Strathmore 400 Series Mixed Media Paper

May 27, 2013


Above: Life drawing sketch 11 x 12 inches, on Strathmore 400 Series Mixed Media paper. Sketch made with Pentel Aquash Brush Pen filled with light black pigment ink, then colored with Caran d'Ache Neocolor IIs applied dry, blended wet, applied dry and blended with my finger. (Seven minutes sketching and applying first wash, paper dried during break and color was applied in second 20 minute portion of pose.)

In January 2012 I wrote about the Strathmore 500 Series Mixed Media paper because it was available in sheets. I've been writing about it a lot ever since, because it is one of my favorite papers, I make books from the sheets, and recently they started making hardcover journals so that everyone could enjoy this great paper.

The Strathmore 500 Series Mixed Media paper is still one of my top 3 or 4 papers that I enjoy using. But it is a bit too expensive to take to life drawing for larger experiments.

(I keep making the number boldface so that you'll know which paper I'm writing about. I haven't got to the 400 series yet. I just want to make it very clear how much I love and have always loved the 500 series version of this paper.)

A couple weeks ago I was low on paper. I was going off to the gesture class I attend at the Atelier (with Christine Mitzuk instructing and putting us through our paces). The final 40 minutes of class is made up of two 20-minute poses that we are encouraged to work on as a sight-size exercise. I like to use the final two 20-minute poses to experiment and use wet media. Typically I work only on the portrait at that time. (Christine finds models with the most amazing noses!)

I was searching around the studio and found a large pad of the Strathmore 400 Series Mixed Media paper. (As you'll read in that post I link above, I didn't think much of it when I first tested it.)

Well I was desperate for paper so I grabbed it and off I went. That night I did a final sketch of the male model's head and shoulders on this paper.

130432_LastStephenLeft: 12 x 12 inch 20-minute sketch using Caran d'Ache Neocolor II on Strathmore 400 series Mixed Media paper.

I had fun doing the sketch of the male model shown (second image) so I kept bringing the Strathmore 400 Series Mixed Media paper to gesture class. 

Last week I enjoyed sketching the female model in my experiment time. (The first image in this post.)

So now I have to admit that I don't hate the 400 series Mixed Media paper. I would NOT choose it to do final works on because the 500 series is so much more fun to work with, but the 400 series is sturdy and takes abuse.

And unlike some mixed media papers you really can use mixed media on the Strathmore 400 Series Mixed Media paper—especially wet media. (I really don't like the Canson Mixed Media paper if you recall—I won't even use it for 1 minute sketches.)

So if you are looking for a less expensive but still workable sheet you might want to give the Strathmore 400 Series Mixed Media paper a try. It might even have characteristics that you like for everyday use. I find the surface a little too smooth feeling—by that I mean it is too flattened for me, pressed too hard, even though it has texture. I find it is too resistant to my hand for my general use. But those very qualities make it a great sheet to beat up in an experiment session!

130521_16LibbyDetailLeft: A detail from the first sketch of the female model.

If you look at the detail provided of the female model sketch you'll be able to see imprints of my fingers where I pushed the pigment around. In some places you can see the light black ink lines still showing through (there wasn't time to build up color to hide them).

I wasn't going for realistic color. I had only the few Neocolor IIs I'd taken with me to sketch the Australian Shepherds in Wisconsin. And of course my Stabilo Woody in white. (There is a photo of the colors I took shown in that post.)

If I'd been working more slowly and with more colors I would have taken pains to make her skintones the lovely pale colors it is, but I was just having too much fun with that nose.

I really beat the paper up, working hard with new color on too damp an area especially in the underside of the jaw. And the paper held up. The surface looks really fun when you hold it at an angle in the light and see the build up of color.

So if you want to have a bit more "fun factor" when you are doing experiments and intend to beat your paper up, you might just want to give the Strathmore 400 Series Mixed Media a shot. (I've seen it available at art supplies stores everywhere in pads of different sizes.)

(As usual—I don't get paid to tell you about this and won't see a dime if you buy this paper. I'm just letting you know that I had fun with it in these circumstances and I'll use it again in similar circumstances.)

And also as usual, if you want to have an extraordinarly crazy amount of fun and make your own journals with a great paper, buy a great commercially bound journal containing great paper, or do finished mixed media works, or just wet media works, with a great paper, the Strathmore 500 Series Mixed Media paper is always a good choice.

  1. Reply

    The immediacy of the ” last” sketch is very beautiful. Do you have ” favorite” neocolor 2 crayons? Ones that immediately inspire you ? Do you bring a full set or cherry pick a few before the class?

    I find TURQUOISE to be the CARY GRANT of the bunch…and that oddball RAW UMBER a real staple.

  2. Reply

    Do the models know they are selected in part for their fabulous noses?

  3. Reply

    Carina, Models are selected for their ability to hold interesting poses and do so without moving. For a figure drawing class I doubt anyone takes into consideration their noses at all. (I was joking when I said in the post Christine finds models with interesting noses. I’m sure it isn’t even on her criteria list and there are so many more important aspects she has to have in her models. I’m the only one in class who does portraits at the end.)

    I’m fortunate the these good models she finds have great noses, because hair and noses are pretty much all I’m interested in.

  4. Reply

    I hear you about the smudgery- though I do note that when they are liquified they do not seem to rub off so much. The gummy waxy thing may get affected by heat/humidity and the natural rubbing of pages when the book is handled….. just bought glassine this week to place between —- since , like you, fixative would be just another word for asthma attack! The raw umber is weird and not the classic color: it is neither brown nor green nor gray..but some sort of mutt from the three. When I want to place a shadow that is midtone…and place an overtone of another color on top….this is the crayon.

  5. Reply

    Ellen, I had a friend take their Neocolor IIs out in the field and leave them in the car and they got all melty, so that’s a danger too.

    I use them dry, wet them, dry again and smooth them (because they are like oil pastels then) so my final layer when I use these is always waxy and luscious and full of fingerprints and fun. And definitely waiting to be smudged. If I just wet them I know it would be less, but that’s not how I like to use them.

    There are some folks in the collective who use them in their journals and they smudge a little and they don’t mind. Maybe I don’t see the smudging as much when it is someone else’s work. (I like a work to be finished when I finish with it, not continue to change.)

    I’ve never had them melt in a book, though, even though we don’t always turn on the a.c. Maybe if there were weeks of heat they were exposed to (I have to eventually turn on the a.c.)

    I’m glad you’re going with the glassine. I can’t work with fixative at all, and years ago, in the 90s I did several tests on different brands and ALL of them still (including the non-yellowing resin ones) allowed some smudging. And All of them required I had to be away from the sprayed surface for more than 2 weeks of airing out. So that wouldn’t work.

    Which number crayon is your raw umber—I’ve got a whole range that someone might so label. Let me know and I’ll give it a try.

  6. Reply

    the number on the crayon is: 7500.049

    sits nicely with colors that have red influence ( purple, magenta),works as a ” neutral analogous” with olives, and is brilliant with Prussian Blue…

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