Monday, August 29, 2016

Inktense Water-Soluable Pencils

The idea of painting on fabric has been floating in the back of my mind recently.  It has floated around enough to finally prompt me to buy a small set and try them out. I need to get myself to a real town and get the fabrics I want to try them on, but in the meantime there's no reason not to start playing with them right now.  Last night I sat down and began to familiarize myself with the colors and properties of them.

Don't you just love art supplies that come in their own containers?  This one is so pretty, too.
Although they come in varying sets and open stock, I figured the 24 set would do for my purposes and ordered them from Amazon last week after I sold a painting.  You know, to celebrate the sale...  But really, does one need an excuse for more art supplies?  I think we all know the answer to that.

How the earth tones looked on my Arches rough watercolor paper before water was added.
Bright and bold, these are not watercolor pencils.  They are ink in a pencil form which activates with water.  Once dry, they are there to stay.  No lifting or blending additional layers with them.  However, while wet, they are very workable.  The intense color spreads very far, making light washes or deep hues possible.  They layer nicely after they've dried and blend with each other while wet, too.

Although the set is 24 pencils, 22 of them are color, one is white (which makes the colors more opaque) and a non-watersoluble liner.  Vibrant color and very easy to handle wet.
So far, these are nifty little guys.  I'm excited to keep learning about them and will share as I go.  In the meantime...

Thanks for stopping by! Alice

Saturday, August 27, 2016

Early Morning Agave

Why I can't sleep beyond 6:00 a.m. is beyond me, but there it is.  I've become an early riser.  Against my will, I might add.  However, today it turned out to be a blessing.  I should get up early and paint every day- I feel energized and ready for whatever comes my way.  Painting in the quiet of the morning settled my heart right down and gave me a great sense of peace this morning.
Early Morning Agave
Watercolor Markers on paper
16" x 12"

After finishing this painting, I have decided that the watercolor markers I've been test-driving have their place in my studio.  Winsor & Newton's watercolor markers are tricky to learn (and I have only scratched the surface) but are luminous on the paper and can help me get some cool effects when I want them.  If you want more information about these markers, you can click here and here to read more.  I have to say I enjoyed doing this piece and the challenge of it.  Now I'm going to go make blueberry pancakes and savor the idea of not going to work today!  Whatever your day holds, I hope it's lovely.

Thanks for stopping by- Alice

Thursday, August 25, 2016

Winsor & Newton Watercolor Markers, Part 2

Of course this week has been full, leaving me little time for playing around but I finally got a window of time and started experimenting with the new Winsor & Newton Watercolor Markers last night.  Hopefully what I've documented will make sense, but it's been a long sort of day so who knows what'll come out of my tired, old fingers?!  

It's been ages since I worked on an agave, so I figured it would be a fun subject for my experimentation. This is a 16" x 12" Arches 140 lb. watercolor block.
The first color drawn in with Phthalo Blue and Cadmium Yellow

The resulting wash from the mixture above.  Pretty intense color going on here...

This is where things got frustrating.  With traditional watercolors on good rag paper I would be able to begin to lay in color before the last area was completely dry without the two areas running together.  These are pure pigment and don't act in the familiar way.  They began to run together making the hoped-for crisp line between the two shapes blur.   

The blurry area enlarged.  After it had dried completely I was able to go back in and fix it.  Big lesson, these pigments don't act like traditional watercolor, don't expect them to.  Water-soluble doesn't always mean watercolor paint.

The central leaf shape of this piece.  This is how it looked as I put the color down with the markers.

As you can see, it is possible to get lighter passages, but it's not automatic.  Of course, I didn't leave it this way.  I eventually fiddled with it till I over-worked it.  

Run backs are very easy to get if you begin next to a not quite dry passage. Could be a cool effect, just not at this place. However, it was easy to fix.  The colors lift and blend very easily, more so than traditional paints. 

The central leaf, acid green and eye popping instead of eye-catching.  

From bottom to top, Dioxazine Violet, Phthalo Blue, Sap Green and Cadmium Yellow; ready for water.

The colors blend very well and the marks made by the pen tips disappear on this particular paper.  If you want more blending, they reactivate quickly if you re-wet and go over again.

Where I stopped today.

All things considered, these markers are not a watercolor paint replacement, nor are they easier to use.  They are a law unto themselves and take some getting used to.  The colors are anything but subtle, but they can be toned down with less pigment and more water and can be pulled across the paper quite far before they run out of color.  If you like intense color, these are the tool for you.  If not, get less saturated hues and use lots of water.  They are fun, convenient and very fluid.  I'm beginning to enjoy using them, which is a relief because by bedtime last night I was ready to pay someone to take them off my hands.  Worth the money?  Not sure yet, but keeping an open mind.  Could a watercolor studio survive without them?  Yes, but new techniques and tools can keep one learning and growing, so they get an A+ for that.  I'll post the finished product and final thoughts after it's done.  In the meantime....

Thanks for stopping by! Alice

Sunday, August 21, 2016

Why Buy the Good Stuff?

Recently I received a stack of beautiful white watercolor paper from a dear friend. She found it at a yard sale and thought it might be of use to me.  The paper is crisp and has a lovely texture when I run my fingers over the surface. I am guessing it’s 90 lb. in weight and has no rag content.  It accepts ink like a dream and I was hoping it’d do the same with watercolor paint so, I drew the chair I had put in my sketchbook a week or so ago on a piece to give it a try.
Maddening to paint on, cheap watercolor paper would be ideal for markers or pen and ink work.

As watercolor paper it’s not so great, but as a lesson in why to use the good stuff every time it was ideal.  Having no rag content the paper doesn’t have the ability to absorb any water or pigment so the wet paint sits on the surface.  Any puddles left are bound to make “cauliflowers,” or run back into the dry areas and disturb the pigment there.  I put a shadow shape at the wrong angle, which gave me the chance to see if I could lift the pigment back off of the paper.  The good news is, it lifted right off.  The bad news was that the paper came off, too, pilling up and leaving a fuzzy white layer in its place. 

The area where I lifted the paint (and paper) to correct an error
It has been years since I tried to use a paper with no rag content and now I remember why.  Often times, beginners try to learn to paint in watercolor with student grade pigments and cheap paper and end up thinking they aren’t any good with the medium- when the truth is that using the very best tools and materials will pay off big time in how and what they achieve.  Don’t cut corners with water media if you want to become proficient with it.  Save up, buy the good stuff and see how much you can love this fabulous paint.  For me, Arches 140 or 300 lb. paper is as good as it gets.  Try it; you’ll like it!

Thanks for stopping by- Alice


Thursday, August 18, 2016

Winsor & Newton Watercolor Markers, Part One

As soon as I saw that Winsor & Newton had begun making these markers I knew that sooner or later I'd have to try them. A bit pricey, I finally decided it'd be good to try just a few to see if I like them.  Amazon offered the tin of 12 for a pretty good price, so I ordered the pack for a test-drive.  Of course, while waiting for them to come I got antsy and ordered 4 extra colors from  I have issues...
Winsor & Newton watercolor markers, pretty all in a row
So far, I've had time to do only a bit of testing to see what they are capable of, but I'll share what I've learned so far with you in case they've been tempting you, too.  There's not a whole lot of information out there on them, but this link is to a great video, in fact it is what finally convinced me to try them for myself.  Below are photos of tests on different types of paper, particularly watercolor sketchbook paper as that seems where they would be most useful.  
On 140 lb. Arches paper.  I laid lines down on the paper, then ran a very light, wet brush over them to see how they would dissolve.

Wetting my brush again, I scrubbed to see how much more pigment I could coax out of the lines.

Done on light-weight, cheap watercolor paper, the marker lines barely offered any pigment to my wet brush.  Got to use good paper with these things.

In a Moleskine watercolor book- this paper accepted and released color the best out of the watercolor sketch books I tried.

Strathmore's 400 series watercolor sketchbook didn't let much of the line give up its color..

Pentalic's watercolor book did okay, but still kept a dark line of color in the paper.

How the colors looked before I added water.  I wanted first to see how saturated the hues are and second if the marks will completely disappear with water.  Arches 140 lb. cold pressed paper.  

As you can see, cadmium red, and sap green are the most saturated.  However, I made larger areas of color (above the test piece) to see the colors better and they are all able to be intense, just some more than others.  The largest blob is where the black test was done, then lemon yellow hue was mixed with it.  They blended well.

The tin of 12 markers- Now honestly this tin was as much a temptation as the markers...
 So far, they feel good in my hand, the colors are okay, although not as brilliant as I'd hoped and look like they'll be interesting and maybe even fun to play some more with.  I'll report back as I go.

Thanks for stopping by! Alice

Tuesday, August 16, 2016

Studio Changes

The past few days my husband has been doing a little re-model in my studio.  All these years this 30 foot long room has been so full of great stuff that I’ve had to wade through the treasures just to use the space.  Full of bookbinding supplies, tools and equipment, jewelry making tools such as torches and hammers and solder and wire, plus my sewing machine and all the goodies that go along with that- I had a great, big room- chock full of chaos.  I’m so tired of living with stuff I might need “someday.”  For someone who hates clutter so bad, I sure tolerated it a long time.

During the upheaval.  I couldn't have painted in this mess if I had to.  (At this point, all I wanted to do was run away from home.)
Well, no more.  Husband Tom needs more space for storing his wood stash and I need less stuff.  Considerably less stuff.  It was the perfect time to get a two-fer.  He put up a partition right down the middle of my studio, while I gave away about a ton of goodies to the kids and presto/change-o, we have what we both need.  What a relief.  In about 35 years the kids will look around and say, “Hey, where did all this good junk come from?”  And I’ll be dead and they won’t be able to give it all back!  Genius. 

Tonight it's settled in and ready. And so am I. 
Thanks to the new wall, I actually have more space than I’ve had in years and love to be out here again.  Because there were doors on each end before, there were times this place felt more like a passage, but now it’s a private space where nobody needs to be but me.  My own little hidey-hole.  If you need me, I’ll be out here.  Breathing.    

Thanks for stopping by! Alice

Thursday, August 11, 2016

Colorado Plateau, Losing the Details

As you may know, I've been trying to figure out how to stop being sidetracked by all the little details in my paintings for ages.  Today is no exception- simplification has been rolling around in my head as I've pondered on how to paint what I feel instead of what I see in landscapes.  I've pretty much got it down in cacti, but looking at a landscape and being able to see only the important (to me) elements has been a long struggle.  I get bogged down in all that I observe.  
Colorado Plateau
Watercolor on 140 lb. Arches cold pressed paper
7" x 10"
This summer I took a photo that has been nagging me for weeks and so figured it was time to experiment with the shapes of it on a small piece of paper while I worked out how to paint a studio piece.  School was hard yesterday and I was not up to anything more complicated than that anyway. Or so I thought. Two hours later I had finished this little painting and forgotten all the woes of the day.  In the process, I somehow managed to eliminate the details.  I forgot to fret over making realistic textures or how to represent my subject in all its amazing glory and just made shapes. And learned a huge lesson.  I tell my students all of the time, "Just look at the shapes!"  I guess it finally filtered through my mind.  I know, I'm slow, but sooner or later I usually get there.

Thanks for stopping by! Alice 

Wednesday, August 10, 2016

The Chair

Sometimes a little sketch is just as fun as a whole painting.  Maybe more.  Every time I visit the house where this chair lives I feel like it needs a page all its own in my sketchbook.  It was boring and worn out and needed a makeover, and what a makeover it got!  It makes me feel happy every time I see it.
Painted in a Moleskine Watercolor Journal, 11" x 8" in pen and ink with watercolor

Perhaps one day this will become a full-sized painting; it would make a grand one, don't you think? After my post yesterday I got to thinking about what simple ideas I've had lately and thought about this one. Hmmm...When I'm ready and the idea is ripe...  

Thanks for stopping by! Alice

Tuesday, August 9, 2016

Ed Emberley- a Lesson in Simplicity

During the past month I’ve been pursuing ideas to begin the school year for my students, looking for just the right concept to help me introduce our theme for the semester.  The idea had to be something that would appeal to young people and I wanted the "great idea" to be simple.  Easy, right?  Except it turns out it wasn’t so easy.  Most people complicate things, including me, to the point that simplicity goes out the window.  It has been a long search.
Emberley in front of some of his designs- don't they just make you happy??

However, I finally found the inspiration I was looking for in the work of Ed Emberley. His ideas are perfect for my purposes at school, but more than that they reminded me of something important- simple motifs and shapes can be very effective subjects for art.  And Emberley’s creations express delightful emotions in amazingly spartan designs.  I’m hooked.
One of the pieces I did the first time I learned the lesson of simplicity.  I seem to need to repeat this lesson..
Pastel on board, 16" x 20" painted in 2011

The joy of the simple is not a new lesson to me.  I get reminded of it every now and then.  Panoramic landscape scenes, a busy still life or a complex composition are all things I admire, but so are very simple subjects.  Limited palettes and emphasis on light make me happy, too.  There are so many ways to make art, to look at and think about it that one could create things for a whole lifetime and not even scratch the surface of the possibilities.  So, hoorah for Ed Emberley!  I’m so glad for the nudge.

Thanks for stopping by! Alice

Wednesday, August 3, 2016

Beware the Moonflowers

Although this is finished to the point I envisioned it, it may need a darker background. It'll have to sit for a few days while I decide. It does feel good to have it ready for the "sit and stew" phase before I go back to work tomorrow, though. As I'm posting from my phone again I can't put a subtitle under the photo so I'll put the specs here:

Beware the Moonflower
Watercolor on paper
12" × 16"

So, I'm off to agonize over my outfit for tomorrow. Hope your evening is more fun than that!

Thanks for stopping by- Alice