Inside and outside: more experiments on toned paper

I spent a bit of time this week experimenting some more with a tiny Stillman & Birn Nova series toned paper sketchbook. Since I haven’t worked much on this type of paper, it’s been a lot of fun to try different materials on the tan surface.


On my way home from work one day I stopped in Lachine and did a little street scene on 6th Avenue. The light was great that day, and even though the sketch is a bit messy because I drew with charcoal instead of pencil, this will hopefully be the sketch for a larger painting.


The next day I had a few minutes before leaving for school so I did a quick sketch of some bananas on the kitchen counter. This time I tried mixing some white paint into the yellow watercolour to get a more opaque effect, something like gouache.


Today I drew at a café, and added white watercolour, white chalk and a bit of transparent watercolour to my ink drawing. This paper works really well when you can add lots of little darks and lights and use the tan paper as your middle tone. So far this is the technique I like the best.

25 Comments on “Inside and outside: more experiments on toned paper”

  1. -N- says:

    Well! You are certainly having fun! Very enjoyable to see, too.


  2. Susan power says:

    Love these. Do you mind saying what kind of tan paper you’re using?


  3. Kirk says:

    Like the sense of transparency in the wine bottles and wine glasses! As usual I like the street scene too!


  4. hilda5462 says:

    It’s fun to try some new stuff, isn’t it, Shari! Especially when the results are so enjoyable! 🙂


  5. joantav says:

    Great to see your experiments on the toned paper. I like the last one the best. The toned paper really works nicely as a middle ground. The white check has a nice effect for the highlights.


    • Thanks Joan. I’m going to try the grey paper as well, although I have a feeling I’ll like the tan one better because of the warmth. We’ll see. There’s also a black paper that seems really interesting!


  6. Judy Sopher says:

    I like the third one so much that I keep staring at it. The technique is so fitting. The whites just pop out at you. I don’t know why you think the first is “messy”. It is a great picture.

    I am trying a toned paper for the first time . It certainly is different.


  7. Carol Cooney says:

    I love all 3 sketches today. The brown paper sets off the subject. I like how realistic the wine bottles look. Look forward to your sketches.


  8. Chris Rusk says:

    The third one is my favourite too.

    Not related (but related):
    I recently cleaned and reframed some gouache city scenes & landscapes for a friend. I was surprised to find that many of the works had been painted on middle-toned pastel paper – grays, tans beiges and rich cream colours. (Your bananas and experiments using the toned papers reminded me of them.)


    • HI Chris,
      Your example is actually quite related to working on the toned paper. As I started playing with it I realized that is very much like the way I learned to work with oils. You put down a middle toned ground on the canvas and work on top of that, adding lights and darks as you go. So this toned paper is just like a giant middle tone. It works very well for the way I think when I paint and sketch, which is in values.
      Hope all is well with you.



  9. Monique says:

    Fun to try different papers for you I am certain!Lovely!


  10. Suzanne says:

    Wow!!! 3 1/2 by 5 1/2 inches? The details are just right, love the bananas best, and the sky in the first is yummy. I like that I only see BAR on the sign; keeps me guessing. Now the top one makes me wonder. Are you sitting high or low, is the vehicle on a bit of a slope, are you nearer or not to the curb? Are you tromping my oeil? 😄 Have I seen a sketch from you previously, at this spot? Maybe keep me guessing on all of these. I am enjoying all the possibilities!

    Did you (instinctively or not) change your paint tones and values? I love how the chalk and whites pop!


    • Hi Suzanne, For the street scene, I am sitting in my car, so of course parked near the curb. The is no intentional trompe l’oeil but I wear reading glasses to sketch so there is always some unwanted distortion. And yes, I have sketched this spot on 6th Avenue many times. I haven’t changed the paint tones or values intentionally but of course painting on a toned surface does require some adjustment. I can play a bit more with transparency vs. opacity of the paint. And of course I love adding those little whites. Does that answer everything? Hope so.


  11. Evie says:

    I love my small S&B which my very first sketchbook given to me by my dearest friend. The tinted paper is great fun….now I want yet another sketchbook to add to my collection! Thank you, Shari…..


    • Hi Evie,
      There’s nothing nicer than the gift of a sketchbook! So glad to hear that you like the paper. If you try the toned paper for your next book, I think you’ll like that too. I haven’t tried the grey one yet but I love this tan paper. The texture seems just right for drawing.


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s