Working on Canson 180

October 21, 2019
Fude Fountain pen sketch in a 9 x 12 inch Canson 180 Sketchbook.


Today I look at working with watercolor on a not-wet-media paper.

In May I shared with you how I started working in a Canson 180 sketchbook given to me by a friend. Because recovery from cataract surgery has been protracted I’ve been rather cooped up, unable to drive, get to life drawing, etc.

One of my young friends alerted me to his pending shaving off of his beard. He let me take a bunch of photos that I could sketch from at home.

Here you see the pen sketch I started in my Canson 180 sketchbook. I know that I’m going to add watercolor washes over the pen sketch. I know that I’ll use transparent washes (as that was my mood) so the pen work will show. With that in mind I allowed myself to play with the line qualities of the Fude pen.

You will see in the scan of the sketch that the top of the page is already ripply. This is from moisture seeping through a previous page. I’m unconcerned about working with wet media on lightweight non-wet-media papers, so this doesn’t bother me.

The nice thing about this particular drawing paper is that even though it isn’t sized for wet media it will take wet media (as you can see from the previous linked post in May, and later in this finished piece).

Final painted sketch.

In the second scan of this post you can see the final watercolor washes. And yes there is more rippling and buckling of the paper. But it doesn’t bother me. I have enjoyed putting paint on this paper.

In the detail of the image which follows you’ll see that you can achieve fun mingling and glazing of color. I’ve used an opaque yellow to put in some lighter tones in the hair and beard.

That pigment has also been useful in the eye, creating a gold glow when added wet-in-wet to the initial mixed brown wash.

As is my habit recently, I worked this sketch with flats and filberts.

Don’t shy away from using non-wet media paper. There’s a lot of fun to be had in adapting your approach to a paper that is “delicate.”

I’ll have some more examples of painting on this paper later this week.

Detail from today’s sketch.


  1. Reply

    heya Roz, yep I use these cheap and cheerful Canson 180’s a bit too. They lay flat from the get go and like you, the buckles don’t bother me in an ‘everyday’ sketchbook that is just meant for me anyways. Sometimes I’ve noticed some resist when laying down washes but just roll with that too…
    I’ve found the paper to handle everything I’ve tried on it with the exception of markers like copics (which bleed on most paper so I don’t use them much.)

    I like the fact I can rip through pages without any concern about ‘wasting good paper’ and often will take risks in these books that I would hesitate to try on more expensive papers.

    I’m interested in how you gauge when to stop with the drawing before adding the watercolour…I’ve been experimenting with different approaches as I’m using the Sailor fude and the ppbp a lot lately and the joys of drawing with them mean sometimes I go too far and look back and realise I could have left some of the communication to the watercolour…. still working on when those choices should be made. But seeing your posts makes me realise that maybe I’m overthinking it and the joy of just trying things is enough.

    1. Reply

      Hi Deb, I’m glad you are enjoying the Canson 180 sketchbooks.

      I don’t use Copic markers because their odor gives me a headache in about 1 minute. Thanks for letting me know how they react to this paper so other people stopping by get a heads up.

      You might test this marker sketchbook out too It didn’t work for my main methods but maybe it’s good for Copics?

      You know me I’m not worried about “wasting good paper.” I think all the sketches are valuable, and frankly the better the paper, typically the higher the fun level. But I do find books like this useful for life drawing (when we are burning through paper), it’s just been awhile since I’ve been able to attend.

      You ask a great question about gauging when to stop with an ink sketch if you’re going to paint. I like to start any drawing with an idea of where I’m going, i.e., is it just going to be pen and ink, is it going to have watercolor, opaque applications of paint, more pattern and other stuff added, collage…

      Then I start in and depending on how the pen feels on the paper everything might change. Sometimes the pen just feels really good and I stop at the contour and think, that’s enough, and go on to something else. Or I might get further and start doing some detail—but I won’t put the detail in if I think I’m going to paint opaquely. I can of course cover the ink lines and I routinely do this with my brush pen lines. It’s simply ironic that I put those lines down and then paint over them, but I like both actions so I let myself do it. But on the brush pen sketches you can see if I’ve saved stages, that I don’t put in as much.

      For this particular sketch I was hoping to get some structure and some shading or texture down, and then add some paint but show the ink lines. That’s why I stopped where I stopped.

      Even with that plan there are places where I go past that. The eye on the left was clogged with ink as I messed with a blockage in the pen, so I knew I’d do watercolor and I knew I’d use watercolor opaquely at least in the eyes. But as is often the case I went a little overboard on the beard color too. (And I’m not sorry one bit!)

      For me the hard bit is deciding on more or less ink texture in things like the clothing.

      So I think what you are finding, that you enjoy the pens sometime and go too far is totally normal and you just need to enjoy it. It will sort itself out as you find the favorite way you like to use both those pens.

      I would use the same pens on toned paper too and see if the inking point comes sooner for you because you already have that midtone down.

      Here’s some examples of what I mean. This sketch was finished and I didn’t want to do anything more. It had the volume and detail I wanted.

      This brush pen sketch went totally the other way, very little detail. It was on a textured background and I always knew that I would paint opaquely over all the lines, so they are there just to remind me of features.

      Sometimes you simply have to push And afterwards you can decide if you like it or not.

      Sometimes you just go all out

      When I’m doing journal sketches of people in public I do very little ink and let the watercolor do the work. That’s a time constraint.

      You can see I did the same thing with this sheep sketch from life (here turned into a button, I don’t remember when I first posted it). Little ink, mostly watercolor.

      With the sketch in today’s post, as with all my post-cataract surgery sketches there’s a new element of line restatement as I still cannot get my eyes calibrated to clear vision.

      If I miss enough lines in a sketch then it’s going to send me into opaque paint.

      Hope the examples help you understand my thought process.

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