SAA Practice Paper - not just run of the mill

Robert Dutton Profile

There are many papers made and manufactured for todays artists by lots of different mills. With so much to choose from it can be very confusing (especially to beginners) knowing which to buy and which will be suitable for your particular style.


When it comes to cost, the more expensive papers might not necessarily mean a ‘better’ paper for you.


So were to start? First of all a paper that is flexible and useful for all sorts of different media is highly beneficial since having a paper that performs cross platform with lots of different media wont mean a big expense in buying lots of different types.


One paper which suits lots of different painting scenarios and is useful for so many different painting circumstances and techniques (to include mixed media techniques which I personally like to do) is the versatile SAA Practice Paper.


This paper has received lots of different improvements recently and the decision by the SAA to source a new mill to create a much more robust SAA Practice Paper with ‘Not’ and ‘Rough’ textures has been really worth while.


The new ‘improved’ paper has great strength, a high level of consistency, is acid free, is a paper of good quality and is created with great textures being highly  responsive to work upon with lots of different water media (often in combination) and I just love it!

Colours remain bright, clean, sharp edged when needed and wet in wet washes blend easily on the surface. With the right consistency of surface and internal sizing, the SAA Practice Paper is really responsive to the watercolourists touch. Many papers on the market have high water resistance so washes take time to sink into the paper, others are very absorbent whilst other papers (such as many wood pulp papers) are quite soft and wont take kindly to rubbing, scratching and other heavy abrasive techniques of expression during the painting process.


However, I found that the SAA Practice Paper had great strength to it to allow lots of different expressive painterly marks applied to both the not and the Rough surfaces. The right level of absorbency with both papers gave great confidence when painting to allow a natural flow of ideas and not have to consider any aspects of limitation (due to particular traits of the paper) during the working process. A big advantage when all you want to do is paint expressively!


As an impressionistic pastel artist too I don’t just stick to pastel supports to create my expressive pastel paintings. I use watercolour papers which I quite often tint with washes of watercolour to stain and colour the paper to create my own background colours. As such it is important that I use a strong paper and one which won’t cockle or buckle as this would effect my pastel painting. The SAA 140 lb (300gsm) Rough and Not Practice Papers are great as they don’t buckle at all when wet with medium applications of watercolour washes.


This is ideal for artists who, like me want to use a unique and different paper and create your own bespoke backgrounds for pastels painting and who like to combine media together.


I highly recommend you give the SAA Practice Papers a try. You will not be disappointed!


Morning light and rising mists

Morning light and rising mists - Ullswater, Cumbria
Pastel and watercolour on SAA
140lb (300lb ‘Rough’ Practice paper


The robust surface of the SAA Practice paper works beautifully with mixed media combinations and single media techniques also.


The responsive paper allows you to utilise the grain and texture of this excellent quality watercolour paper as an integral part of your work as seen here.


Lots of lost and found edges in this early morning Lakeland scene were easily achieved through multiple layering techniques with pastel over the initial watercolour washes with the grain of the paper holding the pastel brilliantly without ‘fall off’ or infill.


Morning light and rising mists - Ullswater, Cumbria (close up)

Morning light and rising mists - Ullswater, Cumbria (close up)

The close up of the painting illustrates just how encouraging the paper is for expressive and creative impressionistic techniques. I particularly liked the fact that the strength of the paper readily accepted deep rubbing and blending and fixing techniques whilst at the same time allowing multiple layers of mark making with pastel drawing and painting at the same time.


The end result was both gentle diffused colour in contrast to stronger radiating colour tones - perfect for the suggestion of early morning light see across the gently moving waters of Ullswater.


Morning light and rising mists

Winter in the high Pennines
Combinations of black and white mixed media on SAA 140lb (300lb) ‘Not’ Practice paper

Looking for a robust paper to give greater detail possibilities with brush, pen, pastel and charcoal and conte sticks to evoke this harsh Upland Peninne Winter scene, the SAA 140lb ‘Not’ paper was the ideal choice. The finished and framed piece is a rework from a sketch done directly in front of the motif and the need to keep the energetic marks felt when painting directly in the landscape was easily transferred onto the responsive SAA Practice paper as I worked.


This possibilities for use for with the SAA Practice Paper are far reaching. In particular I look forward to working directly on the SAA Practice Papers en plein air as well as in the studio for lots of different expressive painting and drawing subjects very soon!