Saturday, February 22, 2014

Review of the Clairefontaine Calligraphy Pad

I received one of Clairefontaine's Calligraphy 'Japon'Pad a while back, and I've been loving it!


It's a huge pad at 12 x 15.5 inches, and all though the paper is only 60 lb, it has proved to be surprisingly sturdy.  With no more adieu, I'll get into the review!

Look and Feel
Specs
-Simili-style Japon Paper
-ivory color
-top bound, glued
-25 sheets
-60 lb/130 g/m2
-acid free paper
-rigid backboard, lightweight
-Size:  12 x 15.5"/30 x 40 cm  (also comes in 9.5 x 12".  The link above takes you to this smaller size )

The Clairefontaine Calligraphy Pad comes in a top bound glued format.  The paper tears away easily.  So easily that I don't believe you would want to keep your finished pieces in the pad because the pages will work loose eventually.

Despite being glued, you can open the pad at any point and the paper lies flat. There is a very thick but lightweight cardboard backing for support.

The paper is thin, but has a hard surface, smooth but not slick. It feels similar to a thin cardstock, making it sturdier than most 60 lb. paper, but it's more flexible than cardstock.

The color of the paper is ivory, which I always feel adds elegance, making it suitable for calligraphy.  If you have a strong preference for white paper, this may not be the pad for you.


Performance
The paper has a surface that allows for smooth writing. Again, I think of cardstock.  It's hard to explain, but this paper reminds me of cardstock or  a manila folder in many ways, and yet I definitely don't think of it as either.  Totally different vibe.

Although I used several different mediums on the page, there was almost no show-through unless you hold the paper up to the light.  Even when I thoroughly saturated the paper there was no bleed-through.

The drying time for ink and paint was markedly slow, even for fountain pen friendly paper.

Writing 

I've never been much of a calligrapher, but this would be the paper for it.  You need very little pressure to write because the pen just wants to flow across the page.  You do need to take extra care not to smudge because of the drying time.

Pen and Ink -Pigma Micron

This was one of the Christmas presents I did last year.  I don't think I need to say much--this is one of the paper I'll be using for pen and ink, in the future.

Fountain Pen & Roller ball-J. Herbin Inks

Colors are bright, just short of brilliant, on this paper.  I think that has to do with the drying times--the color doesn't get absorbed.  Some of the blues that I used in this drawing are very similar, but the differences were more apparent on this paper than on any other paper I've used.

Making a Journal--tearing and sewing
I was intrigued by how sturdy this paper was despite its relatively light weight, so I decided to make an art journal with it.  I won't go into much detail regarding the making of the journal because that isn't what this review is about.  What is important is that with this size pad, I could fold and tear one sheet in half, then fold both half-sheets to create 8 pages of 6 x 7.75 inches.  

So with 6 sheets of this paper, I created a journal with 48 pages.  Almost enough to do a page a week for a year!  Yet this is how thick the journal is.


This makes a nifty, light-weight journal you could take on your travels to practice calligraphy or sketching.  (I used wallpaper glued to one of the half-sheets for the cover.  Cardboard from a cereal box would work as well).

What I learned from the process of turning this into a journal is that the paper tears easily, if you fold and burnish the fold.  I used a metal ruler as an edge to tear with.  Since it tore smoothly, I wanted to test and make sure the paper would NOT tear as easily by accident.  I held the paper by a corner and flapped it vigorously.  I creased a section (but did not burnish).  I worked the paper back and forth, back and forth.  I got the crease to tear, eventually.  I had to work hard at it though.  This paper won't tear unless you want it to, or you really abuse it.

The other thing I learned is that the paper sews well. When you do a pamphlet stitch, there comes a point when you pull your thread tight in two directions.  If the paper is too weak or soft, it can tear or scrunch up at this point.  I was able to tug with a firm, even pressure without any untoward effect on the paper.

Collage/Glue/Gel Medium
So--art journaling.  That means mixed media.  Glue, gel media, extra weight from collage, wet media.  Me, being me, you know I'm going to do mixed media!

I decided to start with collage.  On a separate sheet, I painted squares with acrylic paint.  I cut the entire sheet into small squares and then glued the squares at random on a page in my book.  I used PVA glue for some squares, glue stick for some and Golden's soft gel medium for others.  All three mediums adhered well. There was no buckling from the wetness of the glue, or the shrinkage they can sometimes cause.  The paper didn't fold over from the weight.

Acrylic Paint

I painted several layers of acrylic paint, making some of it runny and some of it thick so the weight would be different across the page.  In some places, after the paint was dry, I spritzed it with alcohol and lifted the color.  In a few places, I scrubbed quite a bit.

The paper held up well to the weight with no dimpling.  There was some buckling, but it occurred where I had sewn the binding, and I think it happened due to my uneven sewing rather than an inability to handle the paint.  I couldn't get the color of the paper back (which didn't surprise me), but I had no pilling or tearing from scrubbing where I'd sprayed alcohol.

No color showed through or bled through to the back of the page. I abused this paper, but the painting is still half-way decent. I'm looking forward to painting on it for real.

Acrylic Paint, Photo Transfer and Color Pencil

This page is a cheat in a way.  I've been playing with a drawing program called Scribbler Too, that does some funky radial lines when you draw and I wanted to use this little girl I'd done.  I decided to try a photo transfer.

The image from Scribbler Too was printed onto plain old copy paper, and cut out.  I covered the entire spread with Golden's Titanium Buff acrylic paint, applying it thickly where I intended to place the girl.  I put the printed image printed side down and pressed it firmly into the paint, while making sure not to move it around.

Acrylic paint is an adhesive (gel medium is essentially acrylic paint without color) so I didn't let the paint dry completely.  I waited approximately two minutes and then peeled the paper away.  This is a tricky maneuver.  The type of printer you have (should be an inkjet), and the type of paper can make a difference.  I might have been better off to let the paint dry completely.  Then you have to wet the paper and rub it off bit by bit, instead of peeling.  I did have to do some rubbing.  My transfer was very light, so I darkened it with a Pigma Micron pen.

I wanted the feel of a vintage child's book, so I felt the subtle color from colored pencils would work best to color the page.  That's why I say it's a cheat.  Once you paint a page with acrylic paint and it dries, you've sealed the page, so this wasn't a good test of how color pencil works on this paper.

Watercolor

I had to try a truly wet medium, of course.  As with the acrylic painting, I worried more about abusing the paper than about creating a great painting.  I applied the paint thickly in some areas, let it totally puddle in others and I rewet and scrubbed to lift paint in a few places.  I dropped wet paint into both dry and wet areas to see what would happen.

The paper held up well to the scrubbing with no pilling or tearing.  In the wettest areas, there was some dimpling, which caused the paint to pool. The paint beaded up more than usual, and I had to encourage it to spread.  When I dropped wet paint into wet it did not mingle as much I as expected.  Overall, the paint just doesn't move well across the page.

I was able to get a wide range of intensity from very pale to very deep color.  There was a small amount of granulation (that dark pebbly look on lighter) , but not much.

While the paper dimpled it didn't curl until the paint started drying.  You can see how much in the photo below.  But I didn't even have to weight the paper to remove.  Once the paint dried, I simply curled it in the opposite direction and most of curl was gone.  It wasn't really a problem while I was painting because it didn't happen until the paint was almost dry.



The sound of the paper changed, becoming crinkly.

This is not a watercolor paper, but you can use watercolor.  For the casual painter, or for quick sketches it would work for watercolor.

Overall
This is a calligraphy pad, and works well for that purpose.  It's lightweight but sturdy which makes it good for other mediums as well.

The ivory color of the paper will be a plus for some and a negative for others depending on taste, but I think the long drying time is the only real drawback.  For me, the patience that requires is well worth it for the ease of drawing and the brilliance of the color.

I've had problems with my wrist, lately, due to the cold weather and the amount of drawing I've done.  It was easier to draw and write on this paper due to the smooth surface.  For me, that counts for a lot!

Once again, I thank Exaclair for the chance to try out this pad and review it for my readers.
Disclaimer:  I received this Clairefontaine Calligraphy pad at no charge, but have received no other compensation, and all opinions are my own.  I was not asked to do this review by Exaclair, Clairefontaine or any other company.

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