Today's focus is using the Pentel Pocket Brush Pen on different papers.
By now you are well into your experiments with the Pentel Pocket Brush Pen (PPBP). If this particular series within my "Project Friday" category is unfamiliar to you just click on "Project Friday" in the category list and you'll be able to find the three earlier posts on the PPBP.
Note: Don't bother to start testing the PPBP on different papers you have in your flat file or paper stash if you have not yet practiced working with the pen in the ways suggested in parts 1, 2, and 3 of this series. If you aren't yet comfortable with the tool comparing it on different papers isn't going to have any meaning for you.
But, as I say, if you've been following along by now you've logged in a good 50 or more hours using the PPBP. You'll have a sense of how it works—how you can make thin, thick, smooth, or broken lines. You have a sense of the pressure dance you need to do when you apply the brush to paper. You've also been working on developing your editing eye—capturing essential details and playing with what can be left off without curtailing recognition of your subject.
When we started on this project I asked you to either use one particular paper you already had, or purchase a 9 x 12 inch Fabriano Venezia journal. The latter was recommended because it is one paper on which I have the most fun working with this brush pen (and it is readily available in the U.S.). Not only does the pen love to move across the surface of that moderately textured paper, but the ink dries on it quickly and in no time you're able to add watercolor or gouache (adding color is the topic for next week!).
Now that you have worked on one paper for several weeks I am encouraging you to branch out with your new PPBP handling skills and try it on other papers. Some papers might be heavily textured, like the paper in the image at the top of this post. (When you click on that image to view an enlargement you'll clearly see the pronounced laid texture of that sheet—there are vertical columns of horizontal lines that move across the sheet giving it texture.) If that's the case you'll find that the individual bristles of your PPBP's tip will respond by breaking up into a lovely dry-brush effect, creating line qualities you might not have experienced yet. If the paper is smooth, well the pen might just glide along with ease—and you might forget to make your supper because you can't drag yourself away from the pen!
When you try a new paper I would like to enourage you to do it in an orderly way. Have a swatch of the paper that you can keep in a file or stick to a page in your visual journal. Label that swatch. Leave room around the swatch so that you can write notes.
The notes you will be writing will document your experience using the PPBP on that particular paper. I recommend that you draw on the swatch and then make your notes around that drawing, pointing to the various lines to remind yourself, but you can use any system of notetaking that suits you.
Pay attention to how the pen feels when you draw a straight line, a curved line, a heavy line, a light line, across the paper. For some heavily textured papers it will be difficult to draw light lines because if you use light pressure on the pen the tip just can't get down into the paper's texture to make a line. And so it goes.
Think how much drag is on the brush tip. The more paper you try out and become familiar with the more you will understand whether or not it's the texture or the sizing that makes the paper appealing or not appealing. If you suspect something is true—e.g., the sizing of this paper is floating the ink for a long time—find another paper with similar texture by a different mill and see if the ink floats as long on the surface of that paper of similar surface texture. In that way, over time, you'll be able to tell in an instant what is happening to your pen on the paper, and what results you'll be likely to achieve.
Additionally write down how the experience feels to you—if you really enjoy working on the paper write that down and try to explain to yourself why. Or explain why you don't. It might be as simple as "the tip seems to be slowly dragging the entire time."
The blue paper used above is fun to sketch on with the PPBP but it would not be my usual or regular choice. First I don't know what the paper is because it is a page from a book purchased from an English bookbinder. (The blue-paged book is the book at the back in the photo in that post.) Because I don't know anything more about the paper (and won't be buying any more of these books because shipping is so expensive) I'm not getting mentally attached to the paper. Additionally I find that the brush really drags on this paper and while it doesn't put me off, it isn't the same fun experience as carving the lines smoothly and easily onto the surface of the Venezia (which is why I recommended you start with that journal).
If you do your record keeping and swatch keeping in your journal, and you don't index your journals in some manner, then I recommend that you make a tab for the first page of your experiment's notes and attach that tab to the top of your page so that it juts out from the page at the head of your book and you can easily find it again. Make sure that you can access this information at a later date, perhaps even update your notes if necessary.
Papers You Can Start Testing with the Pentel Pocket Brush Pen
Here are some papers that I would recommend you try your PPBP on. Don't worry about adding color at this time. This weekend (or week) all you are concerned with is working out how the pen moves across a particular paper.
Each paper suggestion comes with a link that will take you to a blog post where you can see how I've worked on that particular paper with the PPBP.
Smooth gridded paper (a favorite dog, captured with PPBP and a little bit of gouache). You can actually see this image at the left.
Stonehenge icy blue paper and coquille paper. (The Stonehenge icy blue is smooth; the coquille paper has a lovely eggshell texture that breaks up the line of the pen.) (Use the search engine of this blog to find other "coquille" paper posts for additional examples.)
The Fabriano Venezia journal (drawing Project Runway contestants and adding a little bit of gouache).
Some papers, like Arches Text Wove (ATW) in the "Gert" image will present interesting challenges—opacity is the number one challenge.
ATW is a lighter weight paper but it has a wonderful strength and is great at accepting wet media. Even though I can see the thick lines of the PPBP through this paper I still use it for making my visual journals. Also there are times when the ink dries more slowly on this paper and I can't go in immediately with watercolor or gouache. But I weigh that against the fun I have working on this slightly textured paper and the paper wins. That's the type of information you want to find out for yourself as you test papers. Maybe YOU won't enjoy working on ATW, if so, note down why and go on to another paper to test.
Bogus paper is an inexpensive paper used for fashion sketches. You can see a PPBP sketch of Gert (with a little colored pencil) at this link.
Sketching with the PPBP on Nostalgie is like drawing on glass (only with some punch). It's great to do this and use the resultant sketches for collage.
Bristol papers are great for the PPBP. Strathmore makes a great 500 series bristol that comes in both a vellum (slightly toothy) and smooth surface. Try them both. They are available in full sheets wherever art papers are sold. You can also get their 400 series bristol in their journal line, already bound up and ready to go. (I like to paint on Strathmore bristol papers as well.) (You can see this post about the product line, and a couple sketches on their mixed media paper.) (If you saw my 2011 Strathmore Journaling Video Workshop you saw me working mostly on the bristol papers in their journal series. Unfortunately if you missed that workshop you missed that work, but I wanted to remind past students.)
Don't forget to try various papers you might find at stationary stores. Stores with open stock of pre-cut papers that are sold by piece or weight, will be a great place to find "swatches" of paper to test out the PPBP. If you find a paper you really love you can have the paper company custom cut sizes for you which you can bind into your own journals.
Now, I can hear you saying "Wow Roz, that's a lot of paper to try out, I can't afford it."
Yes, if you try them all out this week it is going to be expensive, but what you need to do is look around and see what papers you already have on hand and test them first.
Then broaden your search and experiments.
Ask your friends what types of papers they like, and research cost and availability on the internet. Do you loathe working on smooth papers? If so don't even bother researching those options right now, just follow up on the textured papers your friends rave about. (Or vice versa if you prefer smooth papers.)
Don't forget to ask if a paper is suitable for wet media—if that is something that is going to be important to you later. If a paper isn't suitable for wet media and you know you're only working in pen these few weeks and want to get back to watercolor soon, don't buy any dry-media only papers to test!
Go to stores where they put "sample" packets together and buy those for testing. Daniel Smith and other on-line vendors put sample sets of paper sheets together. Sometimes local art stores cut up sample sheets and put them in testing kits. (I know that Wet Paint in St. Paul has a couple paper sample kits—one of watercolor papers for instance.)
Read my post "Favorite Papers?…Buying Paper Samplers: It Just Makes Sense" for more information on buying paper samplers: why, and where.
The Goal for This Week and Your Pentel Pocket Brush Pen
This week is NOT about spending vast amounts on paper to test. This week is about taking your PPBP out of the current journal you're using (perhaps the Venezia as suggested, perhaps something else) and trying it on papers that have different characteristics from that initial paper you have been working on. This can be as simple as simply purchasing a ream of smooth high-quality ink jet printer paper.
Continue your tests on the "new" paper and ALWAYS be asking yourself questions about how the pen is working on that paper—do you like the movement of the brush across the surface, is there too much drag, does the ink soak into the paper, is the brush line broken up too much by the texture of the paper? Those are the types of questions you want to ask, now and forever, as you move forward with your PPBP, because from now on you'll be looking for a paper that really sings when you use it with this pen. (I cunningly made this "Project Friday" a "Project Lifetime.")
With each paper test that you do be sure to not only make a variety of marks with the pen, but take time to observe a beloved subject and create a sketch of that on the paper. Drawing a beloved subject will ensure momentum to complete a drawing even on unsatisfactory paper—so that you can gather complete information on the paper. (This is also my cunning way to get you to draw more.)
While you do even minimal testing on even one or two other sheets of paper you will learn a lot more about how you work with the brush pen. The focus is to take what you have learned about pressure and movement and flow and drag and see how they transfer to another paper.
Each paper you test will help you better understand what you liked or disliked about all the other papers you worked on.
As an artist you will be building a mental library of response when using this tool to achieve a certain effect. And you'll discover papers along the way that are perfect for other applications. Now that you have experienced the pen daily for an extended period of time you'll be sensitive to how it responds to other variables like paper texture and sizing. A whole new dialog will open for you.
I'm very excited for you. This is a great adventure to be on.
Coming up: Next Friday I'll talk about adding color to your PPBP sketches.