Wednesday, March 26, 2008

Portrait on Fisher 400 Paper

I was given some sheets of Fisher 400 sanded pastel paper a long while ago to try and finally just got around to it. I am always amazed at how a different paper will completely change the colored pencil experience. Much more than different pencil brands, using good paper can completely make a piece. I always use sanded surfaces for my drawings and every one works differently.

First the lowdown on the paper: Fisher 400 paper created by Tim Fisher.

from :

"New Abrasive Surface for Pastel painting. The ideal surface to work on in pastel. After five years of development Tim Fisher, an artist from Leicestershire has produced Fisher 400 Art Paper which will fill the void left by other papers."

also from David Bellamy's site:

  • 360 gsm pH7 neutral backing paper
  • 720 x 510 mm sheets
  • Electrostatically coated for perfect grit spacing
  • Will hold more pastel than any other paper
  • Superior multi layering of pastel
  • Water resistant glue
  • Pale buff, light fast surface can be tinted
  • Reduced dusting when working
  • Highly durable paper
  • Ageing test saw no change in pH

& then also look at the Creative Support Company where there are examples of artwork done on Fisher 400 paper and a demo with pastels.

& Tim Fisher the maker of this paer's site:

Now for my experience with Fisher paper and colored pencils:

When I touched the paper to feel the texture, I thought it felt a bit smoother than Wallis paper, but then as I lifted my hand away it stuck to the paper like the grain was sticking to my hand. The feeling is pretty hard to describe. You can see the color of the paper behind the apple.

I first tried the Fisher paper with a little apple the night before my workshop. The paper grabs the pencil so easily that this apple only took 10-15 minutes compared to the hour I took on the colourfix paper in my last post. The apple tuned out a little funny because of this, as I had been planning on needing many more layers to get this type of saturation.

After just playing with that quick apple sketch I felt like it would be the perfect paper to try out a portrait on and I had recently taken a lovely reference photo of my daughter to work from.

Its hard to get those soft brillo pad strokes (taken from Ann Kullberg's vocabulary) as the pencil sticks on the texture in the first layer, but if you hold your pencil down the shaft further and do soft linear strokes you can get the pencil on very light. After you have some color down the next layers go on smoother and can be blended with your finger. I tried some other things to blend, like a bristle brush and a soft blending brush for oils, and didn't like them as much as my finger. I'm thinking some of the blending tools a pastelist uses would work very well with the paper and colored pencils and allow you to blend in little spaces - with your finger you are limited to finger sized spaces!.

The reason it blended so well is the pencil is not very stable on the paper - making it much more like working with a more controlled pastel pencil. I don't mind this but if you can't handle your pencil smudging it may bother you more. Some pencil brands smudged more than other. I tried Lightfast Prismacolors, Polychromos, Luminance, and Coloursoft pencils. The Luminance and the Prismacolor smudged less and the Polychromos and Coloursoft smudged more. If you wanted to mix several brands of pencils I felt like putting down the softer pencils, like the polys, first worked better because it was harder to go over the waxy Prismas and Luminance pencils with the others.

Now for the layers question. Everyone always wants to know how many layers you can get on a paper and I think the answer is not that many. Which isn't completely correct as I think I could keep on going with more and more layers exponentially, but I found that those layers were mixing together and the more layers I added the muddier it got, so I found it better to layer less and plan for less layers. I don't think this is a bad thing considering how saturated the pencils go on in the first place. Look at for instance how long the apple took me to do with that saturated/contrasted of an effect. It did make me work differently on the portrait: scumbling 2-3 colors in an area and then blending those together instead of layering one on top of another and allowing the top layers to blend the pencil together.

I like a lot of things about this paper. I think I probably did my very best head of hair on it because I could so easily go over medium/dark colors with lighter ones to add in hairs and highlights. I think the saturation and range of values you can achieve on it is amazing & with a little practice the fact that you can blend so easily I think is a good thing.

& the best evidence of what the paper is like: the portrait I did of my daughter at the top of the post. It is 12" x 14" and only took me about 5-6 hours start to finish.


Deborah said...

Nicole, thank you for all the information you share. It's very helpful to read about your experiences. I'm going to order some of this paper today! And your portrait of Katie is beautiful. I'll bet she loves it.

Kasie @ ~The Art of Life~ said...

Thanks for sharing!
The portrait is beautiful!! :)

Bob Ebdon said...

Tim is a lovely man who lives quite near me. I too have tried this paper and enjoyed it a lot. It is not as abrasive as Colorfix, and has a lot of possibilities as a cp support. Lovely portrait Nicole! Is there no end to your talents!

Nicole Caulfield said...

Thanks Deborah! Actually Katie is pretty indifferent - oh well what can you do? ;-)

Thanks Kasie!

That is the second person who told me what a nice person Tim Fisher is! Glad to hear it! Thanks Bobb - I appreciate it!!

Reflections From Life Art Blog said...

Hey Nicole! Loved your article on the Fisher paper. I'd love to try it out, especially since it seems to save time on a painting! Did you order from that website, or could you get it somewhere else in the U.S.?


Nicole Caulfield said...

Hey Nancy - you can get it through that website. The paper is priced low enough, its the shipping that will get ya! If you have a pastel artist to share a shipment with you'll be better off!

Janet Goldman Merrill said...

Hi, Nicole. I'm new here and new to colored pencils, but I have finished my first few projects with them and I'm learning. I so appreciate the information from those of you who have more experience with this medium than I do. Thank you for sharing your knowledge and your lovely artwork.

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Debi Fitzgerald said...

I am so happy to have found your blog! I found it while researching new surfaces for my work... I work in soft pastel. I do portraits of people, horses and dogs. I am preparing to do a piece on Clairefontaine pastelmat when I ran across this review of Fisher 400. Think I will have to get my hands on a piece of it now! Hope I can get it here in the US. Thank you for your wonderful blog!