Left: Second page of gesture sketches on the day. On moist Hahnemühle Nostalgie paper (about 9 x 11 inches). All the images in today's post are in order of execution, but because of "repetitiveness" I didn't scan the first page and pages 4 through 8, which were all more gesture sketches. I did so many gesture sketches on this day because I was still thinking of a plan and wondering if it would hit me. Finally it just seemed that if I were going to get any sketches actually done I'd better just jump in. Click on the image to view an enlargement.
In July MetroSketchers had their annual outing to visit some Urban Chickens (owned by a good friend of group founders Liz Carlson and Tim Jennen). I wasn't able to attend last year, and the previous year it was very, very hot, which made things interesting. (You can see my warm ups from the 2012 Chicken Sketch here.)
I think this event is always a great time to observe chickens close up but also to experiment. I say that because it's one event where I can actually bring a chair, not lug it around all day, and use it. Which means I can get out the fresh paints and the real brushes, set out my gear and have fun without worrying about moving everything to a new site. You can see my Chicken Sketch experiments from 2012 here.
Left: After many gestures with the PPBP I switched over to the Faber-Castell Pitt Calligraphy Pen and started to get a feel for it (gestures in the background). After a moment a chicken stood in front of me so I started a new sketch and drew its head and body. But, as it always true with live chickens, in a moment she was off. Instead of following her around I looked at the nearest chicken and used her for color references as I painted. So this is a composite chicken. When I was through painting I got out my blue Montana Marker with the 15 mm tip and put in the background color to miimize the distraction from the other gestures. Click on the image to view an enlargement.
Left: This chicken actually stayed close enough to me that I could work on her for a bit. The smooth surface of the paper was altered by the soaking it had received earlier. I think it aided me when it came to softening the dry-brushstrokes. Click on the image to view an enlargement.
So much in my life is "by the seat of my pants" right now that I didn't arrive at the chicken coop with a fully developed plan. I only knew I wanted to warm up on Nostalgie and then move to a watercolor paper. Imagine my surprise when I opened the back end of my Subaru Forester and discovered that my large waterbottle had leaked (more like gushed) all over and all of my watercolor paper was completely soaked (it was on the bottom of the bag as it lay horizontally). The Nostalgie paper was soaked at the bottom half and then gradually was a little drier as you moved up, but it was all still moist. Since I'm not currently carrying a journal because of shoulder problems (I have a small notebook for quick sketches, no wet media, in my purse) it meant I had no extra paper to turn to. Since Nostalgie stays pretty stable even when wet I went boldly on, set up my chair, and got to work. The moisture in the paper did some interesting things if you look closely at the ink lines.
Left: After my Gyspy sketch I did this quick contour, falsely believing the chicken might stay close by. I am very fond of its simplicity after all the fussing with paint. So I included it here. Click on the image to view an enlargement.
I was fortunate to sit between Ken and Roberta Avidor. They were both creating wonderful art works and chatting away. It made for a very pleasant afternoon. I don't know what the count on attendance was but I have to believe there were over 30 people there, spread over a Minneapolis backyard (i.e., small) and paying close attention to the chickens wandering comfortably about. (And of course paying attention to Carmen, the wonderful Dachshund.)
Left: Time was running down and I wanted to do something a little looser so I played around with wiping away my first light layers of color (something I always love doing on this paper) and then going in with other layers. It was interesting to try this on paper that was already moist because the moisture kept coming up through the paper and softening my paint edges. Ken shouted me a fancy bar paper towel (since my entire roll of paper towels back in the car had proved that Bounty was indeed "the quicker picker upper"). (All my pages from this day were numbered in red ink as is visible here, and put into my single-sheet, unbound journal box that I keep for "journal pages" 9 x 12 inches or smaller. Look at the "Unbound Journal" Category for more info.) Click on the image to view an enlargement.
As usual I started with gesture sketches of chickens as they moved about. Gradually when I felt some of the paper had dried a little more and I felt like diving in I began to work on studies. I was using gouache and also Montana Markers.
Left: I thought, while working on sketch 15 that it would take me to the end of the day. But it was clear I was going to have too much time left over so I did this quick sketch (which may be the most "chicken-like" of the day) in a couple minutes and then started wandering around talking to folks before the wrap-up meeting. I'm a big proponent of "Always do one more sketch even if you're: tired, don't have time, think you can't for any reason." I think it usually pays off. Click on the image to view an enlargement.
Unlike 2012, when a chicken walked away this year I didn't get up and follow it about. I sat and waited, and worked on something I could work on from memory. I hate working that way, but I was too comfortable in my chair.
It was a fun day and I enjoyed the opportunity to sit with other sketchers and examine chickens closely. I like working with a plan or goal in mind, but sometimes when things happen either to keep you from making a plan, or to keep you from following through on a plan, you're still left with the drawing time. That's what matters, we just have to draw! (And I learned some interesting things about Nostalgie when it gets really wet!)
That offending waterbottle? Well it got tossed into the bin on the way from my car into the house. It had seen its useful days.
Above: the meeting location for the 6th Minnesota State Fair Sketch Out. If you aren't familiar with the Fairgrounds stop at an information booth, pick up a map and look up U26/27 on the official Fair map. Copy this image to your computer and print it out so you can take it with you as a reminder, or call it up on your smart phone if you're all digital now.
It's all set. We've got the buttons in hand; we've got the people to lead the meetings; we've got the meeting times and places set. Bookmark this post.
Join intrepid sketchers as we spread across the Fairgrounds sketching everything that takes our interest. The Sketch Out is free (you have to pay your own Fair admission). All skill levels are welcome. (I recommend if you're bringing a child along to participate that you forego sketching and watch the child.)
Each year we have people from the MCBA Visual Journal Collective, Urban Sketchers—Twin Cities, and MetroSketchers as well as random sketchers who just can't help but join in.
This year we have two sketch out days:
Saturday, August 23 AND Tuesday, August 26
Convene each day at 4:30 p.m., at site B shown in the above map.
We'll meet rain or shine so if it's raining at meeting time go into the Ag Hort Building shown on the map and walk to the radial center where we'll find each other.
We'll share stories, show what we've captured in our sketches and just generally have a great time.
We'll take a group photo, and people who sketch will be given a free commemorative button (while supplies last).
Then if you're not technically comfortable, someone will photograph your favorite sketch and those sketches will be put up on UrbanSketchers—Twin Cities.
And off you go in search of more sketch subjects, a corndog, a fried Twinkie, whatever. It's an exciting fun-filled time to experience the Fair in an extraordinary way—by pausing in the crowds and chaos to take time to really observe closely.
If you have never sketched at the Fair before, or are new to public sketching I encourage you to come along to the MCBA Visual Journal Collective's Monday, August 18, 7-9 p.m. meeting in Gold Medal Park (in Downtown Minneapolis, near the new Guthrie). (Rain site is Open Book room 203.) It will be great practice for you and you may find a sketch buddy or hear tips on what to expect from "old timers."
If you are wondering what there is to sketch at the Fair or are unsure how to prepare and what to bring I suggest you go right now to my Minnesota State Fair Round Up.
On that blog page you will find all sorts of posts on how to sketch in public, sketch at the Fair, what to sketch, how to prepare for the event, how to dress, and how to pace yourself on treat consumption. You'll even find posts about whether or not you should bring a folding chair and suggestions for chairs should you decide to bring one. Other supplies and tools are also suggested. I want you to have the most fun at the Fair as possible—and I want you to get some sketching done.
NOTE: This year I also encourage you to bring a couple loose sheets of watercolor paper or other paper that you like to sketch on and do a couple out-of-journal sketches. Ken Avidor has been organizing an Urban Sketchers show that will happen later in the fall. The pieces need to be framed (there won't be a way to display journals and sketchbooks at the St. Paul show site). Ken wanted me to be sure to encourage you to all create a Minnesota State Fair sketch on loose paper so that you have the option of joining the show. Because the show will be an Urban Sketchers event the USks rules apply—done on site, from life, and not altered afterwards. Ken would also like you to take your photo near the site of your sketch with your subject (obviously with a moving crowd that's not going to be exact) so that the photos can be displayed with the sketches, reinforcing for the folks coming to the show just what "sketching out" is all about!
Look, I can't make you have fun, but every year I try to provide you with at least one really great opportunity to do exactly that, and to produce what might end up being your finest work! So come and join us. You'll end up with some great stories and fun sketches.
If you can't join with us on either of the sketch out days or you're unable to stay until the meeting drop me an email with a jpg of one of your 2014 Fair sketches attached. I'll see that it gets on the UrbanSketchers—Twin Cities blog. (We can work out submitting art for the show at a later date.) If you do send me a jpg be sure to write your full name in the email and give a date and time when you were sketching if that isn't on your page. (It's fun to tie the images to the events.) I'll save a button for you if there are any left after the meeting on Tuesday (There usually are.) You can arrange to pick it up some time when I'm over at MCBA.
See you at the FAIR!
Posted at 04:00 AM in Animals, Art, Art Calls, Art Show, Birds, Book Arts, creativity, Current Affairs, Field Sketching, Journaling, Ken Avidor, MCBA, Minnesota State Fair, Outdoor Gear, Projects, Sketch Outs, Sketching, Twin Cities, Visual Journal Collective, Visual Journaling | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)
Technorati Tags: animal sketching, how to sketch at a Fair, MCBA Visual Journal Collective, MetroSketchers, Minnesota State Fair, people sketching, sketching from life, sketching in crowds, Urban Sketchers Twin Cities, urban sketching, visual journaling
Above: A quick sketch of Zeke, a visiting Australian Shepherd, in brush pen on Nostalgie (9 x 12 inches). Readers of my blog will know that every year I rev up my dog drawing skills to participate in this sketching event. That's what I did when my two Australian Shepherd friends came to visit in June. I've been involved in the Wet Paint's Pet Portrait event since they first offered it as their part of Paws on Grand. Unfortunately physical limitations are keeping me out of the action this year, but I am looking forward to stopping by and seeing the artists in action—and checking out all the dogs. Click on the image to view an enlargement.
Yep, it might not feel like the dog days of summer in the Twin Cities since we've been having these lovely cool, low-humidity days, but it is time for pet portraits again at Wet Paint on Grand Ave. in St. Paul.
Sunday, August 3, 2014 from noon to 3 p.m. local artists will be on hand outside Wet Paint to make quick sketches of your pet for free. First come, first served. (Donations are encouraged and go a pet related charity—I'm not sure what has been selected this year.)
This is part of the larger event of Paws on Grand that runs from 11 a.m. to 4 p.m. and involves most of the area—Grand Avenue—businesses, so come out and enjoy it all.
A special Paws on Grand Sale will be going on INSIDE at Wet Paint. You'll receive 15% off any item in stock item in the store that has an animal on it. That's a great many things in Wet Paint (think logos as well as covers)! You find it, and tell a staff member at check out and you get the discount.
This is a great event, that's fun for participants as well as observers. I hope you'll show up and support the artists and Wet Paint. And it's not just for dogs—in past years people have brought their cats; I sketched a conure last year, and Ken Avidor created the most wonderful portraits of two BATS.
Above: This year's Minnesota State Fair Sketch Out Button. One of my chicken sketches from last year. Click on the image to view an enlargement.
The Minnesota State Fair will soon be here. And that means the Sixth Minnesota State Fair Sketch Out is coming too. Everyone is invited, regardless of skill level.
This year there will be two sketch out days—Saturday, August 23 and Tuesday, August 26.
Meeting times and other exciting details will be posted soon.
For now all you have to know is that you need to attend the Fair, sketch something from life, and show up at one of the meetings to share your work and collect a free button!
It's most fun if you attend the Fair on a Sketch Out Day and join us at the meetings so you can see what everyone else is doing and share your work. If your schedule doesn't allow that know that you can send a jpg of one of your sketches done from life while at the Fair to me or Ken Avidor and we'll put it up on the Urban Sketchers Twin Cities Blog. (And I'll save you a button if any are left over after the Tuesday meeting. You can pick it up at a MCBA Journal Collective meeting.)
I'll have buttons at the Monday, August 18 meeting of the MCBA Visual Journal Collective, so if you have attended the MSFSO before you can get your button in advance.
The MCBA VIsual Journal Collective's meeting topic for August 18 is a practice sketch out. We'll be meeting at 7-9 p.m. in Gold Medal Park near the river if the weather is fair. If it's inclement weather on the day, we'll be sketching inside Open Book, and meeting in Room 203. Come and work up your comfort level if you're new to sketching in public; or practice, practice, practice if you're an old hand at public sketching.
If you are looking for sketching partners to attend the Fair with, you might find some at this meeting. Or ask on the group's Facebook page if people are looking for sketching buddies.
Whatever you do, plan to attend the August 18 meeting for practice, and the Sixth Minnesota State Fair Sketch Out on August 23 and 28.
Posted at 04:00 AM in Animals, Art Calls, Book Arts, creativity, Field Sketching, Journaling, Ken Avidor, MCBA, Minnesota State Fair, Sketch Outs, Sketching, Twin Cities, Visual Journaling | Permalink | Comments (3) | TrackBack (0)
Above: This is the way I doodle. Sketch a figure. Then sketch something on the next page (here a chicken head, because I need to practice chickens for the MN State Fair), then try to link the two together and because nothing jumped to mind, put the figure on a box as if he's practicing public speaking, and then let an idea pop into my head and have fun labeling the box. In this case when I was working on the chicken I really pushed all sorts of levels, not to get a cohesive image of a chicken, but to try different things for when I go to the fair. I sketched (from a 2012 Fair photo) with a Pentel Pocket Brush Pen. Then I added layers of gouache. Then I ended up using a fine tipped white gell pen for some of the lines. See the detail below. Click on the image to view an enlargement.
For the past couple months I've been working in Japanese Lined Notebooks with paper that definitely isn't supposed to take wet media—but I've been using wet media on it and having a ball. For the background in the image that opens this post I begain by covering the page with random strokes of orange, raspberry, and pink Montana Markers (acrylic paint). When that was dry I used some red rubber stamp ink from a re-inker to make some random smears on the verso (left) page of the spread. I also stamped some word stamps on the far left and on the right (top right and far right), though a lot of that was obscured by what came later. I stuck down washi tape, painted over the washi tape, and then rubbed some green rubber stamp ink on both spreads. I also did some stenciling on both pages (most notably behind Charlie's head on the verso page). The pre-painted pages stayed empty for a couple days until I started sketching. For the order of the sketches and my emerging idea read the caption above.
Left: A photograph of a portion of the prepainted page spread before I did any sketching on it at all. It's a photograph so the color isn't as correct as that shown in the scan. This is the bottom of the left-hand page. Click on an image to view an enlargement.
In the detail of the prepainted page before I sketched on the spread you can see the pearlescent ink which appears throughout the spread. It's visible in the first detail photo because I shot the photo at an angle.
Above: A detail of the Rooster's head so that you can see some of the different things I was trying. At "A" you can see thin white PEN lines over the layers of gouache. At "B" you can see small squiggles and dots also made with the white gel pen over the gouache. Elsewhere the white is all gouache, including the strokes at "C" and the dots leading up from that to the right, where the pen dots begin. For the strokes at "C" I took a filbert, pressed the water out of it, dipped the tips of brush's hairs into moist paint (not wet paint), pressed the hairs of the brush between my thumb and index finger so that the ends spread out and then stroked in the lines. I like this type of line more than the white gel pen line, but I wanted to see if the gel pen saved me any time. It actually didn't. Click on the image to view an enlargement.
For me the journal provides a great space for working out visual vocabularly—how do I want to attempt to handle striated feather patterns? Are the options I try too labor intensive for the conditions I'll be sketching under? Are the options visually appealing? How can I best show small detail, such as skin texture on the comb—do I need to avoid it (as too fussy or time consuming in the conditions I'm working in); is it fun to get fussy; how and I going to deal with issues of available light and paint drying time; can I apply enough gouache in the time frame I'm considering to make it a useable approach; and which pigments do I want to be sure to bring along?
After thinking about all those things and doing a bit of a dry run I hope to come up with a plan of attack to use at the Minnesota State Fair.
The reality is that even with a plan of attack I may just toss all the planning aside and go in a totally different direction. But I always find that evey second of this type of pre-planning and doodling makes me comfortable to toss planning aside when I'm at the Fair.
Page spreads like this also allow me to judge whether or not the paper I'm working on is a suitable paper for mixed media. I have to say that the notepaper I was working on here is actually amazingly versatile.
I don't know yet what type of journal I'll take to the Minnesota State Fair or which pens I'll take. I'll probably take a palette with pans of gouache—since the gouache brands I use Schmincke and M. Graham) both rewet well and make lovely light washes so it's like getting two paints in one.
I know I won't be taking these Japanese Lined Notebooks to the Fair because they are too floppy. While they have sewn signatures and open flat, the covers are soft and the large size would be difficult to hold open in the crowd jostled confines of the MN State Fair barns.
I hope to be able to go multiple times to the Fair this year, so I may try multiple approaches. I also know I hope to video tape people sketching at the 6th Annual Minnesota State Fair Sketch Out so that we can have a fun record of the two-day event.
The planning phase is all part of the excitement of the Fair for me.
I hope you're making your own plans for the Fair. But even if you can't get to the Minnesota State Fair this year, or any fair near you, I hope you're working out modes of attack in your visual journal.
Note: The 6th Minnesota State Fair Sketch Out will be held on Saturday, August 23, AND Tuesday, August 26. More details to follow shortly.
Posted at 04:00 AM in Animals, Art Materials, Backstory, Birds, Book Arts, Brush Drawing, Commercially Bound Journals, creativity, Doodling, Gouache, Instructions, Japanese Lined Journal, Journal Practice, Journaling, Markers, Minnesota State Fair, Paper, Pentel Brush Pens, Sketching, Twin Cities, Visual Journaling, Visual Vocabulary, Washi Tape | Permalink | Comments (6) | TrackBack (0)
Technorati Tags: chickens, creative process, doodling, gouache, Japanese Lined Notebook, Minnesota State Fair, Montana Markers, Pentel Pocket Brush Pen, prepainted background, process, rubberstamp ink, rubberstamps, sketching, stencls, visual journaling, visual vocabulary, washi tape
Above: Playing around with pre-painted backgrounds in my Japanese Lined Notebook. I painted this spread with green (Golden High Flow) and Pink (Montana) markers, added some pink circles (by coating the marker lid's rim with paint and using it as a stamp, added some actual stamps, and stenciled with rubber stamp ink. The page sat for a day and then one afternoon I started playing with chicken ideas and drew this chicken on a page of lined yellow legal pad paper. I liked it so much I cut it out and slapped it on the page with UHU glue. Then I started painting this scene in gouache over the top of everything else. At that point Dick walked into the room and explained…well you can read the rest on the spread. Originally I was just going to use my comment back to him as a caption for this page, and it is that, but then I decided, years from now, or maybe days, I'll forget our conversation so I jotted it down. Click on the image to view an enlargement. (Oh, and I misspelled Ian McKellen's name.)
Today's post is actually not about chickens or prepainted backgrounds or conversations with Dick.
My friend Tom, who is a photographer, shot my 2014 Fake Journal (comprised of 22 x 30 inch "pages") as a fake gallery show. I posted that earlier.
But what I didn't mention earlier is that he shot them as super-high resolution GigaPan images and if you go over to my other blog you'll now be able to read not only my wrap up for my 2014 fake journal experience, but you will be able to see the GigaPans and zoom in and see details just as if you were standing right in front of the drawings. So if that appeals to you go and check out this link now.
Posted at 04:00 AM in Animals, Art Show, Backstory, Birds, Book Arts, Brush Drawing, Commercially Bound Journals, Curiosities, Fake Journals, Gigapans, Gouache, IFJM, Japanese Lined Journal, Journaling, Richard, Sketching from Imagination, Unbound Journals, Visual Journaling | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)
Technorati Tags: 2014 Fake Journal, Chickens, fake journals, gigapans of my 2014 fake journal, Golden High Flow Acrylic Paint Markers, gouache, International Fake Journal Month, Japanese Lined Notebooks, mixed media journaling, Montana Markers, prepainted backgrounds, rubberstamping, sketching, stenciling
Above: Chicken sketch from imagination, using various markers, covering a big splotch of ink, just having fun. Click on the image to view an enlargement.
Chicken Madness never really fades from my life. I love chickens. I dream about having chickens to sketch all the time. Here I am in May (in the above image), unable to sleep because I've got pneumonia, and I'm up at 2 a.m. thinking about chickens.
I used only the markers I had on hand (I was sitting in the TV room reading so I wouldn't disturb Dick; but I got fed up with the book I was reading.) You'll see the Montana Markers in pink and blue—15mm tips, used in broad strokes, some red and yellow from Bienfang Watercolor Brush Pens, a bit of white Sharpie Poster Paint Pen, and some purple from a Zig marker. The black is a fine-tipped pigment-ink filled Pentel Brush Pen. And it all started with a blop of paint I smeared out of the way and across the page and I said to myself that looks like a chicken in motion.
I get to see some chickens later this month, and of course I can spend all the time I want at the Minnesota State Fair looking at and sketching Chickens!
Are you coming to the Minnesota State Fair Sketch Out? We've got two dates this year: Saturday, August 23 and Tuesday, August 26. I'll put up a post about the meetings on those dates (times and locations) but feel free to come at any time during the Fair and send jpg of one of your sketches to me. I'll put it up on UrbanSketchers—Twin Cities.
If you haven't been to the Minnesota State Fair before and the idea of sketching in public, a crowded public, place intimidates you, start reading the posts that I have on my "page" Minnesota State Fair Round Up. There you will find posts on how to dress for success (successful sketching in a crowded, potentially hot and dusty, noisy public space), tips on how to sketch animals and people; even a post on how to eat at the Fair so that you can keep sketching successfully!
Really, you need to come to the Minnesota State Fair Sketch Out. If chickens don't appeal, there are llamas, and sheep, and goats, and cows, and horses, and people, people, people.
You get the idea. Never will you have so many life models milling about for your advantage!
Posted at 04:00 AM in Animals, Birds, Brush Drawing, Journal Practice, Journaling, Markers, Pens, Pentel Brush Pens, Sketch Outs, Sketching, Sketching from Imagination, Twin Cities, Visual Journaling | Permalink | Comments (2) | TrackBack (0)
Left: Aviary finch sketch made with Faber-Castell Pitt Artist's Calligraphy pen and Color of Nature watercolor paints on Fluid 140 lb. Cold Press watercolor paper (9 x 12 inches). Click on the image to view an enlargement.
Sometime early this year Colors of Nature contacted me to review a new line of paints they were releasing. Typically I purchase all the materials I review here, but even when I explained that I don’t take input for my reviews from the producers of a product, the company representative was confident enough in his product to go ahead.
Simply stated the Colors of Nature watercolor paints are an effort to fill the need for cruelty-free and vegan art supplies in the current market. They use completely natural ingredients, have certification from PETA and Vegan.org for their claims of animal free and cruelty free products. These Canadian made paints are also solvent- and petroleum-free, further reflecting the company’s commitment to the environment.
They describe their color range as reflecting the" true colors of nature." That’s true to a certain extent. The bright colors you might see in nature in the Amazon—the yellows and blues and startling magentas and oranges that birds sport there—aren’t in this paint line. These are "earthy" colors—the browns, dusty red, and yellows typically associated with clays. There is also a green and an Ultramarine blue.
If you’re a landscape artist you’ll be familiar with using such colors in several seasons. (I’ll have more on this in a moment.)
Because I couldn’t find the pigments listed for the paints, and their labeling doesn’t list the pigments I asked for and quickly received this pigment list:
Ultramarine Blue PB29
Natural Red PR102
Chromium Green PG17
Burnt Umber, light and dark PBr7
Raw Umber, light and dark PBr7
Burnt Sienna PBr7
Raw Sienna, medium and dark PY43
Yellow Ochre, light and dark PY43
Titanium White PW6
With that list I know many of my readers can begin to make their own assessments on how these paints may or may not work into their palettes.
Left: Some color swatches and blends. Because the fragrance to these paints was so overpowering (I had a raging headache at 30 minutes) I only dispensed and tried a few of the colors, as shown here. Click on the image to view an enlargement.
The biggest drawback to this particular line of colors is that there is no true red and no true yellow—well “true” is an imprecise word—no red or yellow which is clean enough in presentation that you can easily mix all the colors for things in nature that are not quite as neutralized as the mixing of earthcolors will yield. A useful palette from this line can be helped by adding a Hansa or Asa Yellow and a Pyrrol Red.
In working with these paints I discovered the following information that will help you make a decision on whether or not to experiment with these paints.
Currently the paints come in small plastic jars, much like some eyeshadow or make-up products might come in. (I don’t wear make-up so I might be behind the times on how make-up is packaged, but these are small plastic jars of the type my college girlfriends always had around.)
This is an unfortunate way to pack paint for a working artist. The jars come labeled with a wrap around label that you must peel off in order to open the lid. This action either leaves a residue of stickiness on the jar or the label detaches itself when left alone. (I couldn’t work with the paints for 2 months because of illness and all the labels were detaching by that time.)
Next the paint is a somewhat runny consistency. (This too changed over time, depending on how long I waited to open the jars and how long the jars had been unsealed but closed, before use.) What you are faced with when you open a jar is a top seal to peal off (a pain for someone with very short fingernails) and a pot of paint which may or may not be running up the side of the jar onto the seal (depending on how it was stored). This means very messy opening.
When I quiried about the "normal" consistency of their paint I was told it should be semi-moist and that there will be variations from pigment to pigment (normal in tubed watercolors too). If you are using a watercolor like Daniel Smith or M. Graham in tubes you will find this paint, at least initially, runnier than that tubed paint.
You’ll next have to find a way to dispense the paint onto your palette (no student of mine will work straight from the jars!). A small spatula that’s about ¼ inch wide, or a dedicated paint knife will suit.
There is no way that you can travel into the field easily with these little jars. Taking the lids off in the field juggling them and your other gear while you make a spot to sit or stand will be a feat worthy of a Cirque du Soleil performance, even for a coordinated artist. Throw in a windy day in fall when seeds and dust fill the air and it's a contamination problem of serious proportions.
This is definitely a paint that needs to be dispensed onto your palette at home and then carried upright, and carefully into the field. (Even if the company came up with a small tray that the tubs could snap into you would have to juggle the caps and you’d be forced to work in your main jar of color, thus contaminating your main source.)
If you are a studio painter you can take your time with this paint, and clean up your hands at your leisure.
My first exposure to the paint was jaw dropping. I opened one jar and the floral smell which emerged knocked me back. I had to close the jar and rethink how and when I was going to use the paints in trial (since I couldn’t take them outside to work with them because of the previously mentioned issues).
When I finally did my painting test I couldn’t spend longer than 30 minutes with the paints out on my palette. I had to pack everything up, wash off the palette, put the paintings in a back room to air out, and change my clothes (because I’m a painting slob and I often use my pants as a brush rag; but I even had to change my shirt because I got one small drop of waste water on my shirt).
If you read my blog frequently you’ll know that I am sensitive to smells.
Chemical smells like Sharpies are banned from my classes. I request that students not wear fragrances. If floral fragrances bother you at all I cannot recommend these paints to you. In response to my questions about this the company replied, “We cannot do anything about that since the fragrance is our natural preservative.”
In an email from a partner at a later date I received this update about the fragrance issue:
Yes, we know that in our early batch, the smell is a reflection of being overly aggressive with our natural preservative. Our product contains water, so having a background in cosmetics manufacturing, we always want to ensure microbial safety. We have since then scaled down our use of the preservative, as our lab testing showed we didn’t need so much, and we discovered that, as the paint from that early batch sat, the aromatic compounds dissipated and the smell was reduced. It still has a trace of the smell that is inherent in the preservative, but certainly not as strong as the paint you received.
Keep this in mind if fragrances bother you. It sounds like they have made efforts to bring the odor down within the range someone accustomed to wearing make-up would not be bothered by—but since I have not smelled any of the new paint you’re on your own for that.
Note: If you are familiar with the honey smell M. Graham Watercolors and Gouache both have, please note that the Colors of Nature smell is much more intense and beyond that in perfume strength.
Color Strength and Dillution
Now for some good news. When working with the paint I found that there was good color strength retained even when making light tints by diluting the paint. You will see an example of this in the feathers of my finch sketch, where the marks get lighter, but still have vibrancy.
With all the colors I tested there is also a lovely granulation which many painters, myself included, love.
Composition of the Paints
The paints are full of pigment and they use a pure powdered gum Arabic.
As I was working with the paints I noticed them drying differently from the paints I’m used to working with, and then I remembered they reminded me of Holbein watercolors. I was not surprised therefore to learn from the company that Color of Nature doesn’t use oxgall in their mix (because of their animal friendly policies). Holbein paint is also made without oxgall. Oxgall is a wetting agent and it helps the pigments spread and blend easily. It is not uncommon for artists interested in laying in a large, large background watercolor wash to add a few drops of oxgall to their mixing water to add in the creation of a seamless blended sky, even when the paint they use already contains oxgall.
Left: from the detail of my test sketch you can see some of what I mean by paint movement and flow. Edges would need more work, some strokes remain more stridently visible even when working on an accommodating watercolor paper with nice sizing. You will also see that the richness of the colors is yummy. Click on the image to view the image.
If you look at my sketch closely you will see how the paint stops, and see the characteristics of drying with this type of paint. If you already work with Holbein watercolors your working habits will be well suited to use this paint. If you’re used to working with paints containing oxgall you can adapt fairly quickly, and take advantage of the aspects of this formulation, which might lead you to new methods you prefer to previous approaches. You can of course control the oxgall situation by using this paint and adding your own oxgall (available from several companies), however this last effort rather undermines the animal cruelty free practices of the company.
Workability of the Paints
Had I not been hindered by the overpowering fragrance I saw enough in the early mixes I was achieving to know I would have had to adapt my working style with watercolors to work with these paints, but that it would have been a fun adventure out of which I’m convinced I would have achieved interesting results.
While the paints are labeled as kid friendly, and they are because of the lack of toxicity, these are still an artist quality paint, so if issues of toxicity concern you these paints will provide a comfort level.
The creators of these paints have done what they can to make a quality watercolor paint that reduces the harm to the artist, animals, and environment. They are committed to this philosophy and are adding additional products that support this philosophy:
Our customers have requested that we provide brushes that come with the same assurances that our paints and soap do: cruelty-free (including the glue that binds the bristle to the ferrule) and animal-free. Our current brushes are high-quality faux squirrel and faux Kolinsky and we are also going to carry branded brushes that are unpainted wood handles and synthetic sable bristles in a variety of styles.
Additional Information about Colors of Nature—The Company
Currently they are focused on online sales but they have started affiliate programs with a variety of watercolor societies in United States and are hoping to make that number grow and include Canada in June.
Above: ©2014 Diane Wesman, Strathmore Watercolor Paper and Color of Nature watercolor paints. In this trial painting Diane used a number of her approaches to see how the paint would perform. She used it wet-in-wet, wet-on-dry, rubbed paint back, and experimented with a variety of brushes and strokes as she sketched a marsh behind her home. Click on the image to view an enlargement.
The Landscape Painter’s Assessment
Since I’m not a landscape painter and it strikes me that the colors in this set are geared towards a landscape painter’s palette, I passed my set of paints along to the talented local landscape artist Diane Wesman. (You can see some of Diane's work currently up in the Project Art for Nature show at the Jaques Gallery at the Bell Museum of Natural History on the University of Minnesota Minneapolis Campus.)
Here is what Diane had to say:
Well...it has its good points and some real drawbacks for me. I think it smells like some sort of cheap candy. I used it outside on the deck. You know me, I can stand the smell of most anything except a sick room or a garbage transfer station. That said, I don't like the smell at all. I wrote down some comments e.g. they need a cooler blue for landscape artists, a real red. Makes stupendous grays and muted colors and can be wiped off and reworked at will. Sort of interesting that way.
The jar container system is fraught with problems for any artist who works in the field, and inconvenient for studio artists. The paint’s odor will be problematic for many artists.
I do believe however that the paint has interesting qualities that will appeal to users working in the studio and tolerant to strong fragrances. Many will welcome a company working hard to make products that strongly reflect an animal-free product stance. I will look forward to seeing what they start doing with brushes.
Technorati Tags: animal cruelty free art supplies, assessment, Colors of Nature, Diane Wesman, environmentally friendly art supplies, finch sketch, review of watercolors, vegan art supplies, watercolors
Above: sketch made after the May MCBA VIsual Journal Collective meeting where we drew from imagination. Brush pen and Montana Marker, and a little bit of a Zig red marker. Also a song that I heard, an old jazz song, that had fun lyrics. Click on the image to view an enlargement.
I prefer to draw things when I'm looking at them, but after the May meeting of the MCBA Visual Journal Collective got me in "sketching from imagination mode" I found I couldn't stop. Especially because it felt like doodling in my college notebooks given that I'm using these lined Japanese journals.
Sometimes it's just too fun to run the pen over an accommodating paper and blow off steam after a particularly stressful day. One of the best reasons to draw.
Posted at 04:00 AM in Animals, Backstory, Book Arts, Brush Drawing, Brush Pens, Doodling, Journal Practice, Journaling, MCBA, Pentel Brush Pens, Sketching, Sketching from Imagination, Twin Cities, Visual Journal Collective, Visual Journaling, Why Draw? | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)