Posted tagged ‘art techniques’

Waiting for Toned Paper

August 14, 2017

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.




Biographies and Art Technique Books

January 17, 2017

I bought 4 new books and 2 used books that looked interesting for biography art techniques.

1) How to Draw & Paint Animals: Learn to Draw with Colored Pencil Step by Step by Debra Kauffman Yaun – another excellent Walter Foster publication, and a large format with few pages like their older publications. Many good steps and tips in this without the usual interminable pages of supplies that many publishers use to pad out their books.


2) No Excuses Watercolor Animals: A Field Guide to Painting by Gina Rossi Armfield – I rather like Gina’s exuberant, loose style which is accurate but so different from the precious approach to painting tedious art that looks like a photograph. Again, no 21 pages of supply discussion padding out the substance of the book.


3) Colored Pencil Cats & Dogs: Art & Instruction from 80 Colored Pencil Artists by Ann Kullberg – Each artist has a picture and a page of remarks and tips. I love this kind of book where you can get inspiration without copying a tutorial.


4) John James Audubon: The Making of an American by Richard Rhodes – A recent biography recommended by several newspapers. The print is a bit small but I’m enjoying it as I knew nothing of his life.


These two I bought used on ABE so it will take a while to get them. I have read two other biographies by Mary S. Lovell, so was interested in the one that she did on the Churchill family. She doesn’t include everyone but some of the well-known Churchills and family history.

5) The Churchills by Mary S. Lovell – I bought an older edition paperback and it’s not as fancy as the newer and larger books with photos of the family on the cover. Winston Churchill wrote his own biography of his famous ancestor, the first Duke of Marlborough, but I wanted something lighter.


6) Lives Like Loaded Guns: Emily Dickinson and Her Family’s Feuds by Lyndall Gordon – I wanted to re-read the biography of Dickinson My Wars Are Laid Away in Books by Alfred Habegger, but it was tedious to read I thought I’d try another approach and bought this for $1.


I joined a new book group for this year where you keep track of what you read each month (something I always forget to do), and they also read a book together each month. I recently got an app for our tablet for reading eBooks, and it wasn’t as hard on the eyes as I expected so I am enjoying reading the first two classic books.

Years ago I used to be on several book groups on Yahoo Groups, but they changed the format on Yahoo which made it more difficult to read and reply to messages, so I gave up and left them all. I miss talking to people about books though, and part of the fun is checking other people’s lists of books and finding new authors of fiction and new non-fiction reads on fascinating subjects.









Another Art Book: The Realism Challenge by Mark Crilley

May 27, 2015

I was browsing online and this book popped up: The Realism Challenge by Mark Crilley.

I looked at it and the preview pages and it seemed interesting because he often uses coloured pencil, graphite, and watercolour together, which I also like to do. He surprisingly uses gouache to brighten white highlights, even in graphite drawings, so they really pop. Having done a couple of sketches where I was drawing a white object on white paper, I thought this might be useful.


He has some short YouTube videos of his process, so I watched them. Due to my interest in collecting playing cards, I found this one fascinating.

Mark also draws Manga and has a couple of how-to books for that, and what I liked about his general approach is that he gets realistic folds and shadows and colouring, but they are not so photorealistic that you can’t see it’s a drawing or painting.

I like things to look realistic but not to the point where you can’t tell if it’s a photograph. I find that sort of realism pointless. It’s the small deviations and imperfections of the hand of the artist that make art interesting. Plus, different materials give a different look, from rough to soft, from pale to vibrant, you can draw something several ways and it’s gratifying. Mark is practiced at sketching from life, which is what really makes his studies sing, and I can always use practice for drawing.

I have spent the last five months doing weekly sketches on my Manner and Material blog with a couple of friends. We have been having such a good time, but last week I really noticed how much better my eye was at drawing accurate initial sketches. This week I sat down and did the sketch in about 20 minutes, and it was accurate. They don’t all turn out like that but I’m forging on slowly to get back the skills I used to have. We all know that practice is necessary, all the art books in the world won’t help unless you sit down and practice, and practice using different materials.

It’s like a mountain when you’re out of practice, you climb and climb and feel so lame because you can’t get anything to look right. I’ve heard other artists speaking about this too, so you need to persevere through the duds and build those skills. What we usually find the most frustrating is the remembrance of how we used to draw when we WERE in practice. It’s like being a marathon runner and then not running for years and finding when you try to run that you can only walk short distances. It takes time to recondition yourself and it’s emotionally painful and requires mental discipline. There is no way around it.


It turns slowly, but it does get better. Mark Crilley’s book has many tutorials that you can draw along with and yet retain your own style. I’m looking forward to that.



Some New and Used Books

January 16, 2015

I bought two very inexpensive used books before Christmas, and they finally arrived in the mail. The first is an older edition of Hayden Herrera’s biography of Frida Kahlo. I wanted this to get me in the mood for making the Frida Kahlo doll I want to sew and paint.


I also bought a copy of Marti Mitchell’s quilting book Quilting for People Who Still Don’t Have Time to Quilt because I liked the quilt on the left hand side of the cover. She has a pattern for a wallhanging (which I would upsize) and a charming doll quilt that also interested me. They are done in scraps in a colourwash technique that I like and wouldn’t mind giving a try. These are very, very simple quilts but sometimes it’s nice to sew a simple item.


I am updating this post to reflect the fact that I deleted one book and placed another because the book on EFT and meridian “tapping” just made me sceptical. So, I bought a copy of Lee Hammond’s book on drawing portraits from photographs. I have her book on drawing coloured pencil portraits but in this first one she goes into more detail and uses graphite.


I was talking to Ruth White about her New York Clambake piecing pattern and she mentioned she had a quilt in the book 500 Traditional Quilts, so I bought it too to get free shipping.


The author, Karey Bresenhan, used to write articles in the old Lady’s Circle Patchwork Quilts publication. I loved those magazines because of the historical information and emphasis and have all my old copies. I like traditional quilts done with new approaches to colour, but I also like certain art quilts.

I am looking forward to getting these two new books. I was in a funk all week, not feeling well, and you can always count on quilts to cheer you up!



Anatomical Juxtapositions

October 26, 2014

Back in January 2010 I drew a postcard to study with the artwork of Jean-Michel Basquiat and discovered that he had a copy of Gray’s Anatomy when he was a child and often used the illustrations from the book as inspiration for art when he was an adult.

I had hoped to find a copy of the book in a used book shop but there really aren’t any around me, so I ordered an old copy online for $1 plus shipping and hope it might provide me with some inspiration. There are many, many editions of this book, most of them facsimiles of a 1918 or earlier printing. I got the one that seemed to have more illustrations, was hardcover, and was cheap.


Next stop, the human clavicle juxtaposed with a raven? Who knows? I waited almost five years for this, I figure I’m worth a buck.

Oh Yes, I Bought Three Watercolour Books

May 23, 2014

Yeah, but two of them are for the spouse, so I guess I’m safe.

I noticed Amazon had a copy of a book I’ve had on my wish list since last summer. Figuring this was a sign, and encouraged by some examples I had seen online of an artist working through this book, I ordered it.

The Watercolor Flower Painter’s A-Z by Adelene Fletcher


For my husband, who likes landscapes and barn scenes, which are not really an interest of mine unless there is a flower vase sitting in front of a window showing a landscape, I bought these two.

I have Richard Taylor’s marvelous book The Watercolourist’s Guide to Painting Buildings, which is the best book I have on the subject, so when I saw he had a book called Watercolour Landscapes I thought it would be good for the spouse. Who knows, maybe I can do a mountain scene with a vase of flowers stuck in front of it.


The book that many consider essential is by Gordon MacKenzie and I notice he has two books gathered into one called The Complete Watercolorist’s Essential Notebook, so I bought that for the husband too. Judging from what he has told me about looking at YouTube videos on watercolour, he would like this and the demos in it. Perhaps this is sexist but I seem to notice he prefers tutorials by men, maybe he feels more confortable?


I’ve got to stop buying art technique books, but I want to make sure everything is in place for his retirement. This way he has his own books to work through. I need to buy him a palette like my portable one and then he’s all set.



Botanical Ceramics Lead to Books of Course!

February 13, 2014

While browsing for photos to use as digital jigsaws I came across the fantastic art of Laura Zindel on ceramics and textiles. She draws insects, birds, and botanical art in black and white and transfers them to ceramics and dinnerware. I LOVE things like this.

Here are a couple of screen shots of a few items from her Moths and Botanical galleries.



One of my sisters has collected Portmeirion in the Botanic Garden pattern for years.


I find it a bit busy for my taste but I do have a Portmeirion dinner plate from their Pomona series that depicts a lovely peach. I have this on my kitchen wall and it’s one of my favourite things.


Nothing says “Joy!” like ceramics with botanical art on them. However, Laura Zindel’s work is really my style, as I love black and white art. She lives and works in Vermont, but I assume you can buy her ceramics in Canada in specialty shops so I’ll keep an eye out for something small.

I see this stuff and I want to draw black and white insects and flowers. It’s a dream of mine, and I don’t know why I keep deferring it. I get a little antsy with too much detail, as well as having problems with pain, but perhaps if I drew something over a period of weeks rather than days, the detail would be easier to manage?

After a browse at, three books decided to further my experience in life and ship to my house.

I have had Flowers by Margaret Eggleton on my wish list for some time. The thing with books is that you don’t get anywhere unless you actually draw yourself. On days when I have trouble with pain I love to sit and read books like this though. I don’t know if it’s a skewy perception or not but the British seem to have a greater appreciation of black and white artwork, and this artist is British.


I have one of the previous books by the people with the Eden Project called Botanical Illustration with the Eden Project and it is very good. It’s one of my favourite book covers for doing digital jigsaws, and isn’t that a recommendation?

I noticed that they have another book in the series called Natural History Painting with the Eden Project so I bought that. The last time I tried to draw a skull of a bullfrog I got a bit bogged down with colour choice and this has some information on drawing and colouring bones, as well as rocks, feathers, whatever bits and pieces you might find. It seems to be scarce so will probably hold up my free shipping for the other books I bought.


Lastly, I bought Botanical Drawing in Color by Wendy Hollender who does nice work and apparently is a good teacher. One review I read of this says she has quite a bit of information on graphite, so it really isn’t just colour.


A couple of books I bought a year or two ago on botanical drawing used solvents with coloured pencil. Yuck, if there is anything I dislike more than burnishing, it’s using solvents with coloured pencil. The resulting work often looks like velvet paintings. I don’t see the point of using coloured pencil if you’re going to use solvents to melt the wax and make it blend like watercolour. I often use watercolour paint with coloured pencils and I like that look, but solvents…I don’t like the look of it.

These books have a different approach, which is more classic, and thus more interesting to me. So we’ll see how it goes. I’d like to do a bit of botanical and natural history drawing in my Chilean journal.