Sunday Mailbag

January 29th, 2012 | Posted in Mailbag

Q: I remember about a year ago you wrote a post about the decline in quality of Strathmore bristol boards, a brand you used with your work. Whatever happened with that? Did you find a suitable replacement? Have the Strathmore boards improved?

A: Here is the post to which you refer: Strathless Bristol Bored.

I contacted Strathmore about my concerns and found their customer service department very receptive to working with me. They were concerned and, while they didn’t come right out and say it, I got the feeling mine was not the first complaint they had received. They asked me to send them some samples of boards with this problem. I sent them sample boards where the same lines were inked by the same pen nib and the same ink, and yet one board showed the ink clearly bleeding among the fibers while the other looked good. Both were the same 500 series 3 ply kid finish boards, but bought in different batches. I also sent them some 400 boards that were doing the same thing. I demoed several different inks and pen nibs between the two boards. This little demonstration clearly proved it was the board and not the inks causing the issues.

I received an explanation that basically said there was no concrete explanation…yet. There are many chemicals bought from vendor companies that are used through the process of creating the illustration board, and they believed one or more of them had changed their formulas or chemical structure or something that was in turn affecting the results of their process, which had not changed. This made sense, since why would one batch be fine and another bleed when they were both made with the same process? They were trying to figure out which of their vendor’s chemicals might be the culprit, but as yet they did not know.

What they did do was send me a nice supply of good boards, which I am still using today. I spoke with some pretty high ranking executives in the company, and they were both concerned and helpful. I have not had the occasion to buy any boards from an art supply place in a while, so I do not know if they solved their issues or not. I hope so because there isn’t anything that compares to a good Strathmore board out there as a replacement.

Thanks to Grant Jonen for the question. If you have a question you want answered for the mailbag about cartooning, illustration, MAD Magazine, caricature or similar, e-mail me and I’ll try and answer it here!

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