For our Tuesday night sketching we met at Indian Rock Park in North Berkeley. It was so cold, windy and foggy at my house that I put on a turtleneck, a sweater, a down vest, and my winter jacket before leaving the house. I live in the fog belt but just a few miles away, the weather at Indian Rock was lovely with no wind or fog.
My first sketch was of the giant rocks (below), a favorite site for rock climbers and sunset watchers. For the non-climbers there are stairs carved into the rock, and I climbed halfway to do the second sketch (above) where I was entranced by the idea of dining on that wonderful deck complete with white tablecloth and spectacular view.
A new trend for rock climbers is to carry a huge, specially designed backpack that looks like a giant suitcase. It is actually a folded cushion they put on the ground below where they will be climbing. I find it fascinating how there is an endless amount of specialized stuff to buy for every possible interest.
I really enjoyed drawing the rocks but why did I make the stupid drinking fountain so prominent? Oh well.
There were quite a few people enjoying the park, including a multi-generation Japanese-speaking family who all climbed the stairs, some hippies smoking pot behind the rock, young sturdy rock climbers doing the spiderman thing, and some girlfriends and couples who like me, perched on the rock to enjoy the sunset. Everyone seemed to be appreciating the quiet, peaceful, night and awesome view all the way across the bay to San Francisco.
I used random items from my junk drawer as still-life subjects to test paper for binding my next journal. The paper I’ve chosen is Legion Multimedia Aquarelle 300 gsm (a little thinner than 140 lb). An employee at my local Artists & Craftsman store suggested it when I was unsuccessfully seeking the Fabriano Soft Press 140 lb recommended by Shirley of Paper and Threads.
I was delighted to find that the texture of the Multimedia/Aquarelle paper is perfect for writing on with the finest of pen points (unlike my current journal’s Arches CP paper). It took watercolor washes and multiple layers of glazes beautifully without buckling, pooling, or pilling. Color lifted off easily when rubbed with a damp brush.
The paper is nicely sized to prevent the paper from soaking up the paint, but not so extremely sized as the Arches 90 pound cold press that practically resists the ink.
It has two deckle edges and is relatively inexpensive. The Legion Multimedia/Aquarelle paper cost $2.69 a sheet at my Blick store while the Fabriano Soft Press 140 lb paper was $4.99 a sheet. Unlike the Fabriano, this paper is also available in 90 lb weight which I will try next, but I think that will have to be a special order through Artists & Craftsman since Blick only carries the 300 gsm paper.
“Use any painting and drawing media you choose on this fine quality, crisp white paper! Multimedia/Aquarelle Paper consists of 100% cotton fiber, is acid-free, and has a neutral pH. The paper is 140 lb (300 gsm) weight, and has an uneven textured surface. Available in two different surfaces — Cold Press and Rough. Cold Press is available in sheets and pads, Rough is available in sheets only, and comes in 200 lb (380 gsm) weight.”
I tested the paper for grain direction and it runs the long way, making it possible to tear it down for a journal just the size I like: 5.5″ x 7.5″, with no waste, which is not possible with the Fabriano whose grain runs the short way.
I finally was able to buy a sheet of Fabriano Soft Press (which has a similar surface texture, between hot press and cold press) and tested it too:
Fabriano Soft Press
The Fabriano Soft Press paper had some things in its favor but ultimately the cons outweighed the pros in my mind. It seems like good sturdy paper, and the paint lifted OK without surface damage, but it was slightly less pleasant to write on with a fine-point pen, even though the surfaces of the two papers are very similar.
Since the grain runs the short way (which means the pages will need to fold the short way) you either end up wasting some of the paper or have fewer size options for the book. Also, the paper is thicker and stiffer, which means fewer sheets per book or a thicker, heavier book. And it is more expensive.
But what bothered me the most was the sizing. According to Blick:
“Fabriano papers are synthetically sized both internally and externally so that no animal by-products are used.”
In fact, Fabriano uses an acrylic sizing as opposed to the organic sizing (gelatin) that other companies use. I found that juicy washes on this paper took forever to dry and I assume it has to do with the non-porosity of acrylic sizing.
Despite waiting and waiting and finally using a hair dryer before adding the next layer of glaze, the paint still wasn’t dry and glazes bled into each other.
I also tested the Arches 90 lb Cold Press in my journal (below). Washes, glazing, lifting worked fine, but just isn’t pleasant to use with a fine point pen.
I’m looking forward to binding my new book and then giving the Legion Multimedia Aquarelle paper a true test of its journal-goodness and whether it really is the “perfect” watercolor journal bookbinding paper for me.
Warm sun, green hills, blossoming trees and a great Peet’s cappuccino to sip at an outdoor table while sketching was made even better by a pen that actually worked in my sketchbook. After struggling to find a pen that would not skip, scratch, smear, show through or bleed on the Arches 90 lb cold press paper I’d bound in my journal, I discovered that my Lamy Safari fountain pen was just right.
All of the pens I normally use were giving me problems. The Sakura Pigma Micron skipped, scratched over the textured paper when drawing, and was even worse for writing in the journal, whether I used my favorite .01 or a fatter-tipped .05.
I tried using an Ultra-Fine Point Sharpie since it would at least produce a strong line (above). But I found that the ink flowed too quickly, bleeding and spreading if held in one spot and worse, showed through to the other side. I also tried the Pitt Artist Brush Pen on this page, which worked OK but was a thicker line than I like for general sketching. The black ink in the finer-point Pitts seemed paler than the Microns, but it might also be that they resist the sizing on the paper more.
Prismacolor Illustration pens are similar to the Sakura Pigma Micron and Pitt Artist Pens and are very nice and comfortable to hold. But they too performed poorly on the Arches CP. In the sketch above I was trying to do a contour drawing of what I saw on the BART train but my lines were barely visible until I redrew them with a Sharpie.
Then I tested my Lamy Safari F-point fountain pen and was delighted to see that it was a pleasure to write and draw with on the Arches CP paper.
I’d last filled the Safari with Noodlers Black Bulletproof ink, which is supposed to be waterproof but actually bleeds a fair amount when a wash is applied after it’s dry. I used a dip pen to test Platinum Carbon Ink and it held up better, barely bleeding at all.
So I squirted out the remaining Noodlers in my Lamy and refilled it with the Carbon Platinum ink. I’ve been a happy sketcher ever since. The ink is a rich black, doesn’t bleed, is great to write with on this bumpy paper, and is comfy to hold. Yay!
Now that I’m halfway through my journal it’s time to prepare for binding the next one. I’ve been testing papers and I think I’ve found the one. When I finish my tests I’ll post them. I have a feeling I might have found the perfect paper for ink and watercolor journaling.