Art Books for Christmas

I usually do up little montages and text citations for books, but I bought so many for Christmas that I’m using photos to explain.

As usual, I started buying these before Christmas, but I had been waiting for months for the publication of Mindy Lighthipe’s book so threw in a few more to get free shipping. Anna Mason is new to me but she has some videos up on YouTube and also offers courses, so I bought her book and it is wonderful. I notice she has a new book coming out in June 2018 that covers watercolour painting of fruit, birds, and animals so that’s a must-buy for me.


I enjoyed Billy Showell’s book on painting vegetables so much that I thought I’d backtrack and buy two of her earlier books. I really like her methods and tutorials.


These last books were for fun and inspiration and I haven’t done anything but browse them but there is good art and eye candy and lots of ideas. The Freehand book was a disappointment as it was mostly digital examples.


I find that when I buy a bunch of books together, it takes a while to go through them several times and assimilate the ideas, but it was Christmas so a special situation where the influx of books was a bit overwhelming.






Posted in Books | Tagged , , , , | Leave a comment

Finally, the Watercolour Mixing Charts

In June 2016 I started a mixing chart for a new palette of 24 Winsor & Newton half pan watercolours. It took me years to be able to afford these and when I got them I was so intimidated that I felt hesitant to use them. Doing up a mixing chart was supposed to alleviate my unfamiliarity with them, but we were wading through a bunch of home repairs at the time so I was frazzled in general and stopped.

I couldn’t believe 18 months had gone by so I finally completed this. Due to arm injuries it took me about four days to finish but it is so useful to have and I learned a lot about the pigments, particularly the new ones like Naples Yellow, Cobalt Violet, Brown Madder and Cadmium Orange and Red which were all new to me, at least in this form.


I had decided just before Christmas to beef up my tiny set of Daniel Smith watercolours. I had their 6-tube introductory main set and the 6-tube introductory set of their Primatek mineral pigments, but I couldn’t find anywhere online in Canada to get 5 mL tubes of some specialty Primatek colours I wanted. I found a shop two hours away that special ordered them for me and then couriered them to me, but it cost me in total $83 for these five tiny tubes which was shocking.

However, I have them now and am currently working up a colour mixing chart for them.


I’ll never buy these paints again as they cost so much, but I’m happy I have my small set of 17 to work with. In order to fit five extra pans in the tin, I bought empty half pans off Amazon and then stuck them in the tin with self-adhesive magnetic tape. After squeezing the pigment from tubes into the pans, so far it’s working well and the five extra pans are stable enough to dip into.



Posted in Artwork | Tagged , , , , , | Leave a comment

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.


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

Posted in Books | Tagged , , , | Leave a comment

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.


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.


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.


Posted in Books, Quilting | Tagged , , , | Leave a comment

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.


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

Posted in Books | Tagged , , , , , , | Leave a comment

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.


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.


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.


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.



Posted in Creativity | Tagged , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

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:


 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.



Posted in Artwork | Tagged , , | Leave a comment