Tuesday, July 15, 2008

Whatever happened to manila paper?

The Plein Air group held a well-attended still life studio last Saturday at the Art Society building. Peter Sheppard arranged it and brought props (flowers and fruit, pots and pans) for four set-ups. Tables and chairs were in plentiful supply because of the current children's art camp organized by the art society.

I took along drawing gear as well as acrylics and a canvas, which turned out to be overly optimistic. I arrived late and left early and did only two drawings in the end, on brown paper.

Which brings up the matter of brown paper. It's cheap, which encourages using it freely and doing many drawings. Apart from being cheap, I like it because it gives you a middle tone to work out of. It's ideal for quick compositional studies with charcoal or Conté, either black and white or a range of colours. On Saturday I did one of each, not very good but shown below anyway (about 16 x 20 in. each).

Brown paper takes gouache fairly well too. But for wet media it's nowhere near as good as real manila paper, which disappeared off the market about ten or fifteen years ago, maybe more. Manila paper was cheap, tough, excellent to work on with both wet and dry media, and the plant it was made from (hemp) was easy to grow in large quantities.

I tried to find out what happened to it, and the only explanation I could find is that the plant may have been banned under the international drug laws. I don't know if this is the real reason and haven't researched it recently, that was a few years ago.


Nita Van Zandt said...

This place sells a tree-free hemp sketchbook. I've drawn on it, nice stuff, but not like the original manila paper, either.


Mary Adam said...

Thanks Nita, I'll check that out.