Let the Paper Experiment Begin!

work in progress on Velin BFK Rives 270 gsm paper

work in progress on Velin BFK Rives 270 gsm paper

It has been a confronting fortnight for me.  The drawing paper which I had been using exclusively since 2001 suddenly ran out.  I found out that my beloved Magnani Pescia was gone, gone, gone.  The Magnani paper mill in Italy (which started in 1404) stopped making paper last year.  I had wind of this news but it didn’t bother me as I had 100 sheets stored away which I’d bought a few years ago.  Last week when I opened this ream of paper I found to my absolute horror that the whole lot was warped.  It must have got damp at one stage (before I bought it) and then dried out and shrunk.

Complete meltdown!!!

After contemplating giving up drawing altogether (irrational thoughts conceived in a state of despair) I consulted my Facebook friends to find out what papers they used.  I also visited three different branches of West Australian art supply store, Jacksons Drawing Supplies, and talked to the various staff members who were extremely helpful.

I came home with several different paper brands and proceeded to find things wrong with each of them. However I had to make a start so I began with a French paper called Velin BFK Rives (270 gsm).  At first it felt so alien that I was drawing for the first couple of days in a state of pure fear.  Was it strong?  Would it tear?  Would it ball up?  But as the hours passed, nothing terrible happened and I calmed down.  The colours looked quite vibrant and I began to acclimatize to the different feel of the pencils going down onto the surface.

I’m going to see this drawing through because I believe very much in it.   Then, in the spirit of scientific adventure, I plan to draw on other paper surfaces used by CP artists; for example, Fabriano Artistico, Arches watercolour papers and Legion Stonehenge.  What fun!

How my art desk looks today.

How my art desk looks today.

At the moment I am trying to figure out what’s going on in the complicated pattern of this Japanese bride’s “iro-uchikake”.

Next week two major events happen.  The first is that Ann Kullberg is coming to visit from Seattle and will be conducting coloured pencil workshops from my house.  The second is, on the same day Ann arrives, I have to turn up to court to do my jury service!  Oh life!! So, I may not finish this drawing for a while.

Note:  I heard from a reliable source just today that Magnani mill is being relocated and reorganized.   Pescia will be produced again however it will take several months to be back in stock around the world for artists to buy.  So I need not have despaired quite so much. In the meantime it will be good to see for myself how other papers handle coloured pencils.

Bliss 410 x 510 mm How the work-in-progress, above, looked at completion.

410 x 510 mm
How the work-in-progress, above, looked on completion.

Afterword (added in late 2016) :  The new Magnani factory HAS reopened and the papers it is producing are available.  On a personal note, in September 2015 I started using Arches Aquarelle hot-pressed paper and haven’t looked back.  This is now my favourite paper.  I doubt I will return to Magnani Pescia.

Arches Aquarelle

"Alone in the Upper Marais" is a drawing with Luminance coloured pencils on Arches Aquarelle.

“Alone in the Upper Marais”
is a drawing with Luminance coloured pencils on Arches Aquarelle.


About juliepodstolski

I am a realist artist who works in coloured pencils.
Image | This entry was posted in art, artist anxiety, coloured pencils and tagged , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

19 Responses to Let the Paper Experiment Begin!

  1. Ann Kullberg says:

    I used to use Rives BFK but quit for two reasons: I didn’t like what it did to my skin tones (they kind of balled up) and if I layered too many layers with too much pressure, all the pigment lifted off the paper. Scary. But it sure looks like it’s working well for you, Julie!

    • I had already been warned about the balling up, Ann, which was a reason I was very nervous indeed. However, it isn’t happening – fingers crossed. It feels pretty strong. Who knows, this might be the only CP I ever do on it but I’m determined to make this one work.

  2. Kathleen says:

    please keep us posted with your paper preference result.

  3. Sue D says:

    Best of luck with your experimentation, and enjoy the treat of having Ann K workshops in your home! Should make up for other dramas!

  4. Chrissy Murray says:

    Hi Julie

    Your work is superb and after reading your post with paper issues, I thought to make comment. You mentioned some really top quality papers. I love working with oils and pastels and have recently taken up CP and enjoying it. With my limited experience with CP, I find Stonehenge would be one of the best. It’s strong and can withstand quite a bit layering. Of course Fabriano and Arches are great papers to work with too. As you mentioned, “What fun”!


    • Hi Chrissy, thanks for contributing. So many CP artists rave about Stonehenge though it has its critics too. I look forward to giving it a go, having procured a few sheets from my local art shop last week. After questioning CP artists, I presume it is the MOST popular paper for pencils. I will certainly publish my thoughts on Stonehenge and the other papers in the coming few months.

  5. Oh my Julie, fancy having your paper mill close down after 600 years, I hope it continues after the take over, it would be too sad to lose such a tradition. Good luck with your experimentation, know we are all waiting to hear your reports. Karen

    • Karen, I heard from a thoroughly reliable source just today that Pescia will be produced again. I will use the time until it is back in the shops profitably by trying other papers. The silver lining of this cloud will be increased knowledge of papers.

  6. Camilla Loveridge says:

    GREAT ….happy experimenting with these new surfaces! x

  7. Barbara La Belle says:

    Hi Julie,

    You could try misting the warped paper with water and using a steam iron press lightly This might relax the fibers enough to flatten the paper.
    Barbara La Belle

    • Hi Barbara, that was the first thing I tried but I wasn’t happy with the result. The actual composition of the paper seems to be compromised so that on close inspection (under a magnifying glass) what one sees is different to looking at an undamaged piece of Pescia. I wouldn’t trust the longevity of paper in this condition.

      • Barbara La Belle says:

        Hi Julie,
        That is very interesting. Thank you for the information .

        Barbara La Belle

  8. Well, from what you have here it looks as though you have the BFK well under control. I love the softness of the texture. The colour looks absolutely consistent with what you were getting on the Pescia. Out of the blue came something to put you in a flat spin, but you have pulled something good out of it. It may prove a blessing in disguise that you have been forced to try new papers, and you may even find that you will use a variety of papers to suit different works. A necessity has become an opportunity! And I love this image, can’t wait to see it finished.

    • I’m not finished the drawing yet but I have a feeling the colour looks more intense than on the Pescia. It certainly will be fascinating to try out the other papers after this one.

  9. Allen Sloane says:

    Dear Julie, you might try Graphic Chemical (Chicago suburbs) for the Pescia paper as they still list it in inventory https://www.graphicchemical.com/shopdisplayproducts.asp?id=371&cat=Pescia .
    I had a parallel experience to yours as I ADORED Magnani’s Incisioni paper for printing etchings. I also had the experience of Daniel Smith (Seattle WA) going out of business overnight as I used their Creamy French Black etching ink and cannot find a replacement for THAT. It forced me to do the same thing; begin experimenting all over again. I re-discovered Stonehenge paper, dampened not soaked, and a mixture of Vine Black and Burnt Umber inks as giving me a new and not anticipated satisfaction in printing. As for rescuing your 100 sheets of Pescia, you might try what I do to flatten paper after printing. I have what I call “blotter sandwiches”.: a pair of 3/4 inch (20mm) plywood boards with sheets of blotting paper. I use six sets of these and mist the prints quite liberally and set them between the blotting paper to progressively remove the moisture and flatten them. I return the printed paper to its original flat condition. I use distilled water and use longer periods of time in eash “sandwich” as I move the prints to a successively dryer set. As for Magnani, the story that I heard was that the only supply road to its remote location was closed due to a mudslide. The Italians couldn’t seem to get the road open and so Magnani faced financial difficulty and sold the equipment to another paper manufacturer. The intention was to set up production again near Venice. Please email me if you know of a resumption of production.
    Best regards, Allen

    • Hi Allen, thanks for your empathy and advice. I wrote this post in April 2015 so that load of damaged Magnani has long ago been tossed out. Since I wrote the post I have discovered a paper I prefer to Magnani. It is a hot-pressed watercolour paper; Arches Aquarelle 300 gsm. I can also tell you that the new Magnani has started up again and is producing paper. The distributor for Magnani in Australia sent me a couple of small sheets to try – one of Pescia and the other of Corona. Both of them are different to the old papers. They seemed nice but at this stage I am happy to stick with the Aquarelle. I heard the same as you about the landslide. I expect the landslide was the last straw as something like that alone surely wouldn’t stop a company which had been producing paper since the 15th century.

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