Thursday, September 29, 2011

Service Announcement About Waterbrushes

Imagine my surprise when I happened to glance at my waterbrush the other day and saw all these black floaty things INSIDE the barrel of the brush! Yuck!
Click to enlarge
I usually wear the point off from the brush tip long before I get gunk in the barrel of a waterbrush. This brush has a very small tip that is used for detailing and I don't use it often. That may be the reason why I have the yucky stuff in the barrel.

Besides not wanting to contaminate my paper or paints with mold, this kind of trash will also plug up a waterbrush, rendering it useless because the water can't flow through to the tip.
Click to enlarge
I used a chenille stem, folded in half and twisted, to get down into the barrel and scrub out some of the sticky offending black spots. I didn't use any soap as I didn't need it to remove the gunk. If you choose to use soap, please make sure to use something like dish soap that doesn't have oils and moisturizers in it. (Oil and watercolor don't mix well and the soap could leave a residue!)
Click to enlarge
No more nasties! I'll keep an eye on this brush to make sure that all the gunk has been removed. If it comes back, I'll rinse just the barrel with a very, very weak water and bleach solution, dry it out thoroughly and then refill it. (Don't get bleach on the bristles!)

I'm not so concerned this will ruin the brush, even though it could, as I'm concerned I could contaminate my paper and paints. I'd had to find mold growing in a sketchbook sometime down the road!

Check your brushes!

Thursday, September 22, 2011

Stillman and Birn Sketchbook Review

Stillman & Birn Sketchbooks
Beta Series on the left;
Alpha Series on the right
Click to enlarge any and all photos
There has been a lot of discussion about the Stillman & Birn sketchbooks on several blogs and FB groups that I play with, so I decided to order a couple and see what they were like.

I purchased a 7 x 7 inch (17.8 x 17.8 cm) Beta Series with extra heavy weight paper and a rough surface as well as a 6 x 8 inch (15.2 x 20.3 cm) Alpha Series with heavy weight paper. Both papers are Natural White in color. When compared to Arches, Winsor and Newton, Fabriano and Strathmore, the paper was very close in color to these watercolor papers with some being a little lighter and one being a bit darker.

The paper in both books is alpha cellulose which is a wood pulp that has been processed to remove lignin and other impurities. It is consider to be a very strong paper that is acid and chloride free.

Beta Series
Beta Series
Daisies Test Page
My first test page in the Beta Sketchbook was a sketch of some daisies. The sketch was done with Copic marker and I had no trouble with the pen skipping. The paper surface is very much like you would expect from Arches cold press watercolor paper with slightly less tooth.

Things to note: while you can lift (see daisy shapes in the background) it is nearly impossible to go back to white. If you do, the paper surface is damaged and it becomes difficult to paint over the area without it being obvious.

I found priming the paper with water was necessary to get a good flow to the paint rather than painting a straight wash. The paper tends to grab the paint quickly making it difficult to get a smooth was without hard lines or edges.
Please forgive the crooked scan
Private journaling has been blocked
at the top of the page
The paper is 180 lb. weight so there was no bleed through to the daisy page. Even with the heavy application of paint and water, the paper still dried flat with minimum buckling. The food collection is the backside of the daisy page. I found no noticeable difference in the surface of the paper after the earlier saturation of the front page.

I also did an eraser test on another page to see how easily the paper erased and whether the paper surface changed. I noted no damage from the erasing and the pencil lifted easily.

Alpha Series
Alpha Series
Daisy Test Page
To keep my testing fair, I decided to use the daisies again. This paper has far less tooth and texture than the first. The weight of this paper is 100 lb. and the buckling was much more pronounced (as would be expected of a lighter weight) when I created the background wash. There is little room for correction and even less lifting ability on this paper. I used the same Copic marker to draw the daisies.
Backside of the daisies page
Note the buckling
When I started to draw on the backside of the daisies, I immediately noticed the paper surface had been altered by the heavy background wash. The ink feathered and the buckling was so pronounced that I finally dug out my binder clip to hold the page flat. 
Notice the binder clip on
the left of the book
The "Let Go and Grow" page is a mixed medium page of watercolor, marker, ink and a touch of colored pencil. There was bleed through to the front daisy page, however the scans do not show it well. It wasn't bad, but there was definitely bleed through. I also noticed that when I used pencil and then erased, it left an impression on the page, sometimes making it difficult to lift the graphite. The surface did not seem altered by the erasing.

Final Evaluation: If you use a lot of markers, heavy ink or moderate watercolor, your best bet is to opt for the heavier paper in the Beta Series. If you are looking to do very light washes, pencil work, colored or graphite, I think you'll be fine using the Alpha series. Writing on this paper (when not altered by heavy washes) was a dream no matter which pen I used. 

The paper in both books has a nice feel to it and performs well. I think I'll enjoy using both books, however, I don't see myself purchasing more when these are filled. 

Please note: The paper in each series is the same whether the book is hardbound or wire-bound. The Beta Series with the heavier paper is only available in the wire-bound form. To keep my unscientific tests as similar as possible, I opted for two wire-bound books. 

Tuesday, September 20, 2011

We Interrupt Our Normal Program....

Food Sculpture
Chris Ferlita
Click to enlarge
We had a family celebration last night, and of course, there's always lots of hugs, laughter and mischief going on. Chris contributed one of his (in)famous food sculptures. This is made of lemon, zucchini, tomatoes and rib bones.

Don't you want to come and join us for our next dinner?

Oddly enough, the waiters and waitress always seem to remember us.


Our normal programming will return tomorrow......

Sunday, September 18, 2011

There's A Chill In The Air!!


Well, actually, I think maybe the humidity has just dropped as the high for today is suppose to reach 92ยบ! Still, you can see and feel the just really have to be paying attention. Some of you though, have really begun to feel the chill and see the changes.

And all this means it's time to start preparing for An Imaginary Visit to Autumn's Garden! This class is scheduled to begin on November 18th and run through December 16th. There will be one assignment each week.

For more information and to register for the class, please click here. If you're interested in registering, I suggest you not wait as this is one of the really popular classes over at Imaginary Trips!

Friday, September 16, 2011

Sam's Got A Brand New Bag!

Front Detail
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Inside Front
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Outside Front
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Pockets Galore!
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More Inside Pockets
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Outside Pocket Detail
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Bag Back
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Sam's been a busy gal! We just finished this art bag up last weekend. It's colorful, fun and functions super well—just what the muse wanted (almost)! For new subscriber's to the blog, Sam is my muse. She makes periodic appearances on the blog. Usually when she's gotten me into a mess of trouble!

The overall size of the bag is 10 inches tall and 9 inches wide by 2.5 inches deep. Style-wise it's called a vertical messenger bag. It has a padded pocket so I can easily carry an iPad tablet as well as a 10" x 7" sketchbook with room left over for supplies, keys, iPhone and the like.

The back pocket is handy for an umbrella, maps, and souvenirs. The strap is adjustable so that the bag can be worn cross-body as well as over the shoulder.

And while this bag is close, it's not yet quite right and so the muse has been playing in her fabric stash, putting together some new ideas for a fall colored bag with a few modifications on to this one.

The girl just doesn't know when to quit!!

Thursday, September 15, 2011

Cecilia Sketches

Preliminary Sketches of
Cecilia DeBearvoire
Permanent Ink
Click to enlarge
My apologies for not posting the preliminary sketches of Cecilia in the last post here. Her face is actually much more accurate in these sketches than in the painting. She looks a bit, ummm, grouchy. Or maybe she's just mad. Either way, her face is not a "happy face."

Something else I was having trouble with was her body proportions. She doesn't really have shoulders and her arm are longer than her legs. Working out proportions on this page gave me a better chance for succeeding in my painting.

I've got a few more critters in my collection that I think I'll be using for practice as well. They're light and small if I want to carry them with and they usually have such endearing faces that they're fun to sketch!

When I get more sketching done in my "junk journal" (see prior post), I'll post them here!

Happy drawing!

Tuesday, September 13, 2011

Drawing and Bears

Cecilia DeBearvoire
Watercolor and ink
5 x 5 inches
Pineapple Journal
How often do you draw?

I'm talking about a piece of paper and pen* for the purpose of JUST drawing rather than drawing something to plop paint on top of later. Once a week? Once a month? Ever? Never?

If you answered hardly ever, you're in good company. The majority of artists I know only draw when they want to create a finished piece of art, be it a painting, sketch or plein air work.

Can you image what the NFL or pro golf would look like if the players didn't practice the very basics every day, for long hours?

A very unorganized circus flits through my mind. Maybe the Keystone Cops.

So why do we, as artists, think we shouldn't have to practice our basic skills? Regularly?

Let's face it...drawing is the foundation of most art. Values, shadows, form shapes, proportions and use of line are some of the very things that trip us up if we don't practice them.

Does the mere mention of these things make you cringe and want to flip to the next blog? I understand. It doesn't sound like much fun. But when I realized that my lack of knowledge and how to create values, shadows and use line was what stood between me and enjoying the creation of my art, I decide to learn.

And it wasn't hard. It just took being willing to try and acknowledging that I was gonna look bad some of the time. I had to keep putting marks on the paper. It took willing to do a really lousy job. Again and again until I finally got to something I liked. Did that mean it was perfect? Nope! Far from it. It just meant I could live with it.

Working in a junk journal** took all the pressure off from me. Since the paper was lousy, I wasn't expecting a masterpiece before I ever put pen to paper. Using pen made me look more closely at what I was drawing because I only had one shot at getting it down accurately.

I'm often asked "how do I learn?" or "where should I start?" and here is my very best advice:
Grab a junk journal and a pen. Doesn't matter what kind of pen or what color. Sit down anywhere and begin to draw what is in front of you. Doesn't matter what it is. Draw. Draw badly. Draw for 15 minutes. It is your choice whether you stop for the day or if you go for another 15 minutes. Come back the next day and do it again. And again. And again. Once you start getting the hang of your chosen scene, move to a new one.
Too intimidating?
Start with a cup, a box, a glass, a vase or some other simple structure. Draw it for 15 minutes every day. Change your perspective by looking up to the item, down into the item and then turn it on its side or at an angle. Once you've mastered that item, add another. Play with lighting to give you shadows. Draw. Every day. Draw, draw, draw.
These drawings are not for creating finished art though there may be some good candidates. They're to help you learn to see, to help you develop eye/hand coordination and to help you demystify drawing.

We're talking 15 minutes a day here. Surely, you have 15 minutes a day?

Classes help, but you don't have to wait to start with a class. Start where you are, use what you have.

Agree to do it badly so that you can improve. Be honest, but not brutal, when you look at your work. This is right, this is not. Done. Turn the page and do it again.

Look through some drawing books at your local library. Look at children's color books and draw what the artist has drawn. Not to steal their idea, but to learn how they created the image using just lines.

There is no magic pen, pencil, brush nor paper that I know of to make us morph instantly into the artist we all want to be. Just some practice learning the basics.

Now, how often do you draw?

*When we use a pen, we eliminate the possibility of erasing/correcting and so therefore we learn faster because we observe more closely. Without that eraser, we give up our safety nets. Our observation skills improve much faster.
**A junk journal is a cheap journal/sketchbook of blank pages. The paper is cheap junk. It's not good for much more than pen and ink. It may bleed through to the other side. It doesn't matter. It doesn't take color, washes or anything else. That's okay. It's simply a tool for learning. Once you're skills start improving, using the "good stuff" (read that the "expensive stuff") won't be nearly so intimidating.

Wednesday, September 7, 2011

Rainy, Windy Day at the Beach!

Chris and I managed to get away this weekend and we headed down to Venice Beach because it was a rainy, windy, overcast kinda day—our kind of day at the beach! In another lifetime, I would have wanted the sun to shine so I could tan, but I've learned there is a certain beauty at the beach that can only be found on days like this.

Unless, we're having hurricane force winds, the Gulf of Mexico seldom gets in an uproar. The waves were stronger than normal, but certainly not ferocious. The rocks are placed at strategic points on the beach to limit beach erosion.
We weren't really prepared to go as it was a spur-of-the-moment kind of decision. We didn't have any dry clothes, towels, chairs or any of the other usual beach paraphernalia. Just us, my little point-n-shoot camera and a strong desire to feel the wind blowing across the water.

I'll be cleaning sand out of the Jeep for a while, but that's okay, it was worth it! It's hard to tell from the images, but the sand also did a pretty good number on my pedicure, so I'll be redoing that as well. 

This was shot about six o'clock Sunday evening. I decided to have a little fun and added an artistic flair to it, making the film old and grainy. Hope you enjoy your quick visit to the beach!

P.S. No art was made at the beach as it was intended as a total break for both of us, but don't be surprised if something shows up a little later!

Friday, September 2, 2011

Fall Classes Starting Next Week!

Gosh, it seems odd to be writing Fall when it's still hotter than blazes outside! All the same, the new classes start next week over at!

An Imaginary Trip to Paris will begin on Tuesday, September 6th. You can find more information by clicking here.
An Imaginary Trip to New Orleans will start on Monday, September 12th! It will be a whole lot of fun in that great city. Please click here for info on this trip!

Also starting on Monday, September 12th, is Artful Journaling: Foundations class! For more information on getting started with watercolor journaling, please click here!

Please let me know of any questions you may have.