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.
Finding time to sketch everyday has been something I have been trying to do for well …years now. My success rate is a bit hit and miss. Some weeks are great and others not so much. The one thing I have noticed is that, when I do get a good solid stretch in, my ability to draw what I want improves tremendously. So what’s a busy girl to do except try out all sorts of permutations that get me closer to this goal. About a month ago, I decided to see if those fleeting moments while waiting for the train could be used for just this. So trying to keep it simple I have enlisted a small book and a pen. Small book so I can hold it discreetly and easily. Pen so I can be deliberate and not fussy like I might with a pencil. What I draw is mostly people and the things they have on them. I wouldn’t say any of these are good but after a month I am starting to find a flow. The time for most of these is between 2-5 minutes and usually I will sketch something simple and try and get another in. Still haven’t reached the everyday quota but it’s a start.
The latest project has been my creation for the Sister Sketch Exchange. Being that it was my turn and all 🙂 I’ve spoken a few times about this ongoing little adventure between myself and my sister. Click here and here for previous entries that explain more. Or head on over to my website for a look at that whole adventure.
This time around I wanted to add a bit of dimension so I created the images across two pages with a third in the middle acting as a flip window.
Here are a few starting process shots of the drawing being laid in and coloured on the right side of the book.
The part that I think makes this all very fun is the “window” page. It has a portion of the page cut away and I replaced it with a piece of acetate that I layered some wavy lines of Gel onto to create a wobbly underwater current look. It doesn’t show up in the final scans so I took a few extreme angle shots so the effect can be better seen here.
Finally here are scans of the finished works with window flipped in either direction. One side your inside the sub and the other way you floating with the fishes! 🙂
Lately there are more “experiments’ in my art life than their are finished intentional works. Maybe this is a good thing because it certainly doesn’t leave me feeling self conscious about the things I am making. As I mentioned before I’m working through a backlog of projects. This one is for the sketchbook that my sister and I pass between us. I’ve posted more in depth explanations on this in the past. You can see the posts here and here.
This one was totally inspired by doing something with many textures and mediums. In previous exchanges between the two of us part of the fun for me was trying to push the idea of what our format was. The “postcard” exchange was all about that for me. So feeling nostalgic I wanted to try something like that again. A little metal leaf, acrylic paint and some pink thread later this one came out of my brain. It’s got me thinking about other possible explorations along these lines. More experiments to come I guess 🙂
It’s also been awhile since I’ve shown any process work so I’m adding in a few shots of the work in progress.
The ongoing adventures of the Sister Sketch Exchange. See the previous post here. I love doing these drawings. There’s a lot of wondering and fear. Mostly because every time I get the book in return I have no idea what I’m going to do and I’m never quite expecting what I receive as my sisters contribution. I guess that’s what makes it so fun.
This one was based on an idea I’m trying to develop about mixing city landmarks with plants. I really like where my first attempt ended up. Below I included the rough idea I sketched out initially for this one.
My sister and I both share a love of art and drawing. One day long ago she moved to a city far away. Well not that far. It did cut down on the artistic things we were able to to together though. So one day a proposal was made to start an exchange. An exchange of “postcards”. Handmade and sent through the mail. There were very few “rules” to the exchange and over time it evolved into an art exchange more than postcard exchange.
I quite enjoyed the challenge, but then sometime last year, after about ten years of postcards, we decided to augment the exchange and move into a sketchbook we would pass back and forth for awhile instead. Looking back her first drawing was dated Nov 10, 2012. I guess today is, technically, the one year anniversary of the new format. Yeah!!! (insert streamers and confetti here 🙂 )
This is my latest entry. Not a sketch per se. It’s a linocut print done straight into the book with acrylic colouring. I did a few test prints to get a feel for how it would ink and had to do some jiggering to make sure the sketchbook wasn’t going to slip or shift while I was transferring the image in ink. I’m pretty happy with how it turned out. Especially the inconsistencies in the black.
To check out some of our “postcard” adventures from the past click here.
To see some of the drawings from the sketchbook so far click here.