The Grey Book is a smooth sketching paper that comes in a thread-stitched sketchbook. It’s greyed tone means highlights stand out and layers of medium can be built up on its non-absorbing surface. Six artists who work in a variety of ways tested its abilities and limitations.
Anja is an artist and illustrator who specialises in a sketchy style of drawing that captures movement and emotion. Her works are embellished with colour after her multi-medium process including drawing, etching, digital collage and painting. Inspired by her own pet, Sui, she started the project ‘Dogscanbark’ in which she draws other peoples’ dogs and posts her work online. She regularly takes commissions and was recently featured in TheBark Magazine and on Dog-Milk. She also has an Instagram account: @dogs_can_bark
“I was asked to try out Hahnemuhle’s ‘The Grey Book’, which – as the name says, is grey. As I mostly use the Sketchbooks of Moleskin, I was excited to see how this would compare to my favourite paper for sketching.
“The paper is 120g/m² and is quite smooth. I feel like smooth papers are the best for sketching, so this characteristic makes it a great paper to draw on. I usually work with white/creamy paper, so it was exciting to find out the new possibilities when starting with a differently coloured background (especially for highlights).
“Even though the paper isn’t that thick, it holds up paint quite well. Just as most sketchbook papers, it gets wavy when using too much paint. I wasn’t so sure if the grey paper would make the colours be less vibrant – but no! Both oil pastels and crayons were just as colourful as on white paper. Only Copic Markers didn’t work.
“I have a slight obsession drawing with ball-pens – and I feel like it’s the perfect paper for that! Overall I believe it’s a great underground for very moody sketches and drawings using all kind of different mediums. It comes very close to my absolute favourite sketching paper (Moleksin).”
Katie works mainly in black and white or coloured pencils. Her practice revolves around making hyperreal portraits of people and animals; you can view her huge expanse of work across her various social media accounts (Tumblr, Twitter, Instagram and Facebook). She is renowned for her exceptional attention to detail and regularly takes commissions.
“I don’t get to work on papers that aren’t white as often as I’d like so it was nice and refreshing to work on grey paper for the first time. With a smooth surface more suited for ink and pens, I thought I’d try a simple graphite and colour pencil drawing to see how the paper takes them.
“The tone of the paper is just right, taking the pencils wonderfully and allowing for strong highlights and shadows to create much needed depth. Even though there isn’t a substantial tooth to it, the paper allowed for a number of layers of graphite, something I’ve always had trouble with with sketchbooks. It also takes fixative very well, leaving no discolouration or buckling of the paper, which is essential if you want to do drawings on each side of the paper and close the book without the pencil transferring to the opposite page.
“One minor negative of the paper I found is that natural oils from your fingers are easily transferred onto the paper and leave smudgy finger marks quite easily. When I first noticed this I thought it was me and thoroughly washed my hands, but it was indeed the paper. These marks did however disappear over time and are now unnoticeable, but it was a big shock at first!
“Overall, I am very pleased with the quality of this paper and I think the Hahnemühle Grey Book is a great choice of everyday toned sketchbook.”
Anna studied Sculpture BA at Newcastle University and Munich School of Fine Art. She worked freelance as an artist and illustrator after graduating before embarking on the City Lit ceramics diploma in 2013. Alongside her ceramics practice Anna is the ceramics technician at the King Charles Centre and a gallery assistant at the Contemporary Ceramics Centre in central London. She recently exhibited in the Open to Art International Competition 2017’s Milan exhibition as a Selected Finalist, and is showing her recent work in the Morley Gallery’s exhibition ‘London Potters’ from 20th November – 13th December 2017.
“I like the warm grey colour of the paper, the texture is excellent for charcoal and chalk crayons and feels substantial though it is lightweight.
“I like to draw using a fountain pen and I found I could work into this with a paintbrush and a little watercolour and though the paper did wrinkle up it didn’t tear, once dry I weighted down a little and within a few minutes it was totally flattened out again. I also experimented using a roller and some printing ink and the paper stood up to this well.
“The mid tone of this paper is especially useful for sketching ideas for my ceramic sculptures, it is close in colour to the raw clay, which was interesting for me to work on for the first time, enabling me to just add highlights and darker areas and not have to use washes to establish a good ground colour to work on first.”
Debbie graduated from Fine Art BA at Kingston School of Art in 2017 where she specialised in oil painting. Her practice is centred around objects and still life painting – her work investigates the existence, allure and purpose of cracker toys and similar bric-a-brac. Currently, she works as a freelance artist and as a Social Media Assistant for Jackson’s Art Supplies. She was recently awarded a residency with the Royal Drawing School which will take place in early 2018.
“I began The Grey Paper product review by making a drawing with Drawing Inks and a dip pen. I made a study of Eugène Delacroix’s work, ‘Studies of a Seated Arab’ 1832, in Winsor & Newton Drawing Inks. The dye-based inks bled slightly; while this didn’t impact my sketchy style of work it could cause problems if you were making very precise drawings. Indian Ink stood out well on the paper and didn’t bleed at all. I tried to add highlights using Schmincke Aero Color White Opaque Acrylic Ink but it sunk into the paper and didn’t show. I think white chalk, coloured pencil, pastel or acrylic paint would be a more visible alternative.
“Next I made various light washes with different concentrations of Indian Ink and painted large areas of the paper with a brush. I found that the paper buckled and the ink-saturated washes bled through to the other side of the paper. Smaller areas of wash may not have the same effect.
“Finally I tested its suitability for marker pens. Acrylic-based markers such as Posca Pens worked well – the colours popped and the ink didn’t bleed. Water-based pens looked great too but the paper began to deteriorate after 3 layers.
“Overall, I would say this paper makes a good sketchbook for preliminary works but I wouldn’t use it to create finished pieces in ink and wet media. The mid-tone tone caused light dye-based transparent inks to lose some of their vibrancy, however grey looked great against the black Indian Ink. The paper’s thinness and absorbency stops it from being able to take multiple layers of colour.”
Indian Ink Washes.
Charlotte is a London-based Illustrator who is renowned for her colourful, sketchy style of drawing. Her expressive mark making and swathes of colour capture the magic of everyday moments in bright and energetic imagery. Her broad portfolio includes editorial commissions for the New York Times and an interview with It’s Nice That.
“I love using a slightly coloured background so working onto grey was great! I use Gouache Paint a lot and the paper took this well and made it stand out, I liked using bold colours on it because they were super sharp. I often use a variety of materials, pastels , pencils etc and this paper took them all very well! It’s not too textured which I find with lots of papers which can make detail and linework difficult. It felt smooth and nice to work on!”
John is a trained graphic designer with a strong illustrative background, and has drawn since he could hold a pencil. He has been running successful demonstrations and /or workshops with art clubs or societies for the last 4 -5 years. His quick, loose style is perfect for on the spot sketching, then working up into a finished painting. John is an active member of the Urban Sketchers movement and tries to draw something every single day. His line and wash drawings have sold in a number of galleries across the country, many finding homes in far flung countries, and has exhibited successfully at the annual Staithes Festival of Arts for the last 4 years.
“My usual method is to produce a drawing, using a Unipin fineliner, then add washes. I had reservations about using my normal wet media with such a paper as the grey stock, but I persevered.
“I will say that the initial drawing with the pen was an absolute joy – the ink flows freely with no smudging, and the paper surface takes the lines really well. I tried a similar drawing using a soft pencil (6B) and again, it was a great experience…the pencil lines seemed to go down really easily, and shading was good, too.
“Adding colour was the next stage..I did try a watercolour wash, as is my usual process, and as I suspected, it behaved nothing like watercolour paper, but surprised it didn’t bubble at all…the colour dried fairly evenly, and although the transparent wash was affected by the paper’s colour, I wasn’t too unhappy.
“I then tried some colour pencil, which, as I thought, sat on the surface of the paper really nicely….I will qualify this by owning up to the fact that I don’t usually use dry media except for a pen, so my experiments may not be quite in the realm of masterpieces!
“All in all, the paper is extremely good quality with a nice feel, and if used for pure line work with a pen, pencil or marker, I can’t see any downside in use. I suspect that the paper will take hard and soft pastels really well, but as I don’t use these, was unable to try them out.”