Urban Sketching Practice: Drawing Vehicles with Vibes Not Realism

I have been doing more en plein air sketching, what seems to be more commonly known now as Urban Sketching, even when it’s not in an urban environment… this irritates me a bit, as the name change is driven by the algorithm not need or actual use. AS I sketched more locations I noticed that my drawings were okay except for an item  ubiquitous in US urban and suburban locations- vehicles; specifically cars, SUVS and trucks.

My cars, SUVS, and trucks sucked. Truly awful little gum drops.

I did my usual thing and decided to dedicate some time to drawing them. Not with accuracy, because no, that’s not going to be my thing. Like my portraits I decided to draw them with vibes and not realism. Thus far I’m feeling pretty happy with how they are coming out.

I’m using a combination of contour line drawing and looking at the tonal values- basically lines and shadows. I’m really digging faux ink wash combined with ink wash. REALLY digging using magenta ink on trucks.

Some Videos of me sketching vehicles:

Budget Watercolor Sets for Art Journaling and Urban Sketching

I have long had a fascination with budget friendly art materials. I have always liked getting the best bang for my buck.

I reviewed the Royal & Langnickel FlipKit. Which I now and forever will call the flippy floppy watercolors. The Flippy Floppy is a set that I continue to reach for despite the fact that I hate the flippiness of it. The flip out pans are annoying and when wet, smear paint on the bottom of the Flippy Floppy set up and then all over my hands. Annoying. Yet the colors are nice- they rewet easily and are vibrant and act as watercolors should.

Now the Flippy Floppy kit is a white labeled set up from a factory in China. And as such if you look for other brands that look like this set, you’ll find a variety of prices and options. Buy the best priced option.

White label factories make an item and rebrand or repackage that item for whoever orders them. An example. The place where I used to work had white label ice cream. Customers used to complain that this company was ripping off Ben & Jerry’s because the flavors were literally the same. What they didn’t know was that B&J made that company’s store brand ice cream. They contracted with B&J to make the ice cream but with few inclusions. So less banana, less chocolate chunks, and even less chocolate covered cherries. You get the picture.

Another reviewer on YouTube called up a bunch of the companies and found that these are all made in the same factory in China. Better brands have more pigment and fewer fillers.

Anyway, you can find the video review of the Flippy Floppy set up here:

I just put up a review of the Mei Liang 48 color watercolor set. Mine was in the purple box and came bundled with a water brush. 12 of the 48 colors are shimmery or metallic. These colors are nice but I will never use them except for art journaling and on occasion. The other 36 colors are standard colors for a set of that size.

I see the usefulness of a large watercolor set as mainly for beginners. Especially those who are interested in en plein air or urban sketching. This lets you test out 36 colors on the go and see which colors are right for you. You can figure out what you can mix wit what colors and which colors you are drawn to.

This is also a great set of colors for art journaling- the colors are vibrant and easy to use, they give you a huge range of colors that let you really decide what colors are going to be perfect in your art journal.

These colors are nice too, vibrant and very little filler. They move as each of the colors should on the page.

The tin is thin and easily dented but sturdy enough to protect the colors.

Anyway, check out my video on them here:

There are some well known brands that likely use the same factories for their watercolors. A way to tell (though not definitively) is to look at the molded plastic pieces and how the paint is presented. A well known art journaler brand has clearly switched to a new factory. the reviews on their new colors are much less favorable than their old version.

Moving into a New Journal

I have a mere 15 pages left to my current Every Thing Every Where Journal. This is crunch time for finalizing the prep for the new journal. Luckily I started the prep when I had 100 pages left. I wrote about that already.

What I want to explore today is the final stages of a ETEW Journal and how I close out this journal and finalize the prep for the new journal. The big things are done- the cover is decorated- snazzy skulls, room made for collage, pocket and elastic added.

Now I look at what I used, what I didn’t use, what did and didn’t work, and what I need to adapt or change for this new journal.​Let’s look at what did work first.

In my previous journal I made art on the right side of the book and wrote on the wrinkly left side where there was less support for the paper. I switched to prepping the left side of the spreads and writing on the right side of the spread. his worked better. Even if the paper was wrinkled, having the support of the rest of the paper and the cover flat on the work surface made a big difference in clear writing. I will continue to do this in the next ETEW Journal, I may also play around with prepared spreads as well.

Using a cheap 5Below journal has it’s limitations, light washes worked okay. It handled fountain pen ink but the paper was really too rough for my extra fine and fine nibs, and really had a rough time with the dip pen nibs. It’s great with crayons, colored pencils and other dry media. My wet washes required that I iron my pages, and that is not a step I want to do all that often. The thinness of the paper meant that occasionally ink and other wetter media would soak through. I have 2 more of theses sketchbooks to use as journals, I plan to use the next one up but I’m going to look for another brand of inexpensive journal (something on a budget) that can handle a bit more of what I do.

What did I use? I used 3 months of the planner section, plenty of EF and F nibs- I’m in love with spidery thin lines combined with fat wide lines making the images pop with contrast.

In the new journal I’ll set up the 6 months again, because it’s important to have 6 months viewable at a time. I rarely used it but I did reference it for things like- days when work would run late and my medical appointments or days I’d need to request off of work. I used these pages to remember to request time off.

At this point I’ll transfer over the next 3 months into my planner section, I’ll make pages for post and video ideas, as well as a few pages for ideas for Less is More Healthy.  I will also start my materials testing in the new journal. When I hit 5 pages left I’ll start using the new journal on the go and the old journal will stay at home on my desk, at this point it is almost too precious to leave the house, but I remind myself that it is a tool, a precious tool, but a well used tool, that only gets better and more precious with use. So I’ll force myself to wait until there are a mere 5 pages remaining.

Ink Wash

I don’t know where I first learned of making ink wash images. High school probably. We did a lot of work with pen and ink, it seems directly up Ms. F’s alley to use an inexpensive and yet extremely satisfying method to teach us about shadows.

It lends itself to portrait, landscapes and urban sketching. It’s a great method for fast loose images but also more detailed realism as well.

The look of ink wash is easy to spot, it looks a lot like watercolors but in black and white. The warmth of the ink flows through the image and on the right paper has a touch of granulation, depending on the quality of your India Ink.

It has a look to it that I love and have loved for years.

It’s easy to do- put water into bottles (I did 40 ml in a 60ml squeeze bottle from Dollar Tree) add in drops of India ink to the level of darkness you desire. I did 40drops in the 1 bottle my light wash. Then 70 drops in the 2 bottle my darker wash. Generally speaking, you double the amount of ink ink in each subsequent bottle of water. You can range this out to have greater gradation, but at a certain point the gray wash looks black.

I do 2 level of darkness because I can layer my washes to get more range of dark but I can never get the lights back. When I first learned about ink wash we did 3 levels of wash. I’ve seen people do 5.

Two is enough for me.

At this point you have a large amount of wash mixed up. You can decant it into smaller containers, dollar tree makes small glass jars that I use for dipping pens and small brushes into, they hold about 10ml of liquid. These are great for carrying around small amounts of wash.

Or you can pick up a cheap set of water brushes- I’m using Making Memories brand from Michaels, which are the single worst water brush I’ve ever used- they suck color and water up inside the brush and mold!* Gross. BUT for filling with color? That is where they excel. Because we don’t care if they suck some of the ink wash back up into the handle, these are perfect for ruining with ink wash.

And yes, putting ink wash into a good water brush WILL likely ruin it. It can also stain brushes.

The good about ink wash- the shade of gray stays put, once it is dry it does not move. It is permanent. It does NOT lift or move. You can layer watercolors over it. Once dry you can draw on top of it.

Making art with this works in two ways for me- in the more traditional manner, I sketch with a pen first then I go back in and use the brush and ink wash to layer in shade. I use my lightest wash first then add in the darker wash. I can layer my lighter wash over itself to create more gradation. I can deepen the shadows through layering my darker wash.

Once each layer of wash is dry it’s set in place.

I also use it on top of my random watercolor backgrounds.

Ink wash is a great tool to have in any art journaling tool kit.

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Review: Ackerman Piston Filling Fountain Pen with a Zebra Comic G Nib

A note on this video review: I purchased this pen with my own money,  Ackerman didn’t sponsor this video, and I doubt they would like this video.

This pen is not for someone who does not like to tinker with their pen. In order to reset the pen you must take it apart and use a bamboo skewer to push the feed out the front of the pen. Then you must push the nib and feed into the pen at the right spot so the nib will seat itself into the pen properly and so the nib and fee will be aligned.

Mine was not set properly and the nib and feed were out of alignment with the original location of the nib, this caused the nib to be too far out and to not sit properly on the feed. Annoying. I had loads of railroading and blobs. Awful.

Once the pen was set up properly it works really well. I ordered a few new feeds to adapt a few of my other pens to this.

Anyway, my video does not show this set up process, but is me talking out the above and testing the pen before and after resetting the nib and feed.

Setting Up a New Journal

When I’m about 1/3rd to 1/2 way through a sketchbook or journal I start to set up my next one. This gives me time to think about decorations and what journal type I want to use. Do I want blank or ruled pages? Dot grid? Hard or flexy covers? I grab a journal and start to make it mine. I add ribbons, elastic, a pocket and remove a few pages so I can collage. I number the pages.

Then I decorate the cover and set it aside to finish the one I’m currently using.

Lately I’ve been really into these sketchbooks from 5 Below. At $5 they have acceptable paper and are sturdy. They require all the prep I listed above.

These are some videos I have made of the process.

It’s Not So Commonplace

I’m not sure when I first learned of a Commonplace Book. College maybe? I know my first serious girlfriend had a journal she jammed quotes from books and movies into. I don’t know that she ever called it a Commonplace Book, but it was.

Carefully copying over sections of text seemed painful to me. I had always hated copying over sections of text when I was younger, why would I recreate that for fun?

I liked the idea of collecting quotes but not if I had to copy them over.

Fast forward to now, I read most of my books on a Kindle and highlights are saved in a digital notebook. If I read something online I can collect it in Google Keep or Milanote* or some other service. Through digital services I’ve been able to collect these scraps of info that hit me in a moment as I read and then never look at them again.

Well, until now.

In the past I’ve printed off some of these quotes with my regular letter size printer, trimmed that down and then slapped it into my Every Thing Every Where (ETEW) book and called it good. Then I got my small thermal printer and that opened up the world of slapping quotes into my ETEW Book.

I started out with the regular thermal paper and a glue stick. Then I became aware of thermal sticker paper and I started to print off quotes and stick them in my pocket notebooks. My poor Field Notes was thicc with quotes, spine straining under the bulge.

Last night I sat down with my thermal printer and a roll of white sticker paper and printed out some quotes from a variety of books on creativity  and creative processes and made pages in my ETEW Book. The quotes are neatly arranged and legible. A feat never accomplished when I had carefully copied over important info with my handwriting.

This has made me think of other styles of journaling that I have not used because it required a lot of copying or writing. Things like working from prompts and prompt cards.

Put in the Work came from a coffee bag! It seemed appropriate for this journal.

*Milanote link is a referral link, I get extra storage space if you sign up. I just started to use it and like how I can arrange things like it’s a sheet of paper on my screen. It’s great for my visual thinking style.

This is a repost from my Ko-Fi page. Posts here are posted there a week in advance for supporters. Some posts there are public at the start, other posts are for supporters only. Not all posts will be republished here. If you like what you read here, head on over and consider buying me a coffee.

Working with Budget Art Journaling Supplies

It doesn’t make a lot of sense to buy all kinds of budget art journaling supplies if I don’t use them? Or show them in use. I’ve made a series of follow up videos using all the supplies I’ve picked up at Dollar Tree, Walmart, Target and 5 Below. NOt all the videos are live yet, but these are. Enjoy!



More to come!

Do you like these videos? Check out my ko-fi page and think about buying me a coffee. It helps me purchase supplies for these videos and keep the content flowing.

Budget Art Journaling Series

I’ve been working on my creative YouTube channel, attempting, seemingly in vain to remonetize it. One of the thing that was asked of me repeatedly and often before I stopped making videos, was, “How do I get started with art journaling without spending a lot?” I always answered this with the idea of buying one or two of a material instead of a giant set of them.

But I considered that there might be another option.

I thought about what I need to work in my art journal and I came up with these items:

  • A journal of some sort, a composition book works a sketchbook works
  • a black ink pen. I need black ink for sketching.
  • Something to add color- doesn’t matter what, this can vary
  • An adhesive for adding in ephemera and other collage elements.

I then decided to visit a few shops to see what I could get for $10, $20, and $25. Not big budgets but enough where you can get the basics if you shop carefully.

I visited Dollar Tree, Walmart, Target and 5 Below. The videos document what I chose to get with my money and then there are follow up videos using the materials in an art journal so you can see that I’m not just blowing smoke.

Here are the videos of the shops:




The 5Below video is upcoming and in the rendering queue.

Like I Thought I was Going to be a Famous Artist

A friend of the blog wrote a few things to me awhile back. She wanted to divest herself of some supplies and I always accept supplies for myself or work. If they are supplies I’ll use, I use them, but I always let people know that anything I can’t or don’t use I will then take to work. (You can also donate directly to my workplace if you are so inclined, this person wanted to specifically give ME supplies.) This started years ago when I packed up some of my excess supplies and took them to a local middle school and did a post and video about it. I was never going to use them, and we all know that some supplies dry out or go bad. In my case I had some acrylic paint I hated, notebooks, and hundreds of pencils left over from reviews.

Anyway, this triggered a series of correspondence. In one of her letters she wrote, (I’m paraphrasing) “I don’t know what I was thinking, buying all these art supplies. Like I thought I was going to be a famous artist or something. I’m not and never was gonna be. What a waste of money.”

Friends that is a loaded statement.

As someone who has spent thousands of dollars on art supplies and other “useless” things, I feel that statement a lot.

I know I’ll never be a “famous” artist. Hell I’ll likely never be a well known local artist.

But I don’t know that I ever really wanted that. That’s a judgement from others. A toxic little tidbit I absorbed over the years- that to be a successful artist I needed to be in big galleries, have shows, get on the covers of magazines, and sell all my art. Be famous and jet set around the world, making and selling art. Drinking wine in galleries full of my art.

I think that is all mostly bull shit.

I think for those of us who are GenX/ Millennials and older that we were fed a line of garbage about what it means to be an artist. At the very basic core- we make art. But growing up, artists were portrayed as that list of stuff I wrote about above. Movies showed artists as rich guys who did all sorts of interesting things. Women swanned around gallery spaces with a flute of champagne chatting up people to make sales.

The hard work of making art wasn’t portrayed.

The often messy, ink and paint covered fingers… and most of my clothes. Walking around with my left hand stained in blue ink because I cleaned my ink pens and spilled ink on my hands… Or the tedious cleaning of the studio space. Or having to stop making art and move all the shit in my studio around so National Grid can come in and replace the meter and then my studio smelling like rotten eggs for a week.

None of the real part of making art gets shown.

But what of those of us who never want to sell their art?

What about the satisfaction of making art in a journal just for you? Just for a little peace of mind and self expression?

“Who do you think you are?”

The kids I work with repeat this, and I know it’s a thing their parents said to them. It’s a thing I heard on occasion growing up*. I’ve had friends tell me their partners have said this to them.

It’s one of the most toxic and low key abusive things a person can say to someone who is testing something out. There are so many ways a person can ask “What are you doing? Why are you doing this?” Without it bringing shame and humiliation?

When we repeat these thing to ourselves, we replicate the harm again and again. It sucks.

I wish I could remember the article where the researchers showed that when we talk badly to ourselves or repeat negative phrases- engage in negative self talk, that it’s more harmful than someone ELSE saying the exact same thing. It’s easy to discount someone else’s bullshit, but it’s much harder to discount your OWN bullshit.

I started practicing reframing my own negative self talk when I started therapy. It was a large part of my initial focus. Learning how to be nicer to myself was truly life changing.

Art journaling and journaling isn’t done to share it on the internet or to become a famous artist. It’s done to self soothe, calm your brain, expand on ideas, explore thinking and thoughts, and solidify thinking.

FWIW If a partner asks you, “Who do you think you are?” That’s a big ole red flag.

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