Beefing Up Gouache Palette and Brushes

Posted June 26, 2017 by JJ ColourArt
Categories: Artwork

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One of the fairly local art supply places has a big sale on so I added four more colours to my gouache palette. While fiddling around doing decorative initials and drop caps on my Manner and Material blog, I realized that it was either too laborious to mix certain colours or mixing used too much white, so I bought these on sale. The Winsor Violet cost a lot but it will be so useful and I felt lost without Burnt Sienna. Opera Rose was an indulgence and the Olive Green is one I use quite a bit in regular watercolours so it made sense to buy a tube of gouache in that colour too.


While browsing Instagram and looking at people’s watercolours, I saw one woman mention the Escoda Versàtil brand of synthetic sable brushes as being great and holding up to lots of mixing. To date, I have only used relatively inexpensive brushes that don’t last very long, but these Escoda brushes were on sale so I bought a #4 and a #6 round. I use those most often and could only afford two so this was my decision. I will take good care of them!





Daniel Smith Watercolour Sets

Posted June 18, 2017 by JJ ColourArt
Categories: Artwork, Creativity

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Daniel Smith has an enormous number of watercolours and some with special effects. Way too many for my budget, but I decided to make up a little palette of twelve colours from sets they offer.


The paints come in tubes, so I bought a tin box with 12 half pans that I can squeeze the watercolour into and thus have a nicely organized portable palette.


Is this something I needed? No, but I’m going to have fun trying them out. I also realized that I could drive myself nuts trying to pick the perfect Daniel Smith pigments to buy, and they are scarce in Canada, so I gave up and ordered the sets and tin off

I went through agonies of indecision when setting up my main 24-pan Winsor & Newton watercolour palette in a similar tin with purchased half pans. This Daniel Smith tin is just for fun, just to noodle around moving paint around and seeing what happens.

I think I’m going to find the natural pigment in the Primatek set interesting to work with and mix.




Organizing Quilting Fabric

Posted June 11, 2017 by JJ ColourArt
Categories: Quilting, Sewing

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When I moved to a new house I just took all my fabric out of boxes and piled it up neatly, with no regard to colour. I knew I’d have to sort it out once I got my new sewing machine, so that I could more easily find fabrics. After reading some of my new books on scrap quilts, and the recommendations for sorting by colour, I finally tackled this big job and am satisfied that I took the time to do it.

So I bought some wire baskets from the dollar store and laid out 12 of them on tables and commenced sorting my fabric. I folded the smaller pieces into the baskets, and then folded larger pieces and yardage in piles by each basket. The colour designations I used were:

Neutral Grey, Taupe, Beige
Multi Brights

This is a view of the Purple and Green piles.


Then I put them back in the flat pack cupboard I use for fabric. I sorted my batting scraps and placed them in a storage bin on top of the cupboard, and inside two bankers boxes I put big yardage for backings, and yardage of corduroy and velveteen that I use for sewing bags.


I also have my current projects laid out so that they aren’t buried and I can access them, which is much more practical.

The cupboard is not quite wide enough to have the baskets spaced evenly so it looks a bit jumbled, but it is so easy to find colours, especially the smaller pieces that are now collected in the baskets, and I discovered many fabrics that I’d forgotten I had so I am very pleased I took the time to sort in this way. It will be much easier to pick and choose fabrics for scrap quilts in the future.


New Botanical Drawing and Painting Books and Sketchbooks

Posted May 31, 2017 by JJ ColourArt
Categories: Books

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Botanical Drawing using Graphite and Coloured Pencils by Sue Vize which has a lovely mix of graphite and coloured pencil, one of my favourite approaches to botanicals.

The other one uses support boards for painting which is not something I’m interested in but he has some useful information on glazing and mixing with gouache. Botanical Painting with Gouache: a step-by-step guide by Simon Williams.


I am still having trouble with my shoulder which makes it painful to draw but I am following a vegan eating plan and hoping that will promote healing. To dispel discouragement because I haven’t been able to work in my large Stillman & Birn Zeta sketchbook for the pretend trip to Chile, I ordered two smaller Stillman & Birn sketchbooks with the same heavier weight of paper for everyday sketching.

I got the wire bound 7 x 7-inch Beta paper which is slightly rougher than the Zeta paper but not as rough apparently as cold-press watercolour. Then I decided to try a softcover Zeta sketchbook in a smaller 8 x 10-inch size than the hardcover I have.


I really like these heavier weights of paper that Stillman & Birn offer. Curry’s in Canada has discontinued carrying these sketchbooks and local shops won’t carry them because of the price, but I mail ordered mine from Aboveground Art in Toronto, who have been very good to buy Faber-Castell supplies from, which I also find hard to hunt up.

Here’s to healing and feeling better!



A Fresh Round of Embroidery and Quilting Books

Posted May 5, 2017 by JJ ColourArt
Categories: Books, Needlework, Quilting

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I saw a couple of embroidery and sewing books that seemed to have a fresh approach so bought three of them for my collection.


1) Modern Folk Embroidery: 30 Contemporary Projects for Folk Art Inspired Designs by Nancy Nicholson

I have often admired Nancy’s patterns on Etsy, but thought I’d get more patterns in her book so was pleased to finally buy it when it was published. It’s so nice to see books on hand embroidery coming out for new generations who want to pick up the craft.

2) Tilda Homemade & Happy by Tone Finnanger

She is quite prolific and I’ve seen lots of her designs around, but I liked some of her reindeer and pigs and sheep in this.

3) Zakka Embroidery: Simple One- and Two-Color Embroidery Motifs and Small Crafts by Yumiko Higuchi

These are tiny motifs and I was interested in her ideas for small purses using purse frames and embroidery. I have several purse frames on hand so want to use them up. There are lots of small cross-stitch motifs around but not many for hand embroidery, so this looked good for my library.

I was able to buy a new sewing machine, the Janome 9400, and I’m hoping it will enable me to quilt about 12 to 14 quilt tops that are languishing here. I took all the quilts and quilt tops out of the Rubbermaid trunk they’d been stored in for two years while we were selling our old house and moving and they reeked of plastic.

I spent some weeks washing and airing them and bought a nice wooden blanket box to store them. As I was confronted with the old tops, some dating back to the 1980s and 1990s, I felt the imperative to finish them. I cleaned up and reorganized my sewing area and now I have the fabric cupboard to deal with.


There is another Rubbermaid container in there, so I’ll have another round of airing fabric, but I particularly wanted to get my fabrics and scraps organized by colour and sew up some simpler quilt patterns. I have been quilting since 1984 so I have many magazines and books on the subject, and I’ve given away many more but I liked the fresh look of these publications and many of the designs.


1) Sunday Morning Quilts: 16 Modern Scrap Projects – Sort, Store, and Use Every Last Bit of Your Treasured Fabrics by Amanda Jean Nyberg and Cheryl Arkison

2) No Scrap Left Behind: 16 Quilt Projects That Celebrate Scraps of All Sizes by Amanda Jean Nyberg

3) Scraps, Inc. Vol. 1: 15 Block-Based Designs for the Modern Quilter Compiled by Susanne Woods

4) Scraps, Inc. Vol. 2: 15 Block-Based Designs for the Modern Quilter Compiled by Susanne Woods

I am not in good health but things are improving, so I want ideas and projects and happier creative endeavours to look forward to. That should sort me out (pun)!

I Buy a Kindle Paperwhite

Posted February 17, 2017 by JJ ColourArt
Categories: Books

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I was never that fussed about eReaders and eBooks, but I tried the FBReader app on a tablet and found I enjoyed reading the odd public domain book. My reading chair is right by a window and the tablet screen has a lot of glare and I was constantly turning the screen sideways to avoid glare, so I bought a Kindle Paperwhite and cover during a recent sale.


I also downloaded and installed the free Calibre open source software for managing eBooks and sideloading books from my laptop to the Kindle. The programmer Kovid Goyal had a great idea in this program, the only fault I find with it is that to add a website to the drop-down list of archives to search in the Get Books function, someone has to write a script. You can write and ask someone to do it, but I don’t want the fuss.

I tend to like thumbnails of book covers on the Kindle and if Calibre can’t find a cover when it downloads metadata, it’s easy enough to browse online manually for one or to make my own up in Photoshop. Here are a few covers I made, Number 17 is a rather lame ghost story and didn’t really need a cover as I deleted it after reading, but I needed a bit of fun on a slow day.


Skookum Chuck is a classic featuring the coast and sea of British Columbia, and is from Project Gutenberg Canada. I have really enjoyed reading it. The author, Stewart Edward White, is known for novels that feature landscape and nature and the outdoors. Strangely, this book is not mentioned on the list of his works on Wikipedia. Of course, it’s set in Canada, why would anyone mention it?

As well, I’ve got about 15 classic mysteries all downloaded and ready to read on the Kindle. I love that I can use Calibre to add metadata to downloaded books, and I particularly like to get a cover and cover blurb for each book. The ePub and mobi formats for eBooks are based on HTML, and I can convert all formats in Calibre to the native mobi format for the Kindle very easily and then add or edit fields and tags as I wish. It’s also very easy to plug the Kindle into my laptop and open Calibre to transfer files and I can remove the device from within Calibre.

The files on Project Gutenberg Canada are in HTML or text-only, so converting them is necessary and I have found a few gems on there that aren’t available anywhere else. I discovered that it’s often because of our copyright length regulations. With some exceptions Canadian copyright is Life +50 and in some other countries, including the United States, it is Life +70, so 50 years after the death of an author the copyright reverts to public domain in Canada. Generally, but copyright is always a bit tricky, so you have to check.

Some browbeating fink on a forum started badgering me about why I was using Calibre and why I needed metadata and how I “should” do what she wanted etc. There’s one jerk like this on every list or forum. I enjoy the program and find it useful. I put the fink on Ignore and have been blessedly peaceful ever since, puttering away downloading free eBooks and metadata, converting books, sideloading books, making covers, all the top experiences of metajoy.

As yet, I haven’t actually bought a book from Amazon for the Kindle although I’ve downloaded two reading samples of biographies. I’m still a bit iffy on purchasing eBooks from Amazon as I like to have non-fiction/reference books in hand and I usually refer to them frequently or reread them. I don’t find fiction books to be a good price on Amazon and prefer to buy them on the secondary market or order them from the public library.

I was very surprised at how easy it is to read on the Kindle. I have it set to Landscape mode for reading as I find that emulates a page in a real paperback best and is easiest on my eyes; my brain tends to flow better through the words. The little cover I bought is the Midnight Fish design by Fintie and apart from a slight plastic smell it’s very good and works well for protection and automatically puts the Kindle to sleep when I close the cover.


A good experience all around.



Books on Owls and Colour Mixing Recipes

Posted January 23, 2017 by JJ ColourArt
Categories: Books

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I placed an order at an art supply shop to beef up my collection of Faber-Castell Polychromos coloured pencils. Although I have 60 colours, I was short on the warm and cool grey selections which are good for animal fur and feathers. I ended up getting 18 colours, so I’ll be up to 78 colours in total with this set. I initially bought a set of 24 pencils and then this will be my third order over several years to get the particular colours I find useful.

I was going to try the Caran d’Ache Luminance or Pablo coloured pencils but the cost is way too much. Besides, I like the oil-based Polychromos and want to stick with them. Then I was looking at the Caran d’Ache Neocolor II water-soluble pastel crayons and I realized I was just looking for the sake of looking. Back to reality.

I thought I’d also order a drafting template for small lettering. I got the Alvin Standard Lettering Guide TD112 that uses size: 1/8″, 3/16″, 1/4″, which is pretty small, but makes neat and tidy text.


I threw in a couple of Faber-Castell PITT pens because no one here sells them. I bought a back-up Sepia Superfine pen and a new-to-me Sanguine colour in the Fine size. I love their sepia colour and I think Sanguine might look good for buildings and lettering.

I occasionally buy photographic books for drawing references. I have used my reptiles book so much I thought I’d get one on owls, and I liked the photos in this and the huge amount of information on global species of owls.

Owls of the World: A Photographic Guide by Heimo Mikeola looks terrific and it gets great reviews. He is originally from Finland and has spent 40 years researching and photographing owls; a noted expert who obviously knows his stuff judging by the sample pages I saw of this book.


I dithered over this book because it’s better that people learn to mix their own colours when painting. I’m not too bad when mixing watercolour but in planning a large acrylic piece I wanted a reference for mixing particular colours, so I ordered the book 1500 Color Mixing Recipes by William F. Powell. This is one of those handy Walter Foster publications that have such good information.


I saw an excellent tutorial on YouTube for drawing rabbit fur with Polychromos coloured pencils so it got me all fired up. I still have a shoulder injury and tendinitis bothering me but I’m going to try doing small pictures at least. I’m sure a suitable owl with appear in the new book.

I also want to draw a sandpiper because of a story about a sandpiper from my Dad’s childhood, and due to his recent death I’ve been thinking about that. It’s a bit harder to find a large photo of a suitable bird but I’ll keep watch for one. I have some scraps of grey or cream Stonehenge paper that would do well for this.