Left: Detail of a face sketch using Pentel Pocket Brush Pen on Bee Paper's Stipple paper. (Note: the sketch was then cut out and pasted on top of a pre-painted background in my journal, that's the color you're seeing at the side.) Click on the image and view an enlargement.
So when I'm not doing what I'm supposed to be doing I always seem to wander over to Wet Paint, first because I typically need some art supplies (otherwise I'd have to tell myself to just stay away) and second because it is the most fun place to be (not just because the supplies are great, but the staff is great over there too) and third because testing art supplies, well frankly I'm powerless to resist.
So the other day while I was waiting to find out what some special order paper cost I walked down the aisle of padded papers and I saw pads of stipple paper!
Note: I don't usually go into the pad aisle as I prefer my paper in sheets and not compressed by the padding process, but nobody can say I can't entertain myself!
Stipple, or as I always called it, coquille paper, is something I once used all the time, decades ago. Then it seemed to disappear. Well I also moved on to other things. But the grip of nostalgia called to me from the pad and I picked it up and I opened the flap and saw the texture and immediately I'm calling out to the person who was helping me, "Hey is this stuff archival and acid free, and…" Because back when I used it originally it was so totally acidic that you got your artwork shot (yeah, I'm not talking about scanning here) as soon as possible. I don't even think I have any illustrations on it left—I think they were all tossed because they were crumbling.
Even before I started working in publishing advertising artists and illustrators used coquille paper, because the texture of the paper broke up the line art so that it would reproduce as half-tone art without having to be shot as such.
Coquille is the French word for shell and is used for lots of things from boats to, well paper. It is used with paper because the texture of the paper is like that of an eggshell if you look at it really, really closely, and if the eggshell were really really uniform—at least that's what I was told by an advertising artist (about the paper, I already knew what coquille was in French), when I was 20, and since he used the stuff and Wikipedia doesn't have a page on it (not that I trust much on Wikipedia as I've found some serious errors!) and I can't find other info on it I'm going with what that advertising artist told me.
Part of me is getting sad just writing this post and remembering how much printing has changed in my lifetime, not just since Gutenberg's. But then part of me is really happy that printing has changed so much in my life time, or at least since the lifetime of Mark Twain, who sadly backed the wrong automatic typesetting machine, but at least realized it would be big. So much has happened and I've been able to see a lot of it. And that makes me even happier now that this paper is available again because click on the sketch and see the fun line quality you get.
Once I pulled the pad off the shelf of course I wanted to know more about it. Since there wasn't any info, except that it's called Stipple paper and is 132 lb. weight and also available in larger sheets, Verra (who handles the paper there at Wet Paint) got out one of those tester pens that is supposed to change color and tell you if something is acidic or not and then Justin (who also works at Wet Paint) and I spent several minutes testing every scrap paper within reach because no one could remember what color the pen ink should stay or change to on the paper if it was acid free). Justin finally got a local newspaper out to settle the question, because we knew that would be acidic. But then we spent several more minutes comparing various scraps of archival paper to see how the ink color varied on them.
You get the idea—I can be a bit disruptive to the flow of things.
I don't have a definitive answer about this paper. I'm thinking it might be buffered, but results were odd. The tester pen didn't really change color and it didn't really stay the same.
I said, "F***-it" and brought a pad home, because frankly in all the time Justin, Verra and I were spending testing the damn paper I was falling in love with it all over again and sometimes we go out with "people/paper" for the wrong reasons, just because. Also, while they were searching for the tester pen I got out my little paint set and my Niji brush and found that I could do lovely light washes on the paper as well. A moderate amount of buckling, but some cool effects because of the texture of the paper.
I purchased a 9 x 12 inch pad for about $13. There are 25 sheets of fun in the pad, and that's the way I'm looking at it—25 sheets of fun. The texture is on one side of this paper. (I don't really understand the illustration on the cover of Bee's pad because it is a stipple drawing, part black and white, part color, of a tiger—a stipple drawing, made by placing thousands and thousands of dots of ink, not made by using stipple paper [at least I sure hope not because then the artist really battled with the texture of the paper].) This is a huge disconnect for me, but then it's a lovely illustration so I'm not going to fret.
(Just FYI, if you want to do an actual stipple drawing, and create tone by using lots and lots of dots of ink, I recommend that you use plate bristol, actually Strathmore 500 series plate bristol.)
I brought the paper home and have indeed been playing with it. If it yellows and crumbles, I don't really care. If it releases acids that seep through pages in my otherwise archival journal, not to worry. I call that patina. It's a small price to pay for so much fun.
The paper surface loves the Pentel Pocket Brush Pen. I mean LOVES it. It's just fun to move the brush pen across this paper. If you're looking for cheap thrills, I highly recommend this paper.
And because I was writing this post I started looking around the internet and found that tatoo artists seem to love coquille paper.
Since I couldn't get any definitive info on whether or not the paper was acid free I checked around on the internet about the paper and found a coquille board that is lignin-free, pH neutral, acid/free and meets the "requirements of the Science Illustration program through California State University Monterey Bay."
I found this image of a Humpty Dumpty character done on coquille paper with black Prismacolor pencils. That in turn led me to a wonderful blog by RIck Lovell, which is a bit off the track of coquille paper, but you should still go visit his blog.
So all of that should provide you with even more fun.