Attack of the Sinister Beet Creatures (& QOR Watercolors)

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I’m bad at math, but it doesn’t take a genius to know that Heaven = a massive cold brew coffee from Little Dog + a warm, partly cloudy, summer day + new art supplies.

Right now I’m test-driving QOR watercolors by Golden. I have been eying a more vibrant palette for months and couldn’t justify buying 6 new colors at 8-10 dollars per 15mL tube. Luckily for me, QOR offers a few starter sets with 5mL tubes so I could get a variety of new colors to try for a smaller cost. Three of these starter sets have 6 tubes in earth, high chroma, and introductory palettes, and there is also an expanded set of 12 introductory colors. I bought the high chroma set for about $25 from Blick. The high chroma set contains: cobalt teal, green gold, quinacridone gold, transparent pyrrole orange, quinacridone magenta and dioxazine purple.

First impressions: The colors are exactly like their Golden fluid acrylic namesakes––vibrant, bold, and intense. A little goes a long way with these. QOR watercolors are supposed to have a different binder than traditional watercolors which makes them hold their color better, and so far, I find that to be true; I found little difference in the strength of the color between wet and dry states. I’m not a true watercolorist, so a lot of the other benefits these paints boast (bold color, yet lifts off the page; doesn’t crack or flake; makes excellent glazes) I have yet to try.

But for my sinister beet creature, they did exactly what I bought them to do: give me snazzy color.

Other materials used: Da Vinci watercolor (on the legs), Micron pens, Prismacolor Premier colored pencil, Sharpie white oil-based paint pen, Prismacolor colorless blender marker.

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What’s in my travel kit?

I’m obsessed with travel kits, partly because I’m always looking for new ways to make my own travel kit more useful, but also because organizing things, my art supplies especially, is one of the neuroses that I most often indulge. 

I’ve revised the contents of my travel pouch this week and now feel like I have a good variety of materials that provide me a balance between essential items and fun extras. 

So, without further ado, the contents of my travel kit (and maybe a bit of reviewing):

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Tools:

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  • Tiny scissors– I think they’re thread-cutting scissors from a sewing kit, but I found them in the metal bin at the dump! Got to love free sustainability!
  • Sakura Koi waterbrush, large #8– This is the one with the long barrel. It holds 9mL, which is 5mL more storage for the same price on http://www.sakuraofamerica.com/ 
  • Avery Permanent Glue Stic .26oz
  • Tiny pot of water– in case I need extra
  • Mini craft knife
  • One-hole pencil sharpener
  • Tsukineko mini squeegee– I got a pack of 5 of these for 99 cents on clearance and they really don’t do any more than an old credit card would, but they’re small and fit well in the kit. They have the dual purpose of scraping down collage elements to get rid of air bubbles and adding texture in wet paint. 
  • Staedtler Mars Plastic eraser
  • A few tissues/paper towels

Paint:

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  • I have two watercolor kits; the little one is about 2 inches long by an inch wide (it has an equally adorable little brush under the pans) and the other is my homemade Altoid kit. I rotate between the two depending on how much space I need in my pouch for other things or what I’m into at the moment.
  • 2 Faber-Castell Gelatos in Licorice and Coconut
  • 1 Caran d’Ache Neocolor II in Indigo Blue– Dick Blick sent me an Indigo instead of an Indanthrone Blue and it’s a pretty color so I thought I’d throw it in there.

Pens:

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  • 4 Fine Point Sharpie Markers– Gold, Silver, Bronze, Black
  • 1 Black Ultra Fine Point Sharpie
  • 1 Burgundy Le Pen
  • 1 Black Fine Faber-Castell Pitt pen

Drawing Pencils:

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  • Papermate #2 Sharpwriter
  • 8B Prismacolor Turquoise Graphite pencil
  • Black Stabilo All– These are watersoluble, they write on everything, especially magazine images. 
  • White Stabilo All
  • General’s White Charcoal
  • 3B Pierre Noire Conté
  • Derwent Sketching 8B Dark Wash watersoluble graphite
  • I also sometimes have my tin of 6 Conté sketching crayons with me if I’m feeling sketchy. 

Colored Pencils:

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  • Derwent Graphitint in Russet, Meadow, Ocean Blue, Slate Green, Port, Juniper, Shadow, Dark Indigo
  • Prismacolor Premier Colored Pencils in Black, White, Non-Photo Blue, True Blue, Sunburst Yellow, Yellowed Orange, Process Red, Violet, Colorless Blender, Lemon Yellow, Grass Green, Chartreuse, Mulberry, Imperial Violet, French Grey 50%, Metallic Silver, Metallic Gold, Crimson Red, Poppy Red (18 colors and the blender)

Quick tip! The Prismacolors in my travel kit are too short to keep in my regular set (I like ’em tall), so to save space, I glued two end-to-end. Double your colors! I have a stash of these on hand so if I get bored with my color selection or I need more colors for a specific project, I can just swap them out.

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  • Prismacolor Bicolor Verithin in Violet Blue and Crimson Red– 50 cents for 5 at Big Al’s (this is a Maine thing) and I figured it’d be good for sketching instead of graphite.

 

Case: 

  • My case is homemade; my mom made it for me for christmas two years ago out of some funky batik fabric. It’s the perfect size! About 9” x 5”.

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So! I hope this inspires you to think about your own travel kit needs and that you’ll consider mobile art as a part of your art regimen. For further inspiration, here are a few of my favorite travel kits:

Art Supply Review: Faber-Castell Gelatos

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Before my giant Dick Blick haul, I scoffed a set of two Faber-Castell Gelatos at my local craft store for 1.97– half price! I bought them on the recommendation of my mother, who has been using the metallic ones a lot in her mixed media projects lately.

Gelatos are available in around 30 colors, but obviously since I only have two, you’ll only see black and white (which Faber-Castell calls “Black Licorice” and “Coconut”). The purpose of this review is more to explain how they work.

Gelatos are very buttery; they twist up and apply just like Chapstick! They’re also very small; at about 3 inches long and 1/4 inch in diameter, they’re perfect for a travel kit and art on-the-go. Gelatos are watersoluble, but you can blend them easily without water by just using your finger– that’s how soft they are. When you do use water, they are easy to dissolve and create a nice watercolor effect.

The right side of each swatch has been blended with water.

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Here is the coconut over the black licorice. They do layer quite well.

Applications in my art journal:

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This is the Black Licorice over a gessoed art journal page, just to highlight the brush strokes.Image

They dissolve SO well. I used them here on old sheet music. For such a porous paper, they didn’t require much water to blend out and create a wash.

Oh. Fair warning: Faber-Castell also makes “gel sticks” which are essentially the same product, but they come in a set of 12 basic colors and a set of 6 metallics. They are much cheaper than the Gelatos (get 12 gel sticks for around the same price as 4 Gelatos) because they’re marketed for children, but you should get the same results. Gelatos do have more colors available than the gel sticks and their sets of 4 are coordinated so they’re project-oriented. Choose whichever works in your budget. This video from thefrugalcrafter (a fellow Mainer!) is really helpful if you’re unsure of which product is the best for you and your art.

Art Supply Review: Prismacolor Nupastel

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I bought a 24 set of Prismacolor Premier Nupastels on a whim (this means they were cheap on ebay and I had money from my last paycheck eating a hole in my Elvis wallet). Lately, I’ve been feeling in a rut artistically, so I decided that new art supplies– as in a completely new medium– were the answer to my woes.

And they were! There’s a lot to be said about how using something completely foreign to you can refresh your creative thinking processes. I’ve never used pastels before or even knew how. I still don’t really know what I’m doing, but I’m slowly working my way to understanding how these work.

So. The package says that they are “Firm Pastel Color Sticks.” Being less than a novice here, I’m not sure I totally know what it means for a pastel to be “hard” or “soft” but compared to a set of Van Gogh hard pastels (which I just found in my mess of supplies a few days ago), these Nupastels are really soft (Supposedly, Prismacolor makes soft pastels too, though I’ve never seen them). Their texture is velvety, almost like lipstick if lipstick were powdery. I didn’t have to press hard at all to make a rich, dark mark, and for such a soft pastel, they didn’t leave much dust.

Bonus: They are watersoluble! You can use them as a cake watercolor or as a watercolor crayon.  Their solubility means that you can combine them with any other wet media, like gesso, acrylic paint, or gel mediums, and add color to those products.

These are some of the marks you can make with the different edges: the corner, the flat edge, and the full stick. They’re just on basic kraft paper. The large swatch of color was made using the complete edge of the stick, I added water to the blurred side. The color I used is 224-P or Violet (On the stick, it’s a number, but I found the corresponding color name here on this printable color chart.)

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I also did some blending. On the left, it’s just the two colors overlapped. On the right, I used water to blend. Colors used: 243-P (Light Ochre) and 206-P (Carmine Madder).

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Here, I blended just using my finger. Colors used: 225-P (Iron Blue, MY FAVORITE) and 286-P (Madder Pink).

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Here’s how I’ve used them in my art journal:

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On a tag! Fully dissolved with water.

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As a background over top lilac acrylic paint. The blue dots were made by rubbing the stick across my pothole stencil.

Hopefully this post gave you an idea of what Prismacolor Nupastels can do and has sparked your creative juices. Happy art-ing!

Life Update/Art Supply Haul

I graduated!

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It was a wonderful ceremony, perfect weather, followed by a well-attended party, a joyride in a convertible, and a mellow fireside evening with friends. As nice as graduation day had been, I felt a little burned out. So I indulged in a little post-graduation self-medication with art supplies from Dick Blick and a little something off eBay. I’ll be doing reviews of some of these products fairly soon, as one of my summer goals is to blog more frequently and to increase the quality of my posts. So, without further ado, let the haul review begin!

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Have you ever seen anything more attractive (besides Ben Affleck in Argo)? I tried to get a mix of things I needed (like new gesso after my seemingly infinite debacles with off-brand products) and new-to-me things (like Prismacolor Nupastels and brush-tip markers).

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Canson Mi-Tientes Pastel Paper. 9×12. 24 sheets in 6 colors (white, goldenrod, beige, a warm grey, and slate blue/grey). 98lb. Surprisingly, it holds up well to watercolor; it buckles some, but there’s virtually no bleed-through or pilling. My pack came damaged, but Dick Blick’s customer service is AMAZING. I would have been happy with an exchange, but instead, I get to keep the damaged one (I’ll just have to cut off the bent edge) and I get new one free of charge! Thanks, Blick!

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Prismacolor Premier Brush-tip Art Markers. I’ve only ever tried a chisel-tip black Prismacolor marker, so these were a bit of a gamble. I chose muted colors because I thought they’d be more versatile, but they’re a lot paler in person than they show up online. And the brush tip is slow and draggy– almost like a marker that’s running low on ink. The colors do overlay well. I’m not 100% sure I like them and almost regret buying so many. But we’ll see.

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I have wanted a water brush for almost a year and I now cannot look back on life without one. It is beyond convenient for travel watercolor sketching (which I’m still faithfully pursuing), and as long as I don’t work large areas, the reservoir holds plenty of water. The one I bought is a Sakura Koi #8 Round, which is their largest size. The only disadvantage to a larger brush size is that it takes more water from the reservoir to clean it.

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I needed a new clay cutter because I can’t find mine and I see a future need for one. This one is nylon instead of steel because I’m sick of split wire clay cutters. Fully anticipating this not cutting as well because the nylon cord is quite thick…

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This is the coolest pen! It’s a Pentel Outline marker in Black/Silver fill. When you write with it, the ink is a very vibrant metallic silver, but as the ink dries, the lines are outlined by thin black rims. This photo doesn’t really do the marker justice, but:

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Derwent Graphitint pencils in Juniper, Meadow, Dark Indigo, and Port. These are tinted watersoluble graphite pencils. They graphite lends them a dull, grungy color when dry, but when wet, they become vibrant like watercolor. These are really swell; I’ll be buying more colors!

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Prismacolor Premier Watercolor Pencils in Dark Brown, French Grey 20%, Sienna Brown, and Blush Pink. These are the last four pencils I needed to complete my set of all available 36. I can’t say enough about Prismacolor products (except the markers; I’m really kinda bummed about those) and these pencils are no exception. The colors are vibrant and intense and they match the rest of the colors in the Prismacolor line. I wish they’d make more colors because I can’t get enough!

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Stabilo “All” pencils in red and yellow. If you’re a mixed media artist, an art journaller, a collage artist, fellow pencil enthusiast, you need some of these in your arsenal. They seriously write on EVERYTHING and they’re watersoluble which is an added bonus. I already have them in black and white. They’re also available in blue, green, orange and brown. YOU MUST GET THESE.

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More Prismacolor Premier Soft Core Colored Pencils for my stash in Sky Blue Light, Lemon Yellow, Pale Sage, Espresso, Non-photo Blue, Ultramarine and Parrot Green.

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This is a Derwent Onyx graphite pencil in Dark. It’s supposed to be super dark graphite, but it’s not much darker than this Prismacolor Turquoise Drawing Pencil in 9B and not half as soft. Meh.

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Liquitex Gesso (4 oz). Very opaque– I don’t need much to cover my surfaces so definitely a good bargain. It’s also very velvety, like a craft paint. I think I might like the super heavy version better if it’s grittier; I miss that texture. I will never be completely satisfied on the gesso front, but at least this stuff doesn’t reactivate when wet!

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This is probably one of the best deals I’ve ever seen on Dick Blick’s site: A Fabriano Studio 9×12, 140lb cold press tape-bound watercolor pad with a free 8×10, 140lb hot press tape-bound watercolor pad. I have never tried hot press paper before and was excited to get this AWESOME combo (and with a 25% discount on my whole order, I spent nine dollars for 4 pads of paper!) Very excited to play around with these.

Not pictured is a package of kraft paper, because it’s just cheapo brown paper that I’m going to make a few sketchbooks out of and who wants to see that anyway?

And these may be the absolute coolest prettiest nicest things I’ve ever bought. Prismacolor Nupastels in a 24 count.

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SO VELVETY. SO INTENSE. AND THEY ARE WATERSOLUBLE. Supposedly, they’re “hard” pastels, but there’s nothing hard about them. They blend easily and it takes very little pressure to leave a heavily-pigmented streak across the page. These were a bit of an impulse buy and are an affirmation that I should trust my impulses (and buy a bigger set).

Whew! That was a long one. Thanks for sticking around. I’ll be back with reviews quick as a bunny.

Rubbings with Prismacolor Art Stix

So I got sick of the gesso pretty fast and pulled out another medium that I don’t use half as often as I should– my Prismacolor Art Stix. They’re the same pigment as the Prismacolor Premier colored pencils, just in a woodless, bar form. They’re great for covering large areas without wearing your pencil down to a stump. I found my set of 24 on ebay for 6 bucks, but I think they go up to 48 colors, 24 of which are available open stock. I’m getting carried away, but I love Prismacolor so so so much. 

Anyway.

I made this pothole stencil a few days ago out of a plastic tab divider, so I wondered if the pattern would transfer as a rubbing. I applied a rough base color: Canary Yellow

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Here’s the stencil.

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I placed the stencil underneath the page and added the top color: Mulberry.

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Not sure I like the color combination yet, but I definitely like the technique. It’s much different than what I’ve been doing, which is refreshing. 

Here’s a close-up for the texture.

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I’ll definitely be using my Art Stix a lot more now, and this has given me a whole new reason to start making stencils!

Gesso/oil pastel experiment

A few days ago, I gessoed over a magazine page to try a new technique. I kept the coat thin so some parts of the image beneath could still be seen. I’m not sure what I was planning on doing with it, but tonight, the page was nearby, I was feeling a little anxious and needed a pre-sleep wind-down, so I grabbed it and started working.

I also took out my package of Crayola Portfolio Series water-soluble oil pastels. They’re a student-grade product and they come in sets of 12 and 24 colors. I don’t really use them as much as I expected to when I bought them, mostly because I haven’t found an application that I’ve liked with them. But when I used them tonight on the gessoed page, I started to get reaaaally excited! They have a super smooth color laydown and my gesso is not the best, pretty gritty, so they smushed into the brushstrokes. Then I added the water and my excitement grew.

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I love the way the colors blended together while still retaining the soft look from the gesso. Feels a little Impressionist-y. And the brushstrokes are so out-of-this-world-pretty.

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I will definitely be playing around with the Portfolios and gesso a lot more. Until then, pick up some Portfolios! I bought mine here in the U.S. at Staples for around 10 bucks, and for any international artists out there, I’ve seen them on eBay. Happy Scribbling!

Sketching Adventure #1

I spent a good chunk of today at Fort Popham at half tide. After a long (and very windy) walk along the beach, calmed by the steady pounding of the surf, I settled down on a bench for a quick sketch from the path above the shore.

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The ocean comes off more as “sky” than as “ocean,” but I’m pleased with it as a first attempt at a nature study.

For the initial sketching, I used a Derwent Sketching Pencil in Dark Wash 8B. This pencil isn’t as soft as other 8B pencils I’ve tried, but when activated with water, it lends a subtle, clean wash. I’m very impressed and will be picking up a Light and Medium Wash pencil in the near future. For the color, I used Prismacolor Watercolor pencils in Copenhagen Blue, Peacock Blue, Cool Grey 50%, Dark Umber, Terra Cotta, Goldenrod, Cream, Grass Green, and Light Peach. These were so convenient for my first travel sketching expedition because I could capture the color on scene but save the mess of the water for when I got back to my desk. They’re also much more “sketchy” and not as heavy as watercolor crayons, which was perfect for this scene. The sketchbook is a Blick hardbound with a medium weight paper. It held up well to the water with no bleed-through and only a little buckling.

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And I have a bit of a sunburn! Summer is officially around the corner, and I am excited to try new techniques and supplies on the go.