RozWorks.com Visit my website to view journal selections, paintings, and book arts projects. For the most recent information on classes and workshops please click on "Classes" in the categories list of this blog.
Second "Design Recharge" Interview: April 1, 2015 In this second interview with Diane Gibbs at "Design Recharge" we focus on International Fake Journal Month. If you're wondering just what that is, I give a great description of it, and why you might want to participate. Also check out our earlier interview (below on this list) if you want more information about how I approach visual journaling.
First "Design Recharge" Interview: February 12, 2015 Diane Gibbs of Design Recharge interviewed me for International Fake Journal Month (2015). We get a little side tracked and talk a lot about sketching, visual journaling, and my creative process. It's a great interview.
Danny Gregory and I Discuss Visual Journaling Sadly a two part podcast from May 2008 made with Danny Gregory, author of "An Illustrated Life," is not currently available. We talked about journaling, art media, and materials…If this becomes available again in the future I will let you know.
Finding Bits of Time Ricë Freeman-Zachery, author of "Creative Time and Space," talks to me about finding time to be creative. (Taped October 23, 2009.)
Earlier this year Wet Paint's manager Darin Rinne asked me if I would like to select a new custom set of this paint. Of course!
Sets always come in at a great price and that means more people can try gouache, fall in love with gouache, and make gouache so popular that Wet Paint will stock it forever! (That's my goal because I like driving over to Wet Paint and buying a tube whenever I need one!)
I selected colors for this set that would be useful for color theory and for artists interested in using a palette of warm and cool primaries. Not only will these colors get you started but you'll be able to grow in your understanding of gouache with them. (And who doesn't want to do that? Come on, it's the most fun paint ever!)
Once the details of the set were worked out with Schmincke (this is an exclusive set for Wet Paint), I still wasn't allowed to say anything as the arrival date wasn't known yet.
Imagine my excitement when I learned they had come in.
What's so great about Schmincke Horadam Gouache?Well it is smooth and luscious and easy to work with. It is packed with pigment and doesn't contain opacifiers. You can paint light washes with this paint or layer it on. It doesn't crack like some other brands. And Schmincke's colors are rich when mixed, not cloudy. It also has no unpleasant or harsh odor!
Even more exciting, you can put it in your own pans and rewet it when you take it out into the field (I talk about putting it in pans in the short video, but the video also tells you how you'll get more information about this paint when you buy the set).
The other great thing about the set is the price: $129.99 (the MSRP is $268.75).
So which colors come in the box?
Purple Magenta, Scarlet Red, Vermillion Tone, Indian Yellow, Lemon Yellow, Helio Turquoise, Helio Blue, Delft Blue (which is PB60 if you're wondering), Burnt Sienna, and Titanium White.
I cannot say enough good stuff about this paint. It's the best gouache I have ever used (and I've used every gouache I could get my hands on my whole life).
I think that every day I get to paint with this paint is a great day, so naturally I try to paint with it every day. Sure, like any new medium you have to learn its quirks, but when you do, well it's probably the most forgiving paint there is. I was writing about just that very thing yesterday on the blog, not knowing what a great day it would be today!
If you have ever taken a class from me, or if you read this blog regularly, you'll know that "Fun Factor" is huge for me. I like to experiment and push myself, but I also like to have fun in the process and this paint allows me to do just that.
There hasn't been a better time to try gouache.
Right now at Wet Paint there are 200 sets of Schmincke Horadam Gouache waiting to go out into the world. Watch the video to learn about the secret surprise.Then decide if it's time to start having fun with gouache!
By taking this class besides making an elegant and useful structure for your visual journaling and sketching habit you'll learn a lot about paper for visual journaling, and you'll finish class with the skills to create custom journals and sketchbooks that contain papers you love in the size you enjoy working at.
For non-US students I know that the paper used is this book has proved difficult to find locally for you. Because of the way the class is structured it's essential that we all work with the same materials the first time you make this structure.
However, recently, some of my drawing students investigated and learned that Hahnemühle Gutenberg goes by a different name in England. (And perhaps in all of Europe? I don't understand why the company would change the name of their product, but then I wasn't consulted.)
I'm sorry we couldn't discover this sooner. The class will be offered again in 2017. Or you can join in now, watch the videos and wait for your paper delivery before you make your book. I highly recommend watching the videos several times anyway.
Evidently John Purcell in London also sells this paper, however only in 25 sheet lots.
If creating great handmade books is something that interests you I look forward to working with you.
Today I’ve posted two other trial pages, both from a Fabriano Venezia journal which takes wet media.
I have comments about using the medium on both pages and you can click on the pages and read my notes. The product is advertised as "pigmented" and you can view various YouTube Video demonstrations if you Google the product. I'm not interested in pursuing it further.
I looked into these crayons because I’ve been looking for ways to created stenciled background color on my journal pages and in my paintings. I’m having difficulty getting rubber-stamp ink that is not perfumed or does not have a chemical odor, and does all that I need it to do.
I had hoped that distress crayons might fill this “void.” But it’s not to be.
You’ll also see at one point that I say the odor is not overpowering. However, after additional use of this material I found that I can last an hour with it and the smell is too great for me. (Most of my friends do not find it bothersome.)
Overall I find the wet color this material produces is on the “wimpy” end of the spectrum for my use. I also find that the undissolved line of color will remain smudge-able indefinitely. Overall it isn’t a product that I can use as I had hoped, and I find that there are similar products (like NeoColor II) which are much richer and more useful over a range of techniques.
I will continue to use these only for life drawing gesture sketches.
Below: Another test page with additional comments. Please note that I can only work for one hour with this product before the odor gives me a headache. Click on the image to view an enlargement.
Above: Examples of the Simple Round Back Spine structure. The book at the left and front both have recessed labels which we'll create in class. We will discuss other labeling approaches like the back, right book in class. Click on the image to view an enlargement.
Whether spring has just started where you live and it’s time to make journals for your summer adventures outside, or winter is approaching and it’s time to stay by the fire and sketch it’s always the perfect time bind some sketchbooks.
It doesn’t matter if you are just starting your journaling and sketching habit or you have been filling journals for years,you’ve probably wished that you could make a lovely, elegant, sturdy journal with paper that holds up to your working methods, in a size you love. A structure that will open flat on a scanner!
In this detailed class I will take you through the creation of just such a journal. I will teach you about paper grain, tearing paper, punching sewing holes, folding and sewing your signatures, and every step of creating the book cover and casing in your text block. The videos show each step clearly. I provide explanations for the “why” behind my approach so that you can come to understand binding more completely.
Students will work at their own pace.Some students finish a book in the first two days of class, others work throughout the month on one book. You can decide when you want to work. I will be active in class throughout May to answer your questions.
Class is geared toward the home bookbinder who does not have large presses and other expensive binding equipment. With only a few simple tools you can bind your own books.
For class purposes students will need to work with specific supplies so that I can ensure you learn the fundamentals and end up with a sound structure.But you are then encouraged to continue to make books throughout the year to solidify your knowledge. During that phase of class students branch out into different sizes and different papers. I will continue to check the classroom during the year to answer questions and provide suggestions.
Additionally there will be four live webinars. Students will be able to ask questions and be part of a live discussion. (Don’t worry if you live in a different time zone. The webinars are taped and can be viewed at the student’s convenience.)
Classroom access to all the videos and classroom discussion lasts for at least one year from the class starting date. You will be able to review the tapes again and again as you continue to make books during the year. You will be building a durable skill.
I hope that you will join me to discover how fun and satisfying the binding process is.
Note: While this book structure is totally suitable for collage work, if the majority of your visual journal work is collage I would suggest that you wait a few months to take my Sewn-on-the-Spine Journal class. That class is perfect for the sketcher who needs a structure that accommodates even dimensional collage. I wanted to give you a heads up that this class is coming because I realize we all need to budget our money and our time.
Additional book structures will be featured in upcoming classes in 2017.
I finished using my tester journal at the end of 2015 and will repeat what I said in that initial post on the sketchbook—if you like cold press watercolor paper the Kilimanjaro paper is delightful. It comes in the original bright white and also a "natural" white. (I used the original bright white though some of my scans were made on a dying scanner and not flattened properly so there is shadow on the pages—it is a bright white paper.)
In my testing I found that many pens worked great on this paper.
For this monochromatic sketch to test laying in shadows I used the Platinum Carbon Black Fiber-tipped brush pen (which is a pretty stuff fiber tip that’s more like a felt tip marker than a brush pen). The ink dried well on the paper and I was able to add watercolors immediately.
Click on any image to view an enlargement.
Below: All sketches are from a 9 x 12 inch portrait style journal (it’s also available in landscape). Left: ink and watercolor, Right: direct brush painting. Both sketches were made while I was watching a discussion panel made up of the people responsible for the TV show “Justified.”
Below: Sketches made while watching, “The Detectorists.” I was trying to ascertain how quickly I could mix and blend watercolor on the paper. (Left with the Sakura Pigment Sensei pen and right, direct brush.)
Below: Experimenting with the Platinum Carbon Black Fiber-tipped brush penand gouache to see if I wanted to take gouache (most of the ink has been covered.
Below: Left with the Sakura Pigment Sensei pen and watercolors, with red gouache in the background. Right with the same pen and 30 second or less sketches of people moving on TV. This sheet is one of the “drawing paper sheets” that is interleaved between the watercolor paper in this journal. It’s a nice paper, but pretty thin and “vanilla” It takes pencil but pen shows through and wet media seeps through (top).
Below: Left, the drawing paper again, here you can see the ink show through from the previous page. I’m working with purple color pencil to see if I want to work with color pencil and watercolor at the Fair—so quick gesture sketches of people walking around. Right, color pencil (Dark grape) and watercolor test on the cold press watercolor paper. (Quick sketches from TV.)
Below: I had already decided not to use this sketchbook for the Fair, but I wanted to continue to work through its pages and test other materials. Here is a sketch from TV (stopped) using the Sakura Pigment Sensei pen .6 with watercolors. On the right I’ve taped out an area, toned it with acrylics and used the Pentel Pocket Brush Pen to sketch Stephen Fry on a Gear and Tech show he did. I used Nichiban artist’s masking tape. It removed easily from this paper.
Below: I repeated the taping experiment (Nichiban tape was left on for up to 2 weeks without difficulty on this paper). Besides sketching a character actor using the PPBP I colored over the toned background with Montana Acrylic Marker. And Right, I prepainted the background with acrylic paint, let it dry, and then taped a window area, into which I then did a sketch of Dick from life usingthe PPBP and then went in with gouache.
Construction of the Kilimanjaro sketchbook is the only thing I didn’t like about it.
I could deal with the light weight drawing paper, but the covers and coil binding of the Kilimanjaro Sketchbook weren't quality.
There is a thick but dull and unappealing back cover of some sort of pressed cardboard. The front of the journal is a thin label sheet on card stock which has the details about the product. Beneath that sheet (which is meant to be torn away) you have a sheet of 300 lb. Kilimanjaro. The idea is that you will paint your own cover.
I kept the cover sheet on until I finished the journal (in fact it’s still on) and recommend you too keep the label sheet on until you are through working in the book. In fact I would recommend you wrap the label sheet and 300 lb. watercolor "cover" together in clean newsprint to keep them clean and unharmed as you work in the book. The back cover, with very little use got exceedingly dog eared and it looks very cheap and tacky. You might wrap that while working in the book too.
The coil binding is of the type that is comprised of loops that don’t lock, but simply circle into the pages and bend towards each other. The problem with this type of coiling is that if it isn’t applied correctly the pages “leak out” where the opening is, as it runs the length of the coil. This is unfortunate because the pages shift to those openings every time you fold them back on each other (the point of a coil binding) or sometimes just open the book. I purchased 5 of these books and they were all like this. Other sketchbooks purchased long ago from different vendors using this type of coiling positioned the ends differently to avoid this problem. Maybe the folks at Cheap Joe's were just having a bad day at the factory? But all my American Journey Watercolor journals came with the coiling also poorly applied (I bought 5 of those too, all bad).
This defect can be remedied by doing the following:
Take a piece of stout string or waxed linen cord (I used 3 ply) and knot to the wire at the base end of the coil. You will then lace the thread through the loops made by the coil so that you are weaving in and out from male loop to female loop, tightening to leave no gaps. Knot on the wire at the head of the coil and trim your thread.
This kept the pages of the two American Journey journals I took to the Fair together without incident. When the Fair was over I simply numbered the pages, cut the cord, slipped out the coil (which didn’t argue or put up a fuss) and put the pages of two and a half sketchbooks in one stack, with one set of covers. (The American Journey Watercolor Journal Line has lovely hard board covers with a tough covering. They are marred only by a debossed logo on the cover—I like my commercially bound journals naked.) Using a large diameter plastic coil I purchased for about 30 cents from what was Kinko’s (I don’t know what they are called now), I then threaded the coil through the holes in the stack of covers and pages, and cranked the coil end tips over at about 1/4 inch from the end with a fine-tipped pliers (it stops them from unwinding backwards through the holes). The Fair journal was complete, no problem. (OK, I did cut down into the cover board and lift out the American Journey logo and lay in a laminated print of my spin art.)
I did the same re-coiling procedures on the Kilimanjaro book, substituting a new coil after its pages had been filled, and then scanned. No problem.
I will happily use the American Journey Journal line again as I like the stiff covers. If I use the Kilimanjaro again I will create different covers for it and have them punched at Kinko’s.
So there you have it—the Kilimanjaro paper will delight any traditional watercolorist. The issues with the construction of the sketchbook can be handled as discussed.
Above: Another late night selfie in the Flex Book Sketch (I haven't finished the review, but hope to next week). I was testing the marks I could get with the Kuretake PK3-10S brush Pen. Click on the image to view the enlargement and read my notes about the pen.
I wasn't particularly happy with the Kuretake Brush Pen. I don't now if the PK3-10S is just Wet Paint's stock number or what, because the packaging is in Japanese.
It’s a solid fiber tip brush pen.
You can read the problems I had with it on the page. I can put up with a little light bleeding of the ink when I wash over it with water (or watercolor), but it's the new pen not making a smooth line that really bothered me.
(And don't get too freaked out about my note on the paper cracking. It didn't really crack it CREASED heavily, but I didn't correct my note on the page before I scanned it. I hope to get the review up of the sketchbook next week.)
Left: Quick sketch using the .3 Sakura Pigma Sensei Pen on white Stonehenge. Yes, most pens work fantastically well on Stonehenge (I can't think of one that doesn't right now), but the Sensei works particularly well, giving you a line that looks reminiscent of using a dip pen. When you blow up the image it might seem that the pen is skipping, on the very faint lines, but I was using very light pressure, and it's going over the paper texture and lightly hitting it. Click on the image to view an enlargement.
Today's post is a little bit shocking, or will be to long-time readers of my blog. I actually took a pen to this year's Minnesota State Fair OTHER than the Staedtler Pigment Liners!
So let's back up a bit and look at the whole picture.
I've loved Staedtler Pigment Liners since the 1990s when I finally gave up my technical pens for sketching and for technical drawing. Everything technical could be done on the computer. That beat cleaning 9 pens all the time.
I tried the various Rotring disposables and I really enjoyed them, but they became more and more difficult to find. I tested a lot of pens. Most of the waterproof pens my friend were using for sketching had ink that was too smelly for me.
I kept looking.
I really liked the Nexus Rollerball pens with India Ink. Even when one out of four leaked horribly after little usage for me, I still looked for them everywhere. I still will buy them when I find them. Filled with black or colored India Inks, these pens were lovely to work with on almost all the papers I used. They dried quickly and allowed me to go right to watercolor. (The Payne's Grey was a particular favorite of mine.)
But mostly I kept using the Staedtler Pigment Liners (SPLs) and the Faber-Castell Pitt Calligraphy Pen. (SPLs came in 3 sizes of calligraphy tip years ago, but they were discontinued. Sigh. They were all smaller than the Faber-Castell Pitt Calligraphy Pen's [F-CPCP] tip.)
While I still love the SPLs for just about everything, I knew I was going to work on watercolor paper for the Fair. On some watercolor papers the SPLs don’t dry quite as fast and they bleed every so slightly if you wash over them before they dry in those conditions.
Left: A of various sizes of the Sensei in different thicknesses of nib, on creamy TH Saunders/Waterford 140 lb. hot press watercolor paper. Note that in the face at the bottom left the shading is a mixed neutral watercolor, not bleeding from the ink lines. I was playing with which size of tip I prefer sketching with and working on a 9 x 12 inch sheet. See below for a detail of the upper right. Click on the image to view an enlargement.
I was at a friend’s for dinner and she had used the Sensei on Arches watercolor paper for a project. I thought that with that heavy sizing on Arches, if she didn’t experience bleeding it would be worth testing.
I had to call around town and no one had them. Then I ordered them from Jet Pens. (Since then I’ve found them at Art Materials, and Wet Paint has sets, and may stock individual pens—I hope so. I’ll keep you posted.)
Armed with a set of 8 I started experimenting. The set of 8 comes with a .3 mm, .4 mm, .6 mm, and a 1.0 mm drawing tip, and a 1.0 mm, 2.0 mm, and 3.00 mm chisel tip. The final piece in the set is a mechanical pencil. It’s not a great pencil, so for me that’s a throwaway. I recommend you buy open stock and get exactly what you want.
Left: Detail of the watercolor sketch on the TH Saunders/Waterford 140 lb. hot press watercolor paper. The sketch was made with the .4 mm tip and the thicker lines at the outside of the sketch are the 1.0 mm tip. Click on the image to view and enlargement.
These pens were made for Manga artists. The ink they contain “is archival quality, smear- and feather-resistant, waterproof, chemical proof, and fade-resistant. It also does not bleed through most papers.” (According to Jet Pens website. In all of my drawing tests I’ve found that they are indeed smear-and feather-resistant and waterproof.)
The tips are fiber/felt type tips, but I found that the .4 mm has what looks like a plastic tip and the .3 mm has a metal tube supporting the fine tip. The .6 mm and 1.0 mm are all fiber/felt and you can also turn them on edge to create a bolder line. The ink has a slight chemical smell, but nothing as overpowering as a Sharpie. I found that I could use them for long periods of time with no headache or any other odor related issues. Most people I surveyed didn't even notice the odor.
UPDATE 9.30.15: Jet Pens just sent out a note about Drawing Pens. They state that the tips of these pens are made of PLASTIC. (That explains my confusion when looking at the different tips in this line.) They are not fiber/felt type tips. Interesting for me to know this after all these years using the Staedtler Pigment Liners and thinking they were a fiber-tipped pen.
My friend was charmed by the 1.0 mm, because she misses having a large, firm tipped pen to replace her love of the non-archival sign pens she used in the 1980s and 1990s. (The drawings she did with those sign pens have since all turned green because the inks were dye-based and blended. She’s thrilled this ink is pigment based.)
Since my purpose for testing new pens was to find one that worked well on watercolor paper I was pleased to find the ink waterproof almost immediately on my pre-Fair tests.
At the Fair, despite very high humidity which made the paper soft, the pens continued to work well, produce clean, unfeathered lines, and dry quickly so that I could add watercolors pretty much immediately. In areas where I laid in multiple lines a small amount of ink may have, from time to time, released into a wash applied before the ink could dry (given the humid conditions), but I would rate them highly for being quick to dry and not bleeding when washed over.
I never thought I would find a pen that I loved as much as, or even a little more than (in some situations) the SPL. But there it is. There were some times at the Fair when I didn’t even want to add color because I loved working with the pen so much. I also have a side-by side comparison that I’ll post on another day.
If you like this type of pen for sketching and like a firm, hard tip in the smaller sizes, and a firm tip in the larger sizes. I think you should take a weekend sketching trip with a handful of these pens and your favorite paper and see what you think. Or stay home with them and try them on all the papers you have at hand.
The ink is rich and black. It holds up well against the watercolor. You won't feel the need to go in and restate lines.
If you don’t like scratchiness at any point in the life of your pens then you probably won’t enjoy working with these pens. The smaller tips and the calligraphy tips at least start out stiff and scratchy, even if they don’t all stay that way.
I was very excited about the 3 calligraphy tip options in this line. You’ll see images sketched with those pens in later posts. I love using them and have already replaced my original calligraphy pens, I used them that much. I will just say that the tip wears down more quickly than the F-CPCP. But because this pen line has 3 sizes, all smaller than the F-CPCP, they are worth exploring. They may seem rough at first, then they break into a great working mode. Finally they wear out and aren’t really any different from the regular tips in the lines they make.
I think that calligraphers using the pens for writing will find they are more resilient. For me, using them to draw, I’m probably harder on them than most people because I’m using a corner edge, then the full edge, and quite frankly working so fast that the pen probably doesn’t know what is going on.
Above: Quick sketch of a sheep using a Platinum Carbon Black felt-tipped pen, light washes of gouache, and Montana Marker. (12 x 9 inches, Kilimanjaro Watercolor journal, wire bound on the 12 inch side.) Click on the image to view an enlargement.
Originally, while getting ready to go to the 2015 Minnesota State Fair, I thought that I would like to take real watercolor paper. I got two different types of watercolor journals—both with wire coil bindings.
This is a BRIGHT white, cold press paper. The journal is filled with this 140 lb. watercolor paper interleaved with 70 lb. sketch paper. (There is a flimsy cardstock cover with labeling on this journal, and then beneath that a sheet of 300 lb. watercolor paper for you to paint as the cover of your finalized journal. Frankly I'd rather have the true heavy weight covers from the American Journey Line of Cheap Joe's journals.)
I thought the bright white of the paper would be fun to work with, along with the cold press texture—which is a good deal more texture than I usually deal with.
I also thought that the sketch paper would be good for doing sketches when I didn't want to get the paints out at the Fair.
Left: Detail. Click on the image to view an enlargement of the detail which shows the texture of the paper.
When the sketchbooks arrived I got out some video from last year's Fair and played it on my computer. I did this sheep sketch from that video.
I used a wide (2 inches) flat brush—something I could never do at the Fair, because I couldn't stand and paint as I usually do and constantly bend to deal with water sitting on the barn floor. And there is little opportunity to sit in the barns.
But I did enjoy trying various experiments on this paper about 2 weeks before the Fair started.
First it was fun to work on real watercolor paper after a long break. I love the bright white color of this paper, and while I'm not a fan of cold press watercolor paper I enjoyed the way the texture of this cold press paper accepted the washes and created interesting puddles and paint textures.
The Platinum Carbon Black ink bled ever so slightly on this paper. (See the eye on your left—the line at the top right bled into the lavender paint. Then, coming down from the eye to the muzzle, I laid in a neutral glaze of paint, and if you look closely at that, you can see the pen ink bleeding into that wash.Though I wasn't surprised about that as there is a lot of ink scribbled in that area.)
This means the sizing on the paper wasn't letting the ink dry fast enough. But on the other hand, the bleeding was so minimal, that I know I'll use this pen on the remaining pages in days to come, simply because the pen tip felt good on the paper.
I decided against taking this paper to the 2015 Minnesota State Fair because I thought it was too rough for all the writing I like to do. And I wanted to use some bold lines and the Pentel Pocket Brush Pen took a longer time than I like to wait, to dry on this paper.
I had hoped to do lots of color experiments at the Fair, and this image was practice for that. But I realized, on that first day at the Fair, that I needed big brushes to do this, and I only had the standard Niji waterbrushes. Maybe some day I'll go to the Fair and find a barn corner where I can set up a chair and a container of water and use a two-inch flat brush with big washes of gouache or watercolor, but it wasn't this year.
We can have plans, but we need to be flexible.We can want to focus on color experiments and then find ourselves working instead mostly with pen, and mostly with new pens.
Sometimes our plans fall apart because we default to our "comfort zones" or our comfort materials and tools. Other times we have to adjust while all the days of thought and planning get tossed simply because of which pen we pulled out of the pocket first. And we get into a groove we decide to run with faced, with the actual conditions on the day.
Someday I may take one of these "paintbooks" to the Fair, or on a trip. I know I'll be happy with the paper.
Yes I thought I'd experiment with bold color (which I ended up not doing after all), but I also thought I would use color pencil and I found the surface of this paper stiffer and more resistant to color pencil than I enjoy. I also worried that I'd end up doing a lot of small sketches on the drawing paper and that some of those might migrate to the watercolor paper. The texture didn't seem right to me for small sketches.
If you like working with 140 lb. cold press watercolor paper (you can get Bright White or Natural White Kilimanjaro, depending on your preference) you might want to give this paintbook a try.
I'd love it if they made the drawing paper 90 lb. instead of 70 lb. It would be more opaque and fun to draw on. But I can live with the 70 lb. paper.
I have more tests with different media, done on this paper, that I'll show on another day when the pages of this journal are scanned.
Recommendation:The metal coil binding it comes with is flimsy and doesn't join properly at the back, so when you open and close the journal a gap opens in the binding coil. Pages can actually start to come out at the back. I noticed this in the testing phase. I solved this tendency by taking a length of 3-ply waxed Irish linen thread and sewing in and out of the coils at the back, to hold the approaching edges of the curved coil together with the thread. Problem solved, accident averted.
Note: I started a new category "sheep" with this post. There are lots of other sheep on the blog before this post. Those you'll have to find by using a key-word search for sheep or Minnesota State Fair. You can use the blog's search engine at the top of the left-hand column. I just really thought I should start a category for sheep going forward.
Left: Pigeon sketch on Strathmore 400 Series Printmaking paper (5 x 7 inches) with Platinum Refillable Felt-Tipped Brush Pen and gouache. Click on the image to view an enlargement.
It has been a busy summer. I wanted to have my “Drawing Practice: Drawing Live Subjects in Public” class before the Minnesota State Fair in hopes that local students could take the techniques to the Fair. That worked well as even a couple long distance students were able to attend the Fair. Other far-flung students have reported going off to their own Fairs and festivals in search of live subjects to draw.
Even though I was caught up in the interaction with students I still had to finalize my own plans for the Fair. I’ll be writing about those experiments and selections off and on for the next several weeks. While the Fair is over, it’s never too early to begin planning for the next sketching adventure. Some of the materials I tested might be useful to you when you make those plans.
Selecting a Paper for Sketching at the Minnesota State Fair—I Make a Start
Before you can select a paper you really need to think about what you want to use on that paper. For me, I knew this year I wanted to use pen and watercolor.
For my drawing class I’d suggested students use the Strathmore 500 Series Mixed Media journal because I knew that paper would take all the materials I was discussing in class and return good results to students—it is not a paper that would frustrate them, regardless of their skill level.
But I took one of those journals to the Fair last year because I couldn’t bind then either. I wanted to use something different. All through class while I was helping students with their sketching techniques I wanted more time working on real watercolor paper. Since I couldn’t bind a new book with watercolor paper, and there isn’t a commercially available journal with watercolor paper that I really like my mind turned to the idea of journal cards—but I didn’t want to cut paper, even with a board shears.
I ordered some watercolor journals with wire bindings that I’ll talk about on another day. I wouldn't have time to test them until they arrived just before the Fair, but one contained one of my favorite papers so I knew I was “covered” if I didn’t find something else to use. While I was waiting for them to arrive I kept looking for other alternatives in case the 9 x 12 inch size proved to large for me to carry with my shoulder issues.
Then I saw the Strathmore 400 Series Printmaking paper in pads at Wet Paint. The 280 gms paper was thick enough to work as a pre-cut journal card. The paper is also reasonably priced. I bought a pad and brought it home to test.
Left: Detail of the pigeon painting. The right side of the detail shows a light wash laid in. I will often have light applications of gouache in some areas of my paintings. On the darker, left side you will see some light areas where I scrubbed the dried paint back to lighten an area. All of this is possible on this paper. Click on the image to view an enlargement.
Because I originally planned to work on actual watercolor paper I had also started testing ink pens. Not all “waterproof” pens respond as waterproof when used on the heavy sizing of a real watercolor paper. Watercolor papers are treated, typically, both internally and externally with sizing which prevents the paint from soaking into the paper. By floating the paint on the surface of the paper while it dries you achieve a brighter look. But this same sizing keeps the ink you sketch with from soaking in and drying quickly too. So you want to test your pens and inks with this in mind. If you would like to read more about this see my post “It’s Not Waterproof Until It’s Waterproof.
I’d seen an advertisement for the Platinum Refillable Felt-Tipped Brush Pen, which uses cartridges of that ink. I don’t normally like felt-tipped brush pens for anything except very quick sketching and writing (sometimes it’s very fun to write with them). But I have had good luck with the Platinum Carbon Black ink on some watercolor papers and decided to do some tests with this pen.
Dick purchased a couple of these pens for me from Goulet Pens. If you are going to use cartridges instead of a converter with this pen—and when you're at the Fair it's easier to just pop in another cartridge—be sure to buy the Platinum Carbon Black Cartridges and not Platinum Black ones. It's the Carbon black ink that I'm having waterproof success with.
If you purchase the converter for this pen you can use any type of fountain pen ink in it that you want. So you could use your favorite Noodler's ink in this pen and sketch in a color that you love.
The pigeon image shown here was the first test of that pen on the Strathmore 400 Series Printmaking paper. The paper has a hard surface and smooth tooth, but there is a slight texture to it. I found that the pen danced over the surface of this paper in a delightful way. When I added gouache washes I was delighted. The ink stayed put.
Since I knew I wasn’t going to take gouache to the Fair, and had only used it in the first test because the gouache palette I’d used earlier in the day for another painting was still sitting out, I did my next test with watercolor.
Left: Memory sketch of a rooster, using the Platinum Carbon Black Felt-Tipped Brush Pen and Schmincke pan watercolors. (Those are factory made pans.) Click on the image to view an enlargement.
For this second quick memory sketch I used the Schmincke pan watercolors I'd put together (I'll write about this on another day), and a large Niji Round Waterbrush.
If you click on the image to view the enlargement you will see the lovely way this paper keeps the paint on its surface resulting in a very bright look, even for the dark mixes. (I was working with Helio Blue Reddish and Burnt Sienna and Transparent Brown to mix my "blacks.")
Left: Detail of the Chicken sketch. Notice the layering of the paint and the fun, slight texture it picks up from the paper. Click on the image to view an enlargement.
You can see the the paint can be stroked on, that it can be allowed to puddle in interesting ways, that it can easily be layered, and it can be rubbed back (see the beak).
The eye was also rubbed back a bit and then new colors were applied. Enough of the original colors remained to give an interesting effect.
Also in this sketch, if you look at the top of the bird's head at the base of the comb or at the base of the cheek above the wattle, you'll see that I turned the brush tip on its side and got bold black lines that are quite fun.
I also loved the way the ink stayed vibrant and dark on this paper.
All in all I was quite taken with the Strathmore 400 Series Printmaking paper.
1. I could purchase it in a number of different pad sizes so I could decide at the last moment the journal card size I wanted to use.
2. It was thick enough and stiff enough to use as a journal card. (Even with heavy water application the paper didn't buckle. It curled a little, but in such a way that I believe simply weighting it will flatten it right out—and if that doesn't, it's still not even a distraction. Pieces could easily be held flat in frames if that were your intention.)
3. Because it was available in pads that cleanly released the sheets when pulled, I didn't have to worry about cutting anything down to size.
4. It took one of the inks I was testing exceptionally well. And that ink dried on the paper quickly, allowing me to go in almost immediately with washes, without any of the ink bleeding.
5. The printmaking paper took the watercolor washes (and gouache washes for that matter) very well. I could layer washes, and scrub out or lift up pigment to lighten areas.
6. It's an acid free paper. While it isn't the top of the line paper in this line of printmaking paper (the 500 Series is a 100 percent cotton paper that is acid free), I felt it was a strong paper.
7. It's economically priced so I could buy it and run through a lot of it.
8. It didn't have an offensive odor either dry or wet. (Something that matters a lot to me.)
Despite all those positives I did NOT select this paper for my 2015 Minnesota State Fair Journal.
I really can't think of a negative about this paper, except perhaps that its surface is too hard for me to use my default Staedtler Pigment Liners (SPLs) on it with complete comfort. (It's doable, it just wouldn't be totally fun for me.) And I don't believe I would enjoy working with graphite or color pencil on this paper surface—sure a bold line or too, but not the small strokes and wispy lines I like to play with.
Since I still wasn't sure I wouldn't use a lot of pencil, and still might rely on the SPLs I knew that this paper was NOT my 2015 Minnesota State Fair Journal paper.
But I wanted to share these tests with you because for all the reasons stated above, it's a good paper. I know that sometime this fall or winter someone will suggest a short trip and I'll grab a couple pads of this paper and off we'll go. I'll use the paper as journal cards and make a case for them when we return.
You might find the paper useful for that purpose as well.
Or maybe you want an inexpensive paper that will take ink and watercolor wash (or gouache) and you are trying to keep your paper consumption within your budget, while you work on a new series of paintings? This would be an excellent paper choice in that situation.
Add it to your list of papers to test your favorite pens upon.
You might find my review of the Strathmore 300 Series Printmaking paper of interest. That paper is too lightweight to serve as journal cards, but it's an interesting paper. I haven't tested the Strathmore 500 Series Printmaking paper yet. But you'll be the first to hear about it when I do. I tore several sheets down and they are waiting to be sewn together and bound in a book. I'm looking forward to it.