Posted tagged ‘coloured pencil’

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.




Handmade and Decorated Kraft Paper Envelopes

April 28, 2016

While feeling a cold coming on I decided to do something quiet and went and bought a roll of kraft paper from the post office. It’s hard to find heavier kraft paper and this feels like 18 lb. weight which is pretty light so I lined both envelopes.

The designs are a cross between zentangles and blobby doodling, just the thing to inundate pen pals with!


This is the first time I’ve drawn boxes for the address and the return address, and I REALLY like the exuberance of that, so vow to continue the trend in other coloured envelopes I am still working on.


I like to put a little design on the back too just to give it some pop of colour.

I used a purple Sharpie extra fine point and Faber-Castell Polychromos coloured pencils for these. The Sharpie bleeds through this paper so I put a scrap piece of paper inside the envelope to catch any bleed-through and it worked well for that purpose.




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.



An Old Exercise from Starting Out with Watercolour and Coloured Pencil

April 17, 2014

My friend Rose reminded me of some old artwork I did which I’ve never posted about.

These drawings are from 2006. After I lost my job in 2005, I took some money I received from a pay equity settlement at work and bought subscriptions to several art magazines. That’s when I seriously started buying art and jewellery supplies too. As I put it: “Those b——s can pay for my supplies.” You have to turn it around when bad things happen.

One of the subscriptions I bought was for a publication called Artist’s Sketchbook by F &W Publications, the people who publish The Artist’s Magazine. It ceased publication about a year after I started receiving it and they rolled my remaining subscription into Watercolor Magic. Today it would probably be more successful with the burgeoning of artist’s sketchbooks and urban sketching and such.


The February 2006 issue had a great article called It’s in the Cards by Margaret Peot which described her creation of a personal deck of 52 cards, one for each week of the year. She did what sounded like a complicated gouache resist and washed the cards after. I just wanted to finally do something in Prismacolor coloured pencils and the Staedtler Karat Aquarelle watercolour pencils I had purchased.


I bought large sheets of her recommended paper of Rives BFK which is a printmaking paper but it has enough tooth to take a few layers of coloured pencil and watercolour. I cut mine 4 x 6 inches. The paper is moulded 100% cotton and acid free, but it probably was not the best choice given the layers I was using. I also ended up using some of the paper, glued back-to-back, for handmade Coptic-stitched books. It was great for that.

I decided to make up a special box with acid free tissue paper inside to store my stack of cards. I used a shoebox and covered the outside with the wallpaper I had left over from a dollhouse, and covered the inside with fabric scraps from a quilt I had made. The top was collaged with fruit, a fruit crate label, and a bird from three of my Dover clip art collections. I varnished the top after to protect the inkjet ink and keep it from fading. This is so yummy looking.


My first card was a depiction of homemade turkey soup and homemade soda bread that my husband had made. In celebration of reading the short story collection Dubliners by James Joyce on a reading group, I thought this would make a good picture, so I took a photograph of it before we ate it. Originally I had thought to do ivy in the background because of a story regarding Charles Stewart Parnell in the book but it wasn’t working out, so I lifted it all with masking tape and started again with shamrocks. That’s how I learned all about lifting coloured pencil if you make a mistake, with thanks to Bet Borgeson’s excellent books on coloured pencil.

The second picture was of an iguana sitting on an antique mother-of pearl button. Both were photographs I referenced from the Internet. I got one of the caudal spines of the iguana off-centre. In order to fix it I’d have to cover the ink with gesso and then try to match green colours. Not sure I could do that so many years later so I’ve left it. Live and learn. The background of that is done with stencilled leaves in reverse, the leaves have nothing to do with an iguana’s habitat and everything to do with my garden. Such is creativity.

The third one was the one I barely finished. My big idea was to draw a bullfrog with the skull of an African bullfrog behind it. Then I thought tadpoles were a good idea and some kind of green-leaved plant and a columbine flower or something—I can’t remember what they were or what they were supposed to symbolize with the bullfrog. Way, way too much, it all detracts from the frog—an important lesson for me. I got too hung up on this and got precious. What does it all mean? I don’t know I can’t tell in the jumble, but I keep it to remind me that editing pictures is just as important as editing writing. I also learned that I don’t have to outline everything in ink; definition can be done in other ways.


So that’s a look back at when I started actually using my art supplies seriously. You have to start somewhere. It’s a good memory. I want another year where I sit down and work and learn to use materials and try different paper. Everybody keep going, you have to start before you go anywhere.


Who knows, maybe it’s time to finish all those other blank cards. I was going to do up a picture with a Biedermeier sofa and a kniphofia (Red Hot Poker) plant and a mandala. Don’t ask, it was some big idea twirling around in my mind for months. I like a bit of furniture sometimes.



Art Supply Frustration and Solutions

May 12, 2013

I was trying to find one of the new Stillman and Birn Zeta sketchbooks with the heavier 180 lb. paper. I like my Gamma sketchbook with the ivory 100 lb. paper, but wanted to buy one of these new Zeta ones with the smooth white paper in a really heavy weight but can’t find it in Canada. I can’t buy online and the only shop I can find in Ontario that carries the Stillman and Birn sketchbooks is Curry’s, but they don’t have the Zeta ones.

It’s frustrating when companies release new things not to be able to get them in Canada. I wrote to the company to find out if they were at all available in a shop but received no reply and it has been many weeks. There are scant sketchbooks with heavier paper available in Canada. I have an Arches with cold-pressed 140 lb. watercolour paper but I prefer smooth papers so I can mix watercolour, ink and coloured pencil. Available sketchbooks are lower weight coil-bound or contain tear-out sheets and I prefer the hardbound books. I have never seen anything with 180 lb. paper like this until the Zeta came out.

Rats, foiled again. Maybe next year they will wend their way up here?

Update: I wrote to Stillman and Birn again in early June and this time I received a nice reply from Michael Kalman who told me that Curry’s are currently evaluating the Zeta book. So I wrote to Curry’s to say how much I liked the Gamma and that I hoped they would be carrying the Zeta at some point. I am just one person, but if you don’t speak up no one knows you are interested. I remain hopeful! Good products are good products, word eventually gets around. Update 2: Curry’s is going to carry the Zeta and agreed with me about how wonderful they are. Coming in July 2013.

My husband went to Curry’s for me as I don’t drive, and they sold him a bottle of gold ink that only had a tiny bit of ink and looked like it had been used. He also bought me a plastic case for re-jigging my field kit, and the dividers were missing. So I wrote to the company and they kindly replaced the ink and sent dividers and an extra box, so I’ve got two kits, one for dry media and one for watercolour stuff.

They are ArtBin Solutions XL and very lightweight and inexpensive. I like them better than the sewn rolls I made because the tiny stubs of coloured pencil I use in the field kit don’t get lost or hidden by fabric.

This is the one for coloured pencils:


And this is the one for watercolour bits and pieces separate from my watercolour paint palette:


While cleaning out my desk drawers and cupboard in my bedroom, I found my old eraser shield that I’ve been looking for. I had this back in 1980 for a drafting course I took, but at some point it got lost. It will be great for my sketchbook.


And although I have a nice template with circles, squares, ellipses, and triangles, I didn’t have one with rectangles. I bought one and it was perfect for drawing out small boxes for my palette tests in the sketchbook. It will be great for adding small elements to the pages. I have cardboard templates for drawing borders and rectangles in larger sizes but this template really filled a gap. There are chair and piano templates, how often does one feel a desperate need for that sort of template? I can now ink in a side arm, Windsor, club, or wing chair anywhere I feel like it, just plop them down like magic! (I pull my tongue out from my cheek.)


We are having some problems with a kitchen renovation so I haven’t been able to concentrate to make any art. The closest I have been to painting is painting a hall closet and shelves and I still have to clear and paint two more closets.

Every year I vow to paint the daffodils when they come up and I didn’t get around to it this year either. I think I’d probably feel better if I drew or painted something and got my mind on something else than the stress of problems and money worries.



Testing Coloured Pencil in My Stillman and Birn Gamma Sketchbook

April 4, 2013

I didn’t start off to intentionally test different materials in this sketchbook but it worked out that way when I started doing a couple of test swatches.

While searching for tutorials on using gouache, I came across the blog of Naomi Bardoff and liked her border image in this post. I love the bulrushes, and they remind me so much of all the bulrushes in the ponds behind my house.

I kept this in mind as inspiration for a border that looks like a bookplate on the inside front cover of my artist’s journal. It has a general theme of my garden and property, I even drew a beetle in there. I sketched a heron and a turtle and some flowers with a 2H pencil, and decided that the detail was too fine for paint so I used my Prismacolor and Verithin coloured pencils.

My heron somehow morphed into a fantastical bird, but sometimes these things happen in the woods. I am fond of using my initial in redwork embroidery so used a nice initial in the corner for interest. The inner border measures 3 x 4.5 inches, and it’s small; at one point I had my glasses on and was using a hand-held magnifying glass for tiny leaves and outlining.

I managed to do quite a bit of layering and some burnishing. I also erased a lot, and one motif was excised completely (a watering can) because it didn’t really fit. I burnished over areas with masking tape to lift the colour and then erased. The paper held up really well. The lettering is done with a Micron pen, and I sprayed this with Krylon workable fixative.

Here is the picture of it, although for privacy I have taken out the e-mail address.


Ah well, it’s a bit of cheerful whimsy for the title page, I always like fancier title pages.



In the Realm of Eye Candy and Inspiration

March 25, 2013

I had previously bought Danny Gregory’s book An Illustrated Life which is about artists and their sketchbooks and a book I find myself browsing through monthly to uplift and inspire me. He has a new one called An Illustrated Journey which is much the same thing, only specifically about visual travel journals. I’ve had it on my wish list since last year and I thought it would do me good so I ordered it.


I, who don’t travel, thought this was something I could apply to travelling in my mind. I have a favourite quote by Samuel Taylor Coleridge that I’ve had pinned to my cork board down here for a decade at least:

From whatever place I write you will expect that part of my ‘Travels’ will consist of excursions in my own mind.

Just so.

While ordering this, to get free shipping I finally bought the DVD of the excellent move Topsy-Turvy which is about Gilbert and Sullivan and the writing and performing of The Mikado. We have seen it before when I ordered it on an inter-library loan, but it is wonderful and I want to see it again and have it in my collection.


And then I got to missing my sketchbook and thinking about all the great birds we have here and took a chance and ordered a book called Drawing Birds with Colored Pencils by Kaaren Poole.


It gives me hope during a bad stretch while I wait for my back and jaw to stop hurting after a dental visit. I am limited in my time spent drawing due to chronic tendinitis, but I need some hope right now.

Really, the only way to draw something and learn techniques is to draw, but I do find this sort of thing inspiring.