By Jeremy Meltingtallow

There she is, a cardboard box to set my heart a-pounding.  This box of 55 sheets of Strathmore Series 500 Smooth 3-Ply Bristol   Board arrived last week and I’ve been giddy ever since. It represents a lot more than just my annual order of paper for Zits. It’s freedom, sweet freedom, from the tyrrany of cold-press paper.

See, a year ago I went to one of the few brick-and-mortar art stores still left in Cincinnati to place my annual order. Bruce, my buddy there, had been downsized and I got his 17-year-old replacement who told me he had my boards already boxed and ready to take to Kinko’s to be cut. I ran my hand over the top sheet — it had that buttery smooth surface I’ve been skating around on for years. On the box I wrote the dimensions and drew a diagram of how I wanted the strips cut and then delivered the load for chopping.

But when I got the cut bristol boards back, they felt like sandpaper. Rifling through the tall stack, no more than one sheet in a dozen was silky; the rest had the pebbly finish of cold-press paper. The genius at the art store had pulled my order together from several drawers of paper, it turned out, failing to notice the different finishes. The genius who bought it failed to check through the stack before getting it all cut.

So I’ve been drawing on the wrong paper all year. I tried to see the bright side. There were times when dragging ink across the rough surface enhanced drawings — messy rooms, D’ijon’s dreadlocks and the occasional herd of elephants, for example. But mostly it’s been a slog. There is nothing like the feeling of getting lost somewhere below the surface of the paper in that sweet white void. When the paper fights you it’s hard to find that zone.

So this new order of paper – carefully checked – is my liberation. Here it is all cut and waiting for me. One year of Zits, just add ink.

– Jim