Tag Archives: art

Observation: Looking Back into Old Journals

I was looking through one of my older moleskine sketchbooks specifically the one I started writing in then I first moved to Massachusetts. One of the thigns that I wrote about a lot was simplicity. I had lived in a small 3-ish room apartment in the woods of Maine. My apartment was essentially 1 large L-shaped room, a half wall divided the kitchen from the living “room” and a wall with a doorway divided the kitchen from the bedroom. There was no door on the bedroom. The only room that had a door was the bathroom, which housed a shower stall, toilet, sink and a bunch of shelves. Total square feet of the apartment was maybe 600sq ft. If the walls had not been vaulted it would have been awesome.

When I moved to Mass the apartment I moved into wasn’t much larger. Over the years we moved from about 600sq ft to about 700 sq ft and now we are in a 1200 sq ft house, we’ve got about 300 to 500 sq ft we don’t use all that often. Sometimes I feel like it’s too much space and other times I feel like it’s not enough. I am really thankful we’ve got a garage and a basement, both of which feel decadent after years of living without a space to work on bikes, engines and greasy things that don’t belong on kitchen or coffee tables.

I feel like I need to revisit this simplicity concept . It’s not like we live extravagantly, simplicity is something I strive for, but sometimes I get caught up in ridiculousness and making things more complex than they need to be. I need to cut that out.

I tend to think of simplicity as going hand-in-hand with organization. As I look around my office I think perhaps I should start here and work my way out.

On a side note anytime I think of simplicity I have to think of my art and what materials I would work in if I could only chose a few supplies to keep with me. I have to say I’d probably go with pen and ink with watercolor. It gives me color and the ability to draw.

If you could only pick 3 art materials to use for the next 6 months what would you use?

Gear Shift

Sometimes it's good to break  up the usual with something unusual. Some of you may know that I dabble with creating my own messenger bags from recycled materials. A few months back I made my own messenger bag by chopping up an piecing together tyvek mailers from fedex and the USPS. It came out fab, soft and sturdy. It's showing a few signs of wear but over all as a proof of concept it's worked brilliantly.

I learned a lot from that bag, and I'm applying that to another recycled idea- you kn ow those recycled reusable grocery bags? Those are a great sturdy fabric. We had a bunch that were chopped up to make a display and a few more that were returned for recycling (they can go into plastic bottle recycling!) and I realized they would make fantastic fabric. So I brought them home and chopped the bags into 2 inch strips aand then stitched and top stiched those into 14 inch wide by 24 inch panels. I purposefuly went with 2 inch strips rather than 4 or 6 so that all logos and words would be unrecognizable.

I'm still working out in my head how I want this bag to be, I know  I need some internal pockets, because summer is coming fast and I won't wear a jacket, so I need places to stow my phone and keys.

Here's a spectacularly crappy photo of the panels:

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As you can see it's pretty bright, which is drastically different from my Fedex bag, which is mostly white and very understated. I htink I'm going to need to do edging on this, so I might head to Joann's this weekend with my Mom to see what kind of edging they have. I'm also going to need sturdier pins, I've bent a bunch on this stuff! It's much tougher than the tyvek.

Drawing-a-Day: Weekly recap

I decided that after week 2's disasterous results of, well, not getting a lot done along with allergy attack I needed to regroup and rethink the drawing-a-day thing. (Traci was right when she said the upload was the longest part of it.) My initial decision to NOT tweet process pictures really threw me for a loop. Tweeting, facebooking and flickring process shots really makes my drawing time more interesting. Drawing is interesting with out the progress shots but… I like progress shots. So I'll be putting those back into my "process." I'm also taking the size requirement out.

Initially I focused on making the drawings in my Graf  it pad, which was all well and good, but for the fact that sometimes I want to draw on my lunch break and I don't take the graf it pad with me. Maybe I should just suck it up and BRING it with me. Instead I chose to change my "rules" to conform to how I actually work, and that is that the drawing-a-day can be in any format, ie in my webbie if I chose, or the graf it pad, or anything else.

So, there's that, and here are some of my drawings from this past week:


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Pics and Copyright

I think about copyright a lot. Usually in terms of copy “wrong.” You know when someone does the wrong thing with someone’s images, design or workshop materials.

Quite a few years back I was at a craft fair and I had already bought a ton of stuff when I got to a booth with the most amazing lamps. The seller was chatting up some people while my friend and I looked at the lamps. They had her photography on the shades. Each shade was one of a kind and totally unique. They were amazing. When she finally turned her attention to my friend and I, she made a face, and said in her most condescending voice, “Can I help you.” Now she judged me on my appearance, I had hot pink hair at the time and was dressed, well, not particularly well, but I’d saved my pennies before that trip and could have afforded one of her lamps had I wanted one.

Her attitude toward me was not nice, but before I could realize she was being a jerk I exclaimed that I felt the lamps were really cool, very interesting to look at and I bet they cast the best shadows. She melted a bit, but then I said “How’d ya do it? Won’t that plastic melt?” Which I really meant as “it’s really super cool” not as a “tell me your secrets so I can rip you off.”

She took it the wrong way and she went even colder, but explained it was mylar and wouldn’t melt.(We could debate that, but his isn’t about that.)

I made a mistake and she’d pre-judged me anyway the whole thing went pear shaped from there. I walked out feeling awful. I have a thing about people stealing other people’s craft designs, and don’t do it. While I was young back then (it was over 14 years ago that this occurred) I still had a firm policy of never ripping people off.

What brought this up in my head was this article over on CreateMIxedMedia by Rice. It got me thinking. I rarely use photos in my art journals but the other day was looking for texture inspiration and realized I should be shooting more photos. So I started to throw my point and shoot camera in my bag and started to snap more pics. Here are a few:


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Review: things that make me go Meh

 When I started doing reviews on here I debated the smarts of posting negative reviews. I have to tell you, there are things I don’t like. There are tools that I hate and will never use again nor recommend to my friends but they are few and far between. I decided to do a round-up of stuff that made me go, meh. These aren’t bad things they just aren’t stuff I’m raving to my friends about. You may have different feelings.

Noodler’s Nib Creeper Fountain Pen

The nib is fine to extra fine with no other option other than flex. You have many color options including clear. The colors all have that vegetal resin smell that to me, frankly it smells like fecal matter. I have read several reviews that this offensive odor is not offensive to all people, I happen to be of the group of people, like those that think cilantro tastes like soap, that think this stuff smells awful.

The pens themselves are nothing special, a rebranded Indian (Dollar)made pen that sells for less without the Noodler’s branding. They are light weight and feel pretty cheap. They hold 1ml of ink, almost exactly, and lay a wet even line. There is a tendency that if you are writing fast for the nib to dry out and will require a dangerous shake to get ink to flow.

Noodler’s Luxury Blue Ink

This is a blue that is nothing to write home about. It’s blue, like a ball point pen and it flows. It’s not special. It does dry mostly waterproof. I found that in EVERY pen I used it in there was a tendency for nib creep. Which is just messy.

Don’t get me wrong, it’s a nice enough blue but for a 1oz bottle at the regular 3oz prize I’d rather get another blue that I like.

Moleskine 3x5in Graph Notepad

I bought this. Yeah, I have a drawer full of moleskins I was given for doing a giveaway on my blog years ago and I bought this because it had GRAPH paper in it. I love the look of the moleskine; the lovely black covers, the great bindings, the pocket and the place marker. I love everything BUT the paper. This paper sucks. Even my EF pens filled with well behaved inks soak through its paper, everything feathers on it and well, MEH!

Strathmore Visual Journal Bristol 3×5 size

Sturdy spiral binding and very sturdy covers filled with nice paper should make this a winning journal. I just can’t seem to bond with it. It’s nice, just not for me.

Sanford Peel-off Magic Rub 1960 Eraser Stick

I used to buy these in college for detail erasing. They were the only stick erasers available then and did its job well enough. I saw one at Artist& Craftsman and picked it up. It’s just like a Magic Rub but in stick form. It’s soft and is prone to smudging stuff. Magic Rub Erasers are not a favorite of mine for this reason. It will also lift some ink and smudge that too. Meh.

Mio Paper 146×87 mm Campus blue label

This is one of the most expensive notebooks I’ve ever bought. I picked it up on jetpens because I’d heard the MIO paper was amazing for fountain pens. Guess what? It’s is, smooth, perfect for writing and nothing soaks through it but the wettest pens and there isn’t even a hint of feathering at all. Ink DOES take forever to dry on it and smudges even when the ink looks dry. The cover is cool with subtle texture and coloring. It’s small enough to slip into a back pocket, purse, or where ever. This is another one of those notebooks I should love but I haven’t bonded with and thus it sits in a drawer mocking me for the money spent on it.

Sharpie Pens

I don’t like ‘em. I bought a couple of packs of them when they first came out and liked them for quick notes but they seem to dry out fast and I break the tips and they are too fine for me. It’s okay, everyone else loves them.

So that's my round up of stuff that makes me go meh.


Drawing-a-Day: Introduction

I’ve been toying with the idea of doing a drawing/ painting-a-day blog for a while now. I’m still debating doing it for a year. Traci Bunkers (click her name for a great blog link) tweeted that I should try it for 30 days. And well, duh! I’ve been reading her blog with her 30 day experiments for awhile now and think that she’s right 30 days is a good start for my commitment phobia to gravitate.

So for the next 30 days you’ll find a post of a drawing done the night before. I think I’ll working my Graf It pad and my Rhodia Dot Pad, both are A5 or 5.75×7.5 inches in size, acid free and archival. I’ll be working in pen and ink, perhaps with spot watercolor. There will be a paypal button so you can purchase the original work, pricing on these will be $25 shipped via USPS to CONUS in a clear archival baggie with a certificate of authenticity. Should it go well I might extend the project.

Drawing-a-day posts will go up on here at noon EST and will feature work from the day before.


Review: Clairefontaine Graf It Pad

One of the other sketchbooks I received from Exaclair was the Clairfontaine Graf It pad. I’d seen these on several occasions at Artist & Craftsman and passed them by due to the cover being… well, kinda lame*. In addition to the plain black grainy text and images, each cover is made with various colors of card stock that folds behind the staple bound pad. The back is supported with sturdy heavy chipboard. Each page is microperfed for easy removal. The perf is sturdy enough that you can turn the page and it won’t tear out, unless you want it removed, it stays. The pad is often sold on American websites as “6×8.” That may be the outer dimensions of the pad but the actual sheet size is 5.75×7.5 inches. There are 80 sheets in each pad.

I did my usual battery of tests on this paper and it withstood them all. I have to say that this paper is amazing. Though it’s only 90g (41lb) it’s super sturdy and accepts a lot of media without issues. It takes some serious effort to get stuff to soak through. When I say stuff I mean ALL the stuff I’ve tossed at it. See the pic below.

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With watercolor it accepts the color well. The paper cockles as is expected with paper this thin. I find this to be a great paper to experiment with techniques and color. It responds well to puddles of water as well as thin washes. Color stays true and doesn’t get muddy on the page.

While drawing with ink I was able put down multiple layers of ink without cockling and bleed through. Heavy layers that would have bleed through many other heavier papers did not bleed through on this paper. Noodler’s black bonded with the paper well enough that I didn’t worry about it lifting much with my water brush. Colors seem to pop off the page.

I did try gessoing the page but I don’t see the point as the paper is tough enough to survive most stuff without the gesso. I also scrapped acrylic paint over the page to see how it would work, and it worked just fine. This paper is also amazing for pencil. It has just enough texture and tooth that pencil feels really good on it and it hold a lot of graphite, so darks are really dark.

My final verdict on this pad is that it’s great. The paper is awesome. The format it’s served in is where it is lacking. I hate perforations (my own little quirk.) I prefer a pad that allows the pages to stay together. The staple binding is crap for keeping stuff together, I made a little folio out of a USPS priority mailer to keep my drawings together. For art journaling it would be a great pad to do drawings in and then cut out and glue into your regular art journal. The paper is thin enough that if you draw a face and cut it out the edges won’t be all that noticeable.

The pad is pretty cheap. I found it online for $4 to $6 the larger size is pretty reasonably priced too at around $9. These are prime pad for binding into a sketchbook. If this came bound like a moleskine or a Rhodia Webbie I’d buy it. I know that the reason this pad is so inexpensive is that its bound inexpensively, 2 staples straight through to a sturdy backer. I like this paper a lot, in fact the next time I’m at Artist & Craftsman I’ll be picking up another one of these in another size. Perhaps I’ll bind the large size into a nice art journal!

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Wordy Wednesday: Success to You

Amanda Palmer and I are around the same age, okay so I’m a FEW years older than she is… Not my point. She wrote this blog post about what she thought success was when she was 11. Like so many things that she has written over the years it made me think about what I thought success was when I was 11.

Art wasn’t even on my radar.

I was a geeky kid, my nose stuck in books, a pen in hand and did well in school. I’ll be honest with you, I thought I’d be a scientist working in some lab doing research of some important nature. This idea made my parents very happy. My only goal was to not live in DownEast Maine. In my 11 year old head scientists lived in Boston or New York, or some big distant city. Also, in my head I never worried about money, somehow I thought scientists made lots of money.

I remember in high school my friend asked me, “What do you want to do when you get old, you know study in college, and do for the rest of your life?” I remember that the phrase “the rest of your life” struck fear in my mind and I drew a blank. I realized that though I loved science, I really didn’t want to do it for the REST OF MY LIFE.* I blurted out “art” because it was truly the only thing that through the course of my life I’d been good at and enjoyed. I could see myself doing art everyday and not getting bored. After hastily blurting out art, I added “or write, I like writing.” Even then my only goal was really to go away to college and get out of DownEast Maine.

At that point in my life that’s all I wanted and felt I needed to be successful.

So I went away to college got my degree and… Returned to teach.

When I look back that was probably the most unsuccessful I’ve ever felt in my life. I returned to the place I’d worked so hard to leave, for a job. After that I told myself I’d never go someplace I hated for a job. So over the years I’ve worked a variety of jobs that have little to do with what I deem I need to do to be successful in what I ultimately really want to do with my life- art. I’ve pursued them for health insurance, rent, and an assortment of other things. In some cases I’ve taken jobs to make ends meet and cover expenses that art just doesn’t, yet.

So I’ve set myself a new goal, to not have a DayJob after the next year passes. I want to make ends meet through art. I know it will be hard but I think that if I “put my weight into it” I can make it happen.

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Review: Some Thoughts on Watercolors

I’ve bought a bunch of different watercolors from Grumbacher Academy to Winsor & Newton. My favorite travel watercolor set is a Cotman 12 pan set. The colors wet easily and lay down nice saturated colors. It was a  great value to get 12 half pans of color for around $20.

I’ve since focused on purchasing tubes of color to replenish emptied tubes and adding a few extras. I’ve tried to buy a few different brands. If you’ve got an AC Moore or Michael’s near you, getting a tube of Winsor & Newton Artist watercolors with a 40% off coupon is a pretty good deal.*

My usual rant with any art material is that you get more out of artist’s grade than student. Why? They tend to have more pure pigment and less filler and that means you get more color out of a 5ml artist grade tube versus a 15ml student grade tube.

I’ve purchased a few tubes of Holbein watercolors at Artist & Craftsman as they’ve been having a sale. The 15ml tubes are a little pricier than the usual 5ml tubes of Winsor & Newton colors that I buy but it’s also 3 times the amount. The colors are intense.

The first time I sprung for a tube of W&N artist grade watercolor I was shocked at how much more intense the color was than Cotman and Academy colors. I was also surprised at how easily my damp brush picked up a lot more color than with Cotman. The “rewetting” ability of W&N over their own Cotman student grade colors was surprising and delightful. Creating an intensely colored wash was much easier than with my cheaper colors.

Now that I’ve discovered Holbein I’m feeling the same way about them as I did about my W&N artist grade colors. I feel like I’m getting more bang for my buck out of these slightly more expensive tubes of really intense color. So far I’ve bought a tube of indigo, turquoise blue, and sepia. All 3 colors perform flawlessly and wonderfully on everything I’ve tried them on so far. The Holbein turquoise blue is a very different shade than the Cotman turquoise. Since I rather like the color of the Cotman turquoise I may end up buying a new tube of it, but I have to say that I’ve been quite spoiled with the Holbein paints.

That being said I also tried out a tube of Van Gogh watercolor. These are larger sized tubes of color that are considered student grade. The VG colors had something going for them- they rewet on a palette like nobody’s business. A swipe across a dried out blob of red oxide brought up a fully loaded brush of intense color. These tubes are moderately priced around $4 a tube and come in sets. I’ve not tried their pan colors but the tube color is very well behaved and an excellent value.

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