One time I was ordering illustration board online and forgot which brand I liked. I bought some thick, many-ply Crescent, the one-sided kind. I promptly got distracted and forgot about it.
I found it recently and thought, “quit being wasteful with your business resources,” and cut some up into standard sized bits. It had warped badly in the intervening years, and it submitted to my paper cutter only with a lot of muscle. (Note to self: sharpen paper cutter.) I set out to paint a cephalopod with a background, trying to actually Do A Background, Damnit like my to-do list says. I toned the inked drawing with watery gouache, tentatively laying in values. I’ve done this before, and it usually involves quite a bit of water. The Crescent wasn’t having any of that.
That picture was taken while it was still damp, and I had already tried to smooth out the bubbles by gently pushing them flat. The wrinkles almost made me give up altogether, nevermind the fraying ply edges and the warping. I had to pull up the top ply and re-lay it, and the adhesive between plies is obviously weak, but nonetheless yucky.
But… I persevered, thinking, how am I going to learn if I don’t try to salvage this? Also I was thinking, what am I going to do with half a dozen sheets of worthless illustration board? For this painting style anyway. And after a few more layers of water and paint – although none so watery as the first layer – it actually smoothed out and looked OK. You can still see the wrinkle if you look hard enough, but I think it gives it character. And I had to bend the board pretty strenuously to flatten out the colossal warp it developed.
Lesson learned – do not use a lot of watery paint on Crescent illustration board. Maybe my beloved Strathmore can take it better… but that’s another post for another time.
Totoro by Meg Lyman
6×12″ gouache and ink on illustration board