Tag Archives: art

Lightfast Testing

Every now and again I go through my various art supplies and test them to see if they are lightfast. Here in the US, it is now unusual to find ink or stationery supplies that are highly acidic, but lightfast? Well that is a whole other ballgame. I conduct tests of the majority of my fountain pen inks, colored pencils, watercolors, and other art tools. Why? Just because it’s archival doesn’t mean it’s lightfast. Whaaaat? It’s true archival has nothing to do with lightfastness or lack of it. Archival is a museum term that used to mean that the item in question is reversible to museum archivists and that it does less to no damage to the substrate. Typically, this has nothing to do with the item in question being lightfast. Though, archival is bandied about with marketing as if it means lightfast as well as acid free.lightfast

I’ve ranted and raved about acid free and to a point, archival, now being little more than a ridiculous marketing term, when the more important item to focus on is lightfastness.

What does lightfast mean? That when exposed to sunlight the color and shade of the item in question, be it paper, ink, or other pigmented item, doesn’t shift or change. That is to say, exposure to sunlight, or light, does not change the color of whatever has been used to make the artwork.

Does lightfastness mater? Only if you decide to make art for sale, or for yourself, that you plan to hang on the wall. If you don’t plan on making art for anyone but you and you intend for it to stay within the confines of your art journal, then no, lightfast matters little.

How does one test for lightfast? I have a sketchbook in which I divide a page into 2 columns with a number of rows that span both columns. The number of rows depends on what I’m testing. Generally, I make each row about 1 inch high. I use graphite pencil, as graphite is lightfast.lightfast

I label the top of the page with the date. I then fill in each row, across columns with various scribbles, hatches and line weights of the item I’m testing. With watercolors and markers I use a variety of amounts of pigment in water. After I’ve filled in a page, I cut off the right half of the page and hang it in a south facing window. I’ll notice shifts in color as quickly as in a week. The Kuretake Clean color brush markers? Oh so pretty, colors shifted in a week. Copic sketch markers? Same. Sharpies? Gone in 2, massive alterations in shade in a week.

Basically, I look at the sheet in a week, then again in 2 weeks. Sometimes it will take longer to notice changes if it has been cloudy or raining. Testing can also be done with a bulb that emits a full spectrum of light. Using sunlight is cheaper.

Why do I test? Not all of my art is made for sale, a great deal of what I create will never see the wall or sunlight other than when the pages of my journal are opened. But when I do create art that is for sale, it is important (to me) that if someone has paid me for my art that it is still there for them a year from now. I’ve sold work in the past only to find out that the pen I thought was lightfast, was indeed not.lightfast

Oh before anyone asks, pencils made of graphite or carbon are lightfast. There is rarely any need to test them.

Opinion: Adult Coloring Books and Art Therapy

By now I suppose everyone has read about the “adult coloring revolution!!!”, from one of those click-bait shares on the book of face. Some of these articles suggest that the use of these coloring books is as effective as art therapy or IS art therapy. To make either of these two suggestions is incorrect and innocently ignorant of what art therapy is and isn’t.

I will start this out by stating that coloring is an effective tool in reducing agitation, easing anxiety, and helping someone to contain their emotions in the short term. It is often a tool used in hospitals and by art therapists to assist clients in the short term. It is not a long term solution and can be something someone uses to simply shut off their feelings, which as I previous wrote, can be useful when containing emotions. But art therapy (and regular old talk therapy)  teaches us how to understand our emotions and how to cope with them. Rather than just shut off the emotions, we use skills and tools to understand. That’s therapy- the teaching of skills, tools, and understanding. While coloring is but one tool to assist in containing emotions.

I have personally witnessed  and worked with a client who used coloring to contain agitation and anxiety. The client had early stage dementia and would often be confused as to time(as in what year/date/month) in the morning. This would cause a great deal of anxiety and the client be quite agitated and angry. Using crayons and a selection of coloring sheets gave a moment to calmly color. It decreased anxiety, focused attention, distracted from confusion, and in a short period of time the client was calmer, and in a significantly better mood. The coloring allowed the client to focus attention away from anxiety of being aware of disorientation. This didn’t help to orientate to time or place but allowed the client to be calmly distracted and contain emotions. The elevation in mood didn’t last either. The client would be calmer for about an hour. The coloring was a tool to assist in the moment of agitation.

The main difference in the coloring and art therapy was that the coloring allowed the client to become calmed while art therapy allowed for exploring anxiety, understanding it, and normalizing emotions. Through coloring she became comfortable with color, making color choices, and knowing that art felt better.

In my mind coloring books are a tool to helping people to explore art as therapy, but art therapy is a powerful tool for healing. There is potential for coloring books to be a gateway for art therapy. Perhaps if someone begins to color as a way to relax, they will look up a registered art therapist in their area. I certainly won’t slam coloring books as ineffective, but instead look at them as a tool that has been a staple in the art therapist’s toolbox for ages. Instead of hissing and booing at the new boom in popularity, art therapists should capitalize on this popularity, and attempt to garner more positive attention on ourselves. I encourage people to look up some of these adult coloring books but to also understand that they are a tool, but to further understand themselves they should seek out an art therapist. If one is not near them, seek out a therapist who is open to you using art in your sessions.

So go ahead, color away, but be aware that there are art therapists out there who can help. (Links go to amazon affiliate links of coloring books I think look interesting.) Continue reading

Review: Sargent Watercolor Crayons

I'm a huge fan of watercolor crayons I've tried a number of brands but keep coming back to Caran D'Ache. Why? They are creamy, loaded with pigment, and move with water excellently. They are however pretty pricey at just over $1 a crayon that can add up. When I saw the Sargent Watercolor Crayons I wanted a pack immediately. I couldn't decide between the 8 or the 12 pack. Eventually I went with the 8 pack. They were reasonably priced at $6.67* at Artist & Craftsman.
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IMAG1211They are in a cardboard matchbox sliding box. No fancy tin here. You'll haveto excuse the paint that I got on the box, I had to use them to review them, and that included doing some of my usual watercolor crayon techniques.

The crayons themselves at first are a little stiff, I think the outer layer of crayon has dried out a tad. Once I used them for a few minutes and wore off the outer layer these crayons perform really well. I was really really surprised at how well they performed for inexpensive watercolor crayons. After the initial dried layer the crayons goes onto the page smoothly and looks like any crayon. The color is nice and deep so long as you put enough crayon on the page. The darkness of color can be controlled by how much crayon you lay down on the page. Color lightly- get light color; color heavily and get dark color.
IMAG1214These really surprised me in how well they lifted and moved around with water and a brush. They really needed very little water and brushing to move around well and blend with one another. Really really impressed with their ability to move once wet. Unlike the Staedtler watercolor crayons these moved while wet like Caran D'Ache.
IMAG1210I'm very impressed with this realtive newcomer to the watercolor crayon market. They perform really well for any art journaling need and are signifcantly less expensive than  the Caran D'Ache. Are these archival and lightfast? Probably not. I've not yet tested them. But like any student watercolor it's not likely. They do match the Sargent Watercolor magic liquid watercolors. So color-wise they match, allowing easy mixing across materials.

While I didn't purchase the 12-pack with a "free" brush I did look at the brush, flopping around loose in the cardboard box… It didn't look like it was a very high quality brush, but it would be useful for washes. It certainly looked like whatever point may have been on the brush was long gone. I don't know why manufacturers that include a "free" brush in a box of something haven't learned to put a small dab of rubbery glue to hold the brush in place to prevent damage. Common sense might cost the manufacturer some money.

A new addition to my review will be looking at the material's potential for use in my future art therapy practice, I'll keep it at the bottom of my reviews so people who aren't interested can ignore it, and those who are can find it easily. These watercolor crayons could be used with children or adults with success. They work as well as the "big" brand but at a much lower cost. Meaning, they can be purchased in a plentiful quantity that the client will never feel they are running out of materials and lending a sense of freedom to their use. If giving a client a new box is important, that can be done because the cost of these crayons is low. The crayons are non-toxic. There is, of course, the typical concern that one might have when giving "children's" supplies to adults.

Continue reading

Review: Sharpie Brush Markers

I purchased a few Sharpie brush tip markers to play around with after trying the prismacolor brush markers a few weeks back at the Sketchbook Project. For $1.50 each they were a great way to get my Jetpens order over the $25 mark for free shipping. YAY!

Out of the envelope they look a lot like any other Sharpie, a little chunkier and with some grooves on the cap. The end is hollowed out and there is a ring around the end of the marker. This lets the cap click onto the marker when you post it. Smart. Without posting the marker I found it a tad short to use. Posted it was just right. The markers are light weight.
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The marker tip is short, relatively stiff, yet pretty responsive at the tip. It’s not as springy as a Prismacolor or Copic brush tip but it does the job. I did a few quick sketches with the markers in my Stillman and Birn Beta sketchbook. The paper is a slight cold press finish. The Copic and Prismacolor handle this paper without complaint, the Sharpie is already looking fuzzy. I will admit to being less gentle with my brush tip markers, but in my opinion that’s exactly what these cry out for. Instead of drawing with brush tip markers I try to paint with them.
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So that brings me to my next round of inspection, layering. Copic and Prismacolor markers are designed to layer over one another to build up color, so it’s much like working with watercolors. Sharpies tend to stand on their own. Each layer of color turns the tone darker and darker, without subtle shading. Sharpie brush markers are best for bold expressive shouts of color. Finding a Sharpie brush marker in yellow proved to be an impossible task, unless one buys the set of 12. *sigh* So I bought a Copic sketch in yellow.
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These will write on just about anything, just  like a regular Sharpie. They do seem a tad juicier than regular Sharpies, so might be a good choice for acrylic paint. Just be aware that if you write over gesso with these you’re pretty much going to scrub that brush tip. I found these really fun for fast observations and sketches. The 2 sketches I’ve shown here took all of 10 minutes each. These brush tips really allowed me to lay down a lot of color fast. You’ll notice there isn’t a lot of subtlety though. Sharpies lay down bright bold lines and lots of ink.
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These are a great choice for someone who doesn’t want to invest in Copics or Prismacolors but wants that brush tip marker experience, they just need to be away it’s not going to be quite as good. Keep in mind they are probably not lightfast and are certainly not archival. Get them online at Jetpens.

Another Midori Traveller Notebook Knock Off Idea

I wanted to add 2 more journals to my MTNKO. I saw a blog post somewhere, I cna't remember the blog that added a additional pockets to the notebook through the use of a rubber band. I decided to use that idea to add 2 more notebooks. I wanted to have my general idea notebook, a notebook for PioP and another sketchbook. To do this hack you'll need the following:

A medium length thin rubber band or a loop of the elastic you used to make you MTNKO

2 Notebooks

Slide the rubber band through the center of one notebook then the other,so they are attached spine to spine. Slide one notebook under the notebook already in your MTNKO.

Here's a helpful video of the process.

 

 

State of the Weekend: An Everything Journal

I was given another glimpse into just how powerful art journaling can be last night. I had an idea for Put it on Paper, something that I had rolled around in my brain once before and pushed off as not possible and not a very good idea at the time, but I’d made note of it in my art journals, made some doodles and wrote it down.

I quickly flipped through the last 2 journals where I knew the info to be, tabbed those pages with a little Post it flag, and then used my iPoo Touch to snap some pics, shelved the books and took the info with me, in my pocket. I sketched out a quick idea in my art journal of what I thought this idea could look like and emailed it to Jane. As I relaxed into bed, I reviewed the pages on my iPoo and made some fresh notes and doodles about the content of the proposal.

How amazing is it that I can carry 4 journal’s worth of info in my pocket? I read somewhere that someone scanned their notebook pages into their computer and used a specific program to make them searchable. How cool is that?

If you have an art only journal consider carrying an everything art journal with you everywhere, it will prove itself to be indispensible in short order. (Check out a variety of pockete sized notebooks for this, or make your own pockeet noteboook using my tutorial here.)

Make Your Own Pocket Sized Notebook

Making your own pocket sized notebooks is ridiculously easy. Once your materials are gathered it really takes about 15 minutes to sew up 3 or 4 of these. If you've been buying Field Notes or Moleskine Cahiers you will save $9.99.

Here are the materials you'll need:

Awl/push pin
blunt needle with a large eye
thread- you can use Linen or Embrodery floss, or any thin sturdy thread made of a natural material
bee's wax, a block or candle
ruler
paper that you'd like inside cut to the size you'll need
cardstock for the cover

 

To figure out how wide to  cut the width of your pages and cover use this simple formula final (folded) width multiplied by 2 plus 1/4 inch So if I want my page to be 3.5 inches the formula works out as follows: 3.5×2+.25=7.25inches. You trim off the last .25 inch when the notebook is finished.

Honesty, Authenticity, Truthiness and Resonance

When I was in school everyone talked about wanting to make "honest work." The new buzzword for honest work is "authentic." We could spend days over glasses of red wine and mugs of coffee (as we did in college) talking about what this means. In the end it all boils down to, "I want to make work that resonates deeply withing myself and has deep personal meaning." End of story.

Or is it?

I think the truth of all the discussion and thinking on these topics is that essentially we're afraid of what we put on the paper/canvas/board/ or in the journal. Many of us make work and hide it away. It's why the art journal is so perfect, at the end of your art session you close the covers and never ever have to confront what you made again. Simple right? Except you're missing out on a  prime piece of the art journal process- learning from what you've put down and thus from yourself.

I think that fear is why we also buy into what the industry pumps out for us. It's far easier to follow the industry's recipe for success than to forge our own path and style.

Maybe the real question we need to ask ourselves is, "How do we move past the fear and into creating our work? How do we learn from ourselves to create work that resonates deeply?"

It's this hard work that an art journal is intended and supposed to help us explore. If you never look back at your pages and be critical of them (without gessoing over them) and learning from those pages what are you missing out on. If you focus on nothing but making pretty pretty pages I think you're missing out on a very important part of art journaling.

Here's a challenge: Go through your art journal, either the current journal you're working in or a recent one. Use a sharpie, write on the margins of a page what you'd change on that page. If you are too chicken you can use a post it note. If you get bold, draw right on top of the page with your sharpie.

Out of the Can Thinking

I've been watching some old episodes of Julia and Jacques Cooking at Home on Hulu. I grew up watching Julia Child on PBS. PBS being one of the few channels that came in and was approved for me to watch. I credit a lot of my enjoyment of cooking to both my Mom and ravenously watching Julia Child's shows.

One of the things I notice as I watch J&J:CaH is that Julia rambles on quite a bit about how Americans are afraid of their food and how the diet industry is winning out over taste. Secretly, I could watch these shows over and over again.

Julia has a good lesson for us, and it applies to art. We can't let the industry win in dictating what we want and how we want it. Child's recipes for successful tasty dishes included fresh and basic ingredients combined in ways to create layers of food, she poo-poo'd using canned foods and already made stuff. She stated over and over, "It's not hard, the recipe is a guideline!" Art and art journaling are no different. We should be demanding the basic ingredients and supplies we need to make our art and not canned supplies. After all it's not hard to customize and create your own stuff if you only

Dede and Eveline are a prime example of taking a recipe and making it their own and taking it to entirely new heights. Dede put out a challenge to Eve that she make Tim Holtz's 12 Tags of Christmas without using his voluminous list of supplies. Eve took up the challenge as did Dede. their results are nothing short of spectacular. Out of the can thinking at it's finest.

The art and craft industry responds to demands, but as it's a big slow and lumbering machine full of people all trying to get the NEXT BIG IDEA and thus the next big paycheck. The lumbering machine hears about art journaling, tries to figure out what it is, there are big IMPORTANT meetings in board rooms to try and figure it out, there are more meetings in board rooms, and hapless cogs in the machine are sent off to investigate ART JOURNALING. They know nothing about it, they watch a few youtube videos, read a few blogs, and maybe a few of the more intrepid cogs join AJNing. They take some notes, maybe even dabble in a little art journaling and finally something like the Smash Book is born.

Now, thousands of people will be introduced to Art Journaling via the SmashBook. It might even be a decent product, but it's not what I consider a true art journal. It's an interesting concept and an interesting way to finally grab hold of a potential market. Hey, it's even got it's own special glue stick, color coordinated tabs, and a hundred other things to buy to go with it. ARGH!!!

Go simple, buy yourself a sketchbook, a cheap one, a few markers, maybe a cheap set of acrylics or watercolors, and start splashing shit around on the page. Try stuff, watch some videos on youtube get a few recipes but for goodness sake don't be afraid to only use it as a guideline.