First snow and other experiments on toned paper

I should be grading a big stack of projects but I’m procrastinating. I bought this little book of Stillman & Birn Nova series toned paper (3.5″ x 5.5″) and I can’t stop sketching in it. My first experiment yesterday was a sketch of Alice, drawn with Cretacolor pencils — Nero oil-based charcoal in medium grade, and white chalk. The great thing about this charcoal is that it doesn’t flake or smudge like regular charcoal and you can get really dark blacks.


This morning before breakfast I tried a Cretacolor water-soluble pencil, again mixed with white chalk. This toned paper is thick enough to take a light wash without warping too much.


When I finished my sketch I looked out the window and saw big fat flakes of snow falling, so I rushed to the window to sketch the view, using a Cretacolor sanguine pencil, more graphite and white chalk. The chalk works best when you draw with it on virgin paper. If you try to draw over graphite lines it goes grey.


As the snow started to accumulate I moved to a back window that faces the wheelbarrow and sketched with all the pencils I had already used, plus some Titanium White watercolour. This one got a bit overworked.


My last experiment was in my studio, using white gouache and Payne’s Grey watercolour (with some final touches of Winsor Red watercolour). The gouache is even more effective than the chalk on this paper. The toned stock is wonderful (it’s also available in grey or black) and I’d love to keep experimenting all day but sadly, that grading won’t get done on its own.


41 Comments on “First snow and other experiments on toned paper”

  1. TonyU says:

    Yes … this year’s first sighting of the wheelbarrow in the snow! Now I know it’s time to start thinking about Christmas presents etc! Lovely sketches Shari and so prolific … amazing how many other things we find to do when there’s something else more important we’d rather not do.


    • HI Tony! Great to hear from you. The wheelbarrow always looks better with snow on it, and I wait for this day with great anticipation. Have you tried this toned paper? I think you would like it too. As for my grading, I still haven’t started…


  2. Alison says:

    Lovely Shari! When I saw the snow this morning I wondered if you’d have a sketch of this first snowfall. Thanks for testing all those pencils. I’ve been having some fun with some of them as well. I’m inspired now to get some toned paper. Question: does that wheelbarrow ever get used? Or you just always put it back in the same spot? 🙂 I never tire of seeing it.


    • Of course I had to sketch this snowfall. It must be so beautiful where you are too. Glad to hear that you’re trying the pencils too. Aren’t they great? If you go into town this week they have these books at Avenue des Arts, if you are in the neighbourhood.
      The wheelbarrow does get used, yes, sometimes. But always goes back in the same spot. See you soon!!


  3. Judy Sopher says:

    These are really great-and old friends, Alice and the wheelbarrow.(doesn’t look overworked) I love the effect on toned paper which I have never used. And I especially I love the effect of white on Alice and the bits of red on the still life.

    What kind of chalk? Didn’t it want to rub off? Or fall off? Oil based charcoal-new to me.Used lots of charcoal in art school and it was always messy.Once again, you’ve inspired me to try something different. Thanks.


  4. I felt like a fly on the wall watching you sketch Alice then rushing to the front of the house and then to the back … your words paint great images. I’m so glad you have the drive to draw and paint on the weekend ahead of the mountain of marking — I know too well how those piles of projects and papers weigh on our minds. I just wish I’d taken up drawing sooner instead of all those hours I used to spend marking!


  5. Bernadette says:

    I enjoy the variety of subjects you choose to draw as you went from one window to another. You captured the essence of each subject so well. Thanks for the interesting narration. You make me smile.


  6. Nessa Neilson Morse says:

    Wonderful as always. So glad to see your old friend, the wheelbarrow again. And of course, to ser Alice!


  7. Sigrun says:

    These are all wonderful drawings, the wheelbarrow looks just fine to me – and the dog-drawing is beautiful (I especially like the blackness of the deep shadows).


  8. joantav says:

    You got so much done instead of grading papers. This is much more fun. It is always great to see what you come up with…great to see the wheelbarrow in the snow. Good to know this paper handles wet media too.


  9. Jean says:

    I really like these sketches, and especially Alice. I have a black lab mix who sleeps in that position. I haven’t tried to sketch her, yet! Thanks for your inspiration!


  10. gaelle1947 says:

    Ah yes! That time has come ’round again with delightful sketches of your faithful old workmate in a state of repose. In his honor, I dedicate the following poem!
    When a coat of fallen leaves
    Has insulated the slumbering earth
    My wheelbarrow hibernates once more
    Though his usefulness he grieves
    And misses the heave-ho of dirt
    He’ll rise again in sketches galore!


  11. I love how these colours and shapes look on the toned paper. Everything “pops” so much more than it would on a whiter paper.


  12. Emily Passman says:

    Love the bottles and the dog especially! : )


  13. blissfullycreating says:

    i love all of the sketches; but i really enjoy that wheel barrow one. 🙂 and i’m jealous you got some snow!


  14. miatagrrl says:

    I got the whole set of Nova books (tan, gray and black), and although I tried making a few sketches in each, I’ve been waiting for all the fall color to disappear (I wanted to use white paper for that) before committing to any of them. But I’m just about ready for one of them now and looking forward to it. I’ve had good results with a soft graphite pencil and white colored pencil. I hadn’t thought to use my Nero charcoal pencil, but I will now.

    – Tina


  15. I love how your pieces get bolder and bolder in this series. The gouache really works well on this paper!


    • Thanks Suhita. I’m looking forward to seeing what you do with these papers. I think I saw a flower on black paper, right? You are so prolific, I can’t keep track of everything you do!!


  16. Doris says:

    I’ve been using tinted paper for life drawing but not as boldly as you. Thanks for the way ahead.


  17. electrofork says:

    These are great.The wheelbarrow in particular is wonderful.


  18. johnahancock says:

    I find that several of my favorite times a year for sketching (not that there is a bad time) coincide with the same time academic projects and their grading become intense! PS Love the bottles, jars, and cans sketch!


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