I recently received a gift of some Arteza Brush Pen Markers. These are described as Blendable Water-Based Ink. You may have seen ads for this product all over social media. Normally I am suspicious of such ads, but after meeting a fellow artist who had ordered some, I put these on my wishlist as well.
Well! I can report that I am very impressed with this product. I made a color chart of the 48 pen set, and it is so much more vibrant than my Tombow Dual Brush pens. The difference is stunning.
What happens down the road remains to be seen. My experience with markers is that they tend to dry up, especially if you do not use them often. And I have a bad habit of doing chores instead of artwork. But I cannot deny the initial quality of the Arteza Brush Pens.
The dramatic stormy sea is a balancing act between the dark sky and sea with a glowing bit of light in between.
I hadn’t managed to complete this exercise from Atmospheric Landscapes the first time around. It looked intimidating and I procrastinated a long time.
It was actually the only painting I hadn’t attempted, but since that first course. But Birgit O’Connor continuesto add content to existing courses(which is another good reason to sign up . I knew I had to get started if I really wanted to complete the course this time around.
It isn’t so much the subject- the reference image is actually not that detailed. It’s Birgit’s interpretation and final painting that looked unobtainable. But I should have known by now that Birgit has a gift for guiding students step by step towards successful paintings. If you look at a picture of any of her painting classes, they are ALL holding up beautiful paintings.
I followed the video lessons, and bit by bit, the painting emerged. It’s amazing how certain strokes here and there can really “make” a painting. I’m pleased with my result, and can only hope that I learn to incorporate this approach into my own inventions.
I should mention the medium for the previous post since it was an eye-opening experience in itself. I used the Marine Assortment set of Caran D’arch Museum watercolor pencils on Strathmore Mixed Media paper.
I don’t know why I haven’t thought to use pencil on the smoother Mixed Media paper before. This time I found that darker values could be achieved by applying the pencil to dry paper and wetting it afterward. Lighter wash-like effects resulted from wetting before applying the pencil. I was very pleased with how easily the pencils moved across the surface.
I’ve purchased an embarrassing number of sets of different brands of both watercolor and regular colored pencils. They sit largely unused in their dedicated drawer in my art materials metal filing cabinet. They each have their own degree of hardness and flow. I just never liked the grainy residue they leave on #140 lb cold press paper. Why didn’t I try a smoother surface before?
It’s not like I haven’t previously tried pencil on smooth surfaces. The botanical art class I attended at Filoli estate in Woodside, California featured Prismacolor pencils on bristol vellum. The results were fantastic, almost photographic. But you had to be willing to put on so much pencil that techniques needed to be learned to reduce the waxy residue. Perhaps I was put off by that. More likely it was the bad memory of how the instructor seemed to choose favorites by lavishly praising the work of some but not others, including me.
In any case, I will definitely be taking my w/c pencils and some smooth paper on my next vacation.
When I want a sketch to be very accurate, I use my iPad as a sketching aid. I almost always find inspiration out walking so use my iPhone to capture the image. Then I use Airdrop to transfer the photo to my iPad.
The next step involves any iPad app that has at least 3 features:
- Layers with opacity settings
- Photo import
- Fine line pencil tool
My go to app is ArtRage. This last time, however, I used ProCreate since it also has the ability to overlay a grid of any size.
I import the photo and move it move it to the bottom layer. Then I set that layer to an opacity of approximately 80% or less to make it easier to see the trace. On a second layer above, I use the pencil tool and eraser to create the sketch with my Apple Pencil. I keep checking to make sure I’m drawing on that layer and NOT on the image layer.
Two very helpful features at this stage are pressure sensitivity and zoom. The apps understand how to make the line thinner or thicker with the amount of pressure I use. Being able to zoom in and out makes it easier to get intricate areas accurate.
When I complete the sketch, I turn the imported image completely off to display only the sketch. Usually at this point, I Airdrop it to my desktop computer and size it the way I want for a sketch to use on my light table. In this case, however, I used the overlay grid as a guide to transfer the sketch to my hand-gridded paper. That’s how I created Fifth Element at Cap Sante
Fifth Element at Cap Sante
In between completing the Atmospherics Landscapes class, I decided to hand-paint a Father’s Day card. There’s a fairly good little art store within walking distance of the marina, Good Stuff Arts. We are even given a coupon for 10% off this local business when we check into Cap Sante marina. They do carry my favorite Pro Art tape, but they only had the note-sized frame cards.
I checked Bayshore Office Supply across the main drag, Commercial Ave, and they had the Strathmore photo-mount cards. I was looking for the frame cards that have a 3.5×5 opening, but this would have to do.
Read my next post to learn how I created this card.
This painting was deceptively difficult. The idea was to create a misty landscape and imbue it with a golden glow by a glazing it with Quinacridone Gold. I had a tough time getting a good balance between soft and hard edges as witnessed by my first attempt. I got the color stuck in some places again due to lack of water and the foreground branches are too regular and distracting.
Misty American River, first attempt
In my defense, I’m painting this on our boat in an even smaller space than normal because hubby’s tools are everywhere. Just a 3×2 space on the table and I only have my travel palettes which only have at most a 4” square mixing area. Birgit’s work involves large puddles of paint, so I’m making do fairly well.
Still, I thought I could do better. So I concentrated more on creating a focal area on the upper left bank and worked harder to get the rest of the painting to flow freely. I like this version much better, although I still don’t like my foreground branches in the lower right. Chalk that up to loss of patience; if I did this again, I would sketch that area a bit more specifically since the darkness of that area really makes it prominent- it needs more attention to the details to look right.
This is one of those paintings that looks better from a distance.
Golden Glow on the American River, Sacramento, 2nd attempt
I have been enjoying my second go-round in Birgit O’Connor’s online course, Atmospheric Landscapes. I’m grateful that Birgit is one of the many successful artists and instructors who has also mastered the technology of online teaching.
If you haven’t seen her website, I encourage you to visit. She offers many different ways for students of watercolor to study at their own pace. You can purchase a course for a very reasonable fee and not have any fear of using it because you are guaranteed lifetime access. If you sign up for her newsletter, you will receive periodic offers to sign up at a discount.
With my busy schedule, I originally opted for working completely on my own. However, I found that I tended not to do it until I signed up for one of the courses where we actually all meet online every few weeks for live discussion and feedback. I found that having that deadline to submit paintings in time for the bi-weekly review finally got me painting more regularly.
I’ve even been able to finish the Landscapes class while on vacation. I’ll post some of my paintings completed for the course so you can see what is involved.
Not one of my successful lessons since I let the purple color get “stuck” with not enough water to float in the sky. A useful exercise in the proper amount of water plus a meadow foreground where one tried not to paint every single blade of grass.
I recently was given some very old brushes. I thought it would be no problem looking up the manufacturer’s series number since they were still clearly visible on the handles. However, I quickly found that a Google search yielded very little information
My husband pointed out that these brushes were probably made and discontinued before the internet even existed. This is the case for the Murillo company where I found business records from New York indicating closure in 1982.
I was especially curious about a brush marked 1” M. Grumbacher N.Y. Meissonier ® U.S.A. After some research I determined that this is a “Camel Hair Mop”. But even more interesting, even though you can find many “Camel Hair” brushes for sale today, very few vendors indicate the real hair used for this brush.
Finally, I found a good description for all brush hairs at www.dickblick.com/info/brushhair/
It turns out, Camel Hair is certainly not from a camel. As they describe:
Camel Hair does not come from camels at all. It is found in watercolor and lettering brushes and usually is made of squirrel, goat, ox, pony or a blend of several hairs, depending on the desired softness and intended cost of the brush.
Grumbacher appears to be owned by Chartpack now. (grumbacher.chartpak.com/categories/brushes/#) The closes brush I could find on their website is the Academy Natural. The info box says their natural hair is a combination of goat and pony hair. It does look like it would carry a lot of water and color, so I will try it in my watercolor work.
Last month I participated in the Calistoga Paint Out held by the Calistoga Art Center. As a watercolor painter, I faced some interesting challenges that artists in other mediums may not encounter.
The essential elements of a plein air festival include a check in period, a painting period and then a public show of the resulting paintings. During check-in, the artwork supports, typically canvas, panels or paper are stamped on the back with an identifying mark and date. This step ensures that the painting actually takes place during the painting period.
What I did not anticipate was that the stamp needs to be visible when the final artworks are displayed. This is usually not an issue for canvas or a panel, but display of a watercolor sandwiched between a mat and backing board then inserted in a frame is a problem. The stamp would be covered up.
Fortunately, a more experienced artist suggested I solve this problem by cutting a hole in the backing board. This required that I get my paper re-stamped near the center so that the stamp would not be covered by the frame moulding. Then I had to measure the location of the stamp carefully to make sure I cut a hole in the same place on the backing board.
For future paint outs, it would be easier to have the watercolor paper permanently mounted on the backing board ahead of time so that I could simply have the backing board stamped. I haven’t yet found a pre-made watercolor board that I like, so I intend to glue my favorite watercolor paper to foam core board or a flat panel.
My paintings were not my best work, but I have to remind myself I did these in about an hour each battling wind and even rain showers. I plan to repaint them in my studio.