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Wednesday, April 11, 2018

which green?

I have tweeked the limited palette that I recently put together, replacing the raw umber with burnt sienna — I can always mix a near-match to the raw umber with ultramarine. Then I wondered whether to keep the one single-pigment green as perylene green, or replace it with phthalo green BS?

So I mixed it with my other colors. If what I’m after is “bright”, the phthalo is a better choice; for subtle, realistic color, the perylene works better. . . . . Still undecided. What do you think?

The other choices in this limited palette are quinacridone rose, quinacridone gold, Hansa yellow medium, phthalo blue GS, ultramarine, burnt sienna, Payne’s gray, and a dab of white gouache. Plus a  Loew-Cornell #8 round and a 3/4 flat for my brushes. The flat’s handle has been shortened to fit the box and pointed for scratching effects.

Wednesday, March 21, 2018

Texas wildflowers

The first explosion of native wildflowers has begun, the first I found up close being the blanket flowers growing on a street corner in Somerville, Texas. Yesterday I stopped to get a closer look at the bluebonnets, Indian paintbrush, and tickseed blooming near highway 36 and FM 1948. Washington county will soon be covered in glorious color — this year, the peak bloom time is expected on Easter weekend, though they will continue through next month. And summer varieties will soon follow . . .

Lately I find myself not sketching every day, but just adding bits here and there to my journal when the mood strikes, whether text or drawings. But I just can’t let the first wildflowers of the season get by without trying once again to capture their likeness.

Friday, March 16, 2018

Mini-peeks into my sketchbook! #1

I was recently asked to do a short article for Watercolor Artist magazine for a new column they've begun, Open Book (our friend Liz Steel was in this month's issue!)  They asked for 3-4 images to pick from, but will only use one in the magazine...and as usual I overproduced!  I came up with 9 images, but controlled myself and only sent, um, 5...or 6...

So I have leftovers to share with you!

This one was from a fall trip to Bennett Spring state park...I was wanting to explore wet in wet but with touches of gouache against that dark background to pop out and suggest a bit of depth.

I painted the dark, shadowed background hill, the warmer stream bank and the water first, and quicky laid in splashes of orange for the colorful tree and its reflection.  When those washes were dry, I painted the taller, darker oak tree, using a kind of quick, loose scrubbing motion to suggest foliage.

The dark trunks and limbs were added next, with a round brush and a small rigger brush, and allowed to dry.

Then I used my old friend spatter in watercolor and gouache, plus touches of pale green gouach on the bankside bushes.  An opaque gel pen made linear sparkles in the water...

Fast, fun, and I was satisfied with the effect, for the most part.

I'll add more of these as I get time...

Tuesday, January 30, 2018

A NEW Sketchbook Cover For My Paris Sketchbook - Laure Ferlita

One of the cool things about planning out a trip to Paris so far in advance is that I have plenty of time to start playing with my sketchbook NOW rather than just before time to go. The image above shows my layout plans for my new sketchbook cover with the finished item at the top right.

I knew early on that I would be making a sketchbook to take to Paris as I wanted to play around with a variety of page configurations and I LOVE square format sketchbooks. I also wanted control over my paper choice. Using Moulin du Roy 140 lb. CP paper, I have already torn down four signatures of four pages each. The pages all have different folds and some of are different size though the overall size of the sketchbook pages is 5.75 x 5.5 inches. The cover is 6.25 x 6 inches...not quite square, but close enough!

The reason I make the sketchbook cover SEPARATE from the signatures is because I can easily take the pages or signatures in and out of the book. If I don't want to carry the entire sketchbook, I can remove a section. If—heaven forbid—I were to lose my sketchbook, there's a good chance I would not lose everything.

The other reason I like this layout is because it allows me to pull individual pages in and out to work on rather than try and rustle with a whole book. Once the signatures are bound, this won't be possible, but until they are it makes working much easier. The elastic loops securely hold the pages in place. Also, because I've been adding a lot of "extra" items (maps, stickers, stamps, ephemera, etc.) If the sketchbook gets too bulky to handle easily, I can slip a section out of the book.

Once my pages are complete (after I return from Paris), it may be that I didn't use all the pages/signatures I expected to. I can use these books in a different sketchbook. I have the option of binding the completed signatures into a more permanent cover (which is my plan) or I can continue to use the sketchbook cover you see in the images.

I used this system way back in 2014 on my trip to Acadia National Park and it worked tremendously well. You can see the leather cover I made for that trip here and read about it as well.

Leather vs. Material
When I started to plan out my journal cover, I was going to use leather and even made a leather cover. However, there are some advantages of using material over leather:

  • Pockets - It's pretty easy to sew a pocket onto a piece of material. Leather is a bit more challenging. The pocket allows me to carry a few pieces of ephemera, tracing paper, etc. and it's an excellent place to tuck items away until I can add glue them to the page. I only added one, but it would be fairly simple to add one to the front of the cover if you so chose. 
  • Pen Loop - You can buy a clip that has a pen loop to use with a leather cover, but they're metal and they add weight to the sketchbook. With the fabric, I incorporated a piece of elastic into the seam. The weight is negligible and it is more secure.
  • Speaking of Weight - Leather weighs substantially more than material and if I'm going to lug this sketchbook all over Paris along with my other art supplies and a cell phone and umbrella and so on, I want to stay as light as I possible can. By saving an ounce or two here and another over there, I'm saving my neck and shoulders a lot of stress and strain. 

How Did I Do It?
If you have basic sewing skills and a sewing machine, it's not hard to create a cover to your specifications. I read a lot of posts and watched a lot of videos on how to make a DIY fauxdori sketchbook cover, DIY Traveler's Notebook, and other combinations. There are a host of posts out there. Some of them do not require sewing.

Because I wanted a bit more structure to my sketchbook cover, I combined two ideas to make mine. You can see them here and here. I wanted a spine, but I wanted the soft flexibility of the DIY Traveler's Notebook cover.

The size, the number of signatures and so on are completely customizable so you can create a sketchbook that is uniquely your!

Are YOU Coming To Paris?!
Would you like to?! You know you want to! I am so looking forward to going to Paris. It's been a pleasure to start working on this project already. My sense of anticipation has already started to build as I learn and read and sketch. By the time I return home, I hope to have a sketchbook worthy of my experiences while I'm in the City of Light. I would LOVE to help you create a sketchbook that captures your love or travel and art into a sketchbook you'll cherish for years.

A small group of artists will be joining me and we'll be exploring Paris off the beaten path as well as some of the iconic sites. I will be providing spontaneous demos each day based on where we are and what we see. I will also be available to guide you and answer questions as you capture your memories and create a sketchbook like no other! I hope you'll come and join the fun! Come and check out all the details here and here.

Sunday, November 19, 2017

The Best Pencils...

I've been meaning to share this article with you for some time, and I'm finally taking care of some "to-do" list items!  http://wonderstreet.com/blog/choosing-the-best-pencil

As always, "the best pencil" is a very personal thing, of course, and depends as much on what you're doing at the time as it does the person using it.  I recently rediscovered one of my mentor Ann Zwinger's favorite pencils, a Berol Turquoise HB--I treasure the two I had hoarded, and was afraid to use them much, but picked one up at the cabin recently and loved it, all over again.

(Unfortunately, we discovered when we went to buy more that Turquoise is now made by Prismacolor, and though they're okay--they're not the same.) 

These days, when I'm sketching in my journal, it's most often a Pentel Forte HB or B mechanical pencil, with that nice soft white vinyl eraser.  Convenient, versatile, no need to sharpen, and with enough range of value to satisfy me.

And sometimes, I love the pick up a dark-colored Prismacolor and add watercolor wash...an old favorite technique.

What's your favorite pencil?  What do you pick up most often?

Saturday, November 18, 2017

sketching at concerts

This week I went to two classical music concerts in libraries and sketched at each . Both concerts were beautiful and I am in awe of the skill of the musicians and performers . They were:

Saverio string quartet at Melbourne Athenaeum Library

I am most pleased with the above sketch of Saverio , at the second concert I attended. Perhaps I had warmed up my sketching the night before. I think I may have been a bit self conscious at the first (Bottled Snail) concert, as it was held in my workplace and a few people know that I was sketching,

Habeas Chorus of Bottled Snail at Supreme Court Library. They were warming up just before the concert began

I have sketched irregularly at classic (and other) music concerts over  the past few years. It is something that I enjoy, but don’t feel in my comfort zone. I often draw people in groups, audiences or events, but for some reason I am not entirely happy with the results of musicians.

Sketching while listening to music enhances my appreciation and relaxation.  However, it all depends on the music. Sometimes  I will put my pencil down, close my eyes and soak it all in.

I have been reflecting about why I don’t have the same level of comfort as in other situations. I don’t have the answers but I think I know why I don’t have the answers,

One thing I have learnt – each situation is different – indoors, outdoors, size of audience, amount of lighting, number of musicians and how many musical pieces and the length of the pieces.  Sometimes I can choose where I get a seat but not always. There are often unknowns.

Choosing pen and ink to sketch the highlight of the black and white of the choir , the outline of the audience members. Adding colour to the Chief Justice's portrait and the gasolier lamp.

I know that I need to make an early decision on what to draw with. I need to decide whether to choose my Lamy Safari ink pen or one or a few choice watercolour pencils. I then put everything else away. I don’t want to be disturbing and distracting other audience members by fiddling around, looking for colours.
Although listening to a concert is an audible experience, there is often so much visual.
One of the decisions I think that I need to make is about what to focus on and put down on paper. Are they sketchy or detailed ? Often this depends on my mood.
Do I want to capture
  • The feeling of the music
  • Musicians – faces, feet, hands, their movement
  • Instruments
  • Audience
  • Surroundings – the building, stage
I will try to think of them as a suite of options open to me.
At the moment I think that I try to capture it all. Some concerts are only 45 minutes, some much longer and will have a few different sets of musicians playing .


Add caption
I knew that I had seven minutes to sketch Kylie, the accompanist. 
another quick sketch

Does anyone have any hints and tips for sketching at concerts? What is your approach?

Tuesday, May 16, 2017

Sketchbook Review: Field Artist 4" Square Watercolor Journal

Click to enlarge
Every once in a while, I spot a new art toy that I just know is going to recharge my flagging art energies and it happened when I saw the Field Artist 4" Square Watercolor Art Journal!

I just knew I was going to love it because:

  • It's small. At only four inches, it fits in the palm of my hand when closed. 
  • It's square. I've been having a love affair with squares for many long years and I am almost always captivated by something squared, especially if it is not usually found in that shape!
  • It's a watercolor journal and that always makes me happy. 
Upon receiving the art journal from Amazon (no affiliate links), I immediately pulled out my stamps and embossing powder and decorated the front cover. The journal does have an elastic band to keep it closed that cannot be seen in the image. 

While I adore the effect, I don't recommend doing this as the embossing is not holding up well. My journals are well traveled. They go everywhere I do and that means they typically tumble around in whatever bag I am carrying. The cover itself is a "PU leather-like fabric" and is holding up just fine. It's the embossing I added that is not. 

My first piece of art is on the inside of the cover. The paper used as the endpaper is not the same as the journal pages. It's much lighter in weight so I opted to use markers to create my design. The paper didn't hold up well even under marker so I caution you about using any kind of wet media on it.  

The endpaper on the inside right sports the sketchbook branding and is oriented so that the logo only reads correctly when the book is opened top to bottom with the fold of the journal above the logo. You can also see the yellow ribbon page marker in the image below. 

I'm thinking I'm going to be gluing an additional piece of watercolor paper over the branding page and using the space as a place to put my "if lost, please return" info:

Eventually, I worked my way to my first page. Since the book is small and I knew I wanted it to record "everyday adventures" that seemed to fit as the title page as well as the theme. I think we often have far many more adventures than we realize. It takes paying attention to notice them though. 

Those adventures can be as simple as having to take a detour due to construction and seeing something new or it may be notice a pretty bloom on your way to the mail box (even if it's a weed!). 

By elevating the ordinary by paying attention, we can make it extraordinary!

The page has ink from a Faber-Castell Artist PITT Pen as well as watercolors on it. There was no bleed through from the pen or paint. The pen performed very well on the paper with no skipping or bulking. 

There is a slight textural difference between the two sides of the pages and they don't always match up. Sometimes you have two different textures across a spread. There doesn't seem to be a pattern to where the difference will show and where it will not. It's slight enough that it can be ignored even if it is visible. 

I found the time to capture a family of wrens that have been visiting our backyard in the evenings. The babies had just fledged and were a little clumsy the first time we spotted them. Four days later and the only way to tell the parents from the babies was the fact that the babies were still following mom and dad around with their mouths open waiting to be fed!

There is a stamp in the upper corner that did not bleed through to the other side even when I painted over the stamped area. Again, pen and watercolor were used in the piece.

One last little surprise was the long accordion-fold, panorama page that is attached in the very back of the book in place of a pocket. It is four panels wide, but the fourth panel is partially glued to the back cover giving you only three panels to be painted on the back. I have to admit a pocket at less than four inches in width probably wouldn't have been very useful! 

The paper is marketed under the Chinese brand, Image. I was not able to find further information on the maker or the paper. 

So here are my pros on this adorable little journal:
  • It's small and very portable. 
  • The size is perfect for capturing a quick sketch. 
  • The paper is acid-free and dries flat without having to be weighted or dried with a blow dryer. 
  • The paper has hard sizing which makes it very forgiving when you want to pick up paint to get back to the white of the paper. 
  • It lies flat making it easy to work across the spread. 

My cons:
  • The sketchbook is very small and it takes some adjusting to getting used to working in it. It's hard to rest the heel of your hand on the page and draw at the same time! It is not difficult to adjust to the size challenges, but I'm thinking folks with big hands would really be challenged. 
  • The paper is not archival. Chances are good it is made from wood pulp instead of cotton or linen and they have removed the acids. However, this is not a deal breaker for me as I'm using this to play in rather than creating works I expect to wind up in a museum!
  • The paper has a hard sizing which makes it way too easy to lift color unexpectedly and it seems to take a bit longer to dry than other papers. While I put this down as a con because speed is important to working on location, it's not a huge problem. It just means I need to alter my approach a bit to fit with the paper of the journal.  
  • The fact that the paper textures do not match up across the pages. It's a minor thing to fix and because it wasn't, it speaks to rather shoddy workmanship or a lack of pride in their journals, especially given the last point... 
  • For the size, I find it a bit pricey at $12.95 (I guess we're paying for that extra dose of cuteness!).
So far, I've been very pleased with the journal and I've thoroughly enjoyed using it! I look forward to finding more little everyday adventures to record on its pages!

What new art toys have you found lately?
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