Monday, February 18, 2013

Papers for Printmaking Part 1

Paper is beautiful and magic. Over the years I have developed an appreciation of paper, not only as an medium for art but as an art itself. Having said that, these notes about paper will not tell you anything about sizing, paper making, fiber composition, weight and traditional size or definitions about paper terms. You can find all that in the first section below, About Paper Sources and Resources.
What I will discuss in these notes, however, are notes on how the paper feels and behaves under the attack of this artist. I say "attack" because often times we artists tend to abuse materials in many ways. As an experimental printmaker and lover of papers, I am guilty of paper use and abuse.

How to Get to Know Paper

Here is what I do to get to know my papers:
Buy paper samplers! For one thing they are so cute, little tiny squares of paper in a neat little book...
For another thing, no matter how much you look at a picture of a paper in a catalog or in the web, you cannot get to know a paper until you...
Paper sampler! Click to fill your screen with paper.See the paper. Hold it up to the light, all kinds of light, natural, fluorescent, incandescent; heck take your papers out to the campfire on a still desert night and look at them there. Turn them over and do it again. Notice the fibers, the weave, the patterns of the molds, the hills and valleys, the watermarks, the little chunks of inserted material.

Feel the paper. Touch it on both sides, learn what size feels like, feel the difference between papers and the likeness. When papers "behave" the same under your baren or press or charcoal stick, chances are they will feel similarly when touched. Close your eyes when you feel them.

If you can afford it, of course, buy full sheets of paper and actually TRY the paper in your daily business of drawing or printmaking. Learn from the book sources above, all about sizing and uses for papers. Purchase the large (full-sheet) paper samplers, or buy one sheet every week and by the end of the year you will have tried 52 different kinds of paper. Start out by purchasing the papers made for whatever medium you happen to be "arting" in, then move on to...

Experiment! (my favorite word). Learn all the rules first, then break them. Print on pastel paper, draw on watercolor paper, paint on printmaking paper, wet the paper, use it dry, paste it to cloth, prime it with gesso... This is how you get to really know paper, because you will learn how paper "behaves" under different whimsical treatments.

It is this paper "behavior" that I am looking for when I use a paper. I can look up the sizing and recommended uses and light-fastness and weight information in a chart. I can make sure (please make sure) that the paper is actually acid-free and will hold my art dearly for centuries to come. I can listen to recommendations from others, I can look up the most suitable paper for a particular use.

Next blog post I will post about various papers I have tried and how they behaved for me. In the meantime, here are a selected few selected sources and suppliers.

Few Selected Paper Sources and Resources

Sylvie Turner's The Book of Fine Paper is an incredible resource for papermaking, history of paper, types of paper, and it even comes with a mini-sampler of fine papers from around the world. I highly recommend it if it's the only reference book on paper in your personal library.
The Book of Fine Paper: A Worldwide Guide to Contemporary Papers for Art, Design & Decoration

If you must have two books, the next that I recommend is the classic Jules Heller book Papermaking:
Papermaking: How to Make Handmade Paper for Printmaking, Drawing, Painting, Relief and Cast Forms, Book Arts, and Mixed Media
  • Shereen LaPlantz's Cover to Cover is a great source for bookmaking and I liked the book because of its respectful treatment of paper.
  • Cover To Cover: Creative Techniques For Making Beautiful Books, Journals & Albums

  • Faith Shannon's The Art and Craft of Paper is a beautifully illustrated book on papermaking that will leave you with a great appreciation for the craft.
  • The Art and Craft of Paper

  • Graphic Chemical & Ink Company has a great catalog with a paper chart. They are also one of the least expensive sources for Western papers, especially if you like to buy bulk. In fact their catalog will teach you more about tools than any other I know. 

  • Daniel Smith Art Supplies publish a catalog that is worth getting even if you never order anything. Periodically they also publish a paper chart that lists a good quantity of papers with all the specifications (sizing, uses, sizes). Their printed catalog has thoughtful explanations of all their papers, with pictures.

  • McClain's Printmaking Supplies has a beautiful catalog that lists a wide variety of Japanese papers and their uses. If you request their paper sampler you also get a description of their papers in a neatly printed sheet.

  • Hiromi Paper has an astounding web site dedicated to Japanese papers, their making, history, much more. Do request their printed catalog even if you print out (like I did) their Adobe Acrobat version.

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