Thursday, October 22, 2015

Seasonally Inspired Sketching!

Left: This was as far as I got on location. Right: The finished spread.
Watercolor and Ink
Kathy, from Catching Happiness, and I went sketching the other morning to take advantage of the um, cooler* weather, here in Florida and the fact that it's pumpkin time! It was 79º instead of 89º at 10:30 in the morning. Woohoo.

Sometimes, you gotta go when you gotta go and it doesn't matter what the thermometer is reading.

Still, it was fun and when a breeze came by, it's was sweet. We don't have too many of the large pumpkin farms in Florida like they have further north and we don't have the huge change in temperatures either. Obviously.
This was as far as I went while on location—it was taking too long and there were too many other things to draw and paint!
Finished at home, in the studio!
They had all kinds of pumpkins and gourds in all shapes, colors and sizes along with harvest corn, cornstalks, hay bales and some croton plants on display.
A purple pumpkin?! Actually, a happy accident! I meant to pick up the gray watercolor brush pen and accidentally picked up a violet instead. I was a little shocked, but then decided to go with it as the color wouldn't lift anyway.
The image above was originally going to be just gray watercolor along with pen and line but things went awry...in a good way! Sometimes, we find ourselves in new places because of "mistakes." After I got past my shock of the violet, I decided I kinda liked the look and continued. Now, I'm planning on exploring this style with other colors as well.

It was worth it to put up with less than autumn-like temperatures...well, scratch that...that was autumn-like temperatures for Florida! I think this may turn into an annual pilgrimage, perhaps as a way to shepherd in the change of the...calendar...even if it does still feel like summer outside.

How does the changing of the season effect your sketching? Do you do more or less? Change styles?

Saturday, October 17, 2015

Easy-Peasy White Lettering On Dark Backgrounds!

Three examples of white lettering with a fourth using metallic ink instead
In the video below, I demonstrate using Faber-Castell's Big White Pen to create letters on dark backgrounds and then using PITT Artist pens to do a bit of embellishing—so much fun!

This technique will work on envelopes, scrapbook pages and paper, kraft paper tags and just about any other dark paper. I'm going to try this on fabric next!

The "joe & alice" envelope is the same technique but using a metallic marker instead of white.

Just think of the possibilities!

Happy lettering, y'all. Let me know if you use this technique! I love to see what you come up with.


Just a heads up...I am not associated with Faber-Castell or their products in anyway. I just really like 'em!

Tuesday, October 13, 2015

When The Paper In Your Sketchbook...Sucks

The small sketchbook I am currently working in is about 3.5 x 5.5 inches and was suppose to be a watercolor sketchbook. There are no identifying marks as to who the maker might be or what type of paper is in the sketchbook, but make no mistake...it's a PITA (Pain-In-The-Art!).

To say this sketchbook has been a challenge would be to a vast understatement. Years ago, I would have chunked it back on the shelf and forgotten ignored it. However, I'm attempting to finish up some of the PITA sketchbooks I have so I could move on. It dawned on me others may have made some questionable sketchbook purchases that are currently sitting, languishing on a shelf. I thought I'd share some of the ways I've managed to fill the pages without giving up on this journal.

The sketch above was done after wedding vows were exchanged on a dock on a small, private lake. I spotted the tree and knew I had to sketch it. The view below is of the area at the bottom of the page where the sizing(?) is uneven. When I washed over the area with water and pigment, the wash beaded up and was repelled away from the paper. This has happened in random places throughout this journal. And while I like the texture, I would have preferred not to have it.

Luckily, the page turned out okay and it looks intentional even though it was not. Had this lovely spot been somewhere higher up the page, it would have looked bad. Really bad. If you enlarge the image, you can see that the sizing issue goes higher up into the water and into the dead tree.
What do you do if you're a beginner and stuck with this type of paper? It can be frustrating and not a lot of fun to try and get a decent page created only to have something invisible fell your efforts. In the case above, I chose to ignore the "added texture" and just let it stand. Had it been further up the page? I'd have had to pull out the creative license.

Here are some of the ways and things I've done to help get the pages filled:
1) Add pieces of ephemera, receipts, business cards, cut-up brochures and stickers. I cut apart a brochure from my trip to Chocolate Kingdom in Kissimmee and glued it down over a good portion of the page. I also took notes (another idea to fill the page). I doubt if it will show even if you enlarge the page, but the ink bleeds like crazy on this paper and it looks fuzzy.


2) Gesso the paper and paint over it. Using clear gesso* over the paper has several advantages. (*You can use white as well.) Chief among them is being able to paint without fear of uneven sizing showing up midway through the painting process. You can go right over the page or you can use clear gesso as glue to add another piece of paper to the page and then paint over the added paper. I used a deli sheet from Logan's Roadhouse (I dig that quote!), and I let the diluted, white gesso brush strokes show. I then added a little watercolor over the top of that.

3) Paint on another piece of paper and glue it to the sketchbook page. I had some left over Stonehenge "kraft" paper and wanted to use it up. The pumpkin started out a little differently but I messed up the top of the paper with a smear of ink. Rather than tossing the artwork, I cut it out and glued it down. I thought about doing the lettering on the page behind it, but ultimately decided to do the lettering on another piece of the brown paper and glue that in as well. By hitting the edges with a stamp pad, it gives it a more finished look of a border.  You could do the same thing with another piece of white watercolor paper and glue it in the same as a colored paper.

4) Take a break from the challenging sketchbook and work in a different one once in a while. It can slow you down and seriously mess with your mojo if you are working to fill a PITA sketchbook and the pages don't turn out like you want. Rather than wait for that to happen or if you realize you're not sketching as much as you normally would and it's because your resistance to working in that PITA sketchbook, pick up a different sketchbook and "treat" yourself to a couple of nice pages. If you don't have another sketchbook lying around, cut up some paper and sketch on them with the intention of gluing it into the sketchbook later. Never let a hateful sketchbook kill your fun!

5) Try different mediums. Play, experiment and have fun! Maybe the paper is not so good for watercolor...try a different medium. Get out your markers, gouache, colored pencils, graphite and other fun supplies and see what happens. Practice lettering or improve your drawing skills. Play around to see what else might work. Make fun backgrounds and add quotes with markers. Use watercolor pencils and only a little water to see if you can get around a sizing issue.

6) Turn the sketchbook into a "Junk Journal." Every once in a while, the paper in a sketchbook is just...too lame to be saved. Rather than struggle with it, turn the sketchbook into a "Junk Journal." What is a junk journal, you ask? A junk journal is a journal where you draw, practice, try out new ideas, scribble, fail, try again, write notes, brain dump and all manner of crazy things you never intend to share with someone else. And make no mistake, just because it's called junk, it's NOT!

The reason it's called a junk journal is because the idea of a junk journal works best when the paper is cheap so that you don't have any monetary concerns about junking up the paper. And no matter how much you may have spent on that PITA sketchbook that has crummy paper in it, don't be afraid to turn it into a junk journal. You'll still be getting your money's worth, just not in the manner you expected to!
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Life is really too short to sketch and paint on crappy, crummy pages on a regular basis, but once in a while, we get caught with a less than desirable paper. If you're just starting out, go ahead and splurge on the nicer sketchbook that's suitable for your preferred medium rather than fight your way through one that fights you every step of the way.

Once you've put in your time, try one of these less than desirable, PITA sketchbooks...it's amazing what you'll learn and what you just might create!