Wednesday, May 26, 2010

Leading You "Down The Garden Path"

I've finished a new zentangle, in the same form as the previous "SeaLife" pen & ink piece posted a few weeks ago. I realize that these are not everyone's cup o' tea, but I really enjoy the free flowing creativity that has no boundaries, except my imagination.  A certain uncle of mine should look away now, since I wouldn't want to traumatize him further. :o) This is called  "About The Garden" and therefore it wouldn't surprise anyone to find trees, flowers, urns, streams and mountains etc.

This is 9"x12", much bigger than I've ever attempted for a zentangle.  I enjoyed creating it even more, though, than the smaller ones!

We'll talk later, ok?  Yes? Good!

Monday, May 24, 2010

Creating A Happy Life

4. Ruby

This Tuesday (mosaic with Artmind) I find myself thinking of ways to increase the enjoyment I squeeze from every day. I'm going to take the next 12 months and see if I can find my best place in this life. So far I have vowed to find more enjoyment in the little things, let go of fear and increase my positive outlook. All these ideas brought to mind the small things that increase my happiness and they ended up in my mosaic... A good cup of Earl Grey tea with a superb book, the color pink, and of course... cupcakes. :o) The simple things in life are sometimes the best.

I'll be back soon, with ART! Yup.

Friday, May 21, 2010

Tools 101.

As promised, I'm doing a post about all the tools in my tool chest, all the stuff I use for painting in watercolor. The subject of this post was suggested to me by my Uncle Bob, who made the very astute point that, as a general non-artist reader, he had no freaking idea what some of the things I mention were. Like frisket. Or Copics. Or the weight of watercolor paper. So, I thought I'd explain some of the terms etcetera that I throw around a lot.

The weight of paper was brought up just today when we were discussing the sizes of paintings I was doing. I said that this last painting was the biggest I had done to date, at 10x14 inches but that to go bigger I'd have to cut my own paper, not use paper from the precut Arches pads. He asked how big I could go. I told him that I had several pieces of both 140 lb and 300 lb sheets that were 22x30 inches but I didn't know if one could get larger watercolor paper than that. I know I could get rolled paper, so I could extend the length but I don't know if the width could go up.

"What does the poundage of paper represent", he asked.
Hmmm, "good question", I responded. "It refers to it's thickness, 300 being thicker than 140."
"But what does it actually mean?"
"Guess you have some research to do, huh?", he laughed.
"Yep." I rolled my eyes, thinking I may have gotten myself into more than I'd bargained for when I said I'd do this. So, lets get started... here's the lowdown on watercolor paper (and everything else!).

Paper is measured in pounds, which corresponds to the amount that one ream (500 full sheets, size 22"x30") weighs. So therefore, a light paper would be 90 lb per 500 sheets, for instance, while a heavy paper would be 300 lb per 500 sheets. The size of 22"x30" goes back to pre-industrial times and has never really been changed. (It's the usual size sold, although technically, there are other large sizes.) Archival watercolor paper is made from 100% cotton rag and will last for centuries without needing conservation techniques. Artists select fine watercolor papers by not only weight but also finish. Generally manufacturers offer three finishes, Rough, Cold Pressed and Hot Pressed. The cold pressed and rough is best for transparent watercolors (which is what I use) and hot pressed paper is best for opaque watercolors and drawing(because of it's smoother surface). The cold pressed paper gives a terrific nubbly surface that cradles the water and paint just enough and the wonderful texture adds to the look of the overall painting.

Arches paper is what I use exclusively for my watercolor paintings. The company is 5 centuries old. Ya, I know. Wow. In 1492, the same year Columbus sailed that ocean blue, Arches started making fine, hand made paper. In Arche, France, hence the name. It's well known as one of the best papers on the planet. Hey, they have more than 500 years of practice, hehehe. Because the watercolor paint I use is transparent, the texture of the paper shows through. I want a tight, uniform weave that absorbs evenly, lets the water flow and can stand to be worked and reworked with a paint brush without showing wear, and is archival safe (won't deteriorate over time). That's what I get with Arches. It's perfect, beautiful. Yummy. :o)

Holbein Paints are Japanese made. I chose them because of their extreme transparancy (see-through-ness), vibrancy (brightness) and color saturation (depth). They allow the artist to mix colors more freely without worrying about getting a muddy look to one's artwork. I was told, when I was using W&N watercolors, not to mix more than three colors together because if I did the hues I produced would be less clear and not as vibrant, they would take on a dusty or muddy appearance. I've never had that problem with the Holbein paints. There is so much pigment and brilliance to these watercolors that just seeing them as I add water inspires me to paint. They're like the clearest sunset, the most sparkling lake or the most brilliant gemstone. They're clarity & transparency make them a pleasure to work with. They have some really unique colors too, like Peacock Blue (a brilliant turquoise-y blue), Opera (a "flashbulb bright" pink) and Shadow Green (a black with a green undertone).

Next. How about Copic markers, my newest acquisition! :o)  These markers are made in Japan, like the Holbeins, and were created specifically for the manga artist. Manga, which translates to "whimsical pictures", is the word used to describe Japanese Comics. Why are they so good, you ask? Well, there are many answers to that question. First, these professional grade markers come in 322 colors, allow the nibs to be replaced and are refillable, which makes them economical in the long run. You don't throw away you're entire investment when they are empty, you just replace what needs replacing. The ink refills can also be mixed to create even more colors and Copic sells empty refill bottles and pens just for this purpose. The colors are transparent and also highly blendable with one another. This means that one can layer color over color to create new shades/effects and not get mud. They work just like the Holbein watercolors do, the color deepens as you re-ink a section. The markers are color and shade coded (with numbers and letters) and the coding refers to the color wheel. This allows artists to plan out their colors. I can choose to do a background in shades of sepia (grayish brown... ish), for instance, and I can make sure that the Copics I use will all blend with the paint I lay down. It is widely held that these are the best markers in the world, their quality (nibs etc.) and color formula is truly excellent. Even though they're initially expensive, all of the above speaks to their value.

Onward and upward, so to speak. :o)  Frisket is a water-based liquid latex. It's used to mask off areas of paper that the artist wants to leave white. The frisket is usually colored a slight blue color so it can be seen on the white paper after it's been applied. Watercolors are then painted over top of the lines and sections that are masked. For instance, I could mask off a section that's going to be a light colored flower and then be free to paint the background without worrying that I may intrude into that space that's for the flowers. Remember, watercolors are transparent, unlike say, oils. If I lay down leaves in a section that a flower is going, I can't go back later and put a flower there because the leaf will show through. Masque Pen is just a high tech way of dispersing frisket. You see, frisket used to (and still is by many artists) be brushed onto the paper using an old paintbrush (because frisket tends to "gum up" the bristles), so artists wouldn't risk expensive brushes. Now, Masque Pen came up with a brilliant idea. Use a needle-like system to add frisket so there's no bristles to gum up! Smart, those. Hehehe. I have both the regular nib and the super fine nib, it works beautifully. I suppose if I wanted to mask off large areas I'd still use a brush, but this nib system really works great.

Watercolor Pencils. These are essentially, dried watercolor paint inside a pencil outer cover. Watercolor paint comes in two forms, pan (dry cubes) and tubes of paste. The watercolor pencils utilize the pan form, but instead of being a cube, they're inside a pencil, which can be sharpened just like any other pencil crayon. They work just like pencil crayons actually, except with watercolor pencils you can add water to the drawing to "wake up" the color. When water is added to colored sections of a drawing, the depth of the color increases and the intensity is magnified. I use them for smaller drawings that will have less detail than a regular painting. They allow one to be very precise about where the color goes. I get the freedom of coloring with pencil crayons but still keep the brilliance and depth that I get from paint. Kinda nice.

Workable Fixative is used to "set" the medium you're working with. Many mediums like pastels, watercolors & charcoal benefit from being protected and preserved. Spraying the paper with a thin coat of this liquid stops smudging etc. Other fixatives also help in lightfastness, adding a UV protection for artwork. The "workable" part implies that one can still add to a painting after it has been sprayed, but I've been warned that the properties of the paper change enough so many blending techniques for Copic markers and watercolor paints are less effective and harder to achieve after a painting has been "fixed".

I'm sure you've noticed that I didn't mention paint brushes yet. Well, I don't know enough about them to give advice, :o). I used the expert guidance of the artists who work in the art store, Island Blue, to choose my brushes. I can't afford the best, they run hundreds of dollars for each brush. They're made of things like Sable and Squirrel hair. My brushes are synthetic and moderately priced at $10- $50 each, depending on size. And about size... I have found that using larger brushes is easier. They hold more water and therefore you get a smoother application of paint. Mostly, I paint with a 10 or an 18 round brush (for 5x7" & 10x14" paintings, respectively). But as I move into larger sheets of paper I will move to my 30 round, any smaller would be a time waster.

As for extras, I'm lost without tissues. (Like plain, "without lotion", Kleenex). No, not to cry into when I'm frustrated! I paint with brush in left hand and tissue in right. The tissue usually ends up sopping wet from soaking off excess water from the brush tip. By the end of painting day I have heaps of crumpled, wet, multicolored tissue strewn around the table on which I paint. I seem to throw them carelessly over my shoulder when they get too gimpy, is that a word?

And then there's water. Most watercolorists have BUCKETS of water around. For serious! Usually, instructors and books call for at least a 2 L bucket (that's 2 quarts to you Americans), usually 2 or 3!! Not me. I do it a different way. I had collected the large Kraft peanut butter containers for storing the small flowers I used to make for my wedding cakes. When I started painting, I just co-opted one of those, saved a small Kraft peanut butter jar too (after eating said peanut butter on my toast for 2 weeks.), and used those together. It works great. I have a 1L (32oz) water bottle that I pour, in small amounts, into the small peanut butter jar. When that's dirty it gets emptied into the large pb jar and can then be refilled from said water bottle. It sounds complicated, but actually prevents me from getting up all the time to change the water in the buckets. The best part is that when I'm done, one pb jar fits into another and there's lids!! So, no leaking or anything. Seriously, it works great.

Another thing, I don't stretch my paper. Ya, lazy again, plus, when I tried it, it didn't really make much difference. I prefer to use heavier paper and leave it natural. I don't even affix it to a board. I like being able to move it this way and that without the excess size of a foam-core board behind it. And if I get paint on the table? ... hey, I do have a tissue in my hand! ;o)

Well, that was the longest post ever, prolly waaaayyy too much information. :o)  But, there you go. I'll be back soon with some cool art, and much less talking, I promise. Maybe the next post I should just be mute? Who the hell am I kidding? I couldn't be mute if my life depended on it!

Later Peoples. Just not too much later, K?

Wednesday, May 19, 2010

Returned To Sender...

When I posted my yellow rose painting (named "Torino") my uncle sent me an email with this comment.
"I really like the rose, but mine's better!"
With the comment came a beautiful photograph he took of a full blown peachy-orange rose. I thought, well, since it's his birthday in a few days, and I love a challenge... I'll paint him his rose! :o)

I'm naming it "Bob's Rose". I think it turned out fantastically!
... AND... I WIN!!!!! My painting trumps your photograph, Bob. So there!

Later? And soon! I have art galore to show you. :o)

Tuesday, May 18, 2010


It's Tuesday again, so it's time to play Mosaic Tuesday with Artmind! This Tuesday I wanted to do something different than I usually do. So, when I decided I was going to paint some seagulls this week (after feeding them on my birthday day, it's my favorite thing to do!), I was inspired to do a mosaic on birds... And I just happen to have one handy who LOVES the camera! Hehehe.

My bird is not a parrot. She's a ham! She loves to pose as though there are 50 paparazzi outside her window and she's the latest & best thing since Marilyn Monroe. Seriously, the bird is so vain it's hilarious. If I get the camera out to take pictures of my latest artwork, she'll pout and carry on until I point the camera at HER. She then proceeds to preen, fluff and show her "big wings" pose (which is the second photo), waiting for the "click" of the shutter. She then poses again and waits. These are all her poses. The last picture (moving clockwise) is of her doing some strategic product placement. If Smarties chocolate company (Nestlé) would like to hire a little gray parrot... ;o)

Now, I must qualify all my talk of her vanity with the amazingness of her intellect. She's no "dumb blonde". Berkley, my African Gray parrot (named, appropriately, after the University), talks up a storm, does barnyard animal impressions, knows how to ask for what she wants  (ie. "want water"), waives good bye, shakes hands and even knows how to put herself to bed. When it's late and it's past her bedtime but I'm busy doing something else, she'll squawk, jump off her parrot tower and march her way down the hallway with serious attitude that says "hey lady, it's BEDTIME, get with the program!". She then climbs up into her cage and pulls the door closed. It's seriously the cutest thing in the world to watch.

Talk to y'all soon, I have so much to post about this week! Oh, and I must add... an early Happy Birthday to my (favorite) Uncle Bob. It's his birthday tomorrow, we're gonna watch Avatar, eat roooaaaasssttt mmmooooooossssee and cake (not at the same time, though, that would be gross). :o)

P.S. Thank you to all my blog friends who sent me wonderful birthday wishes, I feel so loved. I'm sending out an extra thank you to Teresa at Creations by Tee for the lovely pendant! It was so unexpected and awfully sweet. Go check out her Etsy Shop, it's great. :o)

Saturday, May 15, 2010

I Have An Announcement.

Please listen carefully and pay attention, this is an important announcement. Sunday is My Birthday. I am accepting all good wishes, presents, monetary gifts, Love notes and spontaneous expressions of adoration for the next 72 hours.

That is all. Please go about your business as usual. ;o)

Thursday, May 13, 2010

Artist Journal Pages

I'm having a fellow artist make me a scrapbooked artist's journal. The artist's name is Jessica and her blog is The Scrappy Corner. I first met Jess from Swap-Bot and immediately loved her blog. Until perusing her scrapbook pages I had never really understood why someone would take so much time to do scrapbooking. Her wonderfully expressive style explained it all.

She and I got talking and I mentioned that I wished I had a decorated artist's journal. I could add ideas and clipped out art to it and use it as a brainstorming book. At the moment, I lamented, I had little piles of paper lying around haphazardly with nowhere to put them. She offered to make me some pages if I wanted and that's where this whole artist journal idea was born. I bought some cool papers and some chipboard (thin cardboard) pages with binder rings and I sent it to her along with a bunch of digital pictures of ideas and "looks" I liked. She'll use her expertise in scrapbooking and her artistic, creative eye to make me an artist's journal that I can then add my future artwork ideas to. I'm so excited!

Yes, I could have made the book myself. But there are so many reasons to have Jess make it for me. Here are my top reasons why I'm not doing it myself.

  1. Jess is a very talented and creative artist.
  2. It's like a birthday present to myself. (My birthday is this Sunday, May 16th... and so is Jess's, for that matter. A neat coincidence.)
  3. It'll be nice to see someone else's work and use that as a jumping off point.
  4. I don't have any of the expertise, experience or tools to do a good job without much time, effort and expense.
  5. I don't want to.
  6. I'm too lazy.
  7. I'm waaaaayyy to busy with my own art.
  8. Just because, that's why!
I'm really excited to watch the progress of my book. If you want to watch too, just go on over to Jess's terrific blog, follow her and watch her get her artistic freak on. Ahhh, such fun when we artist's work together. I'll have to post pictures after it arrives and I've altered some of the pages with my clippings and future painting ideas. What fun to look forward to!

I'm out. Later?  ;o)

Wednesday, May 12, 2010

a Rose By Any Other Name... Is Freaking Awesome!!!

Hello peoples. You know, when I mentioned the other day, that I was in a little fight with a yellow rose that didn't want to be painted and I insisted? Ya.
Jen - 1
Rose - 0
I'm pushy like that. I finished it on Saturday afternoon, just in time for Mother's Day. The timing is perfect, since my mom's very favorite flower is the yellow rose. She liked it so much that we went out that very Sunday and got a frame for it. Did you want to see it? You do?? Ok. Just because you asked so nicely and all... TADA!!!!!!!!

Kinda nice.
(Jen is dancing around the room, doing a little celebratory jig)
Gee, I'm not sure I like it. ;o)  Hehehe.
I can't believe it's only been 3 months since I started painting. I'm thrilled with my progress and can't wait to see where I'll go from here.

So, now I want to paint roses until they're proverbially coming out my ears. But I'm going to restrain myself. I may choose a lily or a peony or even a bunch of tulips again. Prolly a rose, though, hehehe. At a minimum I think I'll draw some out.

I realized something while I was painting this yellow rose, which I'm naming "Torino", if you wondered. I was splashing paint and water fairly haphazardly around and thinking, "how can this be artistic?". I mean, everyone could do this, push paint around on paper. Then it came to me. "The Artist" isn't in hand to paper, it's not in the movement of brush. "The Artist" is in the mind. It's the way I see the rose that is artistic in nature. "The Artist" is in the way I interpret what I see and how I combine color in my mind. The swishing of brush only plays in technique. I mean, don't get me wrong, it takes skill to move a brush around and to make your arm do what you want it to do to achieve your goal. But if I could never paint again I would still be an artist. It's who I am. I would just have to find another way of expressing what happens in my mind.

Anyway, enough of this solipsism, I'll be back soon with other interesting things to pique your interest.
We'll talk later, K? Ya, I knew you'd agree. ;o)

Tuesday, May 11, 2010

Pencil vs. Camera

It's Mosaic Tuesday with Artmind. I found a fantastic artist this weekend while I was perusing the many pictures and pieces of art on Flickr to use in my mosaic. His name is Ben Heine. When I came across his art it changed my theme for this week dramatically. I was going to do something about gardens, herbs and Mother's Day, as those are the things I did this weekend with my mom. After discovering these wonderful little vignettes I knew what I wanted to say and show.

1. Pencil Vs Camera - 12, 2. Pencil Vs Camera - 7, 3. Pencil Vs Camera - 13, 4. Pencil Vs Camera - 15

Art is so subjective. One person's doodle is another's masterpiece. I love how expressive these pieces are. They not only are funny, but also somehow, enlightening. I think they speak volumes without saying a word. They also make me feel. Happy, curious, intrigued, disturbed. And isn't that what art should do? Say volumes and move us in some small way?

Hey, I just thought I'd make you think a little, see art in a new way. It's all around us.
Talk soon? Yep, promise!

Saturday, May 8, 2010

Finding Nemo

My latest zentangle is all about, and therefore titled, "Sea Life". It includes a fish tail, clams and seashells, a dock, seaweed, plankton, rocks, sand, plants and a coral reef of sorts. Can you see it all? Let your imagination run wild, I did. :o)  Some of it's kind of unconcious, other parts are deliberate. It's great to see how it comes out when I'm done. Love it, love the process. My next one that I'm working is titled "The Garden Path", it's much bigger (10x14"). Can't wait to see how it turns out!

I heard from my best & oldest friend today, what a wonderful surprise! She and I met in high school. She's mentioned that she has some books that need illustration, did I want to give it a try?? YES. TOTALLY. I'd pounce on that opportunity in a New York Minute... Ok, make that a Chicago Minute, hehehehe. (Inside joke.) This will be a fun challenge, trying to bring words to life. Working with my BBF will also be such a joy, I miss her muchly.

I'm out. We'll talk soon, K? Yep!

Friday, May 7, 2010

Sunshine Award

Emma from Emmanem Handmade honored me with the Sunshine Award. Here's the lovely explanation about why this award is given.
 "The Sunshine Award is awarded to bloggers whose positivity and creativity inspire others in the blogging world." 
Emma went on to say that she "loves my writing" and thinks I'm "an amazing artist". Well... I think that's probably one of the nicest things anyone ever said to me. :o) Thank you, Emma, for the wonderful words. It really helps to hear how other's like what you're saying. The whole amazing artist thing just makes me feel very humble (and makes me blush!). Thank you again!

Now, the requirements of the award...

1. Put the logo on your blog within your post.
2. Pass the award on to 7 
3. Link to the nominees within your post.
4. Let them know they received this award by commenting on their blog.
5. Share the love and the link to the person who gave you the award.

#1 & 5 are done. Now, seven bloggers who inspire me (and their links, of course... you'll just have to trust that I went and commented on their blogs.) ;o)
  1. Kim at Kimminita - This woman makes the most wonderful mandalas. Her art inspires me all the time. I also love her spirit. 
  2. Tracy at Pen & Paper - She inspires me to blog happy. Sometimes I forget that just because I write about my art, my blog doesn't ONLY have to be art. She reminds me, just by creating such a happy place to visit. I also think she's such a down to earth soul.
  3. Emily at Art & Sewl - I'm new to her blog but love the color and style of it. She also hosts the "Let Your Art Guide You" round up every week on Thursdays and I love the premise behind this idea.
  4. Elizabeth at Color Splashes - This woman's art is incredibly inspiring to me. She is the kind of painter I aspire to emulate. She's prolific and paints in many different styles. 
  5. Allie at Hyperbole And A Half - I couldn't not mention Allie. Her blog totally inspires me to be irreverent and remember to have fun with my blog. Thanks Allie.
  6. Candyn at In A Tiny House - I'm new to her blog, I happily got her as a partner in a swap from Swapbot. I really love her blog "voice". That, and her spunk, which you can see in her latest post. ;o)
  7. My final pick goes to  a blog with the best name ever! Jamie Oliver Is Not My Boyfriend - I fell in love with this blogger's sense of humor just by reading here "About Me"... and I lovvvvveee her recipes. 
That's it, folks. I'll be back soon with zentangle art. I'm working on a larger piece and already have a 5x7" done. (...then ther's the yellow rose... ya, still working on that!)

Can we talk later? Thanks!

Thursday, May 6, 2010

Just Like Skittles

I own the colors of the rainbow, if the rainbow had sixteen shades of gray. Hehehe. Yep, my markers arrived. Happy, happy. Joy, joy. *Doing a little dance*. There are 34 colors, so far. The container holds 72... Ooh, room for growth! Other than getting the grays I wanted, I concentrated on the greens first. I must admit, the compulsive part of me wants to fill the container so it's all color coded and perfect. I obsess, ignore me. ;o)  Without further ado...and as one of my commenters alluded to last week... here's some marker porn, hehehe.

Ooh, purty! They're fun to play with and even better, they do what I want them to do without my having to fiddle! Everyone I had talked to about Copics said "You can't use them on cold pressed watercolor paper, they'll feather badly and just soak up ink like mad!" Ya, not true. Which is so very goooood for me. Seriously, I'm doing a little jig. I was convinced I'd have to hunt for a fixative to spray on the paper after I laid down the paint. I wasn't sure even that would work. I figured there was a 50/50 chance that I would have to switch papers if I wanted to combine Copic markers with my Holbein watercolors.

I already did a test on generic watercolor paper... as you can see on the left, there is very little feathering and the pigment laid down evenly, with little streaking. The results are so much better than my best hopes. With all the negative opinions I got, including the Copic rep's email to me, I figured it was going to take some serious tinkering to get these to work.

I feel like I've won the artist's lottery. On the right (this was my Arches paper test), you can see the clarity of these amazing markers. They lay down transparent color just like the Holbein watercolors I use. Copics also layer just like watercolors do, one color will affect the next color in similar ways that a color wheel shows... (ie. blue + yellow = green)

Playing again, I cut up an old sheet of paper I experimented on, then added zentangles on the back. I think it turned out pretty fantastically. Both the cool and warm grays are amazing! They make shading so easy, just a couple of swipes and, tada!!, depth. I can see now that I'll want to fill in the  missing colors in my Copics. I think that I'll want color mostly for the zentangling, though.  (If you click on any of the pictures they'll show larger, so you can see the detail.)

I still have a lot of testing and learning to do with the Copics. I've tested both generic watercolor paper and (my personal favorite) Arches watercolor paper but I haven't combined them with the Holbein paints yet. I'm being silly, but I don't want risk ruining a current painting by testing ideas on it. So, I'm going to paint some backgrounds then start playing and see what happens. I'll be sure to photograph the results so you all can learn with me! Obviously, not many people have used copics with watercolor paper, or so I've been told. It'll be interesting to see what we get! 

We'll talk soon, K?
P.S. I was talking to my Uncle Bob this weekend and mentioned this post about the Copics and he made a good point about them and some of the other supplies I've used in the past. He said I should explain the stuff I use more, don't just assume that you guys (my readers) know what frisket is, for instance. So, I'm planning a "Tools etc." post in which I'll give a little history of Copic markers, Holbein paints and tools I use to illuminate them more for you. Look for it soon! :o)


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