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Bursary Winner Reviews Strathmore Paper

Duncan Thomas reviews the Strathmore Artist Papers he selected after winning the Artist Papers bursary at the Patchings Art Festival 2016.

Strathmore 400 series Coloured Pencil Pad

Black Labrador by Duncan Thomas using Strathmore 400 Series Coloured Pencil Pad

I really like this paper. The name ‘Coloured Pencil’ is, in my view, unnecessarily prescriptive for a paper of such versatility and I nearly didn’t order it because of that. I don’t actually use coloured pencils. I use it for graphite and charcoal sketches and finished drawings (mainly portrait).

I like it particularly because its lovely smooth surface allows the charcoal to be easily and sensitively removed with a rubber to define lighter toned areas and highlights (this is a ‘reductive’ technique that I am particularly fond of) . Despite its smoothness (there’s a complete absence of texture or tooth ) I have found that it takes the charcoal beautifully, and the very darkest values can be achieved with ease.

This paper, almost to my surprise, enables a degree of tonal subtlety that I find more difficult to achieve with other more textured papers. I like working on large sheets (18”x24”) and I find this heavyweight paper reassuringly robust.

Strathmore 400 Series Coloured Pencil Paper


Strathmore 400 series Heavyweight Drawing Pad

Portrait sketch by Duncan Thomas using Strathmore 400 Series Heavyweight Drawing paper

This paper provides everything you would want and expect of a heavyweight drawing surface. I use it for graphite and charcoal work and find it to be the equal of more expensive papers that I have used previously.

It is however a cream paper and this was something that I was expecting to be a bit of a turn off. Quite the contrary however. I have found that sepia and terracotta Conte crayons work particularly well on this warmer base, and this has opened up possibilities that I have hitherto tended to ignore. I like it particularly for life drawing.

Whilst I suspect that I will continue to use white paper for much of my charcoal and pencil work, I shall certainly keep a stock of this delicious cream paper.

Strathmore 400 Series Heavyweight Drawing Pad


Strathmore 500 series Pure Paper Tints (Sea Mist)

Portrait Sketch by Duncan Thomas using Strathmore Pure Paper Tints (Blue Mist)

This is a pastel paper par excellence.

As someone who has got very used to very ‘toothy’ pastel paper (Canson Mi-Teintes Touch, Art Spectrum ColourFix etc..) I was not expecting great things from this paper, but I have really enjoyed using it I find that pastel blending is actually easier, and the combination of pastel with charcoal and charcoal pencil easier to manage on this slightly smoother surface.

I can’t however do any underpainting (with acrylics) with this paper – its simply not designed for mixed media work – nor can I lay, say, five or six unblended pastel layers one over the other - there’s not enough ‘tooth’ for that – but I have grown to appreciate the subtle possibilities of this paper.

Strathmore 500 Series Pure Paper Tints


Strathmore 500 series Charcoal Sheets

I was so disappointed with my first experience with this paper. The orthogonal geometry of the laid paper is just too obvious for me. I will however, persevere. This has, after all, been the ‘staple for charcoal and pastel artists for over 110 years’ , so it’s probably me that’s doing something wrong here.

Strathmore 500 Series Charcoal


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