Paper – Searching for a Back-up

Pastel mat by Clairefontaine has been my preference for color pencil work. It allows a lot of layers and you can work in a lot of detail but I don’t want to rely on just one type of paper from one particular supplier. What would I do if something happened to that supplier and that type of paper was no longer produced?

Therefore, I have been experimenting with other papers such as Hot Press watercolor paper by Arches, a Bristol board by Strathmore and a drawing paper by Canson. So far they have all produced mixed results. I still need to do more experimenting with the Bristol board and the watercolor paper.

Most of my experimentation  has been on the Canson paper with the production of a Gorilla that I was quite happy with which l repeated on pastelmat. Although both produced different results I had no preference as they were both equally appealing for different reasons. Although sketchy the Canson one had a hairy charm that was appealing while the other had a much more refined look.

One gorilla drawn on pastelmat and the other three drawings on Canson a grain
The gorilla on the top right drawn on pastelmat and the other three drawings on Canson a grain

After that experience I continued with the pastelmat for a while then I had another go at using the Canson… first with a fox which was completed earlier in the year and then more recently with a Badger.

The fox has worked well while the Badger is OK . Then I started on this Tawny Owl mixing pan pastel and colour pencil. It was then I remembered why I liked Pastelmat. The way you can blend colour pencil and pan pastel on Pastelmat is just perfect.

Collage showing the work in progress of a Tawny Owl drawing
Collage showing the work in progress of a Tawny Owl drawing

In my view the pastel does not work so well on the Canson as I did try it on the gorilla drawing. It is not really designed for that. The pastel mat is far better but of course that is what it is designed for.

Clearly the paper you choose depends on the type of drawing you want to produce and the materials that you want to use.

While I will still use Canson as I do like the texture… it will be for specific projects where I feel the structure of that particular paper will enhance the drawing.

With regard to my main body of work, I will continue using the Pastelmat as it is still my preferred choice for projects that involve the use of pan pastel.

That then brings me back to my initial quest… the search for a back-up paper with similar properties to Pastelmat.

The search continues…

My Gorilla Preference and a Cheery Robin

I have now completed my second Gorilla. In the first drawing, I used Pierre Noire pencils on Canson paper and this produced a good texture but it was a bit sketchy. Therefore I started a second drawing on Pastelmat using pan pastel and color pencils.


The first drawing on the left, I described the Gorilla as looking mournful and this second gorilla on the right, I would describe as having a secret that he is not willing to share. It is hard to state a preference, but I guess I am going to go with the second drawing of the Gorilla. He is a bit more refined looking even if he is not willing to share his secret!

I am in awe of Gorillas ever since I watched David Attenburgh on the BBC Natural History program ‘Life on Earth’  sitting right in amongst them. They were quite tolerant of his presence and that of the accompanying film crew!

This was then followed up by reading the book ‘Gorillas in the Mist’ by Dian Fossey. I remember being inspired by her fight to focus attention on the plight of the Gorillas.

All the hardships she endured which tragically culminated in her own death was quite a powerful story. If it was not for her and the dedicated work of others, would we know as much about Gorillas as we do now and would there be any Gorillas left?

When I downloaded the initial reference image from Wildlife Reference Photos it described the Gorilla as a Lowland Gorilla.

My researches have revealed that current thinking suggests that there are two species of Gorilla each with their own subspecies. The two species are the Eastern Gorilla and the Western Gorilla. Whichever species my Gorilla is, whether he inhabits East Africa or West Africa, all Gorillas are critically endangered.

In the wild Gorillas face ongoing habitat loss, a constant threat of disease, being hunted for bushmeat and body parts being sold as trophies for the wildlife trade.

Unfortunately, with their habitat in a part of the world that faces many social and environmental challenges, it does not make the conservation of Gorillas easy.

For more information visit:

RobinwbOn a more cheerful note, I have included my Robin to brighten life up because if you live in the part of the world where I do, then this time of year is rather dreary.

Also, I would like to thank you for reading my blog and best wishes for the year ahead.


The Squirrel and the Mournful Gorilla

Grey squirrel sitting on a log
Grey squirrel sitting on a log photo ref: Jason Morgan

Squirrels are very common where I live. Now that the leaves are off the trees you can easily spot them running along branches and jumping from tree to tree. As well as squirrel watching, I spent a good part of last week finishing off the drawing of a grey squirrel.

I am really pleased with the way this piece has turned out and consider it to be one of my better drawings. The previous exercise in drawing charcoal squirrels was really useful in focusing on values and has brought more depth to the drawing.



Variations on a squirrel
Variations on a squirrel

As well as drawing a squirrel, I found a Gorilla image that I liked at  Wildlife Reference Photos that had a good tonal value. This I considered would be another good subject through which to explore contour through shading.

My initial sketch was done on recently bought  Canson C a grain paper, a paper that is relatively smooth and not too textured and Conte Noire pencils. These are materials that are new to me but unfortunately, I became preoccupied with exploring their properties. Therefore exploring contour did not quite go as intended but the final result although quite sketchy is nevertheless interesting for its texture.

Gorillaf (2)
Gorilla using Pierre Noire pencils on Canson C a grain

Now more familiar with the Gorilla, I drew him again on Clairefontaine Pastelmat paper using pan pastel to map out the variation in values in lights and darks.

Then using color pencils, I selected a variety of different whites, greys, and blacks to build up the detail.

Interesting how different pencil manufacturers can have different types of whites and blacks.

The second drawing of the Gorilla is not quite finished yet!

Looking at both drawings, it is interesting how the expressions are slightly different! Although the Gorilla below is more accurate to the reference,   I prefer the expression on the Pierre Noire pencil sketch.

It will be interesting to see if that is still my preference when the second drawing is completed.

Gorilla progress
Gorilla progress using pan pastel and colored pencils