Monday, 18 June 2012

Which is the best pastel ground?

There are a wide variety of pastel grounds - and I've finally got round to listing them all out in a poll to find out from pastel artists which pastel papers or pastel boards they like the best.

You can find the poll in a new "resources for artists" site I've created - Pastel Papers and Pastel Grounds

This is the link POLL: Which pastel paper or other support do you like best for pastels?

These are the options:
  • Ampersand Pastelbord
  • Art Spectrum Colourfix Paper
  • Art Spectrum Plein Air Painting Board
  • Art Spectrum Suede
  • Art Spectrum Supertooth
  • Canford Black Pastel Paper
  • Canson Mi Teintes Pastel Paper
  • Canson Mi-Teintes Touch - sanded texture board
  • Clairefontaine Pastelmat
  • Daler Rowney Murano Pastel Paper
  • Fabriano Tiziano Paper
  • Fisher 400 Paper
  • Hahnemuhle Bugra Paper
  • Hahnemuhle Velour Pastel Papers
  • Ingres Paper (various)
  • Richeson Pastel Paper
  • Saint-Armand Sabretooth paper
  • Schminke Sansfix
  • Sennelier La Carte
  • St Cuthberts Mill - Somerset Pastel Paper
  • Townsend Pastel Paper
  • UART Archival Sanded Pastel Paper
  • Wallis Archival Sanded Pastel Paper - Museum Grade
  • Wallis Archival Sanded Pastel Paper - Professional Grade
  • Watercolour Paper (various)
  • Winsor & Newton Tints Pastel Paper
  • Other (please comment below)
I'm developing a systematic analysis of the range of pastel grounds on the website according to:
  • characteristics
  • made of
  • colours
  • size
  • consumer opinion
This should make it easier for people wanting to consult the site to find out which pastel ground might suit them best.

If you are a pastel artist could you please:
  • vote in the poll 
  • share your personal views as to the pastel ground you like the best - lave a comment below or on the website
  • let me know if you've ever reviewed a pastel ground - and let me have a link to the review
  • let me know if I've omitted a pastel ground which should be included in the poll!
You can find out more about pastels and other papers and supports in two related websites:

Thursday, 14 June 2012

Studio Product: IKEA ALEX Drawer unit with 9 drawers

This is what the IKEA ALEX Drawer unit with 9 drawers looks like for those reading the comments on my Review: IKEA Alex Drawer Unit for paper storage.  This item has already found a useful place in artists' studios.

ALEX Drawer unit with 9 drawers, white 
UK - Article Number 501.928.22 £81.99
USA - Article Number 501.928.22 $119.00

It's made in the same way as the Alex Drawer Unit on castors (which I've reviewed) - except it's not mobile.  The dimensions when assembled are
  • Width: 36 cm (14.1 inches)
  • Depth: 48 cm (18.9 inches)
  • Height: 115 cm (45.2 inches)
Looking at it online, here are the pros and cons from my perspective


  • a very useful item for any studio given the size of the drawers.  
  • looks ideal for storing pencils, pastels, paints, other media and smaller sizes of paper
  • Also has space for all those odds and sods of equipment we have to keep on hand for matting, framing etc.
  • small footprint - ideal for studio areas where there are space constraints
  • scope to match the Alex Drawer Unit - same depth and same design.
  • deep - deeper than most bookcases (35-40cm) but not as deep as many standard kitchen items (60cm)
  • very vertical - which means it will need fixing to the wall to be safe, especially if young children are around 
  • no castors and not mobile - which means you need to find a spot and keep it there.
We recommend you secure this furniture to the wall with the enclosed safety strap to prevent it from tipping over. Different wall materials require different types of fasteners. Use fasteners suitable for the walls in your home (not included).IKEA

Sunday, 10 June 2012

Review: IKEA Alex Drawer Unit for paper storage

IKEA - Alex Drawer Unit on castors (white) 
Article Number : 401.962.41
This is a review of the IKEA Alex Drawer Unit on Castors - which is my second IKEA purchase as part of the "let's try and store everything better than hitherto" campaign.

I've been storing paper for artwork and works on paper in portfolios for ages and frankly, the number of portfolios was getting very difficult to manage both comfortably and aesthetically!

I have long wanted a plan chest in theory however:
  • they mostly tend to be size A0 or A1 and that's much bigger than I want to house and much bigger than I actually need
  • if big they become incredibly heavy to move when full - plus you need to start thinking about floor strength!
  • they're not that easy to find
  • most would look good in an office but less good in a home
  • if you do find them, they're very often fairly expensive
Which is why, when I spotted the IKEA Alex Drawer Unit on castors in IKEA, I was so very pleased that at long last it looked like I might have solved the problem of what to do with all that paper.

The bottom line - I was right.  With one caveat - I actually need two!  Here's the review.
  • If you want to check paper sizes - take a look at the chart at the end
  • If you've created paper storage or reviewed another purchased product providing storage for art paper please leave a comment and a link to your review

Product: IKEA: Alex Drawer Unit on castors (white)

  • Ease of Assembly: Not overly complicated however you do need 2-3 hours and to be very focused on what you’re doing while assembling it. 
  • Quality / Robustness: It’s particle board not wood. That said it’s good quality and the unit feels robust when finished
  • Functionality: The drawers take large quantities of paper and all move really easily even when full. The castors work well on carpet and the whole unit can be moved easily. This enables the unit to be placed it in front of items you use only occasionally 
  • Value for Money: Very reasonable compared to alternatives - UK Cost £85 plus delivery charge. (USA $119) 

Technical Details:
  • size: 
    • Width: 67 cm / 26 3/8 " 
    • Depth: 48 cm/ 18 7/8 " 
    • Height: 66 cm / 26 " 
    • drawers are designed to take paper up to size A2 with space to spare 
  • material
    • Basematerial / Drawer front: Particleboard, Acrylic paint, Melamine foil, ABS plastic 
    • Bottom panel: Particleboard, Melamine foil, ABS plastic 
    • Back panel: Particleboard, Melamine foil, Melamine foil 
    • Drawer back / Drawer side: Particleboard, Foil 
    • Drawer bottom: Fibreboard, Acrylic paint
  • colours: available in white and blackweight: 32.4 kg
  • weight: 32.4kg

Who should buy this?
  • artists who work on paper 
  • artists wanting to increase their flat storage capacity for paper, mountboard and completed artwork 
  • pencil artists needing a neat storage solution for the home
Who should not buy this?
  • people wanting flat storage for whole sheets of watercolour paper and mountboard
  • large capacity 
  • draw width enables storage of smaller paper/works in two stacks side by side 
  • drawer mechanism makes drawers run very smoothy 
  • castors make it easy to move around 
  • visual instructions are very helpful - and you can download the Alex Unit instructions before you buy 
  • easy to make up - one person can do it - but you do need to concentrate during assembly. It took me about 3 hours working slowly and carefully (I only made one mistake and that was easy to undo!)
Think Again?
  • if you want to store full size sheets of watercolour paper or mountboard you’ll need something bigger 
  • if you’re not good at using a screwdriver or DIY find a relative or friend who is - and be nice to them! 
  • The USA version indicates the drawers are designed for letter size papers. They are in fact much bigger than this - see paper sizes chart at end
Manufacturer / Distributor:
  • IKEA - their website helps you find a store near you. 
  • Plus you can order online (but will need to pay a delivery charge)
  • only available new from IKEA
A series paper sizes compared to Letter and Legal Sizes

Sunday, 3 June 2012

Book Review: A Yorkshire Sketchbook by David Hockney

Title: David Hockney - A Yorkshire Sketchbook
Synopsis: A facsimile 92 page sketchbook used by David Hockney in 2004 when sketching the the East Yorkshire Wolds.  It contains sketches of the Yorkshire Wolds and Bridlington in watercolour, ink and pencil - and no words.
Summary review and recommendation: This is a sketchbook which dates from the beginning of Hockney’s reconnection to Yorkshire and painting.  Those who sketch and who like Hockney’s work will love it.  Those who have never ever sketched will be very puzzled by it and may even call it a complete waste of money - but they will have missed the point. I RECOMMEND this book for those who enjoy facsimile sketchbooks.
  • It starts at the beginning of the sketchbook (publishers details etc are relegated to the last page)
  • It feels as if Hockney has handed you his sketchbook
  • It illustrates the motifs which interested him as he began to paint Yorkshire again
  • Take off the dustcover and the hardback cover is just like a black sketchbook used by many in the UK
Think Again?
  • Those expecting an art instruction book will be severely disappointed
  • The publisher’s description does not indicate at all clearly that this is a facsimile sketchbook (ie all images and no words)
  • This may become a DVD (but I doubt it)
Who should buy this?:
  • People who love Hockney’s work
  • People who love facsimile sketchbooks
  • People who carry a sketchbook everywhere they go
  • People who want to learn more about sketching and want to see what a real sketchbook looks like
Who should not buy this?
  • People who don’t sketch and don’t understand the nature of sketching and what a sketchbook actually looks like
  • People who expect words rather than sketches in a facsimile sketchbook
Author / (Publisher) David Hockney / Royal Academy of Arts, London
Technical data: Publication Date (December 2011 hardback)
Hardcover - 92 pages in conventional small landscape sketchbook format (21.2 x 15.4 x 1.8 cm)
  • ISBN-10: 1907533230
  • ISBN-13: 978-1907533235

The full price version is not cheap! It’s much better value on Amazon which is where I ordered it.

Those of us who sketch know the joy of looking at one another’s sketchbooks. Having this book in my hand feels rather as if Hockney has just handed me his sketchbook! 

I own the DVD of his sketchbooks and consequently knew exactly what to expect in terms of content and drawing style. However I do think the publishers should review the publicity profile and the description of this book on the Internet. Nowhere does it indicate clearly that this is a complete facsimile of a sketchbook used by Hockney in 2004.

In summary:
  • Sketchers who like Hockney's drawings and paintings will love this book. 
  • Fans of Hockney's work will like this book 
  • Those who have never sketched may well struggle to really appreciate it
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