Testing New Brush Pens

I love watersoluble pen and ink work because sometimes you feel like keeping a line and sometimes you don’t.

On Roz Stendahl’s blog and her Patreon site, Roz Interim, she demonstrated the Pentel Sign Pen – Artist Micro Brush. They’re dye based and water-soluble, perfect for shading with a touch of water, and on top of that they have a super fine brush tip! You can see that in the photo below.

I was able to find both sets of 6 at my local Michael’s and immediately set to testing.

Portraits don’t always have to be realistic, do they?

Hahnemühle Nostalgie – A5 portrait

Fast and Unobtrusive

This is Jane.

Jane never knew I was sketching her as I waited to be called for my appointment.

Why? Well, this sketchbook is small, only six inches square and I had it tucked behind my bag on my lap. I also used one of my clutch pencils with a soft and silent lead. No scratching sound to alert her.

A few days later I took the same set up to a basketball game and among other figures, sketched a fellow sitting diagonally ahead of me.

He never suspected.

I even played a bit with a child’s multicolor pencil but gave up on it almost immediately. I wanted that smooth buttery feel of soft graphite sliding across the paper.

I think this set up will be my daily carry as I leave my large A4 journal in my studio. I’m looking forward to traveling lightly for a while.

Strathmore 400 Drawing Paper 300 gsm / 80 lb.

When Do I Know I’m Done?

I thought I was done… scanned it and closed the book.

I was happy, at least I thought I was, yet I knew something was off. I studied it using what Roz Stendahl calls the “editing eye”. This isn’t some rash commentary from my internal critic but an honest review of technique and composition to determine what could be improved.

Although I lost the tilt of his head in comparison to the inspiration photo I could live with that. Instead I focused on how washed out my watercolors looked. Now that was something I could change.

Another layer of darker pigments for his hair and beard and a deeper orange glaze for his jacket and I was done.

Not perfect… but done.

#Arteza A4 watercolor book

Moving Beyond Adolescence

A few days ago my friend Bobbie Herron published “That Dang Adolescent Period” on her blog, Aloft with Inspiration. In it she describes the idiosyncrasies and unpredictability of watercolor and the importance of perseverance. Please take a minute to read it… I’ll be here when you’ve finished.

Finally I was inspired to revisit a sketchbook-painting I started… and abandoned… over a week earlier. It had hit the adolescent phase where inexplicably everything looked wrong. Not only were my proportions off but my colors looked pale and insipid.

It needed more layers… but where to begin? I was paralyzed. Instead I closed the book knowing it was unfinished.

The sketchbook sat on my desk all week mocking my indecision.

Then I read Bobbie’s post.

It took me less than an hour to add more hair to the crown improving her proportions. A few more layers of bold juicy watercolors and I called it done.

The adolescent had grown up.

A4 – Arteza Watercolor Sketchbook

A Few Process Photos

When I started this portrait I had to keep reminding myself to take it slow and stop now and again for photos… success!

Again I used just a few pencil guidelines as reference for my first light watercolor washes.

After they dried I put in the background wet in wet.

It seems I’m always waiting for paint to dry but I love the look when it dries naturally. I have a heat gun I could use but then the background would dry before the paints had a chance to mingle and create the beautiful mottled surface.

Next it was time to add more skin tone glazes and figure out how to portray beard stubble… I dabbed the color on with my finger!

I really need to see if I can correct that left eye… the inner corner should be a tiny bit lower.

More layers to suggest his laugh lines and it’s time to stop before I start fiddling. I peeled off the artist’s masking tape… signed it… dated it… and done.

Pencil and Watercolor in an 8 in. square HandBook Watercolor Journal. Portrait of a muse from Sktchy.

First Stage

Starting a portrait can be intimidating. I’m often left wondering how and where to begin. How do I want the finished project to look? Do I want to use pencil or ink for the basic drawing? Do I want the coloring to be subtle or bold? What to do first?

Here I quickly sketched her in pencil and then put in light washes for her skin tones and shadows before putting in the background wet in wet. I decided to aim for bold.

It’s fortunate I remembered to stop and take a photo. I so often get in the flow, keep painting and only when I’m finished think how a few early photos would help me as a reference for techniques I could use when starting another project.

I had masked off a frame using 1/2 inch artist’s tape which allowed the painting to have a nice crisp edge as it floats on the page. It’s definitely a technique I’ll be trying again.

You’ll see… I’ll share another on Monday. In the meantime, Happy Groundhog Day!

Pencil and Watercolor in an 8″ square HandBook Watercolor Journal. Portrait of a muse from Sktchy.

Color Me With Watercolor

I spent July continuing my watercolor portrait practice. These two were inspired by fellow Sktchy member, Lauren Arno, who challenged us at various times during the month!

And… in just over a week I’m also going to take her online watercolor class through Sktchy. I’ve always felt there’s no better way to expand my repertoire than by taking classes.

Color me happy!

Portrait Retrospective

Where does the time go? This morning I realized I haven’t posted in over a month and yet I’ve completed 2 additional sketchbooks since then.

I guess I’ll start in by showing you a few of my favorite portraits from May and one from early June. All were drawn from photographic references posted on the Sktchy app by other creatives. You’ll see I often switch things up by sometimes forgoing my beloved ink lines and instead choose to sketch in pencil before I paint. There’s a different feel to each of these methods but I enjoy them both.

This month watercolor was my only constant.

#30x30DirectWatercolor2018… Part Six

Finally! I hereby present the final five direct paintings I did for the June challenge.

Even with all its flaws I actually prefer the quick thumbnail portrait on the left to the more detailed portrait I did to follow. Again from a Sktchy photo.

More negative painting practice. I pulled out a teeny-tiny brush to do the darker lettering.

My ever-present studio companion. He truly is only 4 inches tall!

From another photo found on Sktchy. I had a vision of a zen monk in deep meditation.

Last day of June! Marquette grapes make darn good wine… they’re cold-hardy and they grow in Vermont!

Looking back on the month of paintings I can see where I fail but more importantly I see where things went right… things I learned and want to repeat. It was a great month!

#30x30DirectWatercolor2018

#30x30DirectWatercolor2018… Part One

I just finished a daily painting challenge for the month of June. This was all spearheaded by Marc Taro Holmes and the point was to create a daily watercolor without relying on an initial pen or pencil sketch for guidance.

Whew! Often I felt as if I was walking a tightrope without a net and at times I needed to talk myself through the fear just to start! I’d sit there with a loaded brush hesitant to touch the page.

But begin I did. These would never be considered among my finest work but I knew I’d never get to my goal without practice. I’m going to show you my month’s work in chronological order.

June 1st – Sktchy portrait

Poppies from my side garden, painted in plein air.

Our black kitty and her favorite spot.

Both of our cats as models.

As I wrote above… I was really missing having my pen lines to guide me. I think this marks the end of my whining and the start of me getting my brain thinking of seeing volumes instead of lines.

I’ll post the next batch on Monday… hope to see you then!

#30x30DirectWatercolor2018