Year End Thoughts for 2021

So I ran out of time to do a pictorial collage of all the things I was involved in this year. One could say I was all over the place. Sometimes the mood or an idea would hit me and I would switch gears on the fly. This month had been an extremely busy time for me as I had to take care of year end tasks and long to-do-lists . I also had 30+ blog post entries for the month of December. Yes, I had a lot of inks to chat about as well as share a few pieces of my artwork.

I started the year creating lots of pen & ink artwork. That was mostly because I had too many fountain pens filled with shimmering inks and I had the overwhelming urge to just sketch with my fountain pens. It also helped that I sketched my pens dry. Used up more ink!

I also entered an art contest over at Pen Chalet. I received honorable mention for my Sedona sketch using the three Robert Oster Exclusive Pen Chalet ink colors: Sedona Red, Saguaro Green, and Monsoon Sky. They used my artwork to create some stickers.

I also started 2021 with a lovely Benu Euphoria called Bora Bora that Hubby gave me for a Christmas present at the end of 2020. I also ventured into and acquired a few unique fountain pens made by a few boutique pen turners.

I played around with pointed pen calligraphy and tried out different flex nibs. I attempted to do my daily calligraphy practice until I got bored. This hobby likes to come and go throughout the year.

I did a few reviews on fountain pens (Esterbrook, Franklin-Christoph, Pilot, Opus88, SchonDSGN, Maiora), inks (Vinta Inks, Birmingham Pen Co, Private Reserve, Rohrer & Klingner, Van Dieman’s), papers and journals, graphite pencil holders, watercolor paints, paint palettes, carrying cases/pouches, and art tools that caught my interest.

Let’s not forget my fiber arts where I remembered to squeeze my yarns and fabrics as they were feeling neglected from the lack of attention. This was the result of having too many hobbies and therefore no blog posts were created in this area.

I was invited to teach a pen & ink wash workshop at the DC Pen Show. The one workshop turned into three workshops. I felt blessed to be able to share what I know about fountain pens and inks and how to create art with these tools. Oh and use up more ink! ūüėā

I had some time to get back into my Cricut hobby. I created lots of stickers of my artwork, personalized many water containers, mugs, coasters, journals, and accessories. I also ventured into engraving acrylic (future blog post).

In my artwork, I tend to see too many details and want to sketch everything I see. I made an effort this year to practice sketching loosely and quickly. I just focused on the main shapes and what was important to show on paper. This way of sketching is something I’ve always wanted to do well with and this will take me into another adventure in the new year.

Here is my last artwork for 2021. This morning I spent a few minutes with “drawing my day” or DMD which I will refer to in my future blog posts. My theme for this morning was what I had for breakfast. My hope is to do a daily sketch of my day. Practice sketching techniques and develop my muscle memory. Fill up a page or two. Write a description. Tell a story.

Pens: Turnt Pen Co Pynchon in Primary Manipulation 4 (F-C Fine nib) and Peacock (Esterbrook Medium nib). Lamy 2000 in Makrolon with Extra Fine nib.

Inks: Rober Oster Thunderstorm. Diamine: Seize the Night, Winter Spice, Candle Light, Party Time, & All the Best. Van Dieman’s Ink: Morning Mist, Parrot Fish, and Devil’s Kitchen.

Journal: Stillman & Birn Alpha

Journal Cover: Lochby Field Journal

The 25 Days of Daily Inky Madness

I might have mentioned before that this was my first attempt at doing a daily ink post on my blog. Was I feeling a bit excited and overwhelmed at the same time? Yes! At first, it felt like an unknown adventure was going to take place for 25 days in December. In the back of my mind, I was concerned if I would be able to commit and finish this daily ink project.

During the Thanksgiving holiday, I started to think about a process of what I was going to do when I opened each new bottle. I knew I would keep my current ink swatching process. I would have to add a writing sample and I had to come up with a theme. I chose to write down Christmas songs in one of my journals.

Next thing I knew I had to include daily sketches to show off the ink’s characteristics. What was my theme for my daily sketches? A round ornament.

I also decided to create a large sketch to incorporate all 25 ink colors! Add a color a day to the sketch. I decided a wreath would be a good choice. I had no clue what the wreath would look like and decided to go with the flow. I’ve included a picture of this wreath in my previous post.

Initially, it took me five days to figure out my process and get into a rhythm. Open a new bottle. Fill a pen or use my glass dip pen. Create my swatch card. Create my writing sample. Create my ink wash ornament. Add a sketch to my wreath. Clean my glass dip pen (if used) and my automatic pen. If I filled one of my fountain pens with ink, I added an entry into my Ink Journal along with pen name & nib size, ink name, and the date I filled my pen.

Included in this process were the many pictures I had to take for each bottle of ink I opened. Also I had to check and make sure the ink colors were close to accurate before I posted my daily blog entry.

Well before I reached the halfway mark in the calendar, I was feeling a bit overwhelmed. My friend “M”mentioned I was “obligated to finish. You can’t quit 10 days in. REVOLT!” Hahaha! While “M’s” comment lingered in my head, I continued to march on.

I mentioned in a previous post that I ended up opening two to three bottles of ink a few days earlier in order to stay ahead. That turned out to be a game changer for me as I had so many other projects grabbing for my time and attention. I was able to set aside a block of time and focus on each ink color and inky characteristics.

Some ink colors took a bit longer for me to write about. Their inky swatches required me to grab all of my other ink swatches and compare colors. A few ink colors had me stumped and I had to use my watercolor swatches to check the color range. Brandy Snap was one of those colors. The color Sienna kept popping into my head and I knew it was in a similar color range.

There were teal and turquoise colors that were very close. It wasn’t until I pulled out my other swatch cards that I could see whether the color in question was leaning more towards blue or more towards green.

This inky experience turned out to be a fun journey for me. I’m glad I took this leap into an unknown adventure and found a fondness and love for the new inks I have. It was definitely time well spent and I enjoyed getting to know each ink’s characteristics.

For those of you following my daily Inkvent blog posts I want to say “thank you” for following along and absorbing all this inky information. I hope you found it helpful and maybe take a second look at the beautiful ink colors. I hope Diamine will produce the larger bottles in the near future as they did with their blue version of the Inkvent calendar from 2019.

In my daily posts I had created the ornament pen & ink wash sketch for each ink color. The ornaments became part of my Christmas tree sketch.

Thank you for following along in my 25 days of inky madness.

Inks: Diamine 2021 Inkvent Calendar

Watercolor Epiphany!

I’ve been struggling with watercolor painting. I was not getting the instant gratification like I would receive when I completed a pen & ink sketch. My watercolor creations were just mediocre and appeared lifeless. I felt as though I was in an endless loop of creating some paintings and then never completing them. I would also fall back to creating my artwork using my trusty fountain pens and inks.

Today I had an overwhelming desire to do a watercolor painting. Several things came into play with this desire. First, I had received the new Franklin-Christoph watercolor journals and could not wait to try this paper out. This new journal can be used with watercolors, guache, and pen and inks. I thought I would start out testing this paper with my watercolor paints and then do another test using my fountain pens and ink. A review will be forthcoming later this week.

Second, I had just completed a few pen & ink sketches of pumpkins and acorns and I wanted to see what I could do using my watercolor paints. That would require some color mixing techniques as well playing with different colors which I enjoy doing.

I spent less time thinking about the process (a good thing) and just started sketching with my pencil. Next thing I knew I was mixing paint colors and then applying paint to paper.

Somewhere along the layers of paint I was laying down, I experienced a huge epiphany in what I was doing. I used smaller round brushes like #6 and #4. I used less water in mixing and wetting my paper. My painting came to life.

Here’s a sneak peak from this morning’s session. I know it’s a partial shot of my painting. It’s still a work in progress.

At this point, I’m really happy about what I uncovered and I feel as though I can move forward in this creative adventure.

I had another realization this morning. I was mixing my watercolor paints and creating colors that I currently have in my TWSBI GO fountain pens. I am having too much fun!

I’m Here!

It was 28 days ago when I last wrote an entry on my blog. Since then I’ve been radio silent and you were probably wondering what I’ve been up to. Right? Maybe? Hahaha!

For the whole month of September I felt like I’ve been running non-stop. I had appointments, projects, and deadlines to take care of. I had out of town relatives stop by for a visit and ended up needing my assistance and staying a bit longer. As always, it was great to catch up and spend time with them. The next thing I knew September came and went.

On the creative side of life I have been keeping up with my artistic hobbies.

I have been busy practicing my not-quite Copperplate handwriting using my Opus 88 Omar with the lovely Stylosuite EF Xwing Harpoon nib. I’ve noticed my hand and arm movements are more free flowing and not as jerky as before. I’m now dabbling into creating my own style of writing and adding flourishes.

I’ve been keeping up with my pen and ink wash art. I’ve been practicing and creating sketches of grapes. For some reason grapes have been tripping me up. In the past, I’ve started my sketches and never finished them. I decided to break down my “grape picture” I’ve been working on and just focus on a few grapes versus huge clusters of them surrounded by vines and leaves.

Here’s my pen and ink wash version:

While I was on this “grape” adventure, I decided to break out my watercolor paints and see what I could do. It’s still a work in progress and I need to tackle the leaves.

My watercolor grapes took a few hours to create as I was working in layers of colors. Each layer had to dry completely before I could add another layer of color on top. I love watercolor painting, but I rarely have blocks of hours to devote to a painting. I think that is why I enjoy using my fountain pens and inks for sketching as I can quickly get bold and vivid colors and instantaneous results.

Before I forget, I found a new toy. I managed to snag a fantastic deal on a Cricut machine. So now my baby Joy has a big sister the Maker.

I procured some sample paper packs and I immediately created some stickers from my artwork. This is still a work in progress as I’m testing out different brands and types of papers. Can you tell? I’m having way too much fun!

I’ll be back with more artwork, new inks, and other interesting finds that I forgot to mention. Be well and stay safe!

Blueberry pen & ink sketch: Robert Oster Tokyo Blue Denim, Eucalyptus Leaf, and Thunderstorm

Grape pen & ink sketch: Robert Oster Sydney Lavender & Melon Tea. Van Dieman’s Ink Beetroot Relish and Eucalyptus Regnans. Jacques Herbin Amethyste de l’Oural and Vert Atlantide.

Graphite Sketch

When my sketching mojo disappears and comes back, I will spend some quality time sketching with my graphite pencils. I enjoy using my pencils as it helps me focus on the basic sketching techniques and also learning to look at the shapes I see. I also look for the highlights and the shadows.

Here’s a warmup sketch I did from a still life. A few of you from my workshop will recognize the veggies. I took some creative license and changed the shapes a bit.

Here’s my initial sketch and what I started with. I sketched loosely the outline of each object. I sketched around a few of the highlighted areas and included the base shadows. I added curved lines to show the curvature of the objects. You can see my lines consist of short strokes with a light hand.

In the next picture I used a blending stump to smooth out some areas where my lines were heavy. Blending the dark areas around the edges added some depth and made the highlights show a bit better.

In the final sketch (first picture), I used my 8B pencil to darken the objects further and used the blending stump to smooth out the darker areas to create additional depth and contrast.

Pencils used: Derwent Graphite in HB, 2B, 4B, and 8B

Journal: Leda Art Supply Softbound size Medium (A5)

Missing Sketching Mojo…Found

For the last few weeks, I have not been able to sketch anything. I had my watercolor palette and brushes sitting in my studio waiting for something to happen. I also had my pouch filled with TWSBI GOs (16 of them) inked and ready. Nothing. I carried my art bag around the inside and outside of my house. Just in case some inspiration surfaced.

There are times when many artists go through this mind boggling lack of creativity/motivation period. For me, it’s okay to go through this. I recognize it. I know better than to try and force myself to sit and create something while staring at a blank piece of paper or a page in my art journal.

I have been working on something else. My handwriting skills. Since the DC Pen Show, I’ve been practicing my handwriting skills daily. With the help of my new Stylosuite flex nib pen, it’s been easier for me to write something daily than to draw. I will save this writing experience for a future post.

For now, this was a sketch I created last week while sitting outside and looking at one of the plants Hubby brought home from the garden center. I felt like using my creative license and changed out the pot style as well as the color.

Pens used: TWSBI GOs with Stub 1.1 nibs. Faber-Castell Hexo Blue with Medium nib (Velvet Storm). Pilot Falcon with <SE> nib (Carbon ink).

Inks used: Robert Oster Saguaro Green, Eucalyptus Leaf, Honey Bee, Velvet Storm, and Thunderstorm. Private Reserve Copper Burst. Platinum Carbon ink.

Journal: Stillman & Birn Alpha 5.5″x8.5″

Another Quick Pen & Ink Sketch – Calla Lily

I’ve been trying to sketch something everyday and build up what I call my muscle memory. Some days I have only 15-30 minutes to complete a sketch. To help keep me motivated through the week, I will spend an hour and sketch a few objects in my journal to be “painted” when I have time. This helps when I have moments where I do not know what to sketch. I can just flip through a few pages and select something based on the amount of time I have to create a pen & ink sketch.

I always start with a loose pencil sketch. Once I have the overall shapes in place, I redraw a few lines with my Platinum Preppy filled with Platinum Carbon ink. It’s a permanent ink that dries quickly.

For my Calla Lily, I drew a few lines with my Carbon inked pen. I try to avoid creating continuous lines in my final sketch.

Once the permanent ink lines are drawn, I take an eraser and gently erase the unwanted pencil lines from my sketch.

Before I begin adding color to my flower, I look for the direction of light and the shadows that are casted onto the flower. Once I figure it out, I start adding the dark color to the dark areas of the flower. My Lily is starting take life and not look as flat on the paper.

I build up the flower by creating layers of color and keeping the “highlights” in certain areas of the Lily

I add lines of color to show the curves of the Lily.

I try to keep my sketches simple and try not to overdue by adding too many layers of colors.

Pens: TWSBI GOs with Stub 1.1 nibs

Inks: Robert Oster Lipstick Red, Jade, and Thunderstorm

Journal: Stillman & Birn Beta

My Art Toolkit Pocket Palettes

During my watercolor journey, I had tried so many different types of palettes to use with my tubes of paints. I started with the popular metal butcher pans which gave me huge mixing spaces, but hardly a good way to separate and organize my colors.

I expanded into plastic clam shell type palettes where my colors were arranged into organized slots around one side and the middle and opposite side contained mixing areas.

I then looked at empty plastic pans where I could fill the pans with my own color and fit the pans into a plastic case. The only issue I uncovered is that not all pans fit into the different plastic palette cases. There were no standards to the pan sizes. Also the pans would not stay secured. Most of the time, my paints would pop out of their pans.

Here is my watercolor setup from last year with my favorite palette

A year ago, I came across an interesting palette that a few artists were using for their urban and nature sketches. A rust-proof aluminum palette case that uses a magnet base to hold the stainless steel pans in place. Clever idea! The pans could be switched around and configured into a functional palette. The silver pans came in four different sizes along with a large mixing pan with a white base. This palette was called the Art Toolkit Pocket Palette by Expeditionary Art.

At the time I purchased my first Pocket Palette last year, one of their offerings (Essential Colors Edition) included the tiny square pans or “mini” pans with six Daniel Smith Extra Fine watercolors: Hansa Yellow, New Gamboge, Pyrrole Scarlet, Quinacridone Rose, Phthalo Blue (GS), and French Ultramarine. The case also included two large mixing pans.

Here’s a better view of the palette and pans:

One of my Pocket Palettes (upside down with logo showing) and the different size pans
Available pan sizes

Once I got the hang of using this palette, I was anxious to fill the empty pans with my own paint colors. It took awhile to fill all those tiny pans. I read somewhere that it was recommended to fill the pans in two stages. The first stage is to do the initial fill half way. Tap the pan to get the paint to settle. Let it dry for a day or two. During this time the paint settles a bit into the pan as it dries. The next stage is to fill the pan up to the edge. Let the pan dry for another day or two and then close the case.

My first attempt at filling the mini pans

Here is what my current and full palette looks like. It contains the main colors I use most often.

My first palette case with the “mini” and “standard” sized pans. You can see a few of the mini pans where the paint has shrunk and moved away from the sides
My color swatches to go with my first Pocket Palette

After using this portable palette for a few months, I knew this was going to work well in my small studio space setup and also when I paint outdoors. I found the mini pans were a bit small to use with my larger brushes.

At this point, I was not sure which pan size would work well with my painting style. I decided to purchase another silver case, but with the slender rectangle pans or what they call their “standard” pans.

Here is my second pocket palette with the “standard” pans
My color swatches for the my second Pocket Palette

As you can see I had to create swatches for each of the Pocket Palettes I own. In the pan, the dark colors are undistinguishable between the dark blues and dark greens.

Now that I’ve had some time to use both palettes, I do have a preference for the “standard” pans. First, it is easier to fill as there is more room to get the tube opening into the pan. Second, I can get larger brushes into the pans. Third, it holds double the amount of paint versus using the “mini” pans.

As my tubes of watercolors multiplied, I decided to add a third palette to my collection. My next order included a black palette case with standard pans. I knew this black case would hold special or unusual colors in my collection. It now holds my Duochrome and Iridescent paints. The sparkling paints.

Here I have a “large” pan (lower left) in my case acting as a place holder until I fill this case with additional paint colors
My color swatches for my black Pocket Palette

I have to share this. I was able to get all my swatches from the three Pocket Palettes into one 5″x7″ watercolor sheet of paper. It’s easier for me to see all the colors at one time.

Look at all the gorgeous colors!

Now that I’ve spent some time talking about these beautiful Pocket Palettes, I wanted to spend a bit to time showing how I fill the pans with paint. I had planned to fill the pans in two stages, but it turned out I was able to fill the pans full on the first pass.

Getting ready to fill my pans with Daniel Smith paints

I fill my pan with enough paint to reach the top edge of the pan and down the middle of the pan. I don’t worry about the paint reaching the sides. My main goal is to get the paint into the pan without making a mess.

I squeezed out a blob of paint into the pan

I took a my fancy toothpick and tamped down the paint into the four corners of the pan. Then I ran the toothpick through the edges of the pan and then towards the middle of the pan. This helps to eliminate any air bubbles between the paint and the bottom of the pan. I also take the pan and tap it on my desk to help the paint settle into the pan.

I smoothed out the paint in the pan with a toothpick. You can see how glossy the wet paint looks fresh from the tube

I did come across a tube of paint that showed some extra handling. Like the tube has been slightly squeezed or handled a bit more aggressive before arriving at my studio. I had a hard time opening the tube and had to use a piece of rubber grip to open the cap. This is what the cap and tube looked like after opening:

Had to use a rubber grip pad to open this tube. You can see the paint that dried around the tube opening and bits of dried paint sitting on my shop towel

After filling each pan, I make a point of cleaning out the cap and tube opening with a damp paper towel. When I use the tube at a later date, it will be easier for me to open. I will also squeeze the sides of the tube to suck the paint back into the tube. Yes, I have a thing about opening a tube and have paint gushing out.

The cap and tube looks brand new!

You can see how quickly my pans started to dry. The wet glossy sheen on the paint has started to turn matte-like as it dries (except for the sparkling paints). That’s what I call the initial “top skin” and it will take a few days for the whole pan to dry.

I’m getting the hang of filling the pans with paint without creating a mess
My standard pans filled with fresh paint

I’m enjoying the new colors!

Summary

I love using my Pocket Palettes. For me it’s all about function and use. The palettes are small that I can stack them on my desk when not in use or lay them side by side in my portfolio or tote bag. They are extremely durable and a joy to use for outdoor painting sessions.

The bottom of the palette displays the logo

  • Thin and small and very portable
  • Size: 3-5/8″ x 2-1/4″ x 1/4″. A bit larger than a standard size business card
  • Aluminum case is durable: silver or black
  • Built in mixing area on the inside cover
  • Magnetic base inside the case to hold the pans
  • Current Pocket Palettes offerings are available with 14 standard pans, 28 mini pans, or a combination of assorted pans. They also have a mixing palette version.
  • There is also a much smaller Demi Palette that comes with 12 mini pans (future blog post)
  • Extra stainless steel pans can be purchased: mini, double, standard, large, & mixing
  • A case can hold different combinations of pans sizes to suit individual painting needs

Supplies Used

Miscellaneous: Flat top toothpicks in a plastic canister (Dollar Store). Rubber grip roll (Dollar Store). Blue shop towels.

Paints: Daniel Smith Extra Fine Watercolors

Palette & Pans: Art Toolkit Pocket Palette by Expeditionary Art

Mixing Palette: Round porcelain dish

Paper (140lb/300gsm 100% cotton): Strathmore Series 500 Premium 5″x7″ sheet

Watercolor Warm Up With Three Peppers

As part of my refresher and getting back into an old hobby, I always practice recreating a piece of artwork from one of my favorite pictures. The “three peppers” is a picture I took when Hubby and I were in the Grand Caymans and stumbled across an outdoor market that had beautiful fruits and vegetables displayed. I’ve already completed a rendering of my three peppers in graphite, oil, and pastel. Now, it’s time for a watercolor version.

Here is my portable setup while I sit in my comfy art chair in our family room. My art chair is actually an “armless chair” that is quite comfy. I love having no arms on my chair as I can freely move my arms around or quickly change my sitting position. I have a hard board that I use when I work with single sheets of art paper. My favorite size is a 11″x14″ board where I can then clip my watercolor paper to the top side of the board and also have my mixing palettes and shop towel within reach.

My portable watercolor setup on top of a hard board

My three peppers are still a work in progress. I took my time with my painting process. I started the first layer using the light colors. For the next layer I used medium-toned colors. It was getting late and I decided to stop what I was doing and take a quick picture. Right now, my peppers look like they are floating on the paper.

I need to apply a layer or two of darker colors and add the shadows under the peppers. A great start into my watercolor adventure.

My Watercolor Supplies

Paint: Daniel Smith Extra Fine Watercolor

Brush: Cheap Joe’s Golden Fleece Travel Brush #8

Paper (140lb/300gsm 100% cotton): Strathmore 500 Series Premium 5″x7″ paper

Paint Palette: Art Toolkit by Expeditionary Art

Mixing Palette: Small porcelain flower palette (Hobby Lobby)

Swatching My Way Back into Watercolors

I know I’ve spent some time talking about my fountain pens and fountain pen inks. Okay, it’s been a few months of pen and ink ramblings. That’s because I’ve made several new friends in the fountain pen world and wanted to share with them my experiences, research, and pen & ink artwork. Also my creative mojo has been going full speed ahead which means I will be venturing into my other creative hobbies.

It takes a bit longer for me to create a painting versus doing a quick pen & ink sketch. There’s a bit of “setup time” involved with watercolors since I do not have a designated space for painting. In my tote, I have my palette of colors, my porcelain mixing dish, my travel/portable brushes, my sketching tools, my collapsible water container, and small sheets of watercolor paper. When I’m working with pen & ink, I only have to carry my fountain pens, a water brush, and my journal with me.

In a previous post I mentioned about swatching the dots on my Daniel Smith dot sheets into rectangle shapes of color. I decided to take it a step further and created color swatches in my watercolor art journal. So here are the 238 colors in my journal pages:

Look how bright the yellow colors are!
I love the two pages of earth tone colors
A close up of the shimmering paints

As you can see, I created the blocks of colors without any guidelines and tried my best to keep them straight and almost lined up. Creating the swatches helped get me back into the watercolor frame of mind and getting reacquainted with my brushes, paint, and paper.

I started a small painting over the weekend and I will be back to share a quick picture in a new post.

Paints: Daniel Smith Extra Fine Watercolors (Dot Sheets)

Brush: Cheap Joe’s Golden Fleece #8

Journal: Stillman & Birn Beta Spiral Bound