A Sneak Peak At Stillman & Birn Nova Paper

Did you get excited when Stillman & Birn announced their new Nova series of sketchbooks?  I sure did.  Most people know that I’m a fan of S&B but, like everyone else, when I wanted to draw on toned paper, I was stuck with 60-80lb paper with little or no sizing.  This stuff was ok for line sketching but any attempts at watercolor and the paper buckled, pigments dulled as they were sucked into the paper, and you couldn’t manipulate the watercolors the way you can on a better paper.

But one day I got a call from S&B, asking if I’d like to try out their new toned paper line.  I pondered my answer carefully.  Microseconds went by as I came up with my careful worded response.  “Heck yeah!  Bring it on.”  And they sent me some single sheets of their tan, gray and black papers.

Which brings us to now.  These papers will change the way watercolorists think about toned papers for two reasons, both having to do with the fact that physically these papers are like S&B Alpha white and cream papers.

They are much heavier than other toned papers.  I don’t have any data on these papers, but they are the same thickness as Alpha paper, suggesting they are around 100lb (150gsm).  In any case, the extreme buckling I’ve experienced from other toned papers just doesn’t happen.

The papers are properly sized, so you can actually work watercolors on them.  Those who have experienced Alpha papers know that large-scale wet-n-wet is probably not the idea approach but these papers can handle a fair amount of water.  The pigments can be moved around.  You can charge into another color. You can lift pigments from these papers.  The colorsl remain bright on these papers.

I started testing by doing what I typically do with toned papers, draw with pencil or fountain pen.  Very quickly I realized that  this was lots of fun but not really a challenge for these papers.  They were almost screaming “put some water on me,” and so I did.

I’d like to provide a detailed, blow by blow on the process of getting used to these papers but, for me, it was like working on my typical Alpha and Beta papers.  If anything, I might have used a slightly thicker mix to achieve the results you see but I’m not even sure that’s true.

Above you can see a bit of buckling. I soaked the area inside the building outline and applied the color wet-n-wet. Because the exterior remained dry this small amount of buckling took place. What I did here simply would not be possible with other toned papers I’ve used.

 

 

 

Stillman & Birn says that actual sketchbooks with Nova papers will be available sometime in August.  I don’t know if that means softcover, hardcover, or both but I know I’m going to get in line to get some.  Stillman & Birn will shake the world of toned papers with these sketchbooks.  Thanks, S&B.

 

 

 

 

 

Sketching In The Flowerless Flower Garden

It seems as though we won’t be having a summer this year.  Lots of rain and temps cool enough that we’re back to wearing jackets to go sketching.  Pretty odd for July, even in Quebec City.

We headed to a large garden in Ste-Foy last week for a sketching session.  Reports said the rain wouldn’t start until late afternoon, though it looked as though it could rain at any minute.  We’re getting used to the dull days, though, so we didn’t think much of it.  The garden brought reality home to roost.  There were so few flowers, so little growth.  The trees and grass were all very green, probably because of the rain, but the garden plants looked like it was April.

Everyone cast around for something to draw and I started by drawing on of my fellow sketchers.  I admit my heart wasn’t into it but a quick sketch was done quickly.  After this I got up and started wandering the grounds, around and around I went.  Nothing inspired.

There were some people weeding some large beds and they had a small garden vehicle in support.  I decided “why not” and sat down to draw it.  A woman came over and asked if I wanted her to move the vehicle, thinking I wanted to draw the garden, but I explained that I was going to draw the vehicle.  She laughed, probably thought I was nuts, and I set to work.  Here’s what I came up with.  Not a Rembrandt but it sure was fun to draw.

Stillman & Birn Alpha (5×8), Platinum 3776, Platinum Carbon Black

Looking Up To Draw

I do almost all of my sketching on location so I’m very comfortable doing so.  There is one circumstance, however, that I find challenging.  Looking up at the subject to be sketched always seems harder than it should be.  I don’t know if there’s something about the upward-looking angle or the fact that I have to bob my head through a much larger angle between subject and paper.  In any case, getting the proportions and perspective correct is always harder.

We were sketching at the train station, though, and I drew this portion of one of the buildings.  Quebec is blessed with these sorts of rooftops and so looking up is is worth the effort.

A Weekend In Ottawa – Part 2

The day of my daughter’s graduation we did some more shopping and returned to Andrew Haydon Park.  It was still windy and still stormy but we like this park because there are a lots of geese and you can see the St. Lawrence River from there.

As a chipmunk foraged around us, I drew this sketch of a spit of land that sticks out on the other side of the marina associated with the park.  I forgot to include it in yesterday’s post.

Stillman & Birn Alpha (8×5), Platinum 3776, Platinum Carbon Black

A Weekend In Ottawa

For the last few years I’ve gotten to draw in the museums of Ottawa because my daughter was going to school there.  This past weekend was the end point of that part of her life as she graduated Magna Cum Laude from the University of Ottawa.  We went there to spend some time with her and to attend her graduation.

I didn’t make it to any of the museums because we spent the weekend doing more exciting things, like laundry, shopping and grocery shopping (grin).

It was a hectic weekend, made a bit more unsettled by the fact that high humidity and high temps combined to provide a near constant threat of thunderstorms.  There was even a tornado warning at one point.

As it turned out, we didn’t see a lot of rain but there was a lot of wind.  We did sit in Andrew Haydon Park, though, and I did some quick sketches.  It’s hard for me to spend much time on sketches when I am with other people who are not sketching.

Stillman & Birn Epsilon (3×5), Platinum 3776, Platinum Carbon Black

Stillman & Birn Alpha (8×5)

 

 

A Visit With Claude Simard, Sort Of

Just before I left for Ottawa our group went to an exhibit of Claude Simard’s work at the Centre d’interprétation historique de Sainte-Foy. This is a very large house on the grounds of a large church/cemetery.  The church is a stone building that was gutted by fire a while back and was renovated into a place for semi-outdoor (walls but no roof) theatre.  Anyways, the grounds of this building complex are very nice and very sketchable.

We spent some time sketching outdoors before going to the Simard exhibition and I drew this small building where they used to keep corpses in winter when the ground was too frozen for burials to take place.  I apologize for the “lines” in the color.  These were produced when I used a cheap gray marker to indicate locations of tone because I ran out of time and needed some guidance for later when I added color.

Stillman & Birn Beta (8×10), Platinum 3776, Platinum Carbon Black

I really enjoyed Claude Simard’s work.  His paintings, mostly done in acrylic are bright, very colorful and impressionistic.  While it’s clear from sketches on display that he is an excellent draftsman, this is not reflected in his paintings, which are almost caricatures of their subjects.  Nevertheless, it’s clear where he got the moniker as the Happy Painter.

What excited me the most, however, were the cabinets that displayed some of his sketches.  Some were in sketchbooks while others were done on watercolor paper.  All were simple sketches with loose watercolors added to them.  I loved them all.  In fact, I started drawing some of them with the idea of playing with watercolors in as close as I could get to his style.  This was a lot of fun and I did several of them.  Here’s one example.  The original was about 5×7, as is my copy of it.  I’m afraid I fell short of doing his watercolors justice.

“Bois du coulonge” Park

Eek…I’ve been way for a while and haven’t posted anything here in five days.  I just got home from Ottawa so I’m grabbing a couple smallish sketches I did while we were at the Bois du coulonge park.  Not much to say about them except that the little pond sketch was done twice.  The first time around I did it with washable ink without realizing it and when I started applying watercolors I generated a mess (grin).  Anyways, I’ll get the blog back on track ‘real soon.’

Sometimes Small Is Fun

With decent weather coming late this year, I’m in the mood to walk, and walk, and walk.  My pedometer has been smoking hot from all the activity.  At the same time, my arthritic hand has been giving me fits and so it’s been hard for me to be motivated to sketch.

But small formats fit into the walks and don’t pain the hand too much so I’ve used my trusty 3.5×5.5 Stillman & Birn Epsilon book to work some sketching into my walks.  Here’s a couple of those results.  I might have gotten carried away with the color but I’m trying to figure out the why and how other sketchers do this sort of thing.  I think I like the results.  Do you?

An Interesting View While Out Of The Wind

It got pretty windy when during our sketching session and because our temperatures are still cooler than normal, it got uncomfortable.  We all started looking for a place to draw while out of the wind and I chose the leeward end of Maison Dorion, a large house that is the headquarters for the St. Charles River Society.  I drew this scene.

Stillman & Birn Alpha (8.5×5.5), Platinum 3776, Platinum Carbon Black

Quick-Sketching A Landscape

I’m convinced that I’m the slowest sketcher on the planet.  I’m not proud of being number one, but a man has to know who he is.  Sketching isn’t a race but nevertheless, this is often a problem for me because I’d like to capture a scene without growing a beard at the same time.

I figure that the only way to crack this problem is to force the issue so this morning, I went to a park near “my river,” sat down and started drawing trees as quickly as I could.  I did the pen work for this scene in about 25 minutes and reached for my color tools.

Oops…I’d forgotten my watercolor stuff.  What I did have was a handful of watercolor pencils and the smallest waterbrush known to man.  The pencils were ok for the color source but that waterbrush… yuck.  It was woefully inadequate for the task.  Nevertheless, I worked quickly and in less than 40 minutes I had this sketch.

Stillman & Birn Beta (8×10), Platinum 3776, Platinum Carbon Black

This doesn’t compare well to Liz Steel doing a painting  in the blink of an eye and it’s not even close to how long it takes me to do a one-minute sketch a’la Marc Taro Holmes, but for a scene with this many trees, I feel it was pretty quick.

I’m hoping to do a bunch of one-minute sketches and another bunch of continuous line drawings this summer.  They won’t be as detailed as my normal drawings and certainly not as accurate.  But I’m hoping these exercises will speed up my hand.  Wish me luck.