Paper Matters

At Higham we enjoy the diversity of many different Tutors who each bring their ‘take’ on how things are taught ad what is taught. Despite the variety of approaches, some advocating the deeper understanding of colour, some of generic drawing skills, some of underlying fundamentals etc., one unifying agreement is that what surface you use to paint or draw on matters enormously.

Skipping through images for the next brochure, we came across this little gem. It is a fine depiction reflective of the sheer love and admiration certain students have for their Tutors. In this case, Tutor Robert Dutton, who is one artist who attaches much importance to the different results that can be achieved using different papers. You can see a student (we can remember who it was [P.P.] but it might be best they stay anonymous!) has drawn Robert, (obviously someone they put on a pedestal!) mid-demonstrating (as he does), at ‘the top’, reinforcing his assertion for students “Don’t buy c*** paper”.

This might be one of the only thing that unites all our art tutors here, as they all have different ideas and emphases about things, that what you choose to lay your media down on makes a huge difference. Indeed, if you are serious about both the clarity and longevity of your art, you should consider what surface sits beneath your creativity. Too absorbent, then watercolour pigment will be lost, too rough, then the scale of your work might need to be adjusted. Too cheap, then you cannot expect good results. Cheap paper, for instance, is manufactured to a price, may even lack purity and could render a piece of art totally ineffective.

From one point of view, it is like expecting a pupil to play a solo well on a cheap violin… it just will never sound right. The key is, as an artist, to be selective about what you use. It does not have to be the favourite brand of an artist or tutor, but bear in mind these professionals often have tried many different alternatives themselves and, in a way, stake their reputations on the quality of advice they give. Everyone, after taking on board what tutors and fellow students think, and after trying out what works for tthem themselves, will have a different opinion of what they should be using for a particular work of art.

Why do we bother writing this? Well, we have seen what happens here – and people tell us about their experiences with all manner of materials. We also have an insight into how paper can be made, as another tutor, Jonathan Korejko, comes up to us each year around Woolfest time and teaches people the principles of paper-making. You get to learn what makes paper what it is an how different source materials affect it. Indeed, we think most people who have experienced such a course, are bound to feel better-informed as to what paper to buy in the future and why.

There’s a lot of paper out there, the good and the not-so-good, but a lot of it depends upon you as the artist. It can take time, also, for each person to find what works for them. Two watercolourists might execute the same scene, but one will always use more paint than the other, one might overwhelm their paper, one might only just push it to its limits.

Final thought is that most serious artists bother to seek out good quality paints and pencils etc. Why bother ding that if you are going to waste them on cheap paper? We cannot think of any of our many art tutors who would disagree.

Robert – to be immortalised like this is surely a compliment – as long as Paul (whoops, I’ve carelessly given away his first name) used decent paper!