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Sunday, December 1, 2013

Pentel Brush Pens—Variety and Use

Above: Quick Sketch (television actor) made in a Fabiano Venezia 9 x 12 inch journal using a pigmented fine-tipped Color Brush pen from Pentel. (And attacking the lines immediately with a waterbrush.) Click on the image to view an enlargement.

Besides the fabulous Pentel Pocket Brush Pen, Pentel makes several other brush pens—some with pigmented inks, some with dye-based inks. Some of the inks are water-soluble, others aren't.

I get questions all the time from students about all these pens. When I first started blogging in 2008 one of my early product reviews (in 2009) was a comparison of the Pentel Pocket Brush Pen and the Pentel Color Brush Pen.

Students were using a black Color Brush and wondering why they weren't getting the same results I was getting when I used a Pentel Pocket Brush Pen.

There are so many factors involved in getting repeatable results, so many variables that alter our artistic outcomes (variables with tools and materials, not even method and approach). It's nice to know at the beginning which tool you'll have the best chance of success with, for a certain effect.

Because of that, and because I have in the past several months, over the summer and fall, been playing with many more brush pens than my usual standby the Pentel Pocket Brush Pen, I wrote the lengthy post "RozWoundUp: Pentel Brush Pens—Which Are Which and What Type of Inks do They Hold?"

You can see the full discussion of the Pentel family of brush pens at that link. I include photos of the packaging used at the stores in my area (packaging my differ in your area).

If you don't have time or inclination to dive into the entire examination of these pens the brief breakdown is this:

•Pentel likes to use Color Brush in the names for several different pens, that look similar, but contain different inks (some pigmented and some dye-based and fugitive).

•Read the labels and if you want lightfastness go for pigmented inks.

•Realize that pigmented inks in Pentel Brush pens are probably not going to be water-soluble. However, I've had great luck working quickly and then working over lines with a waterbrush—all while working on heavily sized paper upon which the ink floats long enough for me to dilute it.

•Realize that the fun factor is high in brush pens even if they are filled with dye-based, fugitive inks. If you enjoy using such a pen and it gets you to sketch all the time, by all means keep using it, keep sketching, and just remember to scan all your finished art and treat the digital files as your originals—and back up your digital files.

Brush pens should be an essential part of your drawing practice—they are just too much fun. They help us see mass quickly, make graceful (and sometimes not so graceful) lines, help us edit details to essentials, and aid us in seeing pattern and design. They help some artists to speed up, and slow other artists down. They really are that versatile.

With so many choices available it's time you started testing some of them out.

Monday, October 21, 2013

Monday, October 14, 2013

my travel sketchbook : the reality

On Thursday, October 11, 2012 I wrote my thoughts on this blog on creating a travel sketchbook

I had written that blogpost to gather my thoughts "on paper" on how I would approach my own travel sketchbook. I had entered the 2013 Sketchbook Project and chose the theme : Travelogue. At the time I decided to revisit my 2007 holiday to Paris, as if I was there, drawing as much then as I do now ! My sketchbook is based on my diaries, photographs I took and where I thought I would have drawn at the time, as well as souvenirs I bought. Although this is created in retrospect, all the time I thought how would approach future travel sketchbooks.

The journal can be viewed here
Travelogue Paris 2007. Over the 18 double pages of the Sketchbook Project I experimented with composition, lettering, maps and came to some  conclusions about what and how I wanted to try and capture in my travel sketchbook journal.

In July this year I had three weeks holiday travelling to London and Barcelona, where I had the opportunity to put all of my thoughts and ideas in practice. I filled two Moleskine watercolour sketchbooks. This post is to review what worked (most things) and what didn't (a few things) in reality. I knew what I wanted to try and achieve and what was important to me on my holiday in my journal.
I am so incredibly proud of my holiday sketchbook journals  (see them on flickr: London and Barcelona) and each time I look at them (for example, to write this,) I relive my holiday and it gives me immense joy to see the pages. They are a unique holiday souvenir that will be with me for a long time.

Below are my original theories from the Sketchbook Project  and then the reality of how it worked when I was actually travelling, with examples

· it will be a combination of on the quick on the spot sketching and more detailed drawings

This worked so well - and gave life and an individual feel to my sketchbook.

on the plane Sydney to Hong Kong. a very quick sketch of people queuing for the toilets after a meal. A drawing of my dessert (a delicious ice cream bar) . I drew the ice cream for a while then as it began to melt, I ate it, making sure I opened the packet in an inconspicuous section. I then kept it after the attendant cleared the meals away and finished drawing it then
I use watercolour pencils and Lamy Safari Joy ink pen. I can combine these and have a few different styles of drawing that suit different opportunities, the time and place or my mood. The above sketch shows the two extremes.

· leave first page or two of each day blank – at end of day I could draw maps, streets walked that day, rail/metro routes caught.
I wish I remembered to do that each day . I often forgot to leave the first page blank and would not remember until I had started the first sketch . I would then leave the rest of the page free. Next time I will turn to the next blank page the night before and write in pencil on the page LEAVE BLANK. Two pages could easily be left for this

· draw objects such as tickets, souvenirs, food, headings also at the end of the day in my hotel room. There is time and space to draw. If there is a good view from the room, I can draw it everyday

view inside the hotel room and also looking out the window. This was drawn over two or three sessions, just a bit at a time

the leaf and seed were picked up in Hyde Park on this day. I sketched Royal Albert Hall on the spot and then left the space and drew a rough outline of the size and placement of the leaf and drew if at the hotel over the next day or two before it wilted

I stood across the street to sketch the printshop and then drew the books on the plane on the way home.

I had the feathers for a week and then realized that we were flying home the next day and could not take them back to Australia. Three feathers in one night !

I drew objects A LOT less than I thought I would, especially since that is a style of drawing I do a lot at home and get a lot of enjoyment out of. In reality, if I was working (that is the wrong word !) on my sketchbook in the evening, it was adding my notes, finishing off sketches by adding a bit more colour or line.

I was travelling with my mother and she was very patient with my sketching, and also appreciated quiet time for herself, while I sketched.

I was also very tired at the end of each day. It is part of being a tourist, walking and seeing a lot. We had 28 degrees in London each day and long summertime hours

If I colour the roads or areas between the road on a map I can match them with other colours I have used on the page, bringing it all together. 

the blue and green of the land and river on the map, matching the sky
The lettering on the page matching the blue of the Serpentine



just the basics


I am really happy with this combination
I have never been comfortable with maps I tried to add - too many streets, too messy  looking. But I do want to include maps of my travels. I experimented with a few different alternatives in my Paris Sketchbook project. In the end I have a basic mud map. I have included  the streets we walked down and different types of transport. I did not do a map for everyday - probably only eight in the whole book, but I was pleased with those that I did. They are a gentle reminder of how we get where we went

·  leave lots of white space – I can always fill it in later if it looks too sparse.
as mentioned  , I did not do enough of this .

·   write commentary about how I feel, think, react to things, smells, places but not too much. I will probably keep a separate diary.
I want to write too much and have to make decisions about what to include. Often the sketch tells the story and only a few other notes were added.

I feel as though I did not write enough on the moment of thoughts and feelings. It was not often the right time and place. Often I scribbled some thoughts in pencil on the page and left a block of space around it to expand on it later (in the evening at the hotel).

I still want to include something of the history or description of the place I am. But where to stop? In the end, my sketchbook journal is for me, not a history lesson, so I just need reminders of it's place and importance in history. And there is SO much history in London. I am overwhelmed by it.

· Re: buildings and vistas
I know how I draw at the moment. I am at ease drawing objects, food, paper. I am not so good at buildings and vistas. But architecture is an important feature of a city or town and so I want to include it , the trees, roads, sky. I have been considering how it is best for me to capture a scene with these in it. I want to create a little vignette., with a little character and insight, but not too much

-just try and draw a section
-leave the top, bottom or sides unfinished.- lines drifting off
only colour some parts  

· don’t try and fill the page - only use part of the page

I filled the page in the vast majority of the time -so much to draw !!!

don’t try and get caught up in the detail and try and leave this to a " close up " drawing later if I get the chance

Writing this has helped me think about what I have learned about my sketching and myself when travelling. I know that sketching brings me do much pleasure. I hardly took any photographs and when I did they were of people (and then there are those 20 photos of squirrels for reference photos for drawing at a later date).

My art is growing and slowing evolving as I meet other sketchers, go to workshops. These travel sketchbooks seem to be the culmination of a series of events . It is an exciting journey in itself.



Thursday, October 10, 2013

An Imaginary Trip To Greece - Come Join The Fun!

As I'm getting ready for an Imaginary Trip To Greece starting next Tuesday, October 15th, I thought I'd share some of the cool, fun facts about this country. In no particular order:

  1. Greece is about the size of the state of Alabama with approximately 10 million people living there.
  2. Over 16 million people visit the country each year! Tourism is 16% of the country's Gross Domestic Product.
  3. The country has more than 2000 islands with 170 populated. Crete is the largest and beyond gorgeous!
  4. Greece is the world's third largest producer of olives...can you guess the first and second?
  5. When we think of Greece, many of think of the doors, windowsills, and church domes that are painted a beautiful turquoise blue. This paint color is used because of an ancient belief that this shade of blue keeps evil away. The color is called kyanos. “Cyan” and “cyanide” are derived from the word.
  6. The legendary home of Zeus and other Olympian gods and goddesses is Greek’s highest elevation, Mount Olympus at 9,750 feet (2,917 meters). The country's lowest elevation is the Mediterranean Sea.
  7. The Parthenon (from parthenos or “virgin”) was built almost 2,500 years ago and sits on the Acropolis above the city of Athens. It took 15 years to build. At one time, it featured colorful sculptures and a large gold-and-ivory statue of Athena. 
I hope you'll join me on this fall getaway and visit this beautiful country! To learn more, please visit here

Please let me know of any questions you may have. 



Sunday, September 29, 2013

What's your favorite way to work?

This is one of mine...of course, OUT there, on the spot, is my first love.  I was sitting on a bench by Lake Taneycomo, where I've camped a number of times when I wore a younger woman's clothes...

My favorite Noodler's Creaper pen and Lexington Gray ink let me sketch in the details, as much or as little as I like...

...and then I just splashed in the color, loosely.  I use that a lot, because it keeps me from getting too niggly with details.  This is a very comfortable technique for me.  I often just jump right in with ink, when it's a subject like this, with no pencil underdrawing.

 When my subject is more complex--like architecture!--I'll sometimes do some light graphite guidelines and THEN ink, as I did here.  This was the little Depression-era cabin we stayed in for our anniversary, also at Bennett Springs.  It's a charmer!  (You can see the center fold of my journal right on the leading corner of the building.)

I used a similar technique here, but decided to only color the little building and a bit of background at Bennett Spring State Park where Joseph was fishing.  This was done with a bent-nib Hero calligraphy pen, which makes wonderful brush-like marks, and no pencil underdrawing.

and for this one, I switched to my beloved vintage Sheaffer--probably of an age with the building, come to think of it!--and lost myself in the shapes and textures.  I decided to leave it as it was, with no color...ink can suggest a kind of luminosity all by itself.

All three of the pens used here are fountain pens, so I always carry a tiny vial of ink with me!  It's the same ink, too, which can look gray or black depending on which pen I'm using.

As you can probably tell, for once there was no hurry, no need for quick sketching as I teach in some of my mini-classes, and so I sketched till my fingers smoked!

More of my Bennett Spring sketches, old and new, in my Flickr set, HERE.

So what's YOUR most comfortable way to work?

Friday, August 23, 2013

Bookshelf and Supply Catalog tabs are gone, sorry...

Sorry, all, if you were used to checking our virtual bookshelf or supply catalog...Missouri enacted the internet sales tax law, and as it has in other states, Amazon canceled their associates here.  The links won't open, now.

It's not Amazon, it's my beloved state, so don't blame Amazon!  How cold they possibly collect sales tax for Missouri if someone in Iowa clicked on a link and bought a secondhand book from someone in Florida?  That's how the links worked...convoluted, I know, and no wonder Amazon didn't want to deal with that impossible maze!

IF this unconstitutional law is ever repealed, the bookshelf and catalog will be back! 

I replaced our old Personal Favorite Supplies tab, though...links within it may not work, but the info is still good.

Thanks for understanding...

Thursday, August 22, 2013

a secret to quicker sketching

Normally, I am a very slow sketcher --- slow at choosing a subject and slow at determining how to place it on a sketchbook page. Usually penciling in the basics (or more) before ink, then inking in just the most important lines, erasing the pencil lines, and finally adding watercolor washes. Overall, a very slow process!

Lately I have been trying to streamline my process. I've been carrying a pen, one small plastic pill box, a waterbrush, and reusable cloth. I'm getting braver at drawing directly in ink, though sometimes I'll use a blue-gray watercolor pencil which does not require erasing. But the best thing I've found to speed things up has been to cut down to only 2 watercolors: ultramarine blue and burnt umber. The above sketch was painted using only these (except the tiny diagram of optional color). When drawing on-site, I add just the warm and cool shadows. Later at home, I can add a bit of color if I wish. This really lightens my bag as well as taking away distracting options that slow me down.

If I think I'll have time to add color on-site, the second pill box holds 3 half-pans of basic color: quinacridone red or rose, a cool yellow, phthalo blue, goethite brown umber, and quinacridone burnt orange. All my recent sketches have been using these, and I am actually getting better . . . more confident in drawing as well as faster. Maybe I'll get more than one thing drawn at the next sketchcrawl.

Wednesday, July 31, 2013

limited palette with a challenge

new color chart in sketchbook based on David Barker's limited travel palette
Several years ago, there was an article in Artist's Sketchbook magazine on artist David Barker's limited palette and how he used it in his travel sketchbooks. What really caught my attention was that he first used only ultramarine blue and burnt umber to establish values and temperatures in his sketches, then added color only as needed. Sounds like an interesting challenge to me!

the original color chart and my Bijou box
 At the time, I worked out his colors in a color chart which I recently found while cleaning out old art supplies. I decided to try a similar palette in my Bijou box, substituting a quinacridone version of alizarin crimson, goethite brown ochre for raw umber, and quinacridone burnt orange for burnt sienna. I don't use yellow ochre or aureolin anymore -- these are leftover pans. When they are empty, I will probably replace them with quinacridone gold and Hansa yellow medium.

Monday, July 22, 2013

The Minnesota State Fair Sketch Out 5 Is Fast Approaching

Above: The button for the fifth Minnesota State Fair Sketch Out (a.k.a. MSFSO5). The artwork is by artist Suzanne Hughes. Click on the image to view an enlargement.

Tuesday, August 27, 2013 is the date for the MSFSO5. 

Anyone who knows me knows I'm already excited! I am getting the word out here because it is a Sketch Out like no other—there are corn dogs and animals, and people doing very odd things, all within a "city" within a city. I wanted to let people know in case they are planning a summer get away and want to use that time sensibly with a high fun factor and lots of sketching potential!

There will be a meeting of the sketchers at 4:30 p.m. on that day. People who have been there all day will share their sketches, some people will just be arriving from after work, and will sketch into the night. Either way it's a great place to sketch, meet sketchers, and have fun.

While you do have to pay your own admission to the Fair, the Sketch Out and the button are free to all participants (while button supplies last of course). (The button is reason enough to attend.)

I will have more information on Roz Wound Up about the meeting location as we get closer to the date. (For people who know the Fairgrounds it will be between the Ag-Hort Building and the Food Building as it has been for the past several years.) I just wanted to give people an opportunity to make travel plans—and of course see this year's button.

If you would like to see more information about what I do at the Fair and how I prepare please check my blog archives from August 2009 through September 2009. I have quite a few posts on how to prep, what to bring, how to dress, and how to pace yourself, as well as tips on drawing animals and people.

In fact if you can't join us all this information will be useful to you wherever you decide to go sketching this summer (in the northern Hemisphere that is).

I hope you can join us to capture this fun Minnesota event. (For folks who don't live in Minnesota the Fairgrounds are located in western St. Paul, within easy distance to many hotels, etc., etc. In fact it's so close to the edge of Minneapolis you might be better trying to stay in Minneapolis.)

Saturday, July 13, 2013

accordian-fold 'granny nanny' journal

I just returned from the second of two trips to Texas to provide childcare for some of our grandkids. For each trip, I sketched in one side of this accordian-fold journal, which I bought from Cathy 'Kate' Johnson on eBay last year -- I call it my 'granny nanny' journal.

The first side was done in March when our eldest son took a group of students to Alaska on a mission trip and I helped out at home with his kids, Jayna, Josiah, and Judah. Now I have just returned from Texas again -- this time staying with our daughter's daughter, Mikala, while her parents were in Scotland.

side 1 - early March in Richmond, TX
side 2 - June in northwest Houston
This journal form especially worked well when Mikala wanted me to draw her new kitten, Oreo. At 9 months old, this Maine Coon cat is already as large as my over-sized 11 year old Maine Coon, Bearcat! We decided that he was too big for one page to contain him . . . . so he takes up 3 pages, along with sketches from her volleyball workshop and a day we picked blackberries:

Individual sketches can be seen on my blog, in the March 2013 and June / July 2013 entries. I also took a watercolor Moleskine with me --- haven't finished posting the sketches from it yet.

Monday, July 8, 2013

Summer Classes at ImaginaryTrips.com!

Tuscan Gold
7.5 x 5.5 inches on Arches Cold Press 140 lb. paper

It's summertime and the travel is easy—just take an Imaginary Trip to a wonderful location and never leave home! No packing, no fatigue, no hassles with luggage or security lines.

Come take a look!

Imaginary Trip to Italy 2012 - Six weeks to visit the wonderful country of Italy. This class starts tomorrow, so hurry! More information can be seen here.

Imaginary Trip to Australia - This ALL NEW class starts this Thursday, July 11th. We'll take six weeks to travel around "down under!" You can sign up for the class here.

Imaginary Trip to New Zealand - Another ALL NEW class, we'll be headed to this fabulous country starting August 29th. Come and join the fun here.

Imaginary Trip to New Orleans - This city ROCKS! Come and join the fun starting September 3rd. For more information, click here.

I hope you'll join me on one of these fun adventures. The classes are very flexible and allow you to work on the assignments at your leisure so you can still get in plenty of playtime outside.

As always, we laugh, we learn and we come home with a great sketchbook full of the places we've seen, the things we've done and the experiences we've shared.

Please let me know of any questions you may have!

~ Laure

Friday, June 28, 2013

Garden Journaling

It seems like every year, I add some permanent things to the garden: tools, pots, sculptures, feeders, etc.
When you bring them home all shiny, it's a good time to have them star on a garden journal page.
Plus, they hold still and let you sketch them, unlike many other things in the garden.
This page was done with pan watercolors in my Stillman & Birn Beta journal.

Click the page to see it larger.

Sunday, June 9, 2013

Tip 'o the page to you!

Ever have a journal with paper you just really didn't like or got bored with?

I bound too much Arches Text into this one and discovered I really don't much like it.  I had a whole signature to plow through...so I tipped in two more pages of paper I DO like here and there.  Frankfort ROCKS...

Saturday, June 8, 2013

Sketches, Studies, or Paintings?

VERY fast sketch of the pileated woodpecker that visited the other day...along with one of my "gratitude" lists...
And a much slower, more detailed study...admittedly, this one was from a photo!

People sometimes ask the difference between sketching and drawing or painting...but that's a pretty subjective difference, I find!

I sketch, a lot.  Especially when time is short, when I need to respond quickly, get something DOWN before it's gone.  Sometimes I just like to keep my hand in, improve my hand/eye coordination.  Celebrate, notice, capture the moment, pay attention.

(And of course sometimes when something really doesn't work, I tell myself "it's just a sketch"!)

That is not to say, really, that a sketch is somehow a lesser being, inferior...it's not.  Sometimes I like the sketch very much better than a finished painting; it captures more of the life, the excitement, a kind of truth that can get lost with a longer, more contrived piece.

A sketch is not a specific medium to the exclusion of another.  You can sketch in watercolor, acrylic, oil...

A study may be more of a detailed, attentive sketch...when I'm curious about something in nature...and when I have more time.  Recently I pulled a sapling from my garden and discovered it still had the walnut the squirrels buried attached; the root went down, the sprout went up, and the color was stunning!  I had more time, so I moved out onto the deck with my paints and took my time...

Generally speaking, a painting--for me--is something I might mat or frame, something I've spent more time on.  Sometimes larger, and generally on a separate sheet of paper or a watercolor block.  It's more formal--usually, but not always.  I sometimes sell them (and NEVER journal entries, unless it's a print.  My journal is my journal, after all!) 

I've also done what others might consider a painting, in my journal.  It depends on my mood, the subject, the amount of time I have...

See what I mean?  Very subjective!  I don't have a hard and fast answer...even for myself.  What do you think? 

Tuesday, June 4, 2013

While we're talking about favorite supplies...

...this is what I posted on my Cathy Johnson Art page on Facebook yesterday.  Guess we're all thinking about this!

This is my vintage Waterman 52 nib I took out of a beater that was just good for parts, and put into a Noodler's Creaper body...fun, and a new favorite!


Even at my age, this late in the game, I'm still searching for tools that let me do what I want with my art.

Granted, there IS no magic brush (though I found one that came close, once, and wore it OUT!), but have you noticed how often we find something that just feels GOOD? That works for us?

My favorite travel palette is my old re-purposed Prang box...I carry one in my bag and one lives at the shed/studio. I seem to reach for it over any of my others, and I believe in part it's BECAUSE it's fun. It reminds me of creating for the sake of creating. Not for sale, not to illustrate anything, but simply because I love doing it.

My favorite fountain pens need to be dependable, smooth, and have some flex. Some have all those attributes, some only two, but I keep trying out new and vintage ones--the ones you see on my eBay listings are good pens, but may either duplicate one I have, or just don't flex enough for me!

I prefer real watercolor brushes (currently, Loew-Cornell and--yes!--Utrecht's inexpensive sets are my favorites), but since I DO work in my journal 90% of the time, and work on the spot frequently, I use waterbrushes a lot. At this writing, a couple of Aquash ones in the largest size are what I usually reach for.

After exploring MANY brands of colored pencils, I'm back to Prismacolors...I normally use a single dark pencil, with watercolor washes, and Prismacolors do the job for me. They don't smear, they don't lift under washes, but they're soft enough to put down a good dark value without hurting my hands! I've tried several of the newer oil-based pencils that many artists just love...but they're not for me, or the way I work.

I still love Fabriano watercolor paper, though I try to find the soft press now...they changed the surface of the CP and it's just too bumpy for me. Despite the fact that Arches has to be THE most popular watercolor paper among the artists I know, it's not for me. (Except the HP version, which is fine. Go figure.)

I have to admit, though, that exploring and continuing to experiment is a never-ending joy to me. It's exciting when I find something that just fits the way I work. Doesn't mean it's Right, or right for everyone, only that it suits me...at the time!


We've had lots of interesting comments on this Facebook thread...feel free to join us there!  It's a highlighted post from yesterday.  You can find me here: https://www.facebook.com/pages/Cathy-Johnson-Art/119899574740563?ref=br_rs

Sunday, June 2, 2013

Favorite Tools for Journaling—We All Have Them

At the May 20, 2013 meeting of the MCBA Visual Journal Collective we had our yearly "tools" meeting. During that meeting each member is encouraged to bring 3 tools that he/she loves to use for visual journaling and share them with the group—say a couple sentences about them and show work that was made with the tool.

This year, necessity made me smart and I taped the members who brought items to share. I split the presentations into two parts because it was getting to be a long video. You can see

Favorite Art Tools from the Members of the MCBA Visual Journal Collective—Part One here


Favorite Art Tools from the Members of the MCBA Visual Journal Collective—Part Two here

After I posted the videos on my blog earlier today one correspondent wrote in saying that she was surprised no one talked about his/her favorite journals as paper is an important part of journaling.

The members of the group couldn't agree more (and at least two members did talk about paper on May 20). But we've been having this meeting topic every year for at least the last 4 years and so most of us, who make our own books, have already talked about our favorite papers. Those who use commercially bound books have talked about their favorites in those categories. We are all as paper crazed as the next bunch of visual journal artists, but we are also always trying to bring something that no one has talked about before. We may just have to do a favorite papers video.

If you are in the Twin Cities area on the Third Monday of any month please stop by MCBA at 7 to 9 p.m. and join us. Most meetings are free (sometimes we are doing a project and there is a slight supply fee that is typically $5 or less) and open to all adult journal keepers of ANY skill level. We have people who are just starting out all the way through to professional artists. It's a great group: supportive, and always ready to have fun and share a laugh and share great ideas. (And our January meeting is a wild portrait party at which we all sketch each other and make an editioned book of all the sketches in 2 hours and 30 minutes!)

You can find out more about this group at the MCBA Visual Journal Collective Page on my blog Roz Wound Up. (Also on that page you'll find out if there are any time changes because for the Portrait Party and some other meetings we sometimes have to start earlier or go until 9:30.)

Since it isn't always possible to visit the places we would all like to go I thought that these videos (part 1 and 2) would give you a taste of the group, and some great ideas for tools you may not have used yet. I hope you'll visit with us "virtually."

Friday, May 24, 2013

An Update on DaVinci Gouache and Some Thoughts on Economical Choices

Because I posted here earlier about my experiments with DaVinci Gouache in my 2013 fake journal I wanted to be sure to let you all know that I've had more problems with this gouache.

Besides reactivating when I put PVA on the backs of the paintings I was going to glue into my fake journal I have found that simply painting on the backs of pages where other paintings have already been painted will cause reactivation of this paint on those earlier pages. (And the reactivated paint will then print onto its facing page, ruining the painting you left behind, and anything on its opposite page.)

You can read more about this problem of DaVinci Gouache on my blog Roz Wound Up, but these are the main points, and there is no getting around them, especially if you work in a visual journal.

So please keep this in mind when deciding to take the gouache plunge. DaVinci Gouache seems like a good value based on price and tube size, but when you factor in the cost of wear on the brushes and the frustration of having your paintings "reactivate" in this fashion it isn't economical at all, it's just wasteful.

People reading this blog know that I love gouache and that I want the world to enjoy it as well. If you do decide to take the plunge and work with gouache I urge you to buy either Schmincke or M. Graham brands of gouache. Both are excellent quality paints with high pigment loads, no opacifiers, and great consistency and workability. You'll enjoy your gouache experience with either of those brands. (I have never ever had either of those brands reactivate in this fashion.)

The other day I was in Wet Paint (my favorite independent art supply store) and just as I was leaving a woman came up to me and said, "You're Roz Stendahl aren't you?" (The braids are sort of a dead give away. If I'm going to pursue a career as a spy I'll have to do something about that.) "Yes, I am," I said, smiling, "and you are?" (Thinking that she must be a past student I don't remember because of the conk on the head, and I like to know the names of the people I'm talking to.) She introduced herself and told me she was a friend of a friend and that friend had brought her to one of my talks. She went on to say that she had recently read some of my gouache posts and had purchased some Winsor & Newton Gouache at Blick. (Evidently she didn't read my gouache posts closely enough!)

We were standing in front of the checkout counter at Wet Paint (where I had been discussing the latest plot twists in "Hawaii 5-0" with Greg) but even if I had not been standing there I would have pulled a face, which I did, she could have come and purchased that gouache at this independent store. "You do realize that by talking to me you have now invoked my right to advise you on your purchases!" And everyone behind the counter rolled his or her eyes, "here we go."

"I don't care for Winsor & Newton gouache at all. They use a lot of fugitive pigments. They do claim they don't have opacifiers in it now but the mixes all seem more muddied. And the SMELL, it has such a strong chemical odor. I can't stand to work with it the odor is so bad. Really, in the future you need M. Graham or Schmincke brands of gouache."

"But it was on sale," she replied (still smiling, I hadn't totally overwhelmed her).

"I can buy crummy chocolate on sale too, but that doesn't mean I should eat it." I replied.

And everyone laughed (because everyone knows how I feel about chocolate) and we investigated further into her other purchases (which I'm happy to report were all sensible and well chosen).

Life is very short. Life should have a fun factor—even if you are totally overburdened with the worst of everything there should be a moment in each day when you can look out at the cloudless sky (or whatever turns you on in weather) and see the beauty, smell the crisp air, and think a fun and happy thought.

Painting brings more of the fun factor into our lives, or at least it should. Painting is fun. It's work, it's practice, but it is also fun, fun, fun.

It is, gasp, more fun that eating chocolate, and maybe (MAYBE) even a tad more fun than riding your bike.

But it's fun. And to have the absolute maximum amount of fun some materials do matter. As soon as you can budget for better materials as you move along in your art journey, the more fun your art journey will be. This doesn't mean you can't have great times simply sketching with a pencil, but even with a pencil there are brands that have better leads.

I'm an advocate for everyone finding what his or her fun factor is and exploiting that to have the most fun possible when making art. And because of that I will sometimes tests different brands and tell people about them. I am compelled to test things, in much the same way I'm compelled to eat chocolate. But I think that by letting people know about my tests they can better spend their money on something that might give them a greater fun factor—so I like to be clear about what I like or don't like about a product because something I don't like might be just the thing someone else is looking for.

You get to decide your own fun factor. In fact no one else on the planet can decide this for you.

But there are all sorts of "economies" and just because something comes in a bigger tube, or is on sale for half price, doesn't mean it's an economical choice. It might be the most expensive choice you make.

Yesterday morning I had decided that I would continue to use DaVinci Gouache in life drawing sessions where everything is quick and I'm not going after sketches that I'll keep.

Last night I had to go out and buy some more brushes because working with DaVinci Gouache (which is very, very tacky) had ruined some of my brushes.

When I got home I was talking to Dick and he said, "Why even finish using the tubes? They aren't the pigments you like and the brushes you're replacing are more expensive than the paint."


Sometimes we can be in the forest and not see the trees.

The recent discovery that DaVinci gouache reactivated on my journal pages meant I wasn't going to use it in those journals, and I started looking for a way to use the paint elsewhere.

But that's a false economy because of the other problems inherent in this paint—and because of what it does to brushes.

I've had my experiment; I had it through April. It's over now. The results are in. I'm moving on.

(The remaining paint will probably go to my favorite 8 year old—though I sort of kind of hate to do this to him and will have to have a long talk about the ramifications of it with his grandmother who is his art teacher. I do believe we should give children quality products so they can get good results. We'll see what she thinks.)

So I encourage you to be pragmatic in your choices as well. If you purchase a new art product don't get a "set" but instead buy a couple tubes (if it's paint) for a very limited palette. (If you are interested in colored pencils don't buy a whole box, just get 3 to 5 pencils in colors that are your favorites to work with in the brand you currently use, so that you can compare workability with like colors.)

Work with the few tubes or pencils or whatever, that you purchase, exclusively for a couple weeks and really get a feel for what that tool or medium can do for you. Do you like it? Does it improve your fun factor or is it frustrating to use? Don't abandon something because your first efforts are awful. Really work with something every day for at least 15 minutes a day, and preferably longer—every day for at least two weeks. If you work every day this way your learning curve each day will be short, because you'll still remember what you did the day before. You'll arrive at what works and what doesn't work more quickly than if you spend 2 Saturdays 3 weeks apart working with a product.

Only after you have worked daily for an extended period can you decide if a product (medium, paper, tool) works for you because you'll have moved along the learning curve on that particular product. You might not have mastered it, but you'll be in a position to see whether it's worth continued effort.

So, heads up about the problems with DaVinci Gouache.

Go get busy and have some fun!

Wednesday, April 24, 2013

A Look at DaVinci Gouache

Left: A Pentel Pocket Brush Pen Sketch on Fabriano gridded paper (sheets stitched together with washi tape), and painted with DaVinci Gouache. (A sketch which ultimately went into my 2013 fake journal.) Click on the image to view an enlargement.

I know a lot of readers on this blog love experimenting with new media and often wonder about certain products. I like to review products when I test them out to give people an idea what's out there and also enough information so that they can save their money if something isn't going to suit their working methods.

Each year in April I keep a fake journal. It's a project that I took public in the early 2000s with my students and then went public with on the internet in 2009. You can read about it on the Official International Fake Journal Blog.

This year my character (because it isn't "you" who keeps the fake journal) was someone who didn't care at all about archival issues, and who worked quite a lot in mixed media. I decided to work in DaVinci gouache in the book for a host of reasons that I detail in my complete review on DaVinci Gouache here.

Left: A Pentel Pocket Brush Pen sketch on Sumi paper, and then painted with DaVinci Gouache. Click on the image to view an enlargement. You can see a description of the process of this image and additional photos here

One of the most fun aspects of this project and my testing of the DaVinci Gouache is that I used a different palette of colors than I would normally use (the line doesn't include some of my favorite pigments).

I remain a die-hard fan of Schmincke Gouache, and M. Graham Gouache is a close second (if only they would produce PB60 in their line!). But after working for several weeks (I filled my journal up before the end of the month) with DaVinci Gouache I have to say it's a fun and interesting paint to work with.

It is extremely tacky and has different handling properties from the two gouache lines I typically use. It also doesn't wash out to light washes with the same saturated clarity as the other two gouache lines do. But I found painting with it kept me on my toes and I  had fun.

If you want to get into gouache and just experiment before you start kitting yourself up with a complete set of paint, I think DaVinci might be a good place for you to start inexpensively. The large tubes are reasonably priced.

I would recommend that you take extra pains to really mix up the quantity and consistency of paint you need to cut down the tackiness (which I think for new users who don't know how gouache can work will be frustrating). If you are experiencing too much drag (and you see your brush is beginning to show a lot of wear) take the time to use more water until you can find a level of paint and water that works more smoothly. (In my top image I've used the paint in a dilute fashion, in the second image I've used it more opaquely.)

I have some reservations about the paint line because of the tackiness, the finish of the painted pieces, and the pigment selection as you'll read in my review at my other blog. But I think this is a fine paint for sketching with.

I would recommend, however, if you want to start painting a lot in gouache and archival issues and ease matter to you that you switch out to Schmincke Gouache when your budget allows. Your satisfaction level, the mixes you'll be able to achieve, and the brush handling will all be instantly improved. While DaVinci Gouache does have a smooth buttery consistency straight out of the tube, and it retains its softness for quite some time on the palette there is a tackiness that over the long haul is annoying. Schmincke Gouache (and M. Graham) both have a smooth buttery consistency without that tackiness (M. Graham is a little more tacky than Schmincke because of its formulation) and I think most people will find it easier to control water/paint levels to get the results they want with either of those other two brands.

Thursday, April 11, 2013

New Classes at ImaginaryTrips.com!

©1997 Alaskan Sketchbook Cover
Laure Ferlita
11.5" x 5.5"

Game On! Or maybe I should say "Schedule Up!"

I have posted the 2013 Imaginary Trips Schedule and you can find it here! New trips and visits are planned as well as some prior destinations that you might have missed the first time around. For those of you waiting for the Independent Learning Classes (or should I say still waiting), that is my first priority for 2013. The first of the ILCs will be posted by the end of April!

I have to tell you I'm pretty excited about the first class on the schedule for this year, An Imaginary Visit to A Past Vacation! (Please click the title for more information.)

If you're anything like me, you've probably taken at least one vacation in your life before you started to sketch or before you became comfortable sketching around others. Or maybe you've taken one recently, but the trip was so fast-paced you didn't getting any sketching done.

Take a look at the sketch at the top of this post...you'll note the copyright date is 1997! And that's when I completed the sketch from my trip to Alaska...from 1996! It also happens to be the only sketch I completed from that trip despite my well-thought-out plans.

Is that just not sad? That was a fabulous trip! I made the sketchbook, I gathered my materials and I painted the cover. What happened to everything else, all those other great pages dancing in my head?

Somewhere along the way life got busy and interfered with my well-thought-out plans. I have no sketches for that trip other than the cover. The horror! You know they say about "good intentions," right?

I decided to correct this huge oversight and it started me thinking about the trip and all the stuff I didn't remember. (Oh, come on, it was nearly 20 years ago! Surely you don't think I can remember it that well!)

How could I go about reconstructing my trip so that I had a sketchbook that was worthy of this great trip when I CRS (can't remember stuff)?

This experience lead me to put together the class and to share it with others who might have done something similar. So if you're one of those people—just like me—that have lots of good intentions but no sketchbooks, come join me!

Please check out the new schedule for a "trip" or a "visit" as we're going to some fun new places as well as revisiting some of the prior places we've visited.

Saturday, April 6, 2013

Finally, a new mini-class, Ink & Wash

I've been kind of missing in action, here, trying to get a new class done, and finally launched it this week!  Here are a few images from the lessons, which are available with my other mini-classes, here: http://www.cathyjohnson.info/online.html

This is the sign-up button on my web page...

There's a video demonstrating this one...

And this one, where we look at various ways to pre-tint pages...

Another demo video...

A freebie ballpoint pen works just fine...

Water-soluble ink can be FUN and exciting!

Toned paper can give you some interesting effects and even set the mood!

These are just a few things we cover in the 4-lesson class; you can see more information on my website link, above.


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