Above: Sketch of a pet store Budgie from a photo (if you know of a pet store open that late in the Twin Cities let me know; I'll go over there and sketch instead). Pentel Pocket brush pen with gouache washes, in an 8 x 9-3/8 inch handbound book I made with sheets of today's paper. Click on the image to view an enlargement.
On January 14, 2012 I posted about my New Year's Day trip to Como Zoo and the new sketchbook in which I was working. The paper I used for this journal has now been released so I can write about it: Strathmore 500 series Mixed Media Paper.
(Please note the 500 series in the name. In a previous post about Strathmore papers a reader wrote in that she didn't understand Strathmore's use of 300 and 400 and 500 in their names. Each denotes a different product line. All 500 series papers from Strathmore are their top of the line, artist quality papers. You've read about my love affair with their 500 series Bristol. Well their 500 Series Mixed Media Paper is a new favorite paper of mine. But I do not care at all for their 300 and 400 Series Mixed Media Paper, so do not get confused. Do not think you are using the same paper I'm writing about unless you are using the 500 series Mixed Media Paper.)
Many of you may have already been using the Strathmore 500 Series Mixed Media Paper. It is the paper they use in their Mixed Media journal in their visual journal series. I used it for my many of my class samples when I did an online class for Strathmore in 2011.
I first wrote about the Strathmore Visual Journals and the Mixed Media paper they contained on June 24, 2011. You can read my initial thoughts there. Basically my thoughts have remained unchanged (with a few updates I'll get to in a moment).
I was already in contact with Strathmore at that time for other reasons and I began to relentlessly pester my contact to bring this paper out in full sheets (something in the 22 x 30 inch range or larger) so that I could make my own books with it. While I think their journal with this paper is wonderful, it is a wire-bound journal and we all know I'd rather have a casebound book to more easily work across the spread.
If, like me, you have enjoyed this paper in the journals and would like to make your own books out of it be aware that now you can. Strathmore 500 Series Mixed Media Paper is available in sheets and boards.
It is 100 percent cotton, acid free, lignin free, and archival.
I received sheets of this paper last summer. Because of other committments I was only able to tear it down into signatures before life took me in another direction. But I knew the moment that I tore the paper down and folded it that it was going to become a favorite. Bookbinders will find it easy to fold and tear. The folds will be clean and crisp. There is no cracking when folded with the grain so you can go boldly forth with your binding plans. Also as a 90 lb. paper you'll be able to fit more pages in a slimmer spine. Making a casebound book with this paper is a delight—it holds glue joins between the signatures even with intense usage. (I have been using my test volume since January 1 and have more to say about this below.)
As I wrote in my earlier post about the qualities of this paper, it takes mixed media well and has a good opacity for a 90 lb. sheet. I love using my Pentel Pocket Brush Pen in my visual journal. On this paper not only does it move in an enjoyable manner, the brush pen's heavy ink line is not as visible as it is on some other thin sheets, when you turn the page.
As a 90 lb. sheet I should also point out it is hefty enough to take collage and not feel wimpy in any respect. I just finished collaging all sorts of birthday photos and cards onto pages and the paper totally holds its own.
I should note, in the "revised" opinions portion of this post that what I have found in using this paper more extensively is that sometimes the inks of my PPBP and even my Staedtler Pigment Liner do not dry as quickly as they do on some of the papers I use. So while I can say there is typically no bleeding of my waterproof inks on this paper, upon ocassion I work so quickly with my brush pen (or other pen) and jump so eagerly to applying washes of watercolor or gouache, that I have experienced some minimal bleeding in areas of high ink coverage. This is taken care of with just a little more patience. If you are concerned at all about this I suggest that you pause for a moment after you sketch, wet your watercolors then, not earlier, and then test first in an area where you'll be painting a darker color. I don't do any of that, perferring to just have at it. I'm willing to live with the little bit of ink bleeding I might encouter in my impatience—note that it is greater when brushing over large PPBP strokes where lots of ink was laid down, which is to be expected.
If my seemingly cavalier discussion of bleeding inks confuses you please read my post: "It's Not Waterproof until It's Waterproof."
In the above budgie sketch the background looks a bit streaky. I need, in deference to the paper, to point out that the visible strokes were intentional. I have found that if I want to lay in a nice "watercolor" type wash on this paper I can do so, I'm just not doing much of that these days, preferring to smash around the page with my too big filbert leaving tell-tale strokes. So while this is not the same paper as a traditional watercolor paper you will find that it will enable you to work with watercolor well. (And, since many watercolor papers have so much sizing that ink on them floats "forever" [to the impatient artist] you may find this paper more suited to your working style.)
There are additional characteristics of this paper which make me very fond of it as a visual journaling paper. Foremost is the strength of the sheet. I have not experienced any bleeding through the sheet to the other side. I've used this paper feverishly with tons of water, inks, paints, scrubbing and reapplication and I've yet to break through. I've also not had any pilling of the paper as I apply multiple washes, wet into wet, and rub about more than a "watercolorist" would.
Here's the bad news: While these sheets have been officially available since January 16 it will take a little bit of time for them to arrive in stores. Stores have to decide to carry it, order it, and of course it has to be shipped. (Which reminds me, now that I have successfully pestered Strathmore for this paper in sheet form I need to pester my favorite local independent art supply store, Wet Paint, to stock it!)
I suggest that you get one of the Mixed Media Journals that contains this 500 Series Mixed Media paper and test it for yourself so that you know whether or not you're going to like the paper. Then starting in February you can begin asking your paper supplier when they will carry this paper in sheets. Be sure to always call it Strathmore 500 Series Mixed Media Paper to avoid confusion with the other grades of mixed media paper Strathmore produces (neither of which I like at all).
If I am reading the pricing sheet I received from Strathmore correctly it looks like the paper will be $3.99 per sheet, which is in the same price range as some watercolor sheets of the same size. (22 x 30 inches)
I know that I will be using it in future bookbinding and journaling classes because I know its versatility will suit a variety of students and a range of media and application methods.
I bound this paper finally into a book in December of 2011. (It's the orange decorative paper with blue splotches.) I thought the paper had been released in sheets during the fall (because once I had learned it was going to be and had some test sheets I stopped pestering Strathmore), so I couldn't wait to start the new year with a journal of my own binding and this paper. I will have several more posts over the next couple of weeks that will show you other page spreads and experiments from this journal, on this paper. As of the writing of this post I have 10 spreads left in the journal so it won't last much longer. I'll go off into another journal with a different paper, because I like to switch things up. I already know, however, that I'm going to be coming back to this paper frequently for my visual journal binding needs.
Grain Direction: The grain of this paper goes parallel with the 22 inch side of the paper, so plan accordingly. (22 x 30 inches)
Disclaimer: I was not paid for this review, nor any review of any Strathmore papers, nor was one requested of me. This summer I did receive my original 17 sheets for binding experiments after incessant pestering for the sheet to be made available. That paper was not purchased. But I paid for it many times over by not being able to talk about it right away (OK, I'm just kidding about that, I did want to talk about it right away, but it wasn't a hardship not to because I knew the paper was coming out soon.) Strathmore also knew, based on my past comments about the 300 and 400 series Mixed Media Samples that they sent me, that I was not pleased with those papers and would say so. At any rate, the Strathmore 500 Series Mixed Media Paper is available in sheets now. Try the Strathmore 500 Series Mixed Media Paper if you enjoy binding your own journals with paper that can take a variety of media really, really well and hold up to the creative chances you like to take. Or don't try it and continue to enjoy the pilling, bleed through, buckling, and other poor performance characteristics you get from so many other papers.
Update 3.2.12 for Twin Cities People: Wet Paint has the paper and it's on sale through April 30, 2012 for 35 percent off.