Color Spree

Color Spree
My favorite color is "all of them." What's yours?

Thursday, June 2, 2011

Aquabee Co-Mo Sketch Pad

Aquabee Co-Mo Sketch Pad is an 80lb double-sized multimedia pad available from Bee Paper. Anything with "Aquabee" in it is designed and sized to be used with at least light washes.

The paper is a Neutral Ph, Natural White sheet made with 20% post consumer waste fiber by its cover description. I'd call it more of a Bright White in person. I love the clean bright surface of this paper. It's also micro perforated for easy removal of sheets, whether that's because someone bought your sketch, you hated it and wanted to chuck it or you wanted to cut it up to use in a collage. Listed for use with Pencil, Pen and Ink & Light Washes, it's good for all three and a few other mediums besides.

Described as "Toothy, textured surface with excellent erasing qualities," it has a fine grained texture almost like cold pressed watercolor paper in miniature. The hills and valleys aren't so huge that they'll break pen lines done on the surface, but pencil lines will break up very nicely and so will pastels. Below is a pastel pencils sketch done on my 5" x 7" pad.

The texture of the paper has very narrow horizontal lines as well as a nondirectional "cold press" type of texture. It works very well with broken color and gave the water area a little more of a horizontal feeling when I went lightly. On the rocks, going over it with three or four layers of pastel pencils eliminated the texture. It held up well to multiple layers, although I was going lightly since this isn't a sanded pastel paper.

It's as good as any drawing paper for use with pastel pencils or hard pastels. Sketch mediums like Pastels Carre, Conte crayons and other hard pastels should go very well on this paper and it stands up well to wash techniques for watersoluble pencils and perhaps oil pastels.

So let's have a look at pen drawings with watersoluble Tombow dual tip pens on this interesting new paper.

These sketches were done loose and light with Tombow dual tip brush pens. I used two or three layers of color in some areas but didn't scrub the surface or try to blend out any soft edges. For sketching and doodling, the paper's excellent. I got good crisp hard edges when I wanted them and the surface encouraged that loose, playful approach to sketching.

This landscape, also created with Tombow Dual Tip Brush Pens, had a few problems. It may not be visible in the scan, but some areas where I blended out color with the colorless blender became oversaturated and the surface pilled. Also in the dark mountains area, where I toned colors with six or seven layers in some areas, I got some pilling and areas wearing off. It dried nice and flat though, even though it cockled slightly while I worked on it. I stopped working on any area where the surface texture got damaged, so the painting still worked overall.

Then I checked the back of the sheet for this page, the one I seriously battered with layer after layer and scrubbing with the colorless blender. To my pleasant surprise, there's no ghost image and no color bled through. The double sizing prevents bleed-through, so it would be very easy to work on both sides of these pages even though they're relatively lightweight for watercolor or multi-media paper.

Student watercolor paper is usually 90lb and that's considered very lightweight for watercolor papers. The only other sized paper I've tried that flattens out this well is the Strathmore Aquarius II specialty watercolor paper, which is very thin and still handles watercolor well without cockling.

So let's see how a light wash looks on this paper. First, a watercolor pencil drawing:

Pencil handles very well on it. I used Derwent New Formula Watercolour Pencils, which have a soft, consistent texture similar to soft graphite pencils and most good artist grade colored pencils. Again, the paper texture gave a delightful look to my dry sketch. It would be very easy to do tonal sketches with any soft pencil on this paper. The slight horizontal line texture gives overall unity to middle pressure tonal layers where it shows up most.

Then I used a wet watercolor round, not dripping but thoroughly damp, to wash my drawing. I dragged color around, let it puddle in some areas to get a smooth wash of color and used all my favorite watercolor pencil techniques except painting right out to the edge. I was fairly sure it'd cockle at that light 80lb weight if I did a big wash edge to edge and wanted to see if it'd dry flat with a moderately strong wash puddle in some isolated areas.

It dried good and flat. My scan shows a little cockling because it wasn't completely dry when I scanned, just touch dry. Now that it's sat in the pad for a few days, it's completely flat and I'm satisfied the cockles don't last.

The pencils performed beautifully and the wash just enhanced it. This paper is good for sketch and wash, pen and wash, pencil and pen sketching. It handles wet effects well until you scrub the surface, when it turns out to be a bit more delicate than sturdy, heavier watercolor papers. Lifting without scrubbing won't wreck it, I lifted some areas on this cat sketch successfully.

Erasing was as easy as any other paper, I had no trouble lightening or picking up color with my favorite kneaded eraser.

I'll definitely pick up some more of these pads for general sketching. The wire binding at the top is convenient and lays flat in my scanner. The back board is sturdy enough that I don't need a drawing board with it and the paper quality is excellent.

This is the second time that a Bee Paper product turned out a lot better than I expected. The Aquabee Bogus Recycled Rough sketch pad became one of my favorite unsanded pastel papers for sketching. With two successes so far, Bee Paper is becoming one of my preferred paper companies. I hope to try some more of their modestly priced, good quality products.

Aquabee Co-Mo Sketch pads are very inexpensive. The 30 sheet 5" x 7" pad I tested is $2.99 at Dick Blick. 6" square, 9" square, 9" x 12" and 11" x 14" pads are also available ranging up to $6.49. If you like sketching in a variety of wet and dry media, these inexpensive pads are a great resource. Try a small one and see if you like it. I know I did, despite the pilling when it's overworked.

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