A Watercolor Sketch of My Palette

I thought it would be a fun project to create a sketch of my watercolor palette that I’m currently using.

I did a blog post a little over a year ago on how I filled my half pans. You can find my post here.

The mixing areas of my palette still looks fairly new. That’s because I enjoy using my porcelain tray to mix my colors in. When I’m at my studio desk, I have a bit more room to accommodate this larger palette and my porcelain mixing tray. I can also create larger pieces of artwork and my mixing tray can hold a bit more paint.

I’ve decided to stick with this one palette for the next week or two and get reacquainted with the paint colors and get my palette a bit dirty. This will help me figure out what colors I want to keep for a scaled down palette of colors for urban sketching.

Palette: Meeden Empty Watercolor Tin Box Palette Paint Case with 24 piece half pans

Paints: Daniel Smith Extra Fine Watercolors (15ml tubes)

Brush: Cheap Joe’s Golden Fleece Synthetic Travel Brush in size 6

Paper: Master’s Touch Fine Art Studio Watercolor 140lb cold press paper in size 6″x8″

Back into My Watercolor Paints

Sometimes I just have to let go and see where my creative juices flow. Right now, it’s creating some artwork using my watercolor paints. I’m thankful for my sketching muscle memory and for having the ability to sketch quickly and spend more time painting.

It’s been a year since I last picked up my paint brush. My recent painting was from the previous post where I used my Sennelier paint set and created the teal pumpkin. That was my practice painting session to see if I could create something with my brush.

My watercolor mojo is back and I’m taking advantage of this wonderful creative moment by sketching more pumpkins. I remind myself to use less water and patiently build the layers of colors. Also, to sit back and let my painting breathe a bit and not overdo my artwork with too many layers.

For this painting, I used my favorite Daniel Smith Watercolor paints. I used a generic 24-pan set where I squeezed my tubes of paint into the pans. I wrote a post about this process and you can find it here. I also used my favorite brushes from Cheap Joe’s.

For the main body of my pumpkins, I decided not to mix any colors and just use the colors from my pans. I went with Quinacridone Coral, Quinacridone Sienna, and Pyrrol Scarlet. For the stems, I used Quinacridone Gold for the base layer. I created a browny mix using Ultramarine Blue and Raw Sienna and used it to darken the stems.

For the shadows under the pumpkins, I used the browny mix from the stems and added a bit more Ultramarine Blue. I also added a dab of paint color I used from the pumpkin’s base color.

I tried to remember all the watercolor tips and past painting skills I developed and I have to say it all came back quickly.

Just for fun, I used an inexpensive watercolor pad of paper that I found at Hobby Lobby. I liked the size of the paper and I thought I would give it a try. I was surprised at how well it handled the layers of water and paint I laid down.

Paints: Daniel Smith Extra Fine Watercolor Paints

Brushes: Cheap Joe’s Golden Fleece Synthetic Travel Brush in sizes 6 & 8

Paper: Master’s Touch Fine Art Studio Watercolor 140lb cold press paper in 6″x8″

Getting My Sketching Mojo Back with a Pumpkin and a Prompt

After eight months of sketching non-stop with my fountain pens and inks, my creativity finally went missing. For the last two months, I was hoping it would come back. It has slowly. I try not to force it. There are some days when I feel as though I should be doing something creative, but all I do is stare at a blank page for a few minutes. Then I would close my art journal and carry on with my other daily activities.

My Graphite Sketch

When I get stuck in a creative rut, I always fall back to sketching with my favorite art medium using graphite pencils. I used my mechanical pencil to sketch out an outline. I used my 2.0mm clutch pencil to create the dark lines and shading. I used my blending tortillon to blend/smudge the graphite onto my paper and to soften the harsh lines.

My Pen & Ink Wash Sketch

A few days later, I created a pen & ink wash sketch of my pumpkin. I used my Copic Multiliner to sketch the outline and also added contour lines to create the darker areas of the pumpkin. I used two fountain pen ink colors Oklahoma City and Steely Days for the pumpkin. For the stem, I used Kansas City and Melon Tea. For the shadow area under the pumpkin, I used Oklahoma City and then dabbed a bit of Thunderstorm and used my water brush to blend out and away.

My Watercolor Sketch

I was toying with the idea of getting back into using my watercolor paints for my artwork. Why not, right? I pulled out my Sennelier watercolor set and enjoyed my time mixing my paint colors. I used mostly a wet on dry technique since the paper I was using could only take light washes. For the last layer, I used a damp brush with my teal paint mix and created a few contour strokes to enhance the shape of my pumpkin.

Challenge: Find a pumpkin to use in your sketches. Use a picture if you can’t find a real or fake pumpkin. Use your pencil to create a graphite sketch. Then use your fountain pens and ink to create the second pumpkin sketch. If you have another art medium available (watercolor, charcoal, pastel, etc) create a third sketch.

My Art Journals:

Leda Art Supply Medium-size (5.7″x8.25″) with graphite pencils.

Stillman & Birn Alpha 7.5″x7.5″ softcover with fountain pen & ink.

hand●book journal co. 5.5″x5.5″ square with watercolor paints.

My Art Mediums:

Graphite – Pentel Energize Pencil with 0.7mm HB lead and Staedtler Clutch Pencil 925 35-20 with 2.0mm HB lead.

Fountain Pens & Inks – TWSBI GOs with Stub 1.1 nibs. Robert Oster Oklahoma City, Steely Days, Kansas City, Melon Tea, and Thunderstorm

Watercolor Mixes: Sennelier French Artists Watercolor Travel Set (12). Lemon Yellow and Sepia to create yellow ochre. Ultramarine Deep and Sepia to create dark brown. Forest Green and Ultramarine Deep to create teal green.

Watercolor Brushes: Escoda 1548 Versatil Series Artist Watercolor Travel size 4 & 6

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

Why Use Professional Artist Quality Supplies?

It was at the beginning of my watercolor adventure and my first class where I learned to use student-grade supplies and I developed some bad habits with using the cheap paints and cheap papers. I kept hearing buy what you can afford. At some point in my watercolor painting life I was miserable with what I created and could not get to the next level of seeing any improvements in what I was painting. My paintings were dull and lifeless.

I found a local artist who had a studio in town and she took me under her wings for a few weeks. I showed up for the first session and she told me to get rid of my student grade paints and papers and start using artist quality supplies. She mentioned there’s a huge difference in quality between student grade and artist grade. She let me use her tubes of Winsor & Newton Artist paint for my first lesson and I immediately saw a difference. A few weeks later my mentor saw a huge improvement in my paintings. This eye opening experience brought life back to my art adventure.

When I graduated to artist grade supplies, I had to re-learn or develop new habits with using better grade paints and papers. I went from paint fillers to pure translucent colors. In regards to paper, I went from cellulose paper to 100% cotton paper. It was definitely an eye opening experience and instead of frowning at what I created, it was pure joy to see beautiful colors pop on my cotton paper.

If I had learned to use artist grade supplies at the beginning, I would have immediately developed good habits right from the start.

I was thankful to have the basic small tubes of Winsor & Newton Artist colors and not go hog-crazy getting the rainbow of colors they manufactured. I learned to mix the basic colors of yellows, reds, and blues to create the secondary colors. For example yellow and red to create orange. Yellow and blue to create green. Red and blue to create purple.

I followed several watercolor artists on the Internet and noticed they were branching out into other watercolor paint manufacturers. One brand that peaked my interest was a US based manufacturer, Daniel Smith. I purchased a few small tubes of his paints and immediately fell in love with his pure bright colors.

A few years ago, I signed up for a refresher watercolor class at my local art center. I was glad to see the instructor’s art supply list included Daniel Smith paints and I was happy to try out new colors. I had a lot of fun in that class and enjoyed learning new tips and painting styles. It showed in my final paintings I produced.

Over the last few months I saw Daniel Smith had a watercolor “dot sheet” that contained almost all of the Daniel Smith watercolor paints available. The sheet is arranged by colors and the one I purchased had 4 sheets covering a total of 238 color dots. That’s a lot of colors from one manufacturer! Scroll through the following pictures to see the 8.5″x11″ sheets of colors:

I spent some time playing with the dots. I took my #6 round paint brush and applied some water to each dot. I painted out each dot in rectangle blocks of color. Most of the colors immediately reacted with the water and it was easy to pull the colors out. A few were so dry that it took some time to get the paint to react to the water and move it around the paper.

For the last 10 years, I have accumulated over 40+tubes of Daniel Smith watercolor paints in my collection. As I mentioned before, I used to mix the basic colors to get my secondary and some tertiary colors. Some colors like turquoise and teal take more effort to create. It made more sense for me to purchase a tube of the exact color I needed.

Did I mention DS makes shimmering paint colors? They are actually called Duochrome and Iridescent colors. Here’s a few close up pictures:

Beautiful shimmering colors!
The Duochrome colors are gorgeous! Reminds me of the Caribbean.
Here’s a close up of a few Iridescent colors

I have my shimmering fountain pen inks to thank for getting me into the sparkling watercolor paints. I never thought I would end up with tubes of shimmering beauties. Oh my! Daniel Smith is doing a great job with their paint offerings.

My paint bin is full of paint tubes. I had to create an inventory (spreadsheet) of my watercolor paint collection. Out of the 40+ tubes in my possession, only 5 colors were duplicates. Not too bad as they are the colors I enjoy using the most.

I plan on getting back into creating some watercolor pieces of art. I just need to carve out a few hours a day and just do it!

Tips/Tricks

Before I sign up for a class (online or in person instructions), I look for the instructor’s supply list to see which brands of paint they use or like to use. It’s not uncommon to see good instructors use a combination of brands like Daniel Smith or Winsor & Newton Professional. Artists/instructors will have favorites they like to use. That’s part of my art adventure and enjoying new colors I have not tried.

You may have heard the saying “a tiny bit goes a long way”. It definitely does with Daniel Smith or Winsor & Newton Professional paints. Artist grade or professional paints are made from pure pigments of color. Student grade paints are made with a small amount of pigment and lots of fillers and that explains why I used up so many tubes of the student grade paints. Student grade can also be opaque and not as vibrant in color.

Dot Cards are a good investment. Both Daniel Smith and Winsor & Newton have dot cards. As you can see from the previous pictures, the cards contain the actual paint dropped onto a card along with the name of the paint, lightfastness, staining/nonstaining, granulation, and transparency. The color dot can be activated with a damp brush. Remember I mentioned about a tiny bit goes a long way? This card makes swatching so easy. You can see what the colors look like and the consistency before committing to a tube of paint.

Winsor & Newton has two lines of watercolor paints. One is their “Professional” artist grade paints. The other is their “Cotman” name which is their student grade paint.

I have not discussed watercolor paint brushes. For me, it’s a personal choice. I’ve accumulated several different brands that I’ve tried over the years. I still have a few of my student-type brushes that have served me well. I did try out a few real sable hair and squirrel brushes that I still have and use occasionally. I now prefer to use synthetic brushes. I enjoy the synthetic sable brushes for the lovely points they keep and the synthetic squirrel for the amount of water and color the brush can carry.

My Favorite Watercolor Supplies

Paints: Daniel Smith Extra Fine Watercolors

Paper (140lb/300gsm and 100% cotton): Arches Cold Press, Strathmore Series 500 Premium Cold Press, and Bee Paper Rag Cold Press

Brushes: Cheap Joe’s Golden Fleece, Escoda Versatil, Robert Simmons, and Princeton

Travel Palette: Art Toolkit by Expeditionary Art

Mixing Palette: Small 3″-4″ round porcelain dishes (Tuesday Morning or Home Goods)

Solvent Free Oil Paints: M. Graham

From my last art class, Color Explorations, I learned about an oil paint called M. Graham Artist Oil Paints.  They are made with pure walnut oil and made in the US.  The paint is solvent free meaning it’s better for the environment as well as better for artist use.  It’s eco-friendly.  I have to say the colors are brilliant and vivid and the paint is so buttery.

I had the notion, from my previous experience and use with water-miscible oil paints, that the water-miscible oils were solvent-free.  Apparently not.

I learned from class that the local schools use M. Graham because it’s 100% solvent free.

So, I decided to invest in a basic set:

art_supply_mgraham_set_9374

The above set included five colors to get started:  Titanium White, Ultramarine Blue, Naphthol Red, Azo Yellow, and Phthalo Green.  Also included is a small bottle of Walnut Oil and a bottle of Walnut Alkyd Medium.

The Walnut Alkyd Medium is a thinning medium and is used to increase the drying time of the paint.  It’s helpful to use this medium in the first layer of painting to give the painting a good strong foundation.  All you need is a small drop and mix it into your paint color.

The Walnut Oil is a natural vegetable oil and will slow the drying process of the oil paint.  It also enhances the flow when applying the paint to canvas and increases the sheen of the paint.  It is also used to remove color from your brushes.  In class we would dip our brush into the walnut oil and run the brush over paper towels to remove the excess paint.  We then cleaned the brushes with a gentle dish detergent and rinsed with water.  Basically, the walnut oil is used in place of turpentine or odorless mineral spirit.  It is definitely safer.

I worked with the same basic set of five colors in class.  I knew I needed additional colors and I picked out some colors I knew could not mix easily on my own.  I added tubes of turquoise, burnt sienna, sap green, yellow ochre, hanse yellow, and alizarin crimson.

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I had ordered the paints online and they came individually packaged in their own plastic bags.  The basic paint set also came in a zip lock bag.  As you can see from the above picture, some of the tubes got squished a bit.  No worries as there wasn’t any leakage from the tubes.  All is good!

I have a supply of brushes and white canvas from my oil painting adventures several years ago.  So, I’m ready to go.  I just need to finish my current pastel projects before I shift gears.

My Pastel Painting Project: Bucket, Bottle, & Glass

I had a grandiose idea to try to do a drawing/painting each evening for the month of August.  So far, it’s not happening.  Summer activities got in the way and since there were no classes in my queue for this month, my motivation has dwindled.  So I decided to make efficient use of my time during the evenings and look through my pictures (thousands of them) and print the ones I wanted to recreate on paper or canvas.  Several 5×7 packs of paper and ink later, I have a nice collection.

A few weekends ago I had the chance to start a painting.  Well, I started a sketch/outline from one of my pictures.  It was a picture I took at a winery where they placed a bottle of wine in a brightly colored beach pail/bucket.  Naturally, I had to take a picture.  Here’s my pencil sketch:

art_bucket_bottle_glass_sketch_9281

 

I painted the first few layers of the bucket and then let the painting sit on my easel.  I would walk by it in the evenings and waited for some sort of inspiration to take over me. I really liked how the shovel came out:

art_bucket_bottle_glass_pastel_9281

Eventually my motivation came back and I painted in the bottle.  Then I realized that I should have painted the backgrounds first.  That was a suggestion I learned from my last class.  Paint in the dark values and then the background.  So I shifted gears and painted a rough background.  Hmmm.  Did not turn out as I expected:

art_bucket_bottle_glass_pastel_9309

So my painting sat on my easel and once again I continued to walk by it.  I decided I needed some inspiration.  I spent some time on the Internet looking at other artist’s pastel paintings.  Some were very realistic with lots of details (completed in 80-90) hours and others were loosely painted gestures (6-8 hours).  I also read many artists would paint practice pieces.  The key word was practice.

Today, I sat down in front of my easel and started to paint.  There was no pressure.  No schedule or errands to run.  It did not take long for me to get into my creative groove.   More than likely because I did not think too much about what I was doing.  A few hours later this is what I had accomplished:

art_bucket_bottle_glass_pastel_9326

I did light layers of color as I knew I would be building up the colors or in some areas changed my mind.  I did a lot of blending as I like having a softer painting effect versus harsh lines of colors.

I was so happy to be painting again that I forgot to take a break and get up and look at my work.  It wasn’t until I took the picture that I noticed the “not quite right” issues.  I’ll tackle those issues another day as I’m thinking too much about them right now.

I need to create a painting or signage for my new art mottos:  “Painting is very good!”,  “Just Paint It!” and “Think less and paint more!”

Art Medium:  NuPastels by Prismacolor on 11″ x 14″ – Premium Toned Artist Paper by Global Art

Color Explorations Class – Finishing with Oils

Tonight we have to finish our paintings.  My goal is to finish my oil painting and it’s also Emily’s goal as well.    

Tonight I worked on painting the lighter values or layers.  Still I was missing the “punch” in my painting and therefore the peppers were still looking quite flat.  Emily pushed me and made some suggestions on blending more between the values to smooth out the colors.  Also, to mix in some colors (medium values and light values) to make the peppers pop.  Better transition of colors.  I also worked on the two background peppers to make the foreground peppers stand out more.  That worked.  

Here’s my final oil painting:  

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It wasn’t until I actually stood back and looked at my artwork that I started to get a bit of that “wow” feeling.  Then I took a picture and saw a huge difference from what I had done two night’s ago.

It will actually take a couple of day’s for this artwork to dry completely.  I plan on leaving it on an easel at home for a couple of weeks before I hang it on my wall.

My take away from class:  Of all the mediums I used in class, I thoroughly enjoyed painting with oils.  I enjoyed the smooth paint texture and gliding the brush over canvas.  I enjoyed mixing the colors with my palette knife.  Need to layer the colors from dark to medium to light and let dry in between those layers.  This is progress.  

Canvas used:  8″ x 10″

Color Explorations Class – Working with Acrylics

For tonight’s class we are painting with acrylics.  I am still on the fence with acrylics.  This paint dries quickly.  Too quickly for me.  

I will admit, I struggled in tonight’s class.  Acrylics is a different beast to work with.  We were given a tray of tubes in different colors.  Oh, I don’t need to mix that much tonight?  I find I still do.  

I painted a picture which I’m not too happy with.  So, I was told by another artist that it’s okay to have a bad drawing or painting.  It’s also okay to not show it in public.  Hmmmm.  

So, I will make an exception and actually show a “I’m not too happy” with my artwork here:

4_art_class_acrylic_peppers_9179

I do have tubes of acrylics at home.  Maybe one day, I will finish this artwork in the proper way and do another post on acrylics.

My take away from class:  I do not care for acrylics.  It is unforgiving and dries quickly.  Maybe artist grade acrylics are better?  That’s okay I’ll stick with the other art mediums that I enjoy working with.

Canvas used:  Canvas panel 8″ x 10″

Color Explorations Class – Continuing with Oils

When I arrived early for class, Emily had already placed my canvas on a table top easel for me.  She suggested I paint the background first before touching the peppers.  I used Burnt Sienna with a mixture of purple (created with red and blue) and painted the background.  Now, I was beginning to see my peppers pop out a bit.  

I continued to work on my peppers adding the medium values.  I was mixing variations of yellow/orange for the left pepper, greens for the middle pepper, and reds for the right pepper.  

Here’s the results of my evening’s work:

4_art_class_oil_peppers_9162

Parts of my peppers still look flat.  Still need to work on creating and painting the different values.  That will be Friday’s task.

I did as much as I could painting the medium values and had to stop to let it dry.  I was one of two students to finish early.  Emily suggested we prime our acrylic panels to use for tomorrow night’s class.  She prepared a Burnt Sienna wash and I grabbed a brush and lightly brushed the paint over the panel.  I think I’ve got the hang of this.  I was able to see my rough sketch of the peppers on my panel.  

My take away from class:  enjoy painting with oils even though it takes a loooong time to dry.  Need to get up and stand a few feet away from my painting and look at what I’ve painted.  I do see a different perspective and what’s missing in my painting (e.g. depth, contrast, etc).

Canvas used:  8″ x 10″