Oil Pastels and Books

Decades ago I tried oil pastels and couldn’t get anywhere with them. They are difficult to use and blend but they seem to have improved them lately. I am going to try and sketch with them on my other blog so decided to buy a mid-range quality set and got the Sakura Cray-Pas Expressionist set of 50 sticks. Oh, such beautiful colours!

As well, I bought two books: Oil Pastel Step by Step by Nathan Rohlander which is one of those handy Walter Foster publications, and one that is more comprehensive, Oil Pastel for the Serious Beginner by John and Sheila Elliot. John would be disappointed in me for not buying Sennelier oil pastels but I just want to mess around a bit with the medium, not break the bank. Besides the Sennelier sticks are like lipstick they are so creamy, which I don’t think would suit me.

OilPastels_Books

I hope to have fun with these, particularly on toned paper.

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Quilting Books and a New/Old Quilt Project

The book Patchwork Please! by Ayumi Takahashi has been on my wish list for some time because of a pattern she has in the book for the You’ve Got Mail Wall Pocket which features paper pieced letter envelopes that are pieced open so you can use decorative fabrics for the fancy “paper” inside the envelopes. As someone who loves to write letters and make envelopes I found this pattern quite exciting. I don’t think I’d make the full pocket but for a little wallhanging this envelope pattern would be great.

I notice there is a big trend for improvisation in quilt piecing, and I wanted some inspiration and fresh ideas, so I bought The Improv Handbook for Modern Quilters by Sheri Lynn Wood and it is lovely to browse through the book and get ideas.

QuiltBooks_Oct

With winter coming on I always feel like quilting. I resurrected a project from May 2009 when I made quilt blocks using the book Crazy Shortcut Quilts. I made it all scrappy and I think it was too much a jumble and I set it aside for years. In my new home I have a small sewing studio with a nice big table and two sewing machines. I reorganized my quilt fabric and got it sorted by colour and it’s given me so many ideas now that I can put my hand to things.

So I hauled out these thirty Crazy Shortcut blocks and added sashing on them and ordered some fabric for the strips I need for the quilt-as-you-go method. The book calls for embroidery stitches but people have varying success with those when used as quilting stitches, so I’m just going to use my walking foot and some straight lines perhaps in a shattered pattern. I laid them on the floor and pinned numbered labels and rows on each one, so I don’t get them mixed up.

It’s still not my favourite project but once quilted it will make a nice change on my bed.

QAYG_JJ

Now I have to baste the blocks together with backing and the bamboo-blend batting I bought for it back in 2009. I’ve been side-tracked by sewing nightgowns and a dressing gown but I’ll chip away at it.

Momentum!!

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Toned Paper and Sketchbooks

Strathmore recently came out with a heavy 184 lb or 300gsm pad of Toned Tan Mixed Media paper with a vellum surface. I have a sketchbook of their lighter toned grey paper and have never used it as the paper seems very light, so I bought this 9 x 12 inch pad to experiment with.

Then my favourite sketchbook publisher Stillman & Birn came out with their new Nova Series of sketchbooks with toned paper for mixed media. Slightly lighter in weight at 150 gsm, it still feels wonderful and has the added bonus of being Smyth-sewn into a sketchbook form. I bought one with black paper at 5.5 8.5 inches and one with grey paper in the 8 x 10 size.

I love my two large Zeta Series sketchbooks, so while I was ordering the two Nova sketchbooks I also bought a landscape mode Zeta sketchbook in a 8.5 x 5.5 size. I’ve always wanted to try doing long, thin sketches by doing a double-page spread in one of these landscape sketchbooks, so I have plans for that.

Sketchbooks_Toned

Art supplies are hard to resist, particularly when you see a new technique or good paper!

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Trying Out Useful Mac Apps

I decided after trying the demo for 15 days or so to buy Pixelmator as it does what I want fairly quickly.

Affinity Photo was a complete wash-out for me in functionality mostly because of its abysmal selection tools. I would scan something in, usually a playing card or similar and it could not select it from the background so I could copy and paste it on a new layer. I tried all kinds of ways and the edges were all raggedy with chunks chewed out all the way around. In Photoshop CS5 which I owned on my old Windows laptop, this was very easily done with one click of the Magic Wand with tolerance set at 65%. After two weeks of frustration I gave up and tried another program.

The other thing Affinity wouldn’t do without some very convoluted steps that didn’t seem to work as outlined in the tutorial, was to put a simple frame on my image. I often post images online and if the background is pale it needs a simple 8 to 20 pixel border to show up nicely on a blog background. I can’t believe Affinity can’t do this.

The third thing is that it does a hazy sort of drop shadow but there is little control over it and it looks okay but not ideal. Okay, it’s a small thing but I use that facility every day and it got completely frustrating.

So, after that frustration I tried out Pixelmator before committing to buy it.

– Selection tools are much better. I have had great success using the Magnetic Lasso loosely around the edge and then clicking Refine and checking the box for Smart Refine. Almost 100 % accuracy and if not I could add or subtract easily from the selection. The Magic Wand is pretty good too with the tolerance set higher.

– To put a frame on you Select All and Stroke however many pixels you want in whatever colour. For my purposes this was adequate and very fast.

– For drop shadows in Pixelmator you can duplicate the object on a separate layer, pull this layer below the object layer, fill the duplicate object with black, add a gaussian blur, and offset it and drop the opacity. Sounds complicated but it gives you a lot of control over shadows and they look good. Miles better than anything Affinity offers and comparable to the Photoshop drop shadow but with more control.

Here’s an example of a fine drop shadow in Pixelmator that looks pretty good.

Beetle1_sm

This particular beetle was a WMF file from an old, old clip art CD I own.  I am currently trying out a program called WMF Converter Pro to facilitate browsing my CDs and converting WMFs to a readable format for the Mac. I’m not sure if I want to do batch file conversions, but at least for single conversions and thumbnail previews this program seems to work. The only unfortunate thing is that it has a black interface that is horrible. This beetle was converted as a PDF and was a bit glitchy due to the file size. I’ll try the EPS format and see if that works better to keep the vector properties without locking up Pixelmator with file size. PDFs can be a bit tricky in other programs, so it might simply be that.

I tried saving another WMF file as a PNG and this is what I got, which is great for my purposes.

Beetle_sm

I want to try further things with the program because it’s $30 to buy and I want to be sure it can do what I want. After the Affinity Photo disaster I want to make sure I put it through all scenarios.

My other two experiments were with the apps Color Palette Converter and Color Palette from Image.  I get frustrated with the Apple colour picker and although I have saved my own swatches at the bottom of the picker, I wanted something to convert .aco files, and then something to get colours from an image, which is something I use a lot.

– Open an image in Color Palette from Image which I bought at a discount for $1.39 I think. Generate a palette up to 20 colours. You can also adjust the Gamma setting to moderate the tones of swatches which is a nice feature without getting complicated. Save it.

– Open this palette in Color Palette Converter and you can save it to the Color folder in the Library file. I suppose I could do this manually but for $2.79 this program makes it easier.

Here’s an example of a palette generated from a photograph of a purse I made.

RunaroundPalette_sm

These palettes are now in a drop-down list in the Apple colour picker and I can choose them quickly and get exactly the colours I want. This might be most useful for people designing web pages, but I just like that I can get the colours and tones I want without trying to sample them individually, plus they are always available across programs.

Not bad for a total of about $4 for these two simple colour apps.

I’m really sorry I bought Affinity Photo, but they are working on a 1.6 version upgrade and I know that will allow you to change the black interface at least. Here’s hoping they improve other simple tasks as well, because I hate to give up on a program I paid for.

I am thankfully getting over the shock of switching from Windows and getting used to the way the Mac does things, and the various functions and apps available for it.

 

 

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Waiting for Toned Paper

I ordered and received some toned tan paper that I bought from Amazon in the States because no one in Canada seems to have it yet. When I received the paper it felt wonderful but had a peculiar chemical smell. The spouse thought it smelled like perfume, I thought it might be detergent, although the pad doesn’t look like it got wet or warped. The corners were bashed in toward the front.

I contacted the manufacturer and sent them two pages so they could see about this smell. They will send me another pad but I hope this isn’t going to be the norm for this paper as I’d like to use it. I hope it’s not some kind of binding resin or glue on the cover as I was quite nauseated by the smell.

I’ve been looking at tutorials about drawing on toned paper, or using watercolour, pen and ink, and coloured pencil on toned paper and the techniques are a bit different. To date, I have used lighter weights of toned paper and also Canson Mi-Teintes but never heavier ones that took watercolour and other mixed media.

I downloaded some photographs of birds with a Creative Commons licence, and printed them on glossy photo paper to use as drawing references for some drawings with coloured pencil and watercolour that I’d like to do up and have framed. I’m inching toward that with practice and references.

While waiting for my toned paper I ordered two books:

ArtBooks_August

 1) Portrait Revolution: Inspiration from Around the World For Creating Art in Multiple Mediums and Styles by Julia L. Kay.

Inspired by the success of printing using my inkjet on glossy photo paper, I decided that I could take photographs of my husband and eventually print them as drawing references and practice doing portraits. I can also take photos of the pets and print them.

2) How to draw with colored pencils on toned paper in realistic style by Jasmina Susak.

I understand how to draw, but I’m not used to using just dark and light tones, particularly white on toned paper. This was an inexpensive reference and has some tutorials to practice which looked good.

It’s never too early to think about what art projects to complete during the winter months.

 

 

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Hand Painted Tree Mural

I suppose this is more of a silhouette than a full mural, and it is inspired by the tree decals you can buy for walls. Apart from the exorbitant cost of a decal, this was an odd space by the front door in my foyer, so I knew I’d have to draw my own tree to fit the space.

TreeDrawing_chalk

I drew up a tree on paper, and then took measurements of my wall and the elements like the light fixture that I had to fit the tree around, and modified it slightly. I bought some children’s sidewalk chalk that came with a plastic holder at the dollar store, and used that to sketch the drawing onto the wall, eyeballing the proportions from the paper. Chalk is good because you can rub it off with a cloth if you make a mistake, and redo part of your drawing.

ChalkTree_sm

As I suspected, I had to decrease the width of my drawing once I got started transferring it to the wall. The story is that the tree got blasted by lightning on the left, but carried on growing to beckon people onward through the front door.

I have problems with tendinitis and arthritis, bad knees, and the challenge here was not to hurt myself but to get the artwork done. I first planned this 15 months ago but I needed to wait until the spouse repainted the foyer a pale grey first.

The tree took a day to draw up on paper and adjust, a second day to chalk it on the wall, and two days to put the first coat on. After that I was sore and could only do 40 minutes per day maximum so it took another six days to finish the second coat and do a few touch-ups.

TreeMuralFoyer_JJ

When you are sitting in the living room seeing this, the tree seems to include the whole room, so instead of having this empty-looking foyer with its light and table, it becomes part of the whole room, not just a little area isolated by the front door.

The big “J” was a solid wood one we bought 38 years ago, and I often feature that letter in artwork or crafts; I wasn’t sure it would fit in the tree, but it seems to like it.

What letter wouldn’t like to hang around in a tree?

 

 

 

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Books on Painting Water and Bird Photography

I want to do up a small watercolour and coloured pencil drawing of a sandpiper to represent a story from my father’s childhood. Now that he’s dead I’d like to get this done and framed. I was going to use Stonehenge paper because I want to do it on a toned surface with minimal background. Strathmore has a new toned mixed media paper that is heavyweight and can take watercolour better but it doesn’t seem to be in Canada yet, so I might wait a bit to see if it shows up in art supply stores in a few weeks, hopefully it won’t take months and months which is the usual way of distributing supplies here.

So for preliminaries I was looking for good photo references. There are several types of sandpipers here and sanderlings as well. Not knowing the particular species, I found a photo of a Western Sandpiper and a Sanderling in books by Glenn Bartley: Birds of British Columbia: A Photographic Journey, published in 2013, and Birds of Vancouver Island: A Photographic Journey, published in 2010 that will be useful.

BCBirdBooks

I like photographic bird books because you can so easily see the exact birds that might be around you. Even my field guide for birds can be confusing, so I loved these two books and see all kinds of references that might be useful for drawing some of my favourite birds.

The other two books I bought are (surprise!) watercolour and pen and ink books on techniques for drawing and painting water and weather, coastal scenes, rivers, rainy streets, rocks, spray, glittering light on water, all kinds of scenarios.

WaterBooks

The first is by Claudia Nice, Down by the Sea with Brush & Pen: Draw and Paint Beautiful Coastal Scenes. I have about five of Claudia’s books and they are excellent, and she uses different media. She really covers everything in this, from rough seas to coastal trees, even dogs and children playing at the beach.

The second is by Ron Hazell called The Artist’s Guide to Painting Water in Watercolor: 30 Techniques, and he too has some comprehensive scenes and much information on the way light behaves on water and how to paint that, how to paint reflections.

I just need to wait for the right paper.

 

 

 

 

 

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