Making sketchbooks

21 March, 2016. I was really excited to recently discover that Nicholson’s Peerless Transparent Watercolors are still being made – I presumed they went out of business years ago (wrongly, as it turns out.) I used to love these as an easy, transportable method of carrying watercolors out onto location and I promptly ordered replacements for my long exhausted supply. Imagine my surprise when they arrived this morning safely wrapped in a page torn from a February 1948 issue of Better Homes & Gardens!

These are unusual pigments in that they are highly concentrated and somehow dried onto small sheets of card stock. One can cut out a “palette” of, say, 1 x 1 inch squares and double stick tape them to a card that fits perfectly to the inside front cover of one’s sketchbook. Many artists who use Peerless paints have gone to great lengths to figure out better and better ways to carry them – each artists seems to have topped the previous one. For examples of their ingeniousness, check out the examples on the Peerless site or simply do a search on YouTube. Seriously – it’s difficult to create a more compact kit than this.

Yesterday, I hit the woods for a short sketch outing carrying a Pentel Pocket Brush Pen and a sketch “pamphlet” I made from a sheet of Arches Cold Press watercolor paper. Interestingly, I recently noticed that Marc Taro Holmes is doing almost exactly the same thing. I can get four 4-page pamphlets from each full sheet of watercolor paper (four 8-page booklets if one uses both sides.) I like Arches Cold Press as a stock for straight watercolor painting and thought I’d try it out as a sketching surface. However, as noted yesterday, I just wasn’t at all pleased with how the paper accepted line work from my brush pen – in point of fact, it did not accept the lines at all. I had to laboriously work back and forth to make the lines lay down on the surface, which is really not my preferred approach at all. I’d far rather my lines appear effortless, and that’s not gonna happen when the process demands each line be worked so heavily. Arches CP isn’t going to work for me as a sketch surface so this morning I decided to do a little action research.

After a visit to the art store, I’ve selected three sheets with which to experiment upon over the coming week: Fabriano Studio Hot Press, Fabriano Artistico Hot Press, and Arches Hot Press. Without having yet put pen to paper – just touching the “feel” of the paper – it seems like the Arches will provide both a nice surface for line and a decent surface for washes. But the proof, as they say, will be in the pudding. By the way, I was intrigued by the paper Marc Taro Holmes recommends using, Strathmore Aquarius II. He describes it as a lightweight paper that won’t buckle under washes. Stretching the paper is unnecessary because it’s some type of synthetic blend. None of the three professional art stores locally carry it, but it’s available online from Blick, Amazon, and Jerry’s. When I searched, Amazon was about three times higher than Jerry’s for some reason.

Today, I’ll carry one of the sketching booklets with me as I ride out toward the country and enjoy the second day of Spring. Later this week, I’ll be in the Ozarks and then further south to Eureka Springs, Arkansas. I should have plenty of subject matter to conduct my sketch testing.


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