Final Organization of Coloured Pencils

Posted April 19, 2014 by JJ ColourArt
Categories: Artwork

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Well, there must be an finality to it because I spent too much money in the last two weeks. It will really be the final time I have more than $10 to spend on art supplies.

Curry’s, our art store chain here in Ontario, had an 8.5 x 11-inch Itoya Art Portfolio on sale for $5.99. All I had was one vinyl binder insert and since I have made so many colour charts in an effort to organize my various coloured pencils, I thought this portfolio would be much cheaper than trying to buy single sheets. It comes with 24 vinyl sheets, each with its own black insert of acid-free paper, so you can put an insert on each side of the black sheet, for 48 sheets all together. I will have oodles extra to store photo references for drawing too; it’s archival for inkjet prints.


I printed out some more colour charts, this time for Derwent Coloursoft pencils, Derwent Drawing pencils and Derwent Inktense pencils. Then I drew the actual colours on the chart and wet the Inktense swatches to get an accurate colour. Into the portfolio they went.


I bought a fancy Global Arts canvas pencil case in steel blue, complete with two zippers and a snap to secure each zipper when closed. It is supposed to hold 48 pencils, but because of the fatness of coloured pencils, I could only get 23 loose Faber-Castell Polychromos and 9 new Derwent Coloursoft in there with 4 spaces extra. The Derwent Inktense will have to stay in an old Prismacolor tin. The Derwent Drawing pencils were in a separate tin of 12, some as blocks, and they tend to be earthy colours and neutrals, so I added a few brighter colours to the palette in the Coloursoft pencils. I am fussy about having enough colours in a palette.

This is the advertisement shot of the pencil case, and the following picture is my particular case, set to go.




I also bought 3 Prismacolor pencils recommended in one of my books for botanical drawings. Then I drew those swatches on my two colour charts and inserted the pencils in the box in numerical order and that is done too.

Here is a photo of them all organized with their colour charts readily accessible in the portfolio. I figure if I can’t draw something and match colours after all this I must be dead.


I was a bit of a nut about organizing these. Oh gee can you tell? They have been in such a shemozzle for years, and some Derwent were put away and I forgot I had them, which is pretty silly after spending the money on them. Now it’s all ready for action.

I got my watercolours and watercolour pencils refitted last year so this was my final push. It was worth it, as I now feel I can put my hand on any colour I should need.

And dance on the head of a pin as well.



An Old Exercise from Starting Out with Watercolour and Coloured Pencil

Posted April 17, 2014 by JJ ColourArt
Categories: Artwork

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My friend Rose reminded me of some old artwork I did which I’ve never posted about.

These drawings are from 2006. After I lost my job in 2005, I took some money I received from a pay equity settlement at work and bought subscriptions to several art magazines. That’s when I seriously started buying art and jewellery supplies too. As I put it: “Those b——s can pay for my supplies.” You have to turn it around when bad things happen.

One of the subscriptions I bought was for a publication called Artist’s Sketchbook by F &W Publications, the people who publish The Artist’s Magazine. It ceased publication about a year after I started receiving it and they rolled my remaining subscription into Watercolor Magic. Today it would probably be more successful with the burgeoning of artist’s sketchbooks and urban sketching and such.


The February 2006 issue had a great article called It’s in the Cards by Margaret Peot which described her creation of a personal deck of 52 cards, one for each week of the year. She did what sounded like a complicated gouache resist and washed the cards after. I just wanted to finally do something in Prismacolor coloured pencils and the Staedtler Karat Aquarelle watercolour pencils I had purchased.


I bought large sheets of her recommended paper of Rives BFK which is a printmaking paper but it has enough tooth to take a few layers of coloured pencil and watercolour. I cut mine 4 x 6 inches. The paper is moulded 100% cotton and acid free, but it probably was not the best choice given the layers I was using. I also ended up using some of the paper, glued back-to-back, for handmade Coptic-stitched books. It was great for that.

I decided to make up a special box with acid free tissue paper inside to store my stack of cards. I used a shoebox and covered the outside with the wallpaper I had left over from a dollhouse, and covered the inside with fabric scraps from a quilt I had made. The top was collaged with fruit, a fruit crate label, and a bird from three of my Dover clip art collections. I varnished the top after to protect the inkjet ink and keep it from fading. This is so yummy looking.


My first card was a depiction of homemade turkey soup and homemade soda bread that my husband had made. In celebration of reading the short story collection Dubliners by James Joyce on a reading group, I thought this would make a good picture, so I took a photograph of it before we ate it. originally I had thought to do ivy in the background because of a story regarding Charles Stewart Parnell in the book but it wasn’t working out, so I lifted it all with masking tape and started again with shamrocks. That’s how I learned all about lifting coloured pencil if you make a mistake, with thanks to Bet Borgeson’s excellent books on coloured pencil.

The second picture was of an iguana sitting on an antique mother-of pearl button. Both were photographs I referenced from the Internet. I got one of the caudal spines of the iguana off-centre. In order to fix it I’d have to cover the ink with gesso and then try to match green colours. Not sure I could do that so many years later so I’ve left it. Live and learn. The background of that is done with stencilled leaves in reverse, the leaves have nothing to do with an iguana’s habitat and everything to do with my garden. Such is creativity.

The third one was the one I barely finished. My big idea was to draw a bullfrog with the skull of an African bullfrog behind it. Then I thought tadpoles were a good idea and some kind of green-leaved plant and a columbine flower or something—I can’t remember what they were or what they were supposed to symbolize with the bullfrog. Way, way too much, it all detracts from the frog—an important lesson for me. I got too hung up on this and got precious. What does it all mean? I don’t know I can’t tell in the jumble, but I keep it to remind me that editing pictures is just as important as editing writing. I also learned that I don’t have to outline everything in ink; definition can be done in other ways.


So that’s a look back at when I started actually using my art supplies seriously. You have to start somewhere. It’s a good memory. I want another year where I sit down and work and learn to use materials and try different paper. Everybody keep going, you have to start before you go anywhere.


Who knows, maybe it’s time to finish all those other blank cards. I was going to do up a picture with a Biedermeier sofa and a kniphofia (Red Hot Poker) plant and a mandala. Don’t ask, it was some big idea twirling around in my mind for months. I like a bit of furniture sometimes.



My Faber-Castell Polychromos Pencils Arrive

Posted April 16, 2014 by JJ ColourArt
Categories: Artwork

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Not that I was waiting for them or anything. I was dancing around singing about the Purolator man coming, and he finally came at Noon today.

The order was perfect with no mistakes in the open stock pencils I ordered. After checking the packing slip against my printed order and removing the barcodes, I spent 30 minutes taking the sticky residue off the extras I purchased using Goo Gone and then wiping the shafts with water and drying them. Somewhat tedious as some of them needed to be cleaned three times but they were sticking together so I had to.

Fortunately they all came sharpened as did the pencils in the set of 24. What a relief as I only have a tiny hand sharpener. Here they are ready to go on the colour chart.


I downloaded the chart designed by Lianne Williams in a PDF file (while you’re looking at Lianne’s blog check out her lovely artwork), and I appreciate that she’s put in the lightfastness ratings too. I entered a title and an explanation of the lightfastness ratings using the Typewriter function in Foxit Reader, my preferred PDF program, which unlike Adobe Reader offers some basic editing functions. Then I printed it on cardstock and sprayed it with Krylon. I don’t spray with a fixative after I lay the colours down as it can sometimes change the colours and I want an accurate record of what they actually look like.

All the colours I bought are great except for Violet and Purple Violet as they are almost the same. Although I do notice the lay down in the light shade is easier and covers more with the slightly lighter Violet so it won’t be a total waste of money. Still, had I known I would have bought another colour. The Dark Indigo and the Dark Sepia are gorgeous. I can see using those instead of graphite for monochromatic drawings.


So I am really pleased and looking forward to the four-day Easter weekend. My husband has a small sketchbook and set of student-grade watercolours at work that he’s going to bring home and we thought we could both sit at the card table and mess around.

I will be messing around with the two opening pages of my Chilean sketchbook (a pretend travel journal) finally. I was so sorry to hear of the forest fires that have destroyed part of the Chilean city of Valparaiso during the week. As well as the loss of life, about 2500 families are homeless. There are so many museums and historic homes and architecture in that city. It is quite special, so I hope they can recover from the death and destruction.

The second page of this journal is devoted to an opening sweep of Santiago architecture with some poetry by Pablo Neruda, I am hoping to draw a male Jewel Lizard (Liolaemus tenuis) which is pretty neat. Wikipedia says “Other names are slender lizard and thin lizard. It is endemic to Chile.” I also see it referred to as the Thin Tree Lizard and there are a couple of species—always confusing.


He really does look like a jewel. My picture of him will be small as he will be roving over titling, but what better movement for a lizard to do? Show off.



More Fiddling with Prismacolor Coloured Pencil Charts

Posted April 15, 2014 by JJ ColourArt
Categories: Artwork

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Today’s imperative was to get lightfastness charts and do up actual colour sample of the Prismacolor Verithin pencils in my set of 36.

My Verithins were in the usual mess, and while there wasn’t a blank chart available for them I printed out the Verithin colour chart with lightfastness ratings and then drew samples of each colour on there. Before I printed it I took out all the fancy borders and titling in Photoshop.

So now the Verithin pencils are all in order and I have a good reference chart.


There is no lightfastness chart for every Prismacolor pencil, so I made do with the one they had. Unfortunately I forgot to take out all the black and colouring and I wasted some ink printing this. Great design, but it’s not too practical for printing.

Here are the two lightfastness charts together.


I love Verithins, they never seem to wear down much and they are great for detailing, making edges crisp and such.



Organization of Prismacolor Coloured Pencils

Posted April 13, 2014 by JJ ColourArt
Categories: Artwork

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This is a great blank chart for 150 Prismacolor coloured pencils by Lauren Nash at Transient Art:

This has a slightly different set-up and is a Microsoft Excel spreadsheet. The woman who designed it is Carole Parsons, and I liked the simplicity of this one and the extra space left for colours I have that are not on the chart. Because it’s in a different order than the first one, I found it useful for grouping colour families, and also the rectangular spaces suit a colour gradation treatment to show more variation in each colour. I used light, medium, and heavy pressure to indicate shading.

I originally bought the full (at the time) set of 120 Prismacolors back around 1994 with money from my Mom’s estate. It was one of the most expensive things I had bought myself for years at about $150 CAD. They seem to be less expensive today, but back then they were the first professional grade art supplies I purchased.

It took me years to sharpen them all by hand, but I started using them in earnest after 2005 when I lost my job. Every project got me a bit further in colour familiarity and layering. I am trying to get these reorganized so I know if I have any colour gaps. Ann Swan’s book Botanical Portraits with Colored Pencils uses Faber-Castell Polychromos pencils but she also uses a select few colours that can only be found in the Prismacolor colour range so I needed to see exactly what I had.

These are the ones she recommends in the Prismacolor range. I was surprised she said White, but I guess it’s slightly different to other whites. The ones with the bold asterisks are the ones I’m missing and will purchase.

938 White
*1084 Ginger Root
1032 Pumpkin Orange
922 Poppy Red
923 Scarlet Lake
924 Crimson Red
925 Crimson Lake
994 Process Red
*1095 Black Raspberry
1078 Black Cherry
996 Black Grape
931 Dark Purple
1009 Dahlia Purple
1005 Limepeel
*1089 Pale Sage

When I pulled out my trays they were all mixed up, some were badly broken, and I seemed to have some extra ones. Prismacolors are notorious for being off-centre so that when you try to sharpen them they just get chewed up. They also tend to crumble and break at the tips because of their softness. I like to nurse mine along with hand sharpeners, so I might not have the stiletto-like tips that some artists use, but they are pointy and sharp. I don’t have an electric sharpener so I need to replace some of the hand sharpeners with ones with new blades.


I printed off the two colour charts and filled them in concurrently, organizing the pencils in the trays according to the round colour chart which is numerical, as I went. It took me 4.5 hours and I ached all over. Whew, it was worth it.


Here they are at the end of my reorganization, with colours I have that are missing from the charts added at the bottom. I am missing three recommended colours for botanicals, and one recommended colour I do have, Pumpkin Orange, has never sharpened properly so I’d like to replace it. I own six colours that were discontinued, four of them are useful. I put all Neon colours and Black away as I don’t use them, which leaves me with eight spaces in the trays to put newer colours I don’t have but would find useful. I have listed all the colours I don’t have and put an asterisk beside those I definitely need. The rest I will choose in the store, according to their usefulness.


I don’t want to duplicate anything I’m getting in the Polychromos line so I’ll leave it for a bit.

Back in the box with a shot of the Excel sheet filled in with gradations. These charts are just so handy, I wonder why I never did this years ago? Oooh, pretty, pretty.


Pretty nice, pretty lucky to have such a selection, pretty much fun on a Sunday.



The Land of Pre-Retirement Art Supplies

Posted April 9, 2014 by JJ ColourArt
Categories: Artwork

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Upon realizing that our income will be substantially less upon retirement in the summer, I thought I’d better get the Faber-Castell Polychromos coloured pencils that have been on my wish list. I’ve been stocking up on odd things for about two years, knowing that the time would come when I can’t afford more than an inexpensive top-up of favourite colours or paper.

So I downloaded and printed the full colour chart, and then printed out which colours come in the 24, 36, and 60-pencil sets. Most of the pencils included in sets are extraneous bumph, I know this from once buying the full set of Prismacolor coloured pencils, and the Polychromos are similar in that regard, but more expensive, so it all needed to be sorted through carefully.

Then I wrote out the recommended Polychromos pencil colours from two hardcover books I own on botanical painting with coloured pencils. Then I made lists of what I needed if I bought each set, realizing the the 36 and 60 sets were well above my means and had too many odd colours I didn’t want. That left the set of 24, which contained several of my required base colours, plus a few colours I would use for things other than botanicals, like lizards for instance.


Finally, after that, I correlated it all using symbols and colours on the colour chart to make a decision. Then I honed and razored the list down to 23 extra pencils, leaving me with a purchase of 47 pencils. This took me several hours, and several hours to let it sit so I could think about it, and then some double-checking and fiddling with taking more things off the list.


Got that? Ha-ha, I used to do accounting, it’s all in the details and correlations!

Hopefully they won’t mess up the colours when picking my order at the warehouse. While gulping at the price, I feel confident that I made the right decision in getting these at a time when I could just squeak by to afford them with a strict budget and colour restraint. I am looking forward to trying them out.

I’ve got all kinds of paper, several different kinds and brands of graphite pencils, coloured pencils, bottled ink and dip pens and nibs, a few Micron markers, watercolours and watercolour pencils, Conté pencils, soft pastels, gouache, white and black gesso, a paper cutter, bookbinding threads and supplies, several sketchbooks, many art technique books, some storage, and templates and handmade journals, and lots of different brushes. Absolutely everything I ever wanted 20 years ago in the realm of wished-for art supplies.

Have heart if you’re just starting out, it takes a while to pinpoint what you want, and save for it and procure it. It literally took me 20 years from the time I first bought a set of coloured pencils to chip away and buy this and that. In the last year I spent more simply because I knew it was my last opportunity to buy anything.

Such bounty, such richness, it’s a great feeling for the days ahead.



The First of Two Summer Nighties

Posted April 3, 2014 by JJ ColourArt
Categories: Sewing

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I love this pattern because it is so uncomplicated to cut out and sew. This view was even easier than the long-sleeved version that I previously made two winter nighties from. My new tracing paper came in handy and I was able to trace the pattern off and not worry about cutting into the original pattern.

Kwik Sew 3106, View C, without the lace trim. I added 1/2-inch to the length of the sleeve hems and the bottom hem to allow a bit more fabric for sewing the hems the regular way. My regular way being to press them under 1/4-inch and then turn up 1/2-inch for the sleeves and 1-inch for the bottom hem.


I think I will probably adjust the pattern to add two inches to the length when I do the second one. I’d add more but the remaining fabric I have is only 3 yards (not meters as we use in Canada) so there won’t be enough for more. I bought the fabric from Connecting Threads.

Easy to sew and I finished the seams with a zigzag stitch to prevent fraying as these seams are only 1/4-inch and the seam finish keeps them from falling apart. You don’t press the seams open, they get pressed to one side, so a seam finish keeps them together and nice and flat when you do the hems.

This pattern is way, way over-sized. I made the large size before and it was huge, so this time I dropped down to a size small which seems comparable to size 14 or 16, so not exactly small, I would consider that a medium. This size is not too baggy and muumuu-like, but not too tight; just right for summer.

It’s so nice to complete something successfully.




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