In a recent pastel class I taught I gave the class several pieces of an interesting (that means I don't know what kind it actually was) brown paper that my friend Roz Stendahl had passed off to me. The color and texture was much like the brown kraft paper you find in grocery bags but with a little more tooth. The paper came from Wet Paint in St. Paul in a 9x12" tablet. Though not archival, it is fun to work on and I'm going to try to find some more.
As an experiment I tested how it pastel would work on it quickly blocking in the main masses I see of the scene outside my studio window (Stage 1, above). The next test was to see how well the paper took another layer of pastel. I gave the painting a spray with Krylon workable fixative and started in again. The pastel took remarkably well (Stage 2 above).
Another spray of fixative and I worked more on the piece as my cousin Leslie looked on. Too much talking--I forgot to take a photo of the next stages. I gave the painting to one of the students so I can't show you the result but suffice it to say, the paper kept on receiving pastel although with less enthusiasm.
The most fun of this paper was the abandon with which the students used it in class. I handed out several sheets to each one and suggested they just go-for-it. After all, it was free paper and they could experiment without the concern that they are going to "ruin" "perfectly good" art materials.
Which brings me to the point of this post: Work often and try to forget the cost of the art materials you use. Your time is your most precious commodity. Yes, art materials are often expensive, but the way to become the artist you want to be is to use those materials--the more the better. Be confident that the Universe will find a way for you and, maybe, some free art materials along the way. Works for me.