Today I used a velvet gray Strathmore paper and I enjoyed using a mid-tone surface. I always start by massing darks and lights and sculpting the big shapes, but I'd love to see an artist like Mike Beeman
draw his figures...they express so much with just an elegant line and a little shading. More than a gesture drawing but still very minimalist. If you haven't seen them, check them out at his blog or on You Tube.