|Lots of paper samples, pencils, crayon, brush, erasers, brush pen and even a tube of paint in the free goodie bag from Strathmore.|
Gage Academy recently hosted a free live webinar on Zoom by artist Jamee Linton. Sponsored by Strathmore, the presentation also included a nice goodie bag of free art materials for the first 50 registrants. Well known for its high-quality art papers, Strathmore also owns a number of other art supply makers. The informative presentation, however, focused mostly on Strathmore’s bread and butter – paper. (There was, however, a short video of Lyra pencil production, which of course I enjoyed.)
Viewing several short videos showing the inner workings of Strathmore’s paper mills, participants learned all about how different types of art papers are made. Most of the basic information about paper qualities was not new to me, but I learned a few things about paper sizing and how it affects various media.
The presenter asked, “Can you name a paper that you have probably already used today that contains no sizing at all?” The answer was toilet paper (which I got right 😉). TP contains no sizing at all, so it’s highly absorbent and disintegrates quickly in water. It’s an effective way to remember how sizing affects paper: The more sizing it contains, the less absorbent it is.
All art papers contain some internal sizing that helps paper pulp bind together. Papers also have varying degrees of external sizing on the surface, depending on the paper’s intended media.For example, printmaking paper has very little surface sizing so that ink can grab onto the paper fibers and sink in quickly under pressure. But if you try to use watercolor on printmaking paper, it will sink immediately and unevenly into the surface, which may not be desirable. However, that same unsized, slightly toothy surface can be wonderful to draw on because the graphite or pigment layers so nicely. For example, I love to draw with colored pencils on Legion Stonehenge White, which is a printmaking paper. That also means the surface will be difficult to erase, since the graphite or pigment will immediately grab onto the tooth and begin to bind with it.
Artist quality drawing paper is heavily sized so that it is strong enough to withstand erasing, which also makes it relatively easy to erase. And of course, watercolor paper is the most heavily sized to slow absorption and allow paint to float a while. The heavy sizing also helps the surface absorb water more evenly.
For a long time, Strathmore Bristol papers were my go-to drawing papers, mainly because instructors always seem to recommend it with graphite or colored pencils. I have always wondered what made “Bristol” papers so expensive – what was special about them? I learned at the webinar that Bristol paper must go through an additional finishing process that laminates two or three sheets of paper together under pressure so that the paper will have the same surface texture on both sides and will be thicker. That is what is meant by 2-ply and 3-ply Bristol board.
Watercolor papers also go through an additional finishing process to give them rough, cold press or hot press surfaces. The smoother the texture, the greater degree of pressure is used to flatten the natural hills and valleys in the surface.
Linton also discussed paper’s archival qualities, various fiber contents, and the potentially confusing aspect of paper weights (pounds or grams per square meter). Finally, she described all of Strathmore’s paper lines and which art media each was intended for. Although I’m familiar with Strathmore’s many papers for dry media and watercolor, I was surprised to learn that it also makes papers for oil and acrylic paints.
Overall, it was an enjoyable, informative webinar. And did I mention the free art supplies?