Friday, August 7, 2015

Quality, affordable supports for charcoal and pastel art

As a dabbler and doodler in many artistic mediums, I try to keep a stash of various types of papers on hand, from basic, flimsy newsprint to heavy watercolor and acrylic papers. They all have their place in my arsenal. I do have a pitifully small budget, however, so I am always looking for good quality, affordable supports that will showcase my skills best. Bad paper can ruin a good drawing, but the best papers are extremely expensive. I try to shoot for products that lie somewhere in between those two categories. In my experience, Strathmore and Canson brands are the best fit. Both companies offer broad ranges of paper textures, sizes and weights to suit any medium, but I am going to focus on a couple of Strathmore priducts suited to charcoal and pastel work.

amazon pic of Strathmore toned sketch paper
pic from listing

Strathmore Toned Sketch Paper Pad, 24 Sheets Gray 

Although I have used colored pastel paper before, this was my first time using toned sketch paper. I did not expect this smooth paper to have the same layering ability as the rougher pastel grounds since it is clearly marked as a sketch pad, but I was able to layer much more than I had expected. I tried charcoal, pastel, and pastel pencils in a variety of combinations, and I have to say that the paper is pretty versatile for being so smooth. I would recommend it for studies and expressive pieces where heavy layering is not necessary. The mid-tone gray is really nice and allows for a wide range of values. I intend to try the tan version next, and I was happy to find that there are 50 sheet sketchbooks available in this line too.

Strathmore 80 lb Assorted Color Pastel Paper Pads

Amazon pic of Strathmore paper
pic from listing
I have used the Canson Mi-teintes papers in the past, and I would say that this brand is comparable. It would be unfair to compare it to the more expensive sanded grounds available for fine artists. At first, I thought that the Strathmore texture would not hold as much pastel as the Canson papers, but I was wrong. The texture is just different. Canson has a waffle-like ("laid" I think they call it) texture on one side while Strathmore has a finish that looks more like the weave in canvas, for lack of a better description. While Canson mi-teintes has one textured and one smooth side, both sides of the Strathmore paper have the same texture, which is fine for portraits as well as figure, nature, or still-life studies. The colors are very light, which is neither good nor bad in my opinion, but I would like to try this texture in darker, richer shades.

As with its Canson counterpart, this Strathmore paper will not hold up to extensive layering, but one can create a variety of painterly effects with the help of a workable fixative as necessary. While the paper is suitable for finished pieces, its low price makes it perfect for studies and experimentation, so you can save your pricey sanded and velour papers for your master creations.
pic of one of my charcoal sketches
One of my WIPs using the cream shade
of  Strathmore pastel paper

I figured I would share a piece of my recent work (in progress) just so you know that I really do use the products I review! 

No comments:

Post a Comment