Over the last few weeks I have been using grey-toned Strathmore Paper to create drawings, in addition to my usual watercolour sketches on white watercolour paper and in sketchbooks. The contrast between the two different approaches means that I have had to think about the various aspects of drawing and adding colour and darks in different ways to what I have been used to. This blog outlines my approaches. In parallel with this toned-paper work, I have had my eyes tested and have now reverted to wearing a combination of reading glasses and varifocals. The later should be much better for when I am out and about drawing! One of the two pairs is indeed rose coloured and I must admit to thoroughly enjoying my work on toned paper. Long may my rose-tinted glasses serve me well!
I have been using two different sized books, a softbacked 5.5 x 8.5 inch grey-toned book and a larger, hard-backed 8.5 x 11.5 inch book. I find the smaller softback one too flimsy but the size is quite handy for fitting into a bag. The larger one is great because the hard surface means its self-supporting when I’m out and about drawing and I do really like the larger size although it’s a little less handy for carrying around (but you can’t have everything!). The paper is relatively thin (80 lb) and smooth which makes it nice to work on with coloured pencil and fountain pen. It is also very handy when capturing a scene quickly as it is happenng and where watercolour may be much less than ideal. I also have the toned Tan paper but I’ve not started working with that one yet. I will let you know when I do!
- You need to be bold: with darks and with colour. The muted colour of the paper means that you have a neutral base and this needs to be given an injection of strength in the colour and mark making. I use a Lamy safari with DeAtramentis Documents ink for the line work, darker areas are achieved with a brush pen. I have frequently worked over and over the drawing once I have all the key elements in, to get the depth of colour/tone I want.
- I use watercolour pencils (inktense, without water) as they are creamy and you can press hard to create good strong coverage. I am also practicing with layering of colour to create richer mixes and strong accents on the page. Washing over (no water!) some of the colour with for example bright yellow can add a real glow to the page!
- I mix watercolour pencil (Inktense) and wax crayon (water-solouble, although I use them dry, Caran D’ache) especially for skies to create a better intensity of colour and of texture
- White gel pen and posca pens work a treat for highlights, water, movement etc. and are especially useful for figure work. People sketching can be done on this paper in a really clean way, using the paper for mid-tone and then using a light (eg white gel) and a dark e.g. black or navy blue watercolour pencil
- Navy blue pencil is a great for the darkest of areas on figure drawing and for shadow on other types of drawing and I tend to use it with yellow to create green on the paper rather than using green pencil. The navy blue is also less harsh and works well with the grey tone of the paper.
- Using bands of text, either as titles or as narrative works well. Anything bold, architectural and striking seems to work well and interestingly somehow, the page layout seems to be critical to the success of a drawing on this paper. I know that’s true in general but it seems even more so on the grey paper. I’ve tried white and black writing but the toned paper lends itself to other colours too. I use a Lamy ink pen with an italic 1.1 nib for all my main text.
- Being loose and experimental in some areas and tighter in others is an approach I’ve started to experiment with, the paper seems to cope well with relatively scribbly lines. This is especially true for the layering of coloured pencil although the dark architectural work needs to be cleaner and more precise, as does the writing.
I am relatively new to the use of this toned paper so I have a lot more work I want to develop and try using this material. I will keep you posted as I find out more about this most wonderful of surfaces.