Posted tagged ‘sketchbooks’

New Botanical Drawing and Painting Books and Sketchbooks

May 31, 2017

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!




Get the Old Watercolour Pad Out to Use

May 23, 2014

A local artist gave this to me about ten years ago. It is Clairefontaine cold-pressed 140 lb/300 gsm paper, so it’s very nice, but I always felt it was too nice to use. Don’t we all do that? God forbid you should use the good paper.


About six years ago I commemorated my Bluepoint Siamese cat Greenie who died of kidney failure on the cover, and glued some Dover clip art flowers that I’d tinted blue on the inside of the cover, which is covered in Contac paper. Then of course, it was REALLY too good for me to use.

I get teary whenever I look at his portrait. We kept him alive for seven months with sub-cutaneous liquids, but he hated it. He’d crash, we’d bring him back to life with a vet visit and sub-cutaneous fluids, then he’d crash again, until it was too late. He died in February and we asked the vet to keep him in the freezer until May when we could bury him. He was a grand champion in the neutered class, we adopted him after his show career was over, and his health was never robust, but to die at the age of six was a tragedy, which we still feel, like we failed him.

Look at this face, his dignity and depth of soul is so apparent:




No matter how weepy it makes me feel, this watercolour pad is going to waste, so I think I will do my watercolour flower tutorials in here. If I’m lucky I might be able to use both sides of the paper, although one side has faint grid lines from the paper mould.

Dear Greenie, dead too young, I would like something happy to be in your book finally. Flowers are a happy thing.




My Pretend Journey to Chile

January 19, 2014

I like my sketchbooks but find it hard to use them for my daily life, or daily at all, it just doesn’t interest me to sketch the oatmeal I had for breakfast, or my hand, or living room chair. I seem to do best at exploration when I am learning something. I discovered this many years ago with my card collection, I like to use them to learn something.

After buying a few books on urban sketching and travel journalling or sketchbooks, I thought how interesting that was and that perhaps I could use a sketchbook for making my own trip up. For years I have read and enjoyed Paul Theroux’s travel books, but I don’t enjoy real travelling, it’s too expensive and safety issues make me anxious as well as language barriers.

After reading Eduardo Galeano’s books and doing an architecture study of Brazilian architect Oscar Niemeyer, I realized how ignorant I am of South America, and became interested in that continent. I then read a travel book called Wild Coast: Travels on South America’s Untamed Edge by John Gimlette, and saw Anthony Bourdain travelling around there on television as well as Monty Don in his television program Around the World in 80 Gardens. Intriguing.

I mentioned to someone that I was interested in doing this pretend travel, and I looked up Chile and saw a Frommer’s Guide for that country and I thought how good it would be to plan a pretend itinerary with a book like that. Then I saw that one of my favourite publishers, Dorling Kindersley, had an Eyewitness Travel Guide for Chile, so after reflecting on that I bought it.


I have some of their Eyewitness books on animals and architecture and they are comprehensive with lots of visuals and maps. This is really just the thing for a proper itinerary and exploration. Due to the size and heft of this book, I think I might be pretend travelling for an entire year in Chile.

To get free shipping, I added an odd little book to my order that was under $10 called My Venetian Sketchbook by Isabelle de Borchgrave. I have more than enough examples of sketchbooks but in this one she uses several styles including an abstract style that looked interesting as you can see by the cover. The pages have photographs and art montages, with lots of fascinating stuff about Venice.


I can’t decide if I want to devote an entire sketchbook to this. I was going to use my new large 8.5 x 11-inch Zeta sketchbook for maps, but it was too limited a subject. It might be good for my Chile journal though and I could have fun splitting the pages up in interesting compositions.

So that’s my plan. I like to have a good plan with back-up books and research.

Zeta Sketchbook Coming Soon to Canada

June 14, 2013

A nice gentleman at Curry’s sent me an e-mail to say that they had decided to carry the new Zeta sketchbooks from Stillman and Birn. They should be in stores by the end of July 2013.

So that covers Ontario artists anyway, and they do mail order for other parts of Canada! I hope some of the other Canadian stores start to carry them too. I love my Gamma sketchbook so much. I was just doing some blobby flowers with gouache today. I obviously need a bit of practice, but if you don’t try, you never go forward in skill. The chrysanthemum turned out okay but the white flowers didn’t.


Blobs and daubs, but I am getting good at mixing colours accurately at least. Gouache lifts off really well on this paper with plain water. That was worth learning.


My New Sketchbook Prompts a Look at Other Sketchbooks

March 29, 2013

My husband surprised me yesterday by saying he would go to Curry’s to pick up the art supplies I wanted.

Unfortunately, Curry’s was out of the little folding palette I wanted. They will call when they have stock in, but it means my husband has to make another detour on his way to work. The little plastic palette I am using now only holds 8 colours and I carry it in an under-sized, open plastic sleeve, so it’s not ideal. I squeeze my tube watercolours in the wells and then let it all dry–that makes a great build-your-own field kit.


This is the one I want, it’s only $5 so not the greatest, but it has 33 wells and since I only have 18 colours I could probably put a few colours of gouache in the top wells. I never use my gouache, which is Reeves student grade junk, but if I had it handy…


I was checking the information for the Great Canadian Sketchbook I currently use, and it has 110 lb. paper, whereas the new sketchbook has 100 lb. paper. I covered the front with wallpaper and pressed leaves from the garden. I call this my Cinderella Sketchbook because I bought and decorated it for my 50th birthday with a picture of Cinderella. I carry a calligraphy sheet with it since I practice lettering in there too. My accordion journals are ones I use my wonky calligraphy in.


I was doing well with this accordion journal until I spilled the gold ink that I use with my dip pen and lost half a bottle of it. I just checked it and the bottle has dried up so I’ll get a replacement so I can continue in these journals. I find I have to be in the mood to work on such small paper, each section measures 3 x 6 inches, and the dark coloured paper can be a bit tiring to work on too.



So here is the new Stillman and Birn Gamma series sketchbook. I’ve gone through it twice, bending it gently open as recommended by the manufacturer, and the pages are lying fairly flat. This is a Smyth sewn binding so they lie flat but you have to use the book to work it in as well. I love the ivory-coloured paper in this new sketchbook.


Paton and his dog Willie were taking Cerberus for a walk (only Patton can handle Cerberus!), and they were exploring my four new tubes of paint too. I am keen to try Hooker’s Green, and Phthalo Green is an old favourite of mine from when I used to use acrylics at the age of 16. I use Van Gogh watercolour paints because I can afford them, but they actually aren’t that bad, and are better than some of the student grade paints.

I used to have oodles of energy and creativity, but chronic pain and poor health really saps my interest most days now. I started that mandala you can see on the right, but my arm is hurting from using the coloured pencil so I’ve lost the impetus to keep going. I hope to putter away at this by including some watercolour, and then start working in the marvelous new journal.

I’ve lost my oomph in the last year. I take my supplements and try to eat properly, and making art does help build some joy back into my life here and there.

Cerberus is a big help to me too. You know how he is, so cheery and welcoming.



Stillman and Birn Art Journals

March 27, 2013

Hah, while browsing new things at Curry’s online, I saw that they are now carrying the Stillman and Birn Art Journals. Like a lot of people, I suppose I need another sketchbook like I need asthma, but all the reviews make the paper sound really good.


The Gamma series has ivory paper which I find enticing. The paper is vellum but it has some resistance or tooth, and then there’s the Epsilon series which is a smoother plate surface and better for ink, but a natural white colour. They both take watercolour up to a point, which is fine for me as I don’t do heavy watercolour washes and I like to mix light washes of watercolour with coloured pencils.

They are both 100 lb paper, and the hardcovers open up fully so you can do double-page spreads. I was interested in the 5.5 x 8.5 inch landscape size, which would be 17 inches when opened up. Neat, maybe I could do that galah bird I’ve always wanted to try drawing.

They are expensive at $18, but if I was really going to use it I could save up. My other sketchbooks are mostly for dabbling and none of them open up except the spiral bound one, and of course the spirals drive me crazy as they get in the way. Probably I could buy two books to get different papers and sizes but I don’t have the money so one will suffice if I can get to the art store.

I don’t drive so I have to wait and save and dream for a bit. Yeah, this gecko thinks it’s a good idea, only he wants to make sure I don’t give that galah bird lime green feathers. He never has lived down his embarrassment at the way his toes morphed into lime popsicles.


Hey, I just noticed that the colour codes on the sketchbooks go with the colours in my gecko picture. That does it, I’ve got to buy one one of these journals now.



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.