Over the last five or six years I’ve been slowly falling down the rabbit hole of watercolour painting. I think what sucked me in was the range that this medium can have. Some of the things that have been catching my attention have been super loose and washy work with a few suggestive strokes to set the scene. Ink and wash urban sketches. Illustrative, photo real work and even mixed media pieces. The scope seems endless and with the advent of watercolour sticks and pencils I’m starting to feel like there is a version of watercolour out there for everyone.
My last post was about my secret sketching adventures while waiting for the train on my commute home. It has become something I look forward to at the end of the day and helps me decompress before I get home AND get in some sketching each day. This, of course, has piqued my interest in urban sketching in a big way and has lead to me taking a small watercolour sketch kit with me on vacations. Just like my secret sketching adventures, I tend to get really excited about something and over do it. Maybe it’s my Italian/Greek heritage. Nothing can be subtle 🙂 In any case, I simplified my sketching supplies and now that’s happening with my watercolour travel kit as well.
So I thought I would take you on a little journey to see where I started with my paint boxes and where I’m currently heading and why.
These were the first two. Both Winsor and Newton and both well used in the studio. Out and about only somewhat.
PROS: The small one on the left, called the Pocket Box,, is nice and small and holds a small collapsing brush that came with it. The palette is plastic and nice and light weight. The one on the right, called the Field Plus, is considerably bigger. It came with a brush also and it has plenty of mixing room as well as a water bottle that nests into the pallete and water cups.
CONS: The Pocket Box only takes Winsor and Newton pans. It’s bit hard to tell but one of the other half pans I bought from a different brand doesn’t fit in. This makes mixing and matching colours a bit of a problem and water needed to be carried separate. Also unless I had a super skinny collapsing brush it didn’t fit in the brush holder part. The Field Plus has many features that the smaller one doesn’t but it ultimately was too bulky and I wanted more room for colours.
Next I moved into the world of metal palettes.
PROS: The large Schminke pallete is awesome and I use it all the time. It’s filled mostly with Schminke pans and a few Windsor and Newton. It fulfilled my need for a good amount of mixing space and the ability to hold a lot of colour (including a variety of brands pans) and the space in the middle holds full size brushes. The smaller palette is very portable. Holds my ideal number of pans and can hold both a small pencil and a collapsable brush in the centre.
CONS: The large palette is just that, large, and way heavier than the plastic palettes. So I rarely ever took it anywhere. The small one has travelled with me many places and is still a favourite but does weigh a fair amount and I find carrying it around with me on a trip when we are out and about does get a bit much along with a sketch book.
My current palette favourites are now are DIY palettes. Most are still a work in progress but I’m getting closer to finding a good combo between weight, variety of colours I can carry, and brush and pen supplies.
The first DIY palette I made was out of a small Altoids tin. I painted the lid interior a gloss white with a metal spray primer from the hardware store. It’s a great surface to clean up when glossy vs matte. Less staining too. The pans have double sided tape on the bottoms and I have a sponge in the base to fill up any holes and keep things from shifting. The tape does give way over time and the depth means I need another piece of sponge to keep things from turning upside down. I also found it hard to find a pencil or collapsing water brush that was small enough to fit in this one.
The most recent version is an old Staedtler pencil tin that when you pull out the inserts hold pans just perfectly. I was very pleased with myself when I figured this out. 🙂 It holds plenty of colour and is super light. I should mention the reason I have stuck with metal tins is that I use clip magnets to attach the palette to my sketch book so I can hold palette and sketch book in one hand and brush in the other. I can also clip a cloth to the top and still have plenty of room for mixing colour. The pans are held in place with a floral adhesive or that gummy poster tack you can find in stores. Works way better than double sided tape and still lets me make additions and subtractions of pans easily. The downside to this palette is that I can’t fit a water brush in when I remove a row of paints cause the palette is too thin.
While this Staedtler tin is pretty great right now it will not be the last DIY palette I make. I have a few other versions waiting in the wings. First is a deeper pencil tin. I was gifted an empty Caran d’ache pencil tin and it is absolutely deep enough for a water brush. I have a few combinations in mind I can try out with this, but it might mean I can get down to the tin with only a pot of water to carry extra if I decide to use a collapsing brush instead of a water brush.
I also plan on turning a gift card tin into a small paint box. This particular tin pictured has a lid that isn’t attached to the base but it would let me carry both a water brush and collapsing brush. I have made a divider out of some scrap foam core board and put a magnet on the bottom so I can adjust the size of the paints section vs brush and pen section on this one. This palette is also a great size for everyday purse travel with a small sketch book.
There it is. I hope you’ve enjoyed this little journey and maybe it’s inspired you to add or subtract something from your own kits. Have a good DIY kit item I haven’t thought of? Want to share it? Let me know in the comments below.
At long last I am releasing the first two of six Explorers Journals. It’s an idea I conceived of close to a year ago and have been intermittently working on. As my last post indicated, there have been many changes a foot in my life and it’s been a bit hectic trying to get everything back on track with my plans for the Society of Curious Creatures. So what are these Explorer Journals you ask? Well it’s another aspect of the Society that collects and catalogues photographs, drawings, notebooks and, yes, the journals of its passionate membership as they travel the globe drawing, writing and in general documenting all the “curious” things they find in their world.
It’s a glimpse into who some of these Explorers might be. We learn names and get to experience their version of the creature they have found in a mini zine format.
Now for a little process since that’s what this blog is all about. 😀
The initial concepts were gathered from my many small notes and random ideas that I collect in my sketch books. They are then turned into white paper mockups where I can work out the details of the text and images combined together.
After this I spent some time finding the various paper textures, inks, pencils and paints that I was going to use to make all these wee journals. After all, I enjoy the hunt just as much as my explorers do. I even fabricated some custom stamps for the museum archive logs. This worked out better than I thought and was great for adding more ‘history’ to the layers of the book.
Next came the actual making. The journals start out as 11 x 17 sheets of stonehenge paper and I subdivide the sheet into 8 sections. I layout and complete the covers and images within the pages first and then do the text last. Laying down all the elements onto clean paper with shiny new images is only half the fun cause then everything gets aged and dirtied so it looks like these little books have been sitting in the wet or on a dusty shelf.
An awful lot of work has gone in up to this point and the last steps are to scan and correct digitally any colour and size issues before I send the images off to be printed. Once back the paper is trimmed, folded and ready to go…except for the marketing part. Ok the last steps are actually taking some pretty pictures and getting the word out. So you know… you can see why it may have taken awhile to finish a few of these off. 😀 If your interesting in finding out more about this strange little world that I feel compelled to create, head on over to my Big Cartel Shop and shop away! Like them? Stay tuned cause there are more journals to come later this year. Thanks everyone!
Happy New Year everyone! As the title states it has been a year of many changes for me. Most have been good and there are still more to come. The biggest so far has been a move of house, and in turn, my creative space. Both have been for the better as we gained desperately needed living and home working space. If any of you have moved from a well established home, aka you’ve collected so much stuff you scarcely know where you’ve been keeping it all, you will know how much work it is. Ugh! This did however present a perfect opportunity to purge and boy was it a gooder. 🙂 What’s the saying ‘cluttered space, cluttered mind’? Well the clutter has been minimized and with it has come a burst of inspiration.
There are a number of things in the pipeline for this year and the goal is to hopefully be able to achieve most of them. Fingers crossed. By stating them out loud I’m hopefully giving it the power to keep me on track and make it all real. 🙂 So what are these things you ask? Well I have some new items in the works for the Society of Curious Creatures. There are some new dimensional objects I’m calling mini cabs ,which I posted about oh so long ago it seems, plus ones I’m calling Matchbox Curios. I’ll also have some mini zine type books called Explorer Journals that will be giving everyone some insight into these little trouble makers. Oh and stickers! I think the world needs creature stickers. 🙂
There will be some new watercolour work starting with the Year of the Rooster skull and flower painting out next month. Stay tuned. Over the latter part of last year I started doing some plein air watercolour sketching/ urban sketching. I’ll be heading to Portland for a week and plan on doing some drawing and painting there. I’m hoping to post a few so follow me on Instagram, Twitter and Facebook for those. At the very least I’ll be back with inspiration to work up some new paintings in the studio.
As for the now, I’ve revamped my website so head on over and have a poke around. That pretty much covers it…or at least all that I want to admit to. 🙂 I leave you with my best nine of 2016 images from Instagram. Oooo…ahhhh.
The most interesting part of creating something, for me, has to be the journey of figuring out what it is. Some ideas come out fully formed and others change and morph over time so that only a semblance of where it began remains. The Society of Curious Creatures is a project that I think more and more will have an interesting life. Just when I think I may have to abandon this project, another piece of the puzzle falls into place and things start to morph and change.
Enter the mini cab. This is a miniature version of the larger cabinets I have made in the past but with a few more elements. I’ve been struggling to figure out a way to link a lot of these ideas I have about what is part of this world and starting this “mini cab” helped me figure a lot of that out. When painter’s embark upon larger works they tend to do a lot of small paint studies or drawings that will help them figure out a number of things about the larger work. This was exactly the same thing only dimensionally for me.
Process, process, process. Here it is.
Being able to draw people is something I have always admired in those who do it well. I fall in and out of love with the idea of wanting to get better at rendering a human image. I’m not sure if it’s because it doesn’t come easy to me so I try for a bit and then take my version of the lazy way out and switch back to plants or maybe it’s the eyes. Window’s to the soul and all. What’s the first thing we all look at? The eyes. They give away so much, or in some cases, nothing at all.
Fall into love I am right now with this idea of the Seed Girls. Brace yourself. You’re about to get a glimpse into the way my mind meanders about before it settles on an idea. 🙂 This whole concept started with ornate frames and foliage believe it or not. I was sketching ideas for some of my Society of Curious Creatures characters. Somewhere in the mashing of flora and foliage came out the thought what would the tiniest parts of some of these plants look like blown up to life size? which lead to me being interested in paper marbling (!?) and then somehow a combination of all these random pieces settled out to what I am now calling the Seed Girls. Yeah not sure how I connected those dots either.
I’m still refining the idea of where I think these girls come from and what they are all about but for now they are happy just being little portraits. Quiet reflections on inky surfaces.
For a print of one of these ladies check out my Society 6 store. If prints aren’t your thing the store has lots of other products to choose from.
Short and sweet this time. I’ve missed the actual day that is the Chinese New Year, but we haven’t left the month yet. Better late than never. 🙂 So this month’s skull and flower painting is inspired by the Year of the Monkey. A little owl monkey skull surrounded by some lucky peony flowers and jade plants. I quite enjoyed building up the layers of colour in the flowers as well as in the eyes of the skull. I’m especially happy with the depth in the eyes. I’m also offering this guy up online in my Society6 shop where you can get prints or other various products with his mischievous little mug on it. Here’s a few examples.
To see more variants click on over to my Society6 page. They have also been offering a number of sales this month so you can’t go wrong there. Thanks for the support.
What’s so fascinating about a skull? It should be kinda gruesome but I don’t see them that way. In some ways they are kind of mysterious. Maybe it’s ingrained early on in our lives with museums and dinosaur bones and wondering what these massive creatures might have looked like roaming the lands we now so completely inhabit. Oddly enough, even though the creature whose skull I’m drawing is no longer alive, their bones still seem to have a personality and they all want their portraits drawn.
Want to own this guy? Have a peek over at my Society 6 page and see some of the products I’m offering with this guys portrait.
It’s my turn in the Sister Sketch Exchange and this time around I was having a bit of trouble figuring out what to do. I usually use this exchange as a way to experiment with things I have ideas about. Right now though my ideas are more other materials dimensional than paper related dimensional. If that makes sense. Finally inspiration did hit and out of it came little present doors with “Santa’s Companions” behind them. It started out as being a Krampus thing but then evolved when I found something referring to all these different characters as known “associates” of Santa. These guys are there to make him look good, or they are thought to be previous incarnations of Santa before he became more pleasant. It was a bit tricky to photo but hopefully you get the idea.
For the last few years I have been doing different art challenges. You know, the kind that give you a topic, or word, and then you make a drawing to go with. This year I decided to switch things up and stop doing those to focus on doing more of my own projects and less of those. There just wasn’t enough time in my life for both. Inadvertently, I managed to start a new one…sort of. There are quite a few people with birthdays in my life and about half way through the year I decided to start making cards for them. I certainly didn’t hit everyone, but as I was finishing up two today I realized that I had done quite a few. Twelve in total. Not sure if I’ll continue into next year, but I quite enjoyed doing them. They also got more and more elaborate I noticed. Even though theses cards had a simple theme, practice sure made proficient, cause I can certainly see the improvement as I went along.
It’s that time of year again. Linocut card time! This year’s theme has kinda carried it’s way through 2 projects. The first was the card image for this years greeting cards. It was inspired by the Druid story of the Oak King and the Holly King. As the story goes these two beings battle it out every year with the aim of ruling the seasons. No one ever “wins” really cause they end up sharing the seasons. The Holly Kings rule starts summer time and continues until winter when the Oak King takes over until summer. What I liked about it was that the Oak King was a symbol for the coming spring and longer days. As we are almost at our darkest here right now in my part of the world with the sun setting around 4:30pm and not coming back up until 9 am, I thought it was a great winter card theme. My little Ladybug friends made an appearance again this year each taking on one of the roles.
Then to continue onto the linocut present tags, which have become my favourite way to do these tags as of late, I decided to stick with the oak leaf as the image. I was trying to aim for small detail reproduction in this one and I’m quite happy with how it worked out. It took a bit more time to carve and some patience but I think they are the best ones yet. Happy Holidays!