Back to the island

If you’re a longtime reader of this blog, you probably know that I love to test out art supplies. I’m not fussy about the “best before” date of things. I sometimes find stuff in the back of a drawer that I didn’t know I had, like this mysterious ink without a label, or this old paint tube. But it’s even nicer to try out new stuff, if I’m lucky enough to be the recipient of some samples. Last month, just before I was scheduled to teach at the Urban Sketching Summer Retreat on Madeline Island, I received a pad and a block of The Collection watercolour paper from Hahnemuehle Paper, one of our generous sponsors. I used the paper when I was sketching in Gaspesie, and liked it so much I did all my workshop demos on the pad.

One of my workshop demos was of the old wooden structures of the Madeline Island Museum. My workshop topic was about using triads and other limited palettes in watercolour, so you can see all the swatches I created before we got around to drawing our subject. I was using the 9″ x 12″ pad for my demos. This paper has a really nice texture and a lovely softness for pencil drawing. It also takes colour really well and the 140 lb cold pressed surface allows for some great dry brush effects (like what I did in the grassy foreground).

We also sketched at the legendary Tom’s Burned Down Café, one of Madeline Island’s most iconic spots. The poles, awnings, flags and hand-painted signs make it kind of irresistible for a sketcher. It’s a hard scene to paint because of its complexity, but we tried to contrast inside and outside space. As you can see, the paper takes the saturated, deeper colours really well too, which makes it a winner for me. I painted each of these scenes four times on site, so I can say I put the paper through a full test and I was still happy at the end. It was really durable and great for glazing, but I haven’t tried any scrubbing or lifting yet.

If you’re interested in receiving a free sample of The Collection watercolour paper to try, send an email to, and mention “Shari Blaukopf Blog”. (These samples are only available for shipping to the US and Canada.)

As for the Urban Sketching Summer Retreat on Madeline Island, I’m thrilled to announce that we’ve been invited back to teach again next summer! Dates are July 11-15, 2022, and details are here. If you joined us this past August, have a look at the descriptions, because we’ll all be teaching a little something different next year.

5 Comments on “Back to the island”

  1. De says:

    Thank you for that great review, Shari. I’ve heard positive reviews of their sketchbooks but never paper. Are both sides of the paper comparable? I’ve been using/testing some Baohong paper this year and really like it for its strength and durability but find the back side lacks the texture. I can still paint on the back side of failed paintings but its different.


    • Hi De, I’m glad this was useful. I haven’t yet tried the back of this paper so I can’t answer your question yet.
      Glad the Baohong paper is working for you. I tried some earlier this year as well, but can’t get good results on it. Not yet anyway. I’m glad that you are more successful thank me!


  2. Joan Tavolott says:

    Good review of their paper. Will see if I can get the samples. Love what you did on the island.

    Liked by 1 person

  3. Northern Traveller says:

    So fun……


  4. Very interesting sketches from Ille de Madaline, I really like how you swatched your colours in the top painting. There are some colours in there which I would not expect to see in that painting, then again, I too often mix down florid hues, like making greys from Phatlo Blue and Raw Umber. or Black from Quin Magenta, Sap Green. That caffee has a very unique and ecclictic look to it.


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