Posted tagged ‘art supplies’

Books on Owls and Colour Mixing Recipes

January 23, 2017

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.



Don’t Struggle With Cheap Gouache!

December 16, 2016

Over the last 15 years or so, I’ve been struggling now and then to use my set of Reeves gouache. It’s great for beginner’s having a fiddle with a medium they aren’t sure about, but they are quite chalky and the colour quality isn’t that great.


Gouache is strange to work with because it dries so fast, but also enticing because of its opaque qualities and coverage. It has a creamy consistency that is interesting and a matte finish which looks and feels good.

So this week I hauled out my tube of white gouache to use on a graphite picture for highlights, and the tube is almost empty, and I said to myself “Why are you still struggling with this little set?” I like gouache, I have plans to use it in my new sketchbook project, and try it out more on darker colours of Canson Mi-Teintes paper which I love, but this grade of gouache is something that’s pointless when I need a better quality of paint that will help me improve my art.

I gave up the struggle and bought a set of ten artist quality gouache tubes from Winsor & Newton. Oh man, I could have picked out 20 individual tubes and got just the right colours, but the cost would have been close to $200, whereas the set was $73 and I bought an extra tube of Permanent White which uses titanium in the mix rather than the Zinc White that comes in the set.


Chemicals in paint: Zinc White mixes well with other colours, Titanium White likes to be on its own, creating highlights and drawing things on Mi-Teintes paper, alone, alone, alone. Who am I to argue?

I hadn’t planned to buy any art supplies for Christmas, but it happened. I’m excited after several months of pain from a shoulder impingement, to gear up a bit and start drawing and painting again. I still have pain but can manage 30 minutes a day as long as I wear a tendon cuff and don’t overdo it.

Sally Warner, in her book Making Room for Making Art, describes herself and others grabbing 10 to 15 minutes of art creation time a day as their lives allow, and creating wonderful art.

I’m with Sally.







Half Pans, Sketchbooks, Metric Weights for Paper, and Useful Apps

June 2, 2016

I try to think in centimeters and millimeters and meters, I also think in kilometers 90 percent of the time, but my stubborn mind will not grok the metric weight of paper. I am constantly looking up and converting online. Yes, yes it’s 240 gsm or 240 g/m² or about 100 lb. paper. The confusing thing is that that weight can vary when converted depending on the thickness of the paper and materials it is made from.

I still have to look it up because art paper is different from copy paper and on and on. Anyway, I was in the market for a new sketchbook that could take pen and ink, watercolour, and coloured pencils which are the materials I use most. I opted for a Canson 224 g or 138 lb “Mix Media” wirebound book. Now why if this is lighter in grams is it heavier in pounds than the 240 gsm? How the heck do you figure that out without feeling the paper? The Stillman & Birn Zeta series books are 270 gsm or 180 lb; I prefer Stillman & Birn sketchbooks but I can’t hunt any up out here. They are too heavy for mail order.


Beside it is the tin I bought last year to hold my Winsor & Newton half pans which I haven’t used yet because I just found them after moving house. However, I was always a bit iffy on the completeness of the colours. If you do computer graphics or printing at all you will be familiar with CMYK (cyan, magenta, yellow, and black) for mixing colours. Basically that’s all you need for watercolour or any other paint or ink, but I found it tiresome to mix greens from these process colours, particularly greens, so I always buy a few extra colours for my palettes plus Payne’s Grey and Indigo which I love for darks.

Still, I decided to beef this little palette up, I’m turning 60 this year and I feel it’s my last kick at the nirvana of art supplies. I bought a few extras:

Cadmium orange
Quinacridone magenta
Winsor violet
French ultramarine
Quinacridone gold
Cobalt Violet
Permanent Sap Green

So I now have 24 colours in the half pans. Did I need these? No. Do they make life easier? Yes.

I bought two Gotrick cradled wood panels in the 18 x 24-inch size to create my diptych for the living room on. I don’t like working on canvas, it’s too bouncy for me, so these looked ideal and are nicely made. Now I need to save up for more acrylic paint. I have some small bottles of Golden Fluid Acrylic but I don’t think they’ll be enough. I’m supposed to seal this with Golden GAC 100 and then do 3 or 4 coats of gesso to prepare it for painting on. This means I need to clear the drafting table and unpack and put away some fabric first to make room.


I bought a rather interesting book on pen and ink. It IS simple as the title suggests, but he has some intuitive ideas here and encourages you to make your own marks (literally) in pen and ink rather than slavishly copying tutorials. Pen and Ink Drawing: A Simple Guide by Alphonso Dunn.


And lastly, another birthday gift. I am hoping the family sends me cash so I can pay for these things! Two bottles of fountain pen ink (Noodler’s Apache Sunset and Diamine Sherwood Green) and a violet-coloured Platinum Plaisir fountain pen. The nibs on these are coloured but I notice some people saying they receive ones that are plain steel, so I’m not sure which nib I am getting.


I don’t know if this counts as exciting for most people, but I used the Android for Dummies book to help me figure out how to use the smartphone I rarely use to hook up to my micro stereo and stream live radio using Bluetooth and wi-fi. There are few radio stations here and the two I listened to most for decades were unavailable and I didn’t feel right, all that empty air and no cheery music, as I am used to having the radio on for hours every day. Using the apps for CBC Radio Two and Jazz FM 91, I can hear the music I like and all the hosts and chatter I like too.


Plus I got the nifty Marine Traffic app for the phone and can see what’s cruising by and identify the ships and what country they are from. What I like about this is that you can click on the arrow in the pop-up with the ship name, and pull up photographs that people have uploaded of it and statistics about where it came from, tonnage, measurements etc. I saw one image of a specific cruise ship taken in my area and then another of it in Sydney harbour by the opera house in Australia. Imagine, and it’s right outside my kitchen window!


I dislike using phones and avoided these smartphones for years but I had to find a way to make it useful for me, apart from carrying it for emergencies in the car, and so far this radio streaming and Marine Traffic app make it useful.

Not as useful as art supplies but close.




Graphite Reorganization and Faber-Castell 9000 Pencils

December 27, 2014

And so the reorganization of art supplies continues…

After some frustration with the O’Bon L’Artiste pencil set I decided I needed something different for my style of drawing. Even with ten pencils in the set I found it difficult get the gradations I wanted. They never felt sharp, they just felt funny, I’m not quite sure what it was—probably my limitations, but it was frustrating to use them.

I have two Staedtler Mars Lumograph pencils from decades ago that I like. I have 2H and 3H and I find the 2H quite useful, so I was going to buy a few odd ones of those in the B grade. Then I started reading reviews and people were praising the Faber-Castell 9000 series pencils.

As usual, they were hard to scrounge up, but I did manage to find a small set of six at Michaels with a coupon to boot. I got HB, B, 2B, 4B, 6B, 8B in the set. I can’t imagine ever using the 8B but you never know, several of the botanical and architectural drawing books I have use graphite that deep. The two Staedtler pencils can go down the scale on the other side for me.


Then I remembered that years ago I had bought three of the water soluble Derwent pencils so I retrieved those from an all-purpose ceramic cup (8B, 6B, and 4B) and put them together with all the other graphite stuff, including tortillons, templates and value finders.

On the right in the above picture you can see a small rubber stamp. I bought a cheap set years ago related to mythology and this Ouroboros stamp was in there, never used. I thought I’d use it as a cartouche to put the date and title in my new 52-week sketchbook project.


I have always liked to use graphite. Here’s hoping I will enjoy it more with the new Faber-Castell 9000 pencils.



Water Containers, Brushes, Paper: Today’s Necessary Art Supplies

June 14, 2014

I hadn’t intended to buy paper but they had big 11 x 15 sheets of Canson 140 lb. paper in a pad of thirty for only $10 and considering I have no large-sized paper to work on I figured it would be ideal for my book tutorials. It is a student grade paper but not bad for practice.

I bought some tubes of Van Gogh watercolour and some spritzer bottles for field work. The brushes are student grade but I bought a #14, #10, and a #8—I call these “big splodgers” or just “splodgers” and they are much larger than the brushes I have so I can put big splodges of watercolour wash down as instructed in my book tutorials.

The two big water containers are a bucket with two sections, a handle, holes for standing brushes upright, and the lid is a plastic palette; the other smaller one is a set of three nesting containers that snap together when taken apart and are nice and stable. No tipping with either one. I don’t know what it is, but if there’s a glass of water around, whether for drinking or for painting I inevitably knock it over, so this seemed like a good solution, particularly since I use at least two water containers when painting. (Click to enlarge.)


I was quite pleased with this, and feel I’m ready to go now. Of course I have to update my colour samples to show the new colours as I must have everything exact.

You’d probably never guess it from the supplies I have talked about on this blog, but I dislike shopping, and am relieved to be home. I have grown used to being isolated, yet I had a nice chat in the hardware store with a fellow who was buying a grass trimmer. I’d done online research on several sale models the night before and explained the limitations of the product he was looking at and some of the things to watch out for. It was nice to talk to a real person for a change but I do like to come home.



The Land of Pre-Retirement Art Supplies

April 9, 2014

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.



Better Than a New Car or Diamonds

March 15, 2014

Oooooh, I just got a prezzie from the spouse that is more precious than diamond necklaces or new cars or anything fancy. It’s a whole 36-inch x 20 yard roll of tracing paper. Plus a Monster High doll called Operetta. The double whammy of joy. Total cost about $29.


Remember men, sometimes it’s the smallest things that have the most impact and meaning to women.

Operetta needs to get busy and sand and urethane our pine floors. In the meantime she’s relaxing with the other gals Page and Skelita. (Click to enlarge)