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Friday, January 7, 2011


One of the things that makes me sad and frustrates me is how much attention new and fledgling artists sometimes pay to the materials they need. Of course good products are important and fascinating sometimes, but it is truly not necessary to spend much at all if you can’t afford it or if you aren’t sure. There is simply no need to buy expensive materials if you aren’t sure what you’ll wind up loving. A ream of computer paper and a pencil or pen is fine…just start drawing! This especially frees you from the fear of committing to a book or an expensive piece of paper so that you are free to experiment.

I think we’ve all heard of the beautiful work done by several artists who use nothing but BIC pens. Just google BIC pen artists and you’ll find several. If you can buy all of those pricier materials, go for it. But if you can’t do NOT let that stop you.

Wausau Paper Co. makes a wonderful 140 lb.acid free index stock paper that is about $12.00 for 250 sheets. It’ll take almost anything you put on it, including gesso, paint, ink, etc. You can even collage layers on it and it works. It’s what I’ll use after I’m finished with my current journal.

Also for my journal I use almost exclusively those cheap acrylic craft paints that come in two ounce bottles for about 79 cents each. Why? They have a smooth finish and are consistent for what I’m doing and I only need a drop or two at a time. And the funny thing is some of them are artist colors, with clever names so they mix the same. Sure, for paintings I go to better grades, but if I had to stick with the cheap stuff I wouldn’t worry about it.

Finally a comment about archivally safe products. Yes, it’s important. But not always and not for everything. I was reading discussions on this on EDM a while back and come upon a comment by Roz Stendahl (I am pretty sure it was her) saying that a teacher of hers once said “Do you really need your work to last 500 years? Just start!!!” And Cathy Johnson said she used less expensive materials for years.

So the bottom line is do it! On whatever, with whatever. Just do it! And lose that fear!


  1. Thank you, Ellen! You are so right on the money...for years, I used an inexpensive Pelikan hardbound book, a mechanical pencil and a technical pen. Then added a few colored pencils. STILL some of my favorite journal pages are from those days.

    My students often ask about the best paper, or brush, as if there were a magic brush that suits everyone or a paper that answers every need. Not so, there IS no magic brush or pigment, and most of us have our favorite paper that doesn't work at ALL for someone else--or for a different medium!

    I like the papers I like because I know how to use them (mostly!) and don't have to worry about them. Would they work for you, or Liz, or any one else? Maybe, maybe not.

    The two most important tools you have when journaling are your mind and your drawing hand. Period. I've often been caught out without my "favorites," and draw with a Bic on a paper napkin...that can be glued into your journal if you wish!

    Wonderful post, thank you!

  2. Any ideas on the best place to find this Wausau paper?

  3. Teri, ELlen wrote she was having trouble posting on our blog from her cell phone. "Teri asked where she could get the paper i mentioned. Could you please tell her that i get mine from kelly paper and i imagine a paper company or good stationery store could get it for her."

    And from me: Any big city has a commercial paper source; I used to see the Wausau truck in KC a lot, and I know it stocked a lot of the office supply stores. I found it online, too...let us know what you end up with!


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