use better paper and materials because his art blew me away when I first saw it and it still does today. I'm pleased to say that I have made several appearances in Ken's journals over the years, thanks to my bossiness which he captures perfectly!

Sketchbooks and Paper:

For quite a long time Ken used Cachet's Earthbound journals for his daily journal. He liked the toned paper they contained. However the bindings were always pretty battered by the end of the year. He has since switched over to Strathmore's Toned Paper Journal line and is loving the slightly darker tone of tan paper (and also works on the line's gray paper). He finds the binding superior and recommends them. (You can read about the Strathmore journal line here. Ken only uses the toned paper journals in this line, and he only works in dry media. The post contains images from my toned paper journal experiments in this line.)

In the video Ken passed around some drawings on loose sheets. He was working on Magnani's Annigoni Designo (which is a wet-media ready paper that I routinely make into books, but which is also available in pads) and Stonehenge Kraft, available in sheets and pads.


Ken now uses China markers (white) after talking with Don Colley, who visited the Cities last fall. (Don is coming back to the Cities in May 2013 so when I have details of any demos he might be doing I'll let you know.) (Note: Wet Paint sells white China markers, as well as other colors as I have a bunch, but I couldn't find a link on their site so I've given you the Amazon link so you can see what they look like). 

Other white pens and markers Ken uses:

Faber-Castell Pitt Artist's Big Brush Pen with white India Ink.

Stabilo Tone watersoluble wax crayon in wood, which Ken calls a Stabilo in the video, is actually now only available as a Stabilo Woody. (This is my favorite watersoluble crayon, which if you've been reading the blog I've lamented long about. Use Stabilo Tone in the search engine and find a ton of posts on it. If you go to the link I've provided and scroll down to a "pens and crayons photo" you'll see both a white Faber-Castell Pitt Artist's Big Brush Pen [A] and Stabilo Tone/Woody [E] so you'll know what to look for. Wet Paint has both.)

White Prismacolor Pencils. (The regular colored pencils, not the Verithins.)

Pastel Pencils and pastels.

Lyra large colored pencils.

Ken used to use the Rotring Sketch pen but it is now his fall back pen. Currently he uses a Noodler's Flexnib—but would actually prefer a non-flexible nib. He uses the Noodler's pen because it looks more like a fountain pen and people don't realize he's sketching. He uses Noodler's ink, sometimes Platinum Carbon Black ink (though he has trouble with this ink in some pens), and various fountain pen inks (since he's using dry media for coloring he doesn't have to have a waterproof ink). He still carries the Rotring because it has a converter and if he runs out of ink with the Noodler's pen he has a back up. He will also use the Preppy Pen (which you can read about on my blog here, and you can read another more recent review of the Preppy here where I talk about the news that you can get converters for them!).

Sketch Outs and Sketch Out Groups:

Ken mentioned the following groups and events—

Urban Sketchers an international sketch group started by Gabi Campanario.

Urban Sketchers—Twin Cities (which is the local authorized sub-group of the Urban Sketchers organization and you can read there how to become part of it if you're a Twin Cities sketcher.)

MCBA Visual Journaling Collective is a group for journaling artists of all types (we have some writers as well as visual journal keepers) which I run with Suzanne Hughes at Minnesota Center for Book Arts.  

MetroSketchers—a local sketching group started by LIz Carlson and run by her and Tim Jennen. They meet the first Sunday of the month at different locations. You can find them on Facebook (no website at this time). You can contact Liz for additional info at

Additional sketching opportunities that Ken didn't mention include Bell Museum Sketch Night and Dr. Sketchy's. See a list of Sketching and Sketch Outs in the Twin Cities here.

Each year I run the Minnesota State Fair Sketch Out during the run of the Fair. This is the link to the Fourth Annual Minnesota State Fair Sketch Out from 2012. The 2013 Minnesota State Fair Sketch Out will likely be on the Tuesday during the run of the Fair but details have not be finalized yet. Please check back, and use the blog's search engine to read about helpful hints for sketching at the Minnesota State Fair. Sketchers of all levels are welcome. (Yes there will be buttons!)

Books and Blogs and Reaching Ken Avidor:

Ken and Roberta Avidor's new travel sketching blog is here. While you're there follow links to the MANY other blogs which Ken runs, because he has a lot to say about a lot of things.

Ken and Roberta Avidor are two of the featured artists in Danny Gregory's new book "An Illustrated Journey." You'll want to check this out at Danny's blog. He's doing interviews via Skype with the artists and those are great fun to see. 

You can reach Ken Avidor at the following email address:

Wet Paint Artists' Materials and Framing—An Independent Art Supply Store:

Wet Paint is Ken's (and Roberta's, and my, and just about everyone else's) favorite art supply store. I know Ken would like to thank them for the opportunity to spread the word about sketching and using toned paper. I'd like to thank Wet Paint for creating a community for artists by their regular demonstrations and "try-out" evenings. You can read more about Wet Paint here. No matter where you are in your journey as an artist Wet Paint staff members are there to help you get the tools and materials which will give you great results.  

    • Karen
    • February 22, 2013

    Thanks, Roz, this is a great video!

    • Margo
    • February 22, 2013

    I enjoyed the video, I have been playing with on of those journals lately, throwing the arsenal of toys at it. But…I didn’t know about the Pitt brush pen in White, I’ve never seen one, I think that goes on the list! Hope you are feeling better.

  1. Reply

    Margo you definitely need a Faber-Castell Pitt Artist’s Big Brush is WHITE! Don Colley brought them along when he came to the Cities in the fall. They are great—it’s white india ink; they don’t smell, they really are white on toned paper!

    I have previously and still for some things, used (use) the Sharpie Poster Paint pen that is WATER based and NOT SOLVENT (they have a couple different types. I find that that pen is a tad more opaque, but only a tad. I find myself using the FCPABB white much more.

    Thanks for asking about me too—I’m doing much better the last 3 days. Not 100 percent, but almost back to my normal lippy self!

    • Ellen
    • February 22, 2013

    This is great: I just started working on toned paper and now feel that a STABILO WOODY would be perfect to try this month. I like the chunky look of the pencil!
    Hope you are feeling much better!

  2. Reply

    Ellen, the Stabilo Woody will be fantastic fun for you on toned paper. I hope you have a great weekend of experimentation! Thanks for reading. (And watching.) (And as I told Margo, I’m doing a whole lot better today.)

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.

Close Cookmode

Pin It on Pinterest